71 - "From The Shadow Of Death Shall Come A Light"

March 7th, 2002, 11:16 p.m.
Shards of metal rained down upon the stunned populace, scattering the human cattle in almost laughable fashion. From deadly debris and pieces of painted metal and rubber dancing threateningly across the asphalt, they scurried away into the distant corners of this labyrinth incredibly called and named and lived in as a city, watching from the safety of open businesses and restaurants their once tamed streets become a war zone. Where massive automobiles were heaved from their safe, unmovable positions within the paved pathways and launched into the air, and the unmistakable sound of crushed metal fused with the scent of raw, humid fear suspended within the atmosphere.

"We need backup!!" he screamed into his radio transceiver, unwilling to take his eyes from the object within the center of the ring of abandoned automobiles, where chaos reigned under the eternally measured cadence of the streetlights. "We have some...some thing tearing up the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Seventy-fourth!! It's throwing cars like they were goddamn toys!!"

A figure emerged from the mass of shaped steel, eyes glowing bloodstained red and shifting almost nervously between the alien environment and the remaining humans sworn to protect their territory. It peeled away the layers of a stalled moving van where the owner had fled in fear, rending steel within its talons as if a liquid substance being wringed through its fingers. It stepped out towards the police blockade, the officers concealed behind their squad cars and aiming their weapons towards the bare humanoid shape.

"Freeze!!" the highest-ranking officer screamed, his gun wavering slightly in trembling hands. "Stay where you are, and you won't get hurt!!"

It was silent, and acting almost unsure of which direction to take. It hesitantly reached out, it's hand extended towards the officers, a gesture of needed support confused for an attack, and the officers then opened fire, a clenching anxiety guiding their actions. It covered up as the bullets struck the intruder to their streets, though deflecting with but an instantaneous spark of blue fire, and ringing off a metallic finish with ear-piercing screams, serving only to confuse and anger the target.

"Why do you hurt me?!! I have done nothing!!" it then growled aloud, its voice a distinct menagerie of cold technology and the fluttering sensuousness of androgyny concealing its true gender. "...[defensive measures...active]..." And in an unequaled rage fueled by bewilderment of its surroundings, it thrust forth, lunging towards the first police car and ignoring the bullets still being ripped off its skin. The talons extended and it drove clenched hands into the hood, straining to pull the car from its weighted perch.

"MOVE!!!" he ordered in a frantic scream, as his cruiser was inconceivably lifted above him and leaving only the distorted silhouette of the target beneath. He directed those under his command away from the creature, before the car treated akin to a simple plaything sailed towards the others in the blockade stretched across the emptied street, and opened up into a ball of flame, rising into the night sky and reflecting off the surrounding buildings' mirrored windows.

But it burst through the lapping flames consuming the lighted vehicles, its tread deliberate and unhurried, now secured of its power. "Where am I?!! What is this place?!!" it screamed, demanded almost, asking anyone still near, whether injured police officers crawling away or the gathering reporters and their camera crews. "Where is my clan?!!"

He staggered, draped upon the shoulder of his subordinate and pulling the radio from his shoulder. "Where's that backup?!" the officer in charge yelled frantically into the microphone, his vision blurred by the trickle of blood from a open gash on his forehead. "This thing is unstoppable..."

And indeed, it seemed so, when captured within the concaved lens of the news cameras, though even the greatest of technology unable to discern but a coating of sterling steel flawed only by a few marred crevices in the blinding glare of the flames beyond, and a torn piece spilling a flicker of sparks onto the pavement.

"This is Travis Marshall from WVRN, and we're live on the scene of a literal war zone." the famed reporter spoke into the camera, as behind him, pictures of the creature were broadcast all over the country. "Our streets, once a safe harbor for thriving businesses now has suffered a grievous wound in the form of some massive...ah, thing, having first caused a traffic jam and now literally thrown police cars into the air and injured police officers in its mindless rampage."

"Please..." it cried, reeling in the chaos it helped to create, a few smaller flames still licking at its metallic flesh, and the heat so fierce but yet strangely undamaging. "Where is my clan?! Help me..."

"We ask now, what is this thing, and how did it get here?"

****************************************

9:45 p.m.
He tapped mindlessly on his keyboard, his eyes drifting from the screen, suffered from fatigue and sheer boredom. Lexington stared off into space, his eyes roaming indiscriminately upon the castle ceiling, and trailed the anarchic pattern of seams formed between the fitted stones. The drone of the television barely brought his attention back to the realm in which he dwelled, the gargoyle lounging on the arm of the couch and his sophisticated laptop balanced precariously on his stomach.

"Lexington?"

The web-wing turned lazily his head towards Desdemona, and blinked his lethargic response.

"Are you watching the television?" she asked, in seeing him having practically ignored the massive screen of the media room.

"It's all yours." he sighed, slapping shut his computer and hopping from the couch. He skimmed past her, his posture hunched, his demeanor saddened and quite obvious to the elder gargoyle.

"I suppose Rain has left." she surmised, practically halting Lexington before he slipped from the doorway.

"Fox took her back last night." he wheezed his answer, his tone wounded by emotion.

"And you feel as if the world itself has come to an end." she joked, tugging the web-wing's lips into a subtle smile.

"Every time she has to leave." He turned and focused his large, emotive eyes towards his clan elder. "Man, this sucks...long distance relationships can sometimes blow."

"I know it's difficult for both of you, but is not your friendship is worth it?"

Lexington shrugged, his fingers clenching tightly to the computer. "Yeah, but...it's just...hard. I mean, we've talked about the future, and...moving, but we both know it would be hard on both our clans if either of us left. Especially hers."

Desdemona settled into the couch, and placed her hands gently into her lap. "And would you ever consider leaving us to be with her?"

Lexington looked up, a decisive battle taking place even in the reflective sphere of his bionic eyes. A war over duty against heart, that which played upon him a weighted choice. "I don't know."

****************************************

9:55 p.m.
He opened the door to his workshop and placed his laptop back the bench, plugging the expensive and powerful computer back into the recharging socket. He then settled with a discouraged harrumph into the rolling, padded stool, his wings hanging limp and the sails unpossessed of any life. Jaded he now found himself, and unable to form a want for any activity, save for that of communication with Rain, but their previous computer conversation had ended in her leaving for patrol. Even Liz had politely abandoned their involving chat session to the nightlife of Notre Dame, a rare chance for the young student to relieve the pressures of university.

His eyes floated once more, across monitors and manuals, books of machinery and the machines themselves, and eventually settled upon the Coldstone cyborg. "I might as well..." he said to himself, always the procrastinator with projects both simple and intricate, never finished, and continuously awaiting yet another touch by his skilled hands. He rolled over to the cyborg and tore off the sheet revealing the hardhearted facade of Othello, the stolid gargoyle's duplicated features having been left almost intact. With what little Lexington had left to work with when the shattered Wyvern clan statues were used to form the renewed, mated lovers, it seemed only fitting to rebuild it exactly to the original specs, as if restoring an antique automobile to savor the past.

From a golden cybernetic panel imbedded in the web-wing's right arm, it lifted and revealed a few delicate arms lashing out with advanced tools attached to the ends. Lexington opened a small plate, midsection of the cyborg, and allowed his thin robotic tentacles to feed inside, to snake within the confines of wire and microchip, of hydraulic machinery. "Hmmm...need more light." he muttered, and instantly, did his eyes unleash a narrowed beam of light from his bionic implants, once designed to mimic the gargoyle vestige of anger to an eerily frighteningly degree, and now controlled as twin beams to alight his path within the Coldstone cyborg's deepest hollows.

A faint red light spread upon his skin, and set aflame the golden cybernetic patches left unconcealed by his artificial synthskin. It grew ever brighter, and the winged tinkerer remained oblivious when delving into the labyrinthine systems, that the cyborg's eyes were glowing once more.

Lexington lifted out, and cocked a brow in the odd light now adhering to the walls of his corner workshop, the color of a sunset horizon coating ancient stone. "What the hell?" He looked up, as the cyborg shuddered and looked down. "That...shouldn't happen..."

****************************************

9:57 p.m.
"And you are saying I will be able to control the security systems and most of the main castle functions with just voice commands?"

"Yes, from anywhere in the castle. With the CY.O.T.I. sentience wired into the main castle computers, you and anyone else with the proper clearance will be able to alert the system to any intruders, ready the weapon systems or close down certain sections of the castle we want protected."

Goliath stopped in place, glaring down at Xanatos and the billionaire's enduring smirk. He growled beneath his breath, the habitual aversion to any such gifts from Xanatos still causing his lip to curl and sneer, and his heart to slow its hardened beat. "Hrm."

"Do you have a problem?"

"No," Goliath sighed in submission, looking over the favorable and impressive specifications in his hands, "it sounds very effective. I am just not very willing to hand over my castle to a mind programmed as facetious and...aggravating as yours."

Xanatos stood idly, hands fixed behind his back and his smile growing ever larger in Goliath's continuing suspicion. "The CY.O.T.I. program is adaptable, and learns, and will eventually create its own personality with each and every experience. You can also reprogram it to your predilection, and 'tweak it' as it were." He watched Goliath leaf through the folder, the leader's brow knitted and bobbing slightly with each piece of information he assimilated. "You don't like this idea." he mused.

Goliath admittedly raised his brow, a frown haunting his thin lips. "I admit...there is a certain reluctance in handing over complete control of my ancestral home to a computer intelligence."

"You will have complete control, Goliath," Xanatos countered, his voice tinged with a severity often used in getting his point across to the oft-stubborn gargoyle, "and you, and anyone you choose will have access to CY.O.T.I.'s systems in any case of emergency within your dwelling."

"And why such a contribution to the castle?" he asked, tipping up his chin to elicit a sudden raise in Xanatos' left eyebrow.

"You know as well as I do I wish to keep your clan safe, despite your wife's lasting belief to the contrary, and frankly, this castle serves as an excellent testing ground for Xanatos Enterprises' artificial intelligence program."

Goliath seemed almost hesitant, but eventually nodded. "Reprogramming..." he echoed the word with a particular interest, peering into the schematics with an ever scrutinizing eye, and an intellect in twenty-first century technology growing with every day.

Xanatos continued on his journey down the hallway, leaving Goliath to mull over the decision, and as if timed perfectly to evade such an occurrence, the very air itself surrounding him was then plucked with a heavy tremor, only moments before a clap of thunder erupted behind him and covered the entire corridor in a thin layer of dust. As he turned to the commotion, the cloud swept past him and Xanatos simply slanted his head away from the choking mist. He brushed away the debris from his expensive suit jacket of grayed Egyptian cotton, and stared into the settling dust cloud where Goliath had once stood. A silhouette loomed within the suspended, ginger-hued powder, towering, and impossibly wide. "Ah, Goliath, are you all right?" he inquired calmly.

"...clan...where...is clan..." a voice whispered through a mechanical tongue. The dust cloud faded, and eventually settled, leaving the form to glint ominously under the lights of the hallway.

Xanatos' tranquil and tempered eyes opened wide to the monstrosity now uncovered to his sight, seeing in full the very reason for the collapse of the wall. "Interesting. It speaks."

"...clan..." The Coldstone cyborg shifted uncertainly, and unable to recognize the billionaire, it simply plowed through another wall and into the castle, leaving a rather stunned Xanatos to survey the damage he knew he would have to pay for.

He stepped towards where Goliath was buried underneath a section of reinforced wall and aided the shaken gargoyle, though being sure to retrieve the folder as well. He inspected the documents, as Goliath thrust the remaining rubble from his body, expanding steeled muscle granted through evolution and easily casting off the Scottish stone. He shook his head and coughed the grit from his lungs, clearing his throat with a fuming, carnal growl. "Are you all right, Goliath?"

"What...was that?!" the gargoyle demanded, his anger raised once more when seeing the hole in which the winged automaton had opened up to escape into his home.

"Coldstone."

Goliath's wings flared subtly so, and his eyes burst a blinding nova white. "What?!!"

"I just want to say for the record," another voice cried through the hole, deliberate in his bid to escape any blame before his leader, "this isn't exactly my fault."

Goliath turned to see Lexington crawl from his workshop, and he hauled the web-wing to a standing position with a single hand. "You told me that thing was nothing but a lifeless shell!!"

"It is!" he argued back, rubbing his aching head.

"Then how did it manage to come to life and escape?!"

"It shouldn't have!"

"And why not?"

"Because...there's no power source."

****************************************

10:09 p.m.
"There's no power source, it's missing the main control chip, and I encoded it with only a basic defensive program. Even with the advanced CPU, there's absolutely nothing that could cause Coldstone to malfunction this way. There's something really weird going on..."

Goliath tilted his head to Lexington's explanation, and forcing his anger aside to better lead his gathered clan into a dangerous situation. "Elisa and Fox have taken the children to a safe position, but we have no idea where this robot has gone. It's working on a broken path, and the security monitors and motion detectors are being tripped all over the castle."

"Like it's running scared..." Brooklyn whispered, as Lexington quickly nodded in agreement, seeing this circumstance quite differently than the others.

"We cannot seal it off from any section of the castle, as the robot merely goes through the walls when presented with a blockade, and therefore, we are forced to search the old-fashioned way. Sata, Angela, take the West corridor. Brooklyn, Broadway, South. Hudson, Lexington, take Bronx and go East. Othello, Desdemona, Delilah, you're with me." Goliath ordered the clan into position, and they promptly split apart and disappeared into the maze of corridors, connected through their transmitters. "Be careful. That thing is dangerous. Report in as soon as you have found it." Goliath tromped into the Northern hall followed by his brother and sister, and his daughter as well, all quite wary of his temper only flared by this automaton.

"And how do we plan to destroy this robot?" asked Delilah, skipping ahead to match her tread with that of her father's hurried gait and fixing the transceiver to her ear.

"By any means possible." growled Othello, harboring his own unique source of anger towards the Coldstone automaton, translated as a fist being driven into an open palm with an audible snap of leather hide.

And behind them walked Desdemona, though afflicted by an anxious feeling having crept its way beneath her golden caramel skin. Like venom coursing through her blood and sending a subtle pain throughout her entire languid form, just enough to keep cognizant of the uneasy sensation, she remained silent as they trawled the corridor, hearing the faded vestige of a desperate plea once lost in her deepest memories.

"And there they go, the intrepid warriors of Wyvern, defending their castle against a nasty, naughty robot." he whispered, a shadowed figure dressed in an almost medieval garment allowed the darkness to conceal him within its comforted bosom. Though as if the Cheshire cat of children's fictional lore, his contorted smile beamed eerily within the darkness. "But I wonder how long it will take them to realize just who this robot is."

****************************************

10:15 p.m.
Its wings had splayed apart and tore away at the walls, cutting through the reinforced barriers with sharpened steel tempered far beyond natural strength. "...what are...these creatures...these machines?..." it whispered metallically, seeing a menagerie of technology infesting a place so familiar, but blurred along the edges of its vision riddled with strange glowing scrawl, it was as alien as everything else the automaton had seen. The foreign scents were increased tenfold through its sensors, the lights, the sounds of an emptied castle blinding, and deafening, heralding confusion and ultimate chaos within its newborn and fragile mind to such a degree to perhaps cause dementia, madness. "...smells different...looks different...this is...not my place...where is my clan?..."

And turning the corner, delving deeper into the linked corridors with a sprint, it stumbled upon a young child holding herself directly in front, a fascination of all around her overriding her orders to stay out of sight.

"Who you?" Trinity asked of the metal behemoth laying scarlet eyes to her tiny form, clenching tightly to her 'Goyle, the stuffed beast of dark sapphire fur almost as big as she.

"...hatchling...not my hatchling...different..."

"Trinity!!" Elisa screamed, ever playing the defiant protector to her child and scooping the confused hybrid from the ground. The detective swerved to face the cyborg, holding itself warily near the corridor's end, and lifted her gun towards the intruder. "Don't come any closer." she warned, aiming with expert marksmanship for the head.

"...infestation...enemies...Vikings..."

Fox too joined her, stepping in front of Elisa and held in her hands a massive rifle, the billionairess cocking the external power source and charging the barrel, forming an irritable scowl.

"Mom!" Another joined the redheaded woman, as Alexander rushed to his mother's side.

"...human...smells of human...Vikings..."

"Mom." Alexander tugged at his mother's shirt, trying in vain to get her attention now centered on the Coldstone robot. "I think there's somethin' inside of it." he whispered, his adolescent instincts of sorcery screaming within him of a presence nearby.

"Not now, honey." Fox whispered, edging backwards as the cyborg approached, perhaps more interested in their presence than an attack. "Stay back, metalmouth!"

"Where is my clan?!"

"Mom, there's somethin' in there!"

"Alex, please."

"My clan!!"

"Get back!" Elisa screamed, perhaps her judgment frayed in protection of her daughter, and she unloaded the cartridge of her gun against Coldstone mere meters away. Trinity pressed deeper into her mother's chest, hiding herself away from the thunderous cry of the weapon strafing bullets across Coldstone's skin and taking solace in the soft, silky covering of her plaything spreading a warmth through her diminutive form.

Coldstone lay under the barrage of gunfire, strange projectiles stinging like the searing heat of an open flame though only marring its skin with hollowed dimples from the specially shaped bullets. "...[attack protocols...online...subsys: eighty-three percent...lasers offline...defensive measures...active]..." The voice had changed, bereft of emotion, and as Elisa tried with trembling fingers to reload the clip, Coldstone approached in a sudden dash towards her.

Fox unleashed her rifle, sending the beams of narrowed fire towards it. But ignoring the lasers cutting into its slowly melting skin, the robot swatted away the weapon from Fox's hands and instantly swerved past them, tearing through another door in a desperate bid for escape, its chestplate smoldering and leaving a slowly dissipating trail of smoke.

"Goliath!" Elisa screamed into her transceiver to her husband, soothing a hand to Trinity's own and calming the teary child as Fox slumped against the wall and rubbed her aching head, another headache flaring up. "I think it's heading outside, for the courtyard."

"Oh, this gets better with every minute. And now the game really begins."

Alexander turned from his mother to the frothy tone unleashed from behind, a bubbling buoyancy in having enjoyed the show played out before him. Of bullets and laser fire and fear brought to a fevered pitch, he watched with a morbid glee from beyond any and all sight with the exception of the blood of Titania herself. "Uncle Puck?" he whispered to the drifting apparition. "Izzat you?"

A hand suddenly rubbed to the child's shoulder, proud of his student's abilities. "Alexander...I think it's time to play."

****************************************

10:23 p.m.
"C'mere, ye metal beastie!" gruffed Hudson, swiping his curved sword against an armor plated arm, the scrape of steel unleashing a shower of fiery sparks to rain down upon the stones.

The Coldstone cyborg instinctively drew up and knocked away the attacker to its frame, landing the elder gargoyle to the ground without even laying eyes upon the bearded protector. Angela approached from its side and lashed out with her claws, though a ferocity inherited was simply awarded with a swift slap to the face. "Why...do you attack me?! You are...not my clan...enemies..." it spouted almost religiously the senseless chant as it fended off Sata's blade, the jade samurai carving steel and nearly severing Coldstone's right hand. "Enemies...traitors to Wyvern..."

Lexington tended to Bronx, the beast fallen and wounded from an earlier blow when the robot had found its way into the courtyard, and then delved into the fray, flipping over and onto Coldstone's back, resting firmly between the metal pinions. "Let's see what's going on in there." He opened the panel on his right arm and forced the connection tubule into the robot's access port, forging a link into the drifting data streams and forcefully sifting through what remained of the vast, emptied expanse of Coldstone's psyche.

"...[intruder detected...cognitive functions breached]...get...out of my mind..." it screamed in seeming pain, caused by the merging of Lexington into its cybernetic systems. It tried to throw him off, yet the smaller gargoyle held firm, plunging his talons into any crevasse to gain a decent grip. "Get out!!"

Sata circled around, waving her sword as if an extension of her very hand and aimed towards Coldstone with deadly intent.

"NO!!!" Lexington screamed, as the blade fell and cleaved through the midsection. "Sata!! Wait!!"

She pulled away, surprised by Lexington's plea for mercy for a simple machine bestowed the ancient form of gargoyle, as Coldstone hunched over and treated the wound inflicted by Japanese steel as real, and effectively painful. "But why?"

"There's no sentient program. It's a blank slate except for the simple defensive measures!" he yelled, as Coldstone mercilessly slapped its wings together to tear Lexington away from its back. He fell hard and rolled away, as Sata rushed around to protect him. "That means there's something controlling it, using the circuitry as...as a home."

"Then it must be destroyed." she hissed, her sword reflecting the robot in it's slim mirrored surface. "If someone has gained control of a weapon such as this, we cannot let it roam free."

"Indeed." answered an oily tone from above, almost lost in the thrusters screaming fire as a noxious breath. Xanatos touched down in his newly upgraded suit taken from the specs of the Epsilon, and faced off against an anxious Coldstone. "It almost seems...nervous."

"Or scared." added Lexington, seeing a pattern emerge from an anarchic behavior thought a mere malfunction.

"Nonetheless." Xanatos opened up with his lasers, dual streams of deadly crimson unleashed across Coldstone's already damaged chest.

"Armored men...Vikings..." Coldstone muttered, raising a trembling claw to rub against the wounds inflicted with merciless efficiency. "...you ally yourself with traitors...[flight systems...engaged]..."

Xanatos watched from behind his mask of Goliath's stolid visage the robot stumble back and towards the cornice where the city lay beyond, spilling its dewy amber light high into the heavens. And as his sensors deemed a growing power source within the belly of the proverbial beast, he rushed forwards in a near panic. "Damn. It's powering the booster."

"That's impossible." Lexington mumbled, still adhering to the impracticalities of this robot's sudden life. "There's no power. Especially to fuel the jets."

"Tell that to Coldstone." said Angela painfully, rubbing her jaw and seeing the first spark ignite from the opened booster from the robot's back. "Come, before it escapes..."

Xanatos grabbed a hold as it lifted from the ground, reaching around to force his armored paw into the stream of fire flowing from the robot's back, tearing at the sharply fringed louver to somehow force it to land. But even with his advanced suit's power and fluidic grace of a skilled martial artist translated almost flawlessly by the body armor, the robot flailed violently, vehement, and almost obsessed in trying to shed the attacker from its form. Xanatos unleashed his laser into the right wing of Coldstone, to limit its mobility, and powered up his own rockets, two forces fighting against each other within the velvet blanket of stars.

"...[defensive measures...active]..." Coldstone wrenched away Xanatos' arms, and using a move perhaps associated more with the billionaire, it hurled with a greater strength the intruding suit away from him and into the approaching gargoyles. "You will not deny me the sky, Viking!"

"It be gettin' away!" cried Hudson, roused from the previous blow and helping Angela to her feet.

"Correction, Hudson." Xanatos muttered in disgust, seeing the robot guide itself shakily towards the ground, becoming as a mere point of reflective steel among the lighted spires. "It has gotten away, but I believe I did irreparable damage to its flight systems."

Sata rushed to Xanatos' side, both looking over the edge of the notched castle wall. "Where is it heading?"

"The only direction it can go. Down, and straight into the heart of Manhattan."

****************************************

The heart of Manhattan, 10:39 p.m.
"Well, I think that's the last box." said Annika, heaving the remaining cardboard container into the pile balanced almost perilously, the gargess catching the near toppling mountain with a taloned finger and nudging it back to a standing position. "Have we missed anything, handsome?" She turned her attention towards her husband, an ocean of sapphire reflecting the hunched form of a young man perched atop a lone crate, and staring into nothingness. "Handsome? Todd? Todd!!"

"What?" he answered broodingly, snapping his gaze to the gargoyle now holding herself over him. "Oh...Annika...yeah, yeah I think we got everything..."

Annika smiled, and draped herself over his back, curling her wings of silken sunset around his shoulders while laying a gentle kiss into the warm, inviting flesh of his neck. Where the scent was strongest, and where savored his sweet taste, she whispered serenely, "You're going to miss this place...aren't you?"

"I've...I've always struggled to make a home for myself, and this place was the first home I had after moving from the orphanage." Todd stood up and languidly drifted a hand over the walls stripped of their embellishment, now appearing a dulled, somber white and marred with the faded residue of sun-bleached silhouettes of posters and shelving units. A pensive journey throughout the studio apartment, as Todd took one final gaze at his home since the age of seventeen. "This place is so full of memories. The parties, the get-togethers, the movies and music, the quiet nights..."

Annika followed behind as best she could a path led only by her husband's seemingly shifting reminiscence, where his eyes drifted in a strangely methodical abandon to each cherished memory held within his heart.

"Here..." Todd whispered, pointing to a gouge in the wall hastily repaired and covered up. "This is where Crash and I bumped my new TV into the wall when we first moved it in, then we watched seven hours straight of South Park on a sixty-one inch screen." He moved towards a discolored stain upon the carpeting, where once his couch had covered the unsightly blemish. "This is where Pete Langstrom puked after my New Year's party of two thousand." He then quickly darted to the bedroom, with Annika having trouble keeping up. "And here, we would spend the entire night in bed together, just talking, eating take-out...laughing..." He stared longingly into the despairingly vacant room, his features fallen in having to give up such treasured memories, to allow this simple apartment turned a home to another. "You fell asleep a few times, on my chest, and I just watched you...for hours..."

Annika drifted her soft hands around his arm, and nuzzled her cheek into the material of his shirt, she too fond especially of this small corner section. "I know you loved this place, Todd..."

"I almost asked you to marry me in this place." he whispered, stating firmly his partiality to a simple dwelling.

Annika nodded. "I would have loved to move in here with you, but…" She slid both hands to his face, and turned around his eyes to a peaking wave of cerulean sea contained only within her lingering gaze. "You know I can't."

He guided a few knuckles down the suspended satin drapery of her wing, a reminder perhaps of their difference and her place set by cruel standards in an oft-cruel society. "Yeah, I know."

"Things change. It's inevitable. But we'll make the castle our home. With our family." She led him back towards the pile of boxes by the hand, and settled him into a makeshift seat, while kneeling in front. "I know you value your privacy. I know the others have no idea how you sometimes need to...be alone. To get away from it all."

"Toddy needs his 'me time'."

"With a pencil in one hand and a Jolt in the other. There are plenty of rooms in the castle besides our new bedroom, and you can always take small one in a far corner, set up a drawing board, and TV, and just escape for an hour or two..."

Todd eventually nodded soberly, yielding to Annika's sultry voice.

"And besides," she continued, shrugging her shoulders almost in apology, "I've already found some new tenants for this place..."

Todd perked up. "Who?"

Annika stood and sauntered towards the door, knocking a few times in a signal perhaps prepared in advance. And through the portal entered Kendra timidly, hand in hand with Crash, and displayed of a smile to further enchant her ex-boyfriend.

Todd's brow immediately lowered upon his eyes erupting in storm. "Oh, I don't fucking believe this..."

****************************************

10:46 p.m.
"Talking away, I don't know what I'm to say. I'll say it anyway, today's another day to find you. Shine away, I'm coming for your love okay." The young redhead stood at her stove, swaying back and forth in a seductive rhythm and bobbing the inward curving strands of fire tickling and dancing upon the bared, freckled flesh of her shoulders and neck, as she opened her powerful lungs in a favored tune fed through her earphones. "Take on meeeee, take on me! Taaaake oooon meeeeeeee, take on me!!" Iliana Starr prepared her dinner in distinguishing fashion within the tiny apartment she called home, having attired nothing but a body hugging, camisole bra and matching bikini thong slipped between the delicately sloping crevasse of her buttocks, firmed through an rigid exercise regiment.

"So needless to say at odds and ends. But I'll be stumbling away." She allowed the prepared food to simmer and dashed away from her stove and kitchen unit, skipping into the living room and onto the ends of her couch, dancing enticingly and allowing her hips to gyrate before an imagined audience. "Slowly learning that life is okaaa-aaay. Say after me. It's so much better to be safe than sorry." She yet remained oblivious to the actual watchful eyes within the corners of her apartment, a stray glint of the light catching ignited charcoal and allowing an understated presence to the massive figure. "Take on meeeee, take on me! Take on me, take on meeeeeee!! I'll be gooooooone, in a day or twooooooooo!!" she howled in feminine pitch, and eventually turned around, opening ice blue eyes to a figure having perched itself in the doorway of her bedroom. "SHIT!!!"

His hands were brought together in an applause almost mocking the young woman, as Iliana tore off the wireless headphones and stared sheepishly towards an uninvited guest hidden expertly within the darkness.

"Shadow..." she wheezed.

The ninja swathed from the shadows as a winged wraith, and entered into full view, though his skin of a grayish-lavender gloom effectively soaked up any light splashed against him. "Iliana."

The rookie detective buried her face within her opened hands, trying to calm the flames of embarrassment turning her cheeks a blushed dawn. "Oh god...how long have you been watching?"

"Talking away," he echoed the lyrics in ill-rhythmic tune, approaching the fallen star hiding herself away in the cushions of her couch, "I don't know what I'm to say."

She stared up through the suspended crimson threads, and found him smiling at her self-imposed mortification in being discovered of a peculiar trait. "Did you at least enjoy the show?"

His massive structure almost filled the entire breadth of her vision as he stooped in front and allowed his wings a needed breath of life. He rubbed a talon down her left thigh, igniting a path of fire and dimpling flesh and sending a shudder through her entire form, eliciting a squeal of pleasure held securely in between bee-stung lips. "Very much." he whispered in a rasp both gentle and terrifyingly enthralling.

"Well, at least I have an appreciative audience." She skewed her head to meet his lips bared openly to her, granted as a gift tender in its approach. She pressed against the soft hide and slanted mouth, being delicate in their meeting of heart and yearning physical attraction, even in a simple display of affection such a kiss. She groaned in anticipation of a gesture thought lacking in such an emotionless creature, yet even as she felt the heat arise in her cheeks and drive her heart into a flutter, she knew only what a few select had been witness to. "Mmmmm," she whispered when breaking from the kiss, tracing a fingernail painted faded lavender across her lips, "yummy."

"Am I more welcome now?" he asked softly, his voice traced with an underlying twinge Iliana picked up on.

She grinned wickedly. "Oh yeah." She stroked his wings to submission, the ninja enjoying the message of skilled fingers and her all too human talons brushing the billowing suede, and the detective sensing a subtle change in demeanor, in the way he held himself, far too rigid even for him. "There's something wrong." she whispered.

"It's nothing." he evaded quickly, the rare smile falling away.

"For a man who recently found his home and clan destroyed by some evil force who is still out there somewhere," she started, pressing her smaller, hourglass form against him to better steal the warmth exuded from dark flesh and a measured breath, "you're a bad liar."

Shadow let loose his head and allowed her hands to travel the length of his brow and rising spurs, and stroke playfully at his long, snowy braid of hair. "I...think of what could have been, and what was stolen from me. My family, my history...my very identity has been wiped away by greed, malevolence..." He clutched a hand over his chest, where lay a fiercely beating heart. "Darkness."

"That you defeated."

"Only just. And all I have now is a few artifacts from a village obliterated only because they wanted their freedom."

"Listen, ninja butt, I can't pretend to know what you feel, but I too have lost family. My mom for instance. I lost her when I was younger. But I still had my dad, my brothers, my friends..." She trailed the jutted spur, drifting her finger down his brow and sharpened cheekbone, and finished at his protruding chin, fixing the strip of coarse, white hair into seeming perfection. "You have the clan. They are your family now. And of course..." she purred, pressing just barely her lips to the sensitive lobe of his ear. "There's me."

Shadow's eyes kindled a small flame behind the mahogany ember, and he pulled back and lifted up, confusing Iliana in his terse separation from her roaming hands.

"What is it?"

"Delilah."

"Oh." Iliana bowed her head and nodded, knowing this too was tearing at him.

"I remember the look on her face when she first saw us together," he whispered, peering into one of the posters hung upon the bland apartment walls, "it was as if I broke her heart all over again. In all my futile attempts to spare her pain, I only end up causing her more."

Iliana sighed, "I know this is hard on you, and her, especially considering you've only been apart for less than two months. But...you two ended that relationship. And you have to go on. If you want, we'll...take it slow...take us slow, one day at a time."

"That...would be best."

She stole a pillow and wrapped herself around it, resting her chin into the plush cushion. "Shadow, are you...still in love with her?"

Shadow turned and stared at her, unable to give an answer that she would want to hear.

"KATYA!!!" It echoed through even the thick wood of the door leading into the building's hallway, sending a rippling chill through Iliana and instinctively flaring Shadow's wings, the ninja crouching to defend against possibly an impending attack.

"Shit..." Iliana gasped, staring over the couch back to her front door. "Poppa."

"Poppa?" Shadow repeated, perhaps now preferring the attack to Iliana's father.

"Damnit, he's got the worst fucking timing..."

"Iliana Katrine Starr!" he yelled, the heavy Russian brogue nearly enough to tear the door apart with just the brush of heated wind thrown against it. "Open up!! Right now!! You have some explaining to do, young lady!!"

"Uh...ah, just a minute!" She hopped up and pushed with all her strength against Shadow's chest. "You gotta go. Now!"

"Who are you talking to?!" Dimitri Starr hollered, pulling out his keys and flicking through the collection of clattering shaped metal until he found his daughter's apartment key and abruptly pressed it into the catch. "I'm coming in!"

Iliana heard the knob being unlocked from the outside with the distinctive, shrill click, and pressed her entire weight against Shadow, desperate now to move the ninja. "Come on, you have to hide!"

"But you are pushing me away from the window." he argued.

"Use the one in the bedroom."

"But it's too sma..."

The front door flew open and in barged an angered, elder Russian, his eyes as steel as his beard and long bound hair, and seeing Iliana swing closed her door and slam it shut as Shadow had no choice but to slip into the bedroom. "Iliana!! Don't you ever wear clothing?!"

"Don't you ever respect my privacy?!" she snapped back, releasing the breath once trapped in sheer relief and crossing her arms across her near naked chest.

"I am your father, I don't have to respect your privacy! Who were you talking to?"

"No one, I was singing to my music." She held up the headphones as evidence of her activities. "What are you doing here?"

Dimitri clicked an infuriated brow, and even through the sterling hairs concealing a squared jaw, his lips pursed. "Oh, something about my daughter up and disappearing to Japan of all places for an entire week without any word or warning. You thank your lucky stars that captain Chavez hasn't kicked you off the force. Of course, if that ever happens, you can always come work in the store again..."

"I'm not coming back to that store! And I had a good reason for going to Japan." she said, swimming away from the bedroom door in order to sway her father's intense curiosity, that she inherited and often caused her more trouble than she ever wanted. "A very good reason."

"Then spill it."

"Sorry." she said, as if a young child vehemently refusing on order. "Can't."

"You maddening, little brat! You are the very reason I turned gray."

"I love you too, poppa."

Dimitri sighed, relenting to his stubborn daughter and her privacy, the carefully guarded part of her life she had always kept from him. "Well, at least get dressed, katya..." he whispered, moving towards the bedroom, as Iliana took off towards the stove where her dinner had now become a blackened plume of smoke, long forgotten when Shadow had arrived. He opened into the bedroom, and crossed through the cramped and darkened chamber towards what he deemed the closet in such chaos of discarded clothing and abandoned file folders, without realizing he was being sternly observed from the corner across the bed. He pulled some clothing from the cramped wardrobe, and returned the same path he had traveled, though stopping in the doorway when a peculiar, cold feeling had lodged within the base of his skull. Dimitri peered over his shoulder, but dismissed it outright as another symptom of his aversion to being in Manhattan. "Katya," he asked of his daughter, handing her the clothes, "are we...alone?"

"Yeah, poppa." she replied, while pulling over her slender torso a tight white shirt and finishing with the jeans, unknowing of Shadow's presence just beyond the wall.

"Are you sure? I swear I can...feel something..."

Iliana eyed him warily, but shelved her fears, until from the corner of her gaze she found a darkened chestnut glare having once haunted her dreams but now chilled her to the very bone. "...shit..." She gestured frantically for him to move through the bedroom window, but in a language being subtly created with flailing hands and a matching angered grimace, he told her in no uncertain terms the window was far too small. Iliana cringed in the gradual realization, and darted her gaze between her boyfriend and father.

"Damn, what I wouldn't give right now for a life-threatening crisis to distract him..." she whispered, as an orange radiance soon bathed her entire apartment, streaming through even the drapes translucent in material and sending broken shafts of auburn light skidding across the walls as if the heavens had willfully answered her plea. "Not exactly what I was thinking..." She skipped to the window when sensing a tremor pass through the walls, and brushed aside the drapes only to witness an eruption of fire spread across the street. "What the hell?"

"Katya?" Dimitri moved towards her, his eyes wide, and instantly did the detective spin around and force her father into the kitchen.

"A-A...a spider! Big one, on the fridge!"

"But what was that flash? And the rumbling?"

"Uh...car alarm." She practically pushed her father towards the refrigerator, allowing Shadow the chance to slip from the bedroom and out the larger window without making a single sound, except perhaps that of his wings touching upon the warm breeze with a wisted snap. "Now go get that spider, poppa. You know how I hate spiders..."

The elder Russian stared at her with a gaze seeming to accuse the young woman of a crime he did not know of quite yet, as Iliana broke out into a crooked smile, and slowly backed away, intent on meeting Shadow outside. She grabbed the worn leather jacket and holster, and slipped on her massive boots, hopping past the window. "What is that?" she muttered, seeing as well the silhouetted figure tearing up the avenue just below. "Hey..." she whispered when her eyes somehow lifted from the destruction within the streets and to another building down from her. "Is that...Hawkins?"

****************************************

11:04 p.m.
"There's no way you two are getting this place!! I'm not having this hallowed hall desecrated by your freakish, deviant love!!" Todd growled, pointing an accusing finger to his two best friends, now lovers, as Annika shamefacedly brushed a taloned hand across her aching forehead. "Forget everything I ever said at the wedding! You were never supposed to hook up! It's just...unnatural! Like Chandler and Monica!"

"Oh god, Todd..."

"Deviant?" Kendra echoed crossly.

"Thanks, Hawkins." said Crash, unaffected by his friend's crazed rant, his lips curled unnaturally into a grin perhaps irremovable and only empowered by Todd's clenched posture. "I never thought you would be so generous as to let us move in here." he crowed to further peak his friend's anger. "You're such a great guy."

"Ah shaddap, Crash! This wasn't my idea!" Todd barked, slitting his fiery eyes towards his wife, who merely shrugged her defense and twined a loose strand of golden hair around her fingers. "And isn't it a little soon for you two to be getting a place together?!"

Kendra placed forth a charming smile, and stepped forwards, hoping to ease her ex-boyfriend's anger-fueled mania. "Well, Todd...we've been dating for more than six months now and...well...we thought we would further our relationship."

"Oh sure, I bet you're going to want my furniture too. Well, guess what, I gave most of it away! Ha ha ha!!"

"Well, actually, we have our own furniture," Kendra whispered cautiously through ovaled, crimson lips, "better furniture."

"Well...well...well..." Todd stuttered, unable to birth yet another argument in his steadfastly obstinate attitude. "Damnit!!"

"Well." Annika watched as Todd's entire body shuddered, the human scoffing loudly, his forced breath sounding more as if a muffled scream when swallowed into the base of his throat. "What I wouldn't give right now for a life-threatening crisis to ease the tension." she muttered, just as Kendra's eyes widened to a ball of ghostly saffron flame reflecting against the large windows staring out into the street, followed by an explosion ripping apart the atmosphere, bowing the glass inwards and effectively ending the conversation turned argument. Annika approached the sill and peered into the street below, seeing with perfect vision a lone figure upturning cars and setting aflame the entire neighborhood, basking the adjoining buildings in the color of early dusk. "Oh. That'll do nicely."

"What the hell is that thing?!" Kendra shrieked, seeing her newly acquired neighborhood abruptly transformed into a battleground, as the police converged and fired at the silver-glinting form seemingly unfazed by any gunshot.

Todd pressed himself up against the glass and squinted stormcloud gray to get a better look through the lapping flames streaked across the street. "Isn't that the robot Lex was working on?"

"Yes," Annika answered, "but the one I saw was nothing but a broken toy sitting in the corner of his room."

"Looks like he fixed it." Crash added curtly, shaking his head, the thin goatee coiling around his puckered lips. "And this used to be such a nice neighborhood."

"Hey, look." Todd nudged gently his wife, directing her eyes towards a building across the street and down almost half a block. "Over there." Another building lost within standing, crooked rows of the unremarkable facade of Manhattan's inner district lay an open window, and through the slightly drawn curtains a familiar face loomed, her identity given away by a shock of hair colored a catching scarlet. "Is that...Iliana? She lives near me?" Todd's eyes then nearly bulged in a sickening realization, his jaw dropping slack. "I might look out one day...and see her...with Shadow...having sex??"

A visible shiver suddenly passed through the entire length of his quickly whitening skin, a path of gooseflesh spreading from spinal cord to finger and toe, as he nearly lost control of his bodily functions in the formed mental image. Todd immediately reached in his pocket and pulled out his apartment keys, tossing them to Kendra. "It's all yours..." He pulled his wife from the room and headed for the door, both intent to escape this place and do their best to help. "We'll be back for the boxes later."

****************************************

11:16 p.m.
In their gift, they grazed upon the velvet stardust in perfect formation without a single rift in their ranks, an altitude rarely climbed apart from returning home. More than a thousand feet above the ground to better see across the vast expanse of their protectorate, Goliath, with his wife held securely in his strong arms, led the entire clan across the night sky, a show of force to search for the missing robot having concealed itself into the island maze of steel and glowing glass.

Elisa could sense the anger fueling her mate, the drum of his heart in a constant thrice beat lifting the thick wall of his chest, and a cadence so much stronger in its ferocity, pulsating throughout the flesh she held on to for dear life. So much in so little time, so much to bear with every night he took to the breath of life. It was all she could do to calm him, stroking her fingers into the soft crevasses of sensitive flesh as they flew on, and when striking rich on a receptive area, she won her risky gamble in granting a meager if not visible smile to his scowling lip.

"Goliath." It was Xanatos, having broken a fleeting moment between husband and wife, his voice held steady within the leader's transceiver, the billionaire having listened intently to what chaotic wail of voice and code passed between police officer and dispatch office in the near vicinity. "I think we may have found our escaped robot."

"Where?" he demanded brusquely over the howling wind made only more so by their altitude.

"According to the location of your homing beacons, I'd say just look for the explosions." he countered, as the entire clan aimed their sight toward the streets below and beyond. Where the darkness, once only breached in spotted blemishes by the streetlight, at last opened up as if the sun itself had dropped and melted into the winding cracks with a spray of liquid fire alighting the commotion several blocks away from the clan's position. "The comm traffic is buzzing with the reports of Coldstone, Goliath, and the police are converging with more and more men on the scene."

"And with cops, come reporters." added Broadway, knowing of the story possibility with every strange occurrence in the city.

Goliath nodded. "Yes. We have to move quickly or Coldstone could be exposed and do even more damage than it already has." His words were edged with a tone severe enough to form Lexington's features into an uncomfortable scowl, only brimming with a sense of guilt in his hand in this entire situation.

"And how do we stop this thing in the middle of a busy city street without being seen?"

"Indeed."

"Fox and I have been monitoring the news," Xanatos offered still, doing his best to help, "it seems they can't get a clear shot of Coldstone for there is too much damage and debris in the way and no one is willing yet to get any closer. The entire block is aflame and surrounded by wrecked cars."

"Land behind that store, Big Guy," Elisa cut through, pointing to a business pushed back and obscured from public view, hidden from the immediate focus of the bystanders, "and let me help sway the police while you guys do your work."

****************************************

"Our streets, once a safe harbor for thriving businesses now has suffered a grievous wound in the form of some massive...ah, thing, having first caused a traffic jam and now literally thrown police cars into the air and injured police officers in its mindless rampage. We ask now, what is this thing, and where did it come from?"

****************************************

"I'll tell you what this thing is," huffed a police officer hunched behind a cruiser, having listened to Travis Marshall sing his boastful tune to the populace and his rifle scope targeted as best he could on a distorted silhouette still moving behind the debris and flaming destruction, "angry."

"It'll be nothing but a damned scrap heap when we're finished here." the commander in charge hissed with a laden drawl, his angered demeanor fueled by the continuing destruction surrounding him and the pain of his bandaged head-wound. "Men, get your rifles ready, we're about to blow whatever that is into a couple hundred pieces before it causes even more damage."

"I don't think so!" She climbed her way through the two ruined cruisers, the firelight reflecting off a raven sheen cascading freely down her back and shoulders. "Everyone hold your fire and lower your weapons."

"I beg your pardon?"

"The situation's being taken care of as we speak, sergeant." she said firmly. "By...'professionals'."

"We are the professionals, miss Maza, and we're about to fire on this thing with heavier artillery and take it down once and for all. Do you have an objection to saving lives and property?"

"I have an objection to you forcing your men to live out your itchy trigger finger and perhaps hurt innocent people in a useless barrage of gunfire against an opponent already proved to be resistant to such weaponry. And that's Mrs. Maza."

He sighed when seeing the well-known detective effectively try and wrest authority from his fingertips, condemning her arrogance with his own. "I'm in charge here," he spit out as Elisa sauntered up to him, unfazed by his tone and simply stopping a foot in front, staring at him with eyes alive with a rare controlled furor, "and as long as I'm conscious, I'll make the decisions! Is that clear, miss Maza?!"

"Crystal." Elisa swung a balled fist across the taller man's jaw, and knocked him backwards with a clear and agonizing crack onto the sidewalk, a lifeless, unconscious corpse falling into the hands of his subordinates. "Now I'm in charge, ladies and gentlemen," she announced, looking towards the other officers and seeing the furtive glances pass between them, "anyone got a problem?" An eerie silence loomed, and they all returned compliantly to their posts with weapons lowered, leaving their former commander to slumber peacefully upon the cold concrete on a trusted comrade's mere words and their shared dislike of him. "Good." Elisa then turned her fury towards the remaining camera crews and a rather stunned Travis Marshall. "And turn off those damned cameras!!"

"Or you'll what, detective?"

Elisa sneered, almost a wicked smile, and nudged the unconscious form of the squad commander with her boot, now leaving a trail of drool down his cheek to puddle upon the sidewalk. Travis merely shrugged an eyebrow in the threat, though feared to some extent his chances against a woman possessed of the proud snarl of a lioness.

****************************************

"...You're as clear as I can make you, husband..." Elisa whispered into her transceiver, as Goliath listened intently. "...But there's still some roving eyes and lenses here and there, so please be careful..."

The gargoyle stood tall and flared his wings, peaking from wall to wall of the entire shop. "Aren't I always?" Goliath turned to his clan, gathered within the cramped confines of the darkened business and enclosed by decorated walls of ruddy, pressed brick, the clan having entered from the back door and now watching from the front windows the Coldstone cyborg through the smoky, dust-covered glass. "We're forced to play this within a very open space, so we must do everything to keep our appearance to the public to a minimum."

"And the windows above?" Angela reminded, where she knew the curiosity of the Manhattan dwellers would direct their eyes below to the ruins of their once peaceful neighborhood.

Goliath grimaced. "There is nothing we can do. Which only means we have to work quickly to subdue this robot," his eyes unconsciously flitted towards the web-winged cyborg, as if silently blaming him, "if not destroy it."

"It appears as if we have at least some luck, my brother," said Othello, surveying with the keen eyes of a hunter the battlefield in which the Coldstone robot was now momentarily enclosed, "the robot seems to have unintentionally built a wall around itself using the vehicles it has ruined."

"Which we shall complete. Let's move." Goliath heaved a fortifying breath and swept out into the open, followed by the clan, the gargoyles spreading out into the street.

****************************************

"Now watch, dear Alexander," he informed his student in a milky voice, jubilant in seeing at long last an action taken by his favored clan far below, "here they go. Into the midst of battle against an adversary with a precious cargo they have no idea about."

Alexander's eyes widened under the falling strands of his mother's fiery hue. "But, uncle Puck," he protested, a child's genuine plea to aid his friends, "can't we tell them?"

The smaller-statured fay only placed forth a smile devilishly impious, and circled completely upside down, floating cross-legged with Alex having to tilt his head somewhat to meet his teacher's eyes, the color of ice and sapphire gemstone. "Not yet, my grand, grand pupil. Let us allow them the first shot, and wonder if they can see past the metal and wires to the driver of the mechanical machine."

****************************************

"Hudson, Broadway, barricade the rear door of this business, and then join Othello and I as soon as you are finished. We need to build a blockade around this area to discourage any unwanted visitors." Goliath ordered quickly though calmly. "The rest of you..." He pointed towards where the winged robot slowly tried to rip through a police cruiser to gain access outside the immediate area, its boosters damaged and spitting broken shafts of sputtered flame in a futile attempt to take off. "Stop that thing."

"As you wish, brother." tendered Desdemona, as she and Angela then decided to claim the first blow, and using their strength, pushed an abandoned sedan against the retreating robot, and connected upon its legs with a blow nearly toppling their adversary.

"Damned creatures of metal!!" it screeched without realizing just who had sent the vehicle towards it with such ferocity, and tore the literal heart from the car, heaving the fluid-leaking engine away. A maddening rage sparked by such an alien environment flowing through its circuitry, it howled angrily, "If I am forced to tear apart this entire iron castle, I shall...to find my clan...I will..."

"You will not cause any more destruction, machine!" screamed Sata, flying towards the robot to renew the battle she had lost upon the parapets a towering two thousand feet above. The ruthless scream of the katana's tapered tip scraping a trail of sparks across the pavement alerted the cyborg, and it dodged only in time to feel the blade carve off a sliver of its arm's thick hide.

"...[defensive measures...active]..." Coldstone spun around when the defensive program, though simple and almost undeveloped, reacted to her attack and grabbed the sword, disarming the samurai and forcing Sata to combat against the far stronger opponent with just her hands. "You chase me through this iron castle, traitor." it claimed fervently. "Are you from a rival clan? The English?"

"Rival clan?" Sata echoed, before the cyborg glanced a heavy fist off her jaw, quelling her resistance brutally and effectively.

"You must have taken my clan, and come back for me."

"Sata!!" Brooklyn leaped in to the fray, his judgment affected when Sata fell, but his heart and body guided by the surge of adrenaline, he attacked with a heavy laser rifle, his targeted beams being seared into Coldstone's damaged chest plating. "That was the wrong woman to hit!"

Coldstone said nothing, and swiftly broke the weapon in two perfect halves, forcing Brooklyn to catch the robot's hands before they do such damage to his own form. And as the second grappled with the cyborg, their eyes connected, from faded charcoal to blood red detailed with microscopic, embedded circuitry, they stared each other down. "Beak...red...white hair..." it mumbled, as if recognizing its attacker, the timedancer thinning his eyes to the mere moment of composure in the midst of chaos. "...you are the same...but you are different..."

"Well that makes...a whole hell of a lot of sense!" Brooklyn strained, playing a dangerous game of strength versus an obviously more powerful opponent.

"...[defensive measures...active]..."

"Oh, damnit."

****************************************

They heaved the cars in powerful, four-fingered hands, building them higher, forcing a wall curved subtly in a broken half circle to keep back the anxious hordes of uniformed men and woman only half a block on either side, and enclosing their section of the street turned battlefield. Muscles strained and bulged almost repulsively at their thick hide, the violent streaks of pain a constant reminder of the pressure on their joints.

"Watch me face, laddie!" Hudson cried, as Broadway almost lost his end of the vehicle in their speed to finish the task at hand, and nearly sending the rear end of the battered wagon into the elder Scotsman's head.

"Sorry, Hudson." the burly youth answered, planting his foot into the pavement to brace himself and pushing the car onto the pile with a greater strength then most, and rarely granted such an opportunity to display his power.

"I think we be havin' visitors, Goliath." Hudson muttered, without a bother to turn his head towards the odd sound fluttering above, and entrenching his hand up to the wrist in the hood of another car.

Broadway's great hearing too picked out the distinctive, mechanical drone, and he looked up. "Ah crap...Goliath, look!"

The massive leader spotted what he had dreaded from the beginning between the distant specks of light glistening a bright amber glitter. "Police helicopters. They are massing their forces, with both weaponry and camera. It won't be long now." Goliath then stole the car from Othello's grasp, and threw the still flaming husk with his bare hands onto the crudely constructed wall of automobile and scavenged debris, ignoring the flames and superheated fluids lapping at his skin. "We must hurry!"

****************************************

Coldstone stretched apart Brooklyn's arms almost to the breaking point, where muscle separated from bone, and the robot pushed away the second with pinpointed accuracy, landing the familiar gargoyle into a streetlamp, uprooting and bending the painted steel pole with his own battered form, and showering the vanquished foe in a fall of sparks from the light bulb above. "Where is my clan, traitor kin?!"

"Grab it, Angela, Lexington!!" Desdemona screamed to the lavender female and web-winged cyborg attacking the robot's front, as she herself leaped onto the backside and snaked her arms around its neck. "We must limit its mobility!"

"I'm trying!" Angela snapped back.

"You will not take me as you did my clan!" it growled in defiance.

"What is this thing driveling about?" Desdemona mused in angered voice, even as she held for dear life to the flailing robot. "What are you?!"

"You wear a comfortable mask of lies, traitor!!" it bellowed, the attacker behind who now spoke gone unseen, only feeling the rush of heated breath pass by its cheek. "You have taken my clan!!"

"And what clan would that be?"

"Clan Wyvern!"

"What?" Desdemona gasped in the unearthing of perhaps something more than a machine having escaped its leash, her senses having screamed to her and plagued her ever since this night began now peaking as if a cresting wave. "But...we are clan Wyvern."

"...[resetting hydraulic pressure]...you lie."

"I do not."

"You...you speak in a familiar tongue...[defensive measures...active]...no...please, wait..." The hardness had returned, the severity and frigid demeanor having shared its form with another now growing in intensity with the amount of damage suffered. Both Angela and Lexington were brutally beaten down in a flash of steel, collapsing to the pavement, the lavender female pouring blood from her mouth in the force of the vicious blow. "...I...I'm sorry..." it stuttered.

"You claim us as attackers, and then savagely assault innocent gargoyles?!"

"I have done nothing but try to find my clan within this place of iron and Vikings!" it cried, the first time showing emotion, regret even as Angela lay unconscious at its feet, with Lexington holding a metallic coated hand to a rift in his head opened in his skin just below the golden-hued cybernetic patch. "And I have been attacked at every turn!"

"And we have done nothing but try to sway you from doing any more damage!"

"This," it looked with shifting eyes to the fallen gargoyles, "was not my fault..."

"It was your hands that delivered the blow!"

"But it was...not my intent...[defensive measures...active]..." It swung Desdemona from its shoulders, and in an instant of anger fused only with what guided it's basic encoding, ruthlessly collapsed the molded frame of an adjacent vehicle with the gargoyle's form, swallowing the caramel-colored female in the folds of cold steel. "Whoever you were...I am sorry...I cannot...control...[rerouting power...attempting bypass of foreign cognitive functions...targeting remaining attackers]..." Its eyes ran cold with the color of blood, and slowly turned and stepped over the fallen to gain access to the last standing clan members.

"Rrrrraugghhhh!! You think me blind, machine, to the suffering of my mate?!!" Othello then appeared as a form exploding with rage, born as fire and his carnal fury erupting like starlight from his eyes. Abandoning the construction of the wall, he now slipped behind Coldstone and wrenched his arms underneath the automaton's shoulders, nearly lifting it from its feet. "You will pay for ever laying a hand on her!!"

"...[designation assailant: gargoyle...defensive measures...active]..." It landed a barbed elbow to Othello's side, and continued the blows in obdurate, unyielding repetition until the gargoyle's grip eventually faltered, having bruised his side, perhaps broken his ribs in such brutality. It was learning, indeed to be a more efficient machine, to better defend against an adversary as vicious and as inhumanly strong. And whatever had remained of the second personality, was now drowning within the ocean of cold, unfeeling technology, its once strong voice almost lost.

****************************************

Elisa watched in helpless aggravation the swirl of winged form beyond the debris still aflame, and still spreading its concealing light upon her, the detective unable to discern how the battle fared with her place beyond that of any aid to her mate and where stacks of broken vehicles were swiftly moved to block her already meager view.

"Well, it looks like you have them pretty much under your control." the just arrived Iliana whispered, seeing this particular squad holding themselves ready, their weapons left in a pensive position.

"Yeah...but they're getting a little edgy." Elisa answered automatically, only able to tear her attention from the outlying fight for a minute before her eyes thinned and locked towards where her husband and family lay in lethal battle. "As long as the sarge there remains unconscious, I'm still in charge. Of course, Chavez is going to be a little annoyed that I took unauthorized control of a riot squad and punched out one of her sergeants..."

"She's flexible when it comes to our friends."

"Only to a point. And I've noticed she hasn't been in the best of moods lately."

Iliana stood by in silent agreement, as both detectives tried to peer into the ever-growing barrier of auto wreckage, where invisible hands handled the vehicles as if toys stacked upon each other. "They're building a wall..." she whispered in admiration of Goliath's quick thinking. "That husband of yours deserves his title of leader."

"Ah, uncontrollable fires, evil robots, mass destruction, beautiful women...god I love this city!"

Elisa turned to the low, masculine voice having somehow echoed over the devastation, and found Todd inching his way to where an officer stopped him from entering the area cordoned off with yellow banner tape. Elisa however waved him through, and Todd approached. "I take it you saw too."

"This is my former neighborhood being torn apart." he said briskly. "Annika dropped me off before joining the brawl. How goes it?"

Elisa folded her arms, no discernable emotion crossing her hard-edged features. "I can't really tell." she muttered, annoyed, not one to stand the sidelines and allow others to fight a battle that concerned her family and best of friends, and perhaps be exposed to roving cameras. "Mr. Hawkins," Elisa then started in a tone so different, almost daring, in a chance presented to at last aid her mate, "how about you do your wife, my husband, and the rest of our family a big favor?"

Todd picked up on Elisa's demand declared rather subtly. "You mean make sure they never get on film by destroying every single camera I see?"

Elisa nodded, and flicked a supple finger towards the WVRN cameraman, filming despite her threat, and safe in his understanding of the press laws.

Todd sunk into a hunched position, and stretched his lips from ear to ear. "Yes, ma'am." With a quick step, he dashed towards where Travis Marshall now tried his luck to move past the officer holding the reporter back for his own safety.

"We have to get closer..." Travis whispered to his cameraman. "Whoever, or whatever's in there, has built some damned wall. We can't see..."

"HI MOM!!!" his scream echoed across the entire network and into a million homes, as Todd appeared directly in the camera's sight, and waved as if a tourist lost and a fool found. "Hello, America! I'm not wearing any underwear!!"

"Hey!" Travis yelled at the youth, as Todd started licking the camera lens. "Get out of the shot!"

"Oh, sorry." Todd ducked away and then scooped underneath, deviously jabbing his elbow into the camera and knocking it from the cameraman's shoulder, spilling the three thousand-dollar piece of station equipment onto the pavement and reducing the live feed to the station to mere static. "Oh, damn! I'm so sorry!"

"You immature punk! We're trying to do a story here!"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Marshall." Todd feigned his apology and roughly grabbed the reporter by the shoulders, and before the enraged television personality could mount a suitable defense, Todd lodged his knee directly into the older man's groin. "Really, I am."

"Problem solved." Iliana sighed, enjoying the rare and memorable sight of Travis Marshall curled into a fetal position on the ground, and trembling violently with the pain spreading throughout his paralyzed form. "I'm so glad he's on our side. But it's too bad that wasn't St. John..."

****************************************

Delilah flipped up and over the car being lobbed through the air, barely escaping the several tons of steel, glass and rubber cast against her as a response to her unwanted touch upon the robot's iron flesh. The clone landed hard and collapsed to the ground, as the vehicle bounced and twisted and spread its pieces in a scattered path towards her, enveloping the young gargoyle within its shadow. Delilah gasped as it reigned down upon her, and in an instinct bred by an ironically inherited human nature, she closed her eyes and screamed.

He caught it, protecting her and holding aloft more than a few tons of weight upon his back. Shadow strained to hold back the crushing weight, as Delilah's eyes fluttered and found the ninja's face inches away from her own, contorting with the massive load being pressed against him.

"S-Shadow?"

"Move!!" he commanded, as Delilah scrambled from below him and watched as Shadow flipped from underneath and allowed the wreck to drop and crash to the ground.

"How did you know...w-we were here?" she asked, her breath broken and heaving her chest, afflicting upon her speech.

Shadow stood tall, and cricked his shoulder. "I saw the destruction from...Iliana's apartment window."

Delilah snorted a garbled response and skipped away, whatever feelings brought to the surface being washed away with just the mention of the particular name, and leaving Shadow to further compound his pain with her continuing dismissal, and follow behind. The clone ran to Othello, the dusty blue gargoyle having pulled his mate from the makeshift iron coffin and huddling with Desdemona held securely to his breast, wounded and bleeding, and rubbing a hand over the jutted, fragmented bones beneath his serrated skin. "We need more help! We need the others!"

"No!!" Othello snarled back to the girl of ivory wing and hair. "They need to...continue building that wall! Elisa can only hold the police off for so long. Our anonymity...our concealment is just as important...as winning this battle!"

"And is it worth our deaths?"

Othello lunged forwards as if to further combat the clone's naive viewpoint but stopped abruptly when perhaps he realized he agreed with her statement, ringing true in many aspects. "Goliath and the others must finish, they must conceal us, protect us, and my brother knows that. And besides," he looked to the ninja standing over him, his form trembling, almost appearing to want for the delicious heat of the fight, "we now have...a new player in this game."

****************************************

"Alexander? Do you see that camera over there?"

The young hybrid looked to a distant building, where an amateur photographer was recording the entire scene from the rooftop ledge, and perhaps catching the clan on film, and granting them an unwanted stardom. "Uh huh."

"Remember what we talked about? How magic can be destructive, and there are times when you shouldn't cause such destruction willfully?"

"Yeah?"

"This isn't one of those times...please destroy it, my boy."

"Kay." Alexander raised a hand and splayed his fingers slowly outwards, and through his arteries flowed the magic of Avalon's crisp shores. Across the vast expanse, the young sorcerer focused in on the camera with an energy of a delicious rush tasting so very sweet upon the tip of his tongue, picking apart the tiniest of components, and releasing the screws holding the casing together.

"Focus, Alex." Puck warned with the subtle hinting of the teacher concealed within. "We don't want to blow the camera up in the poor man's face. It may be funny to you and I, but I don't think he would appreciate second degree burns on his face."

"Kay." Alexander slowly closed his hands, the sense of tactile impression spreading upon his fingers, as if he could feel the camera in his hands, the gentle warmth of technology on his skin. He clenched his fist, and instantly, the camera across the street compressed and fell to pieces, with Alexander smiling in his triumph and a lesson much more amusing than a spattering of parlor tricks. "That was fun, uncle Puck. Can I do it again?"

Puck rubbed his hands together, taking great pleasure in mindless destruction but with a worthy cause, living vicariously through his student. "Of course, my boy. I think I see a few more naughty filmmakers trying to make our horned friends more famous than they ever wanted to be."

****************************************

"This battle isn't going exactly in our favor..." wheezed Sata, pulling a near unconscious Brooklyn from the twisted ruins of the streetlight. "We need brute force, I think we may need the proverbial big guns, my love."

Brooklyn nodded drowsily, hunched over Sata's offered shoulder. "No. They're...they're still building...the wall. Besides..." he paused, and broke into a smile empowered by the recent arrival and his trust in a weapon allowed to fully unleash his power. "Who needs big guns...when we have the living weapon..."

The scream erupted from nowhere, from everywhere, the air itself being split open and set aflame with his searing cry. Perhaps even it escaped beyond the wall, and allowed the bystanders an audible suspicion to what transpired within. From the littered fires leapt the dark warrior, aiding his clan in the conflict and unleashing his talons into battered metal flesh of Coldstone. Shadow landed his fists as a blur upon the robot's hide, rending metal and expending his great strength against that of a machine now seemingly unpossessed of mercy for the weakened. He ducked low, and swept his legs to Coldstone's, deposing the robot to the ground and straddling his chest, landing fierce blows to frozen features crafted in impassive steel and spreading pieces of the reconstructed cyborg across the flaming field of battle.

"Shadow..." Desdemona wheezed, her lip swollen and bruised and attempting to crawl her way from Othello's embrace. "Shadow...no! You can't destroy it..."

"What?" Othello gasped, pulling back on his mate's arm lest she get too close. "This thing is dangerous...if Shadow can defeat it then..."

"No, my love." She fought against him, brushing away offered hands to aid her struggle to rise to her feet. "We mustn't allow the robot irreversible damage...something is wrong..."

"She's right..." Lexington added quickly. "I'm getting some weird power readings."

"...[assailant identified...designate: gargoyle...defensive measures active]..." Coldstone drove a fist into Shadow's side, and thrust the gargoyle from its chest with an open hand to the ninja's throat with enough pressure to nearly crush his esophagus. "...please...I'm sorry..." It pleaded for his forgiveness in such an act, when anger once dominated its carnage, and now wanted only for the winged creatures to leave it well enough alone lest the intruding thought patterns took drastic measures beyond her control.

Shadow rolled away, releasing the acerbic bile he coughed up from his lungs onto the street, and flipped to his feet, only to meet the Coldstone robot head on as it rammed into him, compressing his chest. The robot clenched its taloned hands and brought them down upon the gargoyle's neck, with eerie succession perfectly timed, each blow stronger than the next. Shadow hunched down and even through the relentless pain, he wrapped his arms around the robot's waist and flipped it over his spurred shoulder. With Coldstone momentarily stunned, Brooklyn and Sata aided the dark warrior in the battle, holding down the struggling robot and only just barely.

"Get off of me! Please!" it screamed, wrestling against the gargoyles holding it down. "Before I...[armor compromised...increasing hydraulic pressure]..." Brooklyn and Sata were snatched and struck together, knocked away when falling into a pained stupor. It thrust its legs into Shadow's chest, and stood up.

It quickly tore from the surrounding wall the flaming husk of a smaller vehicle, and toyed with the weighted tonnage coldly before their eyes. The vehicle was sent soaring towards Shadow, and he braced himself for the impending blow, defending Brooklyn and his mate behind his body, until a massive silhouetted form stepped in and halted the vehicle in mid-air with just his hands.

"Enough!" Goliath bellowed, holding aloft the car with his talons entrenched into the metal, his task now finished and his anger crowning, threatening to erupt from his lavender flesh.

Coldstone cricked its neck and tilted curiously its head, such a pause unexpected in the rampage it created, the path of destruction it caused when ripping seamlessly through the ranks. "...it's...you..." it then whispered, though the voice would not carry enough power to find even Goliath's ears.

"Now!! Annika, Delilah!"

Springing forth from either side came the two young gargesses, a blurred path of dawn tint and copper tan stringing between them a salvaged steel cable. "Yeeeee-hah!!" crowed Annika, as she spun the cable with a flick of her wrist and hooked it around Coldstone's midsection, binding its arms and torso. She and Delilah both crossed past each other and swung around, quickly wrapping the cable about the cyborg and holding tight to either end, being assisted by Hudson and Broadway and using their weight to hold down the stubbornly resistant adversary, weakened enough to be unsuccessful in it's obstinate defiance. "It's all yours, Goliath!"

"This battle is over, robot." Goliath gritted his fanged teeth and raised the car in purpose to strike. "As of now." His shoulders screamed in agony as the seven hundred pound gargoyle dug his taloned feet into the asphalt to brace himself, and sent the scrapped heap back in ruthless fashion, leaving a trailing line of fire and yellowed, chemical-induced smoke.

Coldstone was thrown back as the massive weight collided, forcing the robot to stagger back almost drunkenly under the brutal blow to its damaged frame. "...[armor compromised...]...please...do you not recognize me?...[foreign cognizance still detected...rerouting power from foreign entity]..."

Goliath ripped forwards, and used his entire muscled form as a mere battering ram, driving the robot back into the wall and pushing the nigh-immovable barrier almost an entire foot back. He rendered his fists as the sheer sum of his anger, instruments of destruction unleashing the true power of perhaps the greatest and strongest warrior alive, and after the impairment it had suffered at the hands of the clan, Coldstone could not readily defend itself against Goliath's crushing blows.

"Goliath...no..." Desdemona wheezed, faltering in her path towards her brother. "NO!!!"

And suddenly, the robot grasped upon the gargoyle's wrist, stopping the coming thunder from lethal contact. "...my...my brother..."

The voice at once brought him from the blind euphoria of destruction and at last showing the faithful traces of the owner lost behind the shaped, wintry mask, an iron cage to house the lost soul. "It can't be..." he gasped aloud, his eyes growing wide in a comprehension almost too surreal to believe, that of a voice, a tone held in cherished regard and never forgotten. "M-My...clever sister??"

****************************************

"And he at last guesses correctly." cooed an ecstatic Puck while clapping his hands in applause, having enjoyed the fight, the callous brawl within the halved ring of flaming steel and what would soon come of such destruction. "Boy, that Goliath is one smart gargoyle, eh my boy!"

****************************************

The others remained in awe of the affectionate name once heard a millennium ago, with the recent Wyvern additions staring strangely at each other, as their leader had suddenly ceased his onslaught when clearly having the advantage.

"...help me...please..." it begged to him, as Goliath trembled in the lasting vestiges of his anger at this thing now claiming to be his family. "...I can no longer control...my actions..."

"It's her, isn't it, brother?" Desdemona called from aside him.

"But it can't...it can't be you..." Goliath whispered, the robot still holding his arm in an ironclad grip. "You died a thousand years ago...in the massacre..."

"...[main systems damaged...employing internal reserve power]...died?..."

"Yes, my sister." Desdemona crawled her way to the robot's side, at last in full view of the blood red eyes. She now had chosen to listen to the persistent voice echoing within her head, the memories of her time spent within the Coldstone cyborg flooding back. "You have been lost for so very long, and brought back by sorcery into this robot, this metal creature you now inhabit...just as I and my mate were...look at your hand."

Coldstone shifted its eyes towards the claw still clasped around Goliath's arm, and as if seeing what it was for the first time, it opened its mouth to release what passed as a defeated breath. "I am...made of metal...[rerouting power]...who is speaking within my mind?..."

"The...machine you inhabit..." Goliath started, his voice still unsure in trust. "It seems is slowly taking control. You must...you must fight, sister." he whispered then, hoping bravely against his pessimism in such luck of finding a lost family member, especially one so treasured above the rest.

"I...cannot..." the voice of sweetened summer mist grew weaker, fading into the frigid breath of technology once again.

"Please, sister!" Goliath now called desperately. "You must stay conscious! You must stay with me!!"

"I am...suffocating..."

"Goliath, she may be right!" Lexington yelled from afar, the web-wing creeping closer and scanning his creation with bionic implants and heightened sensors. "The defensive programs are growing in strength as the fight progresses. Its CPU is a learning computer, and only grows stronger with every battle it faces. It takes what little programming it has and expands on it..."

"Including the defense program." Goliath finished, understanding now what has been happening, the reason for two voices in one, metal form. "And now my sister is slowly being consumed within that program."

"It's only a matter of time before the Coldstone CPU circuitry forms a new network of neural pathways...and totally obliterates what it deems..." Lexington paused, in seeing Goliath's expectant eyes. "Foreign elements."

"...[power reserves failing...dropping below seventy percent]...[rerouting]...[rerouting]..."

"Can you repair it?" he asked, almost desperately. "So it won't?"

Lexington sadly shook his head, swallowing the forming lump into his throat. "It...it shouldn't have malfunctioned like this in the first place. It must have bypassed somehow the main control chip, and if it really is your sister in there..."

"Then we need a sorcerer to extract the soul just as Titania did for us." Desdemona mused.

"Demona." Goliath whispered suddenly. "We need Demona. Now!"

****************************************

"Demona?" Puck could not help but to exclaim out loud, the slender fay surprised in Goliath's choice. "Oh why not, I mean she's quite the sorceress when she's not killing people and being a general pain in the ass, but she doesn't quite have the power to pull this off..."

****************************************

"There's not enough time." Lexington effectively shattered Goliath's hope. "I'm scanning a power signature that has been feeding Coldstone. And it's slowly fading."

"Then what would you have me do?!!" he bellowed, his chest heaving. "Allow my sister to fade away inside of some shell?!"

"If it really be yuir sister..." Hudson cut through, acting as the rational voice and always mistrustful of technology, especially such that had tried to kill him and his clan years ago.

"...mentor?..." Coldstone wheezed in seeing the elder drift into sight, as Hudson raised a withered brow.

"There are not a lot of people in this time who call you that, Hudson." Desdemona released her answer to Hudson's suspect.

"We can't just...leave her..." Goliath rasped, gently kneading the hand gripped to his wounded skin.

"Then perhaps," a voice called out, "we should try our luck." In a fall of emerald magic reminiscent of a light dusting of snow, the white-haired trickster literally popped into the battleground near Goliath, with young Alexander floating to the ground from the portal created.

"Puck." Goliath growled, sensing the recent fall of events now having a singular premise and master.

"Well, Goliath, you at last guessed." he saluted the gargoyle's keen mind, and the eventual step in the next level of the game he played.

"Then it truly is her..." he started almost angrily, looking down at the cyborg with tarnished eyes. "My sister from a thousand years ago is now trapped within this machine."

Puck smiled his usual smile, and danced his head upon his shoulders in a grinning nod. "Oh yes. It seems there were four gargoyle souls used in the original Coldstone creation. Three were freed, leaving only one to exist in suspended limbo."

"Did you do this?!" he accused of the robot's recent actions, with Puck unsurprised in the sudden accusation and seeing Goliath's hand wave to the destruction surrounding them.

The fay silently kneeled by Coldstone and rapped a balled fist a few times to its spurred head, causing a metallic echo to ring out and fade in a melodic breath. "It was meant to be a simple lesson. For young Alexander here. I had hoped he could expand his abilities with soul transference."

"You unleash this robot, allow my sister's soul to emerge and control it and eventually lead it into the center of Manhattan...as a mere lesson?!"

Puck held up his slight, pale hands in defense. "Yes. But I thought you would have stopped it before it left the castle. My bad." he apologized and shrugged, only incensing the leader's already volatile temper even further than before with such indifference to the carnage wrought. "It was also part of a gift unfinished. You know several years ago that the esteemed Mr. Xanatos wanted me to help give back the gargoyles that were trapped in the Coldstone cyborg. Well, it seems I missed one, for it was too far buried deep within the machinery...until now, until Lexington fixed it, until she was given a full form. But it seemed your dear sister had only one, recurring thought on her mind when fully awakened, that of finding a clan that hasn't existed for a millennium, and now is fighting against those defensive programs our favorite winged cyborg fed into this thing...and, Goliath, losing that battle."

"He's right, Goliath." Lexington entered back into the heated conversation, now able to plug back into the robot's access port. "Whatever's powering Coldstone is being expended more quickly with every passing minute."

"And take one guess what would be running that robot."

Goliath paled to Puck's obscured meaning. "You mean..."

"It's her soul, Goliath," said Alexander softly, the young boy crawling up by Goliath to rest his hand on the wounded chest plate of Coldstone, "the lady's soul is running th' robot."

"And as her soul is being expended...she is dying all over again..."

****************************************

"Come on, Goliath...what's going on in there..." Elisa whispered anxiously from her place across the street, and waiting, as did the others in any outcome, the sounds of battle having faded and eventually silenced. "Why won't you answer me?"

"Maybe the commlink was damaged in the fight..." Todd surmised, hoping to calm Elisa's irritable stance.

"I hope that's all it is..."

"Uh, Elisa?" Iliana nudged her, seeing another new presence to the police blockade, where the men parted as if a sea giving way to a passing, impenetrable ship. "I think we have a problem..."

Elisa turned to see a bulky figure trawl through the crowd, and eventually fixate his steeled eyes on the detective. "Damnit." she whispered. "Lieutenant Brock."

"Detective Maza." the massive, chestnut-skinned man greeted coldly the mate of Goliath, almost tripping over the former commander's limp body. "Why is sergeant Cooper unconscious?"

"He was hurt in the initial fight, and collapsed." Elisa explained, already having created her excuse for such a question and hoping none would contradict her fraudulent truth. "Thus, I took control."

He nodded almost barely, and Elisa could see the apprehension in accepting her version even in his weighted posture. "Well, I'm taking control now. I have orders from the chief to surround and penetrate that little blockade out there."

Elisa's almond-shaped eyes widened, and she skipped a breath. "But you can't!"

"And why not?"

Elisa quickly calmed herself with Iliana's bracing hand to her arm. "Everything's under control, lieutenant. You have to trust me."

"I do, Elisa." he answered softly. "But I also have my orders, and I can't ignore my duty to this city."

****************************************

"You say you wish to teach Alexander soul transference. Can he do it?"

Puck leaned uncomfortably onto Coldstone's metal form. "I would not have 'unleashed this robot' as you so claim if I didn't think he could. Besides," Puck then eyed Desdemona and Othello with pride, "he's done it before."

Goliath looked back to the creature formed of steel below him, the crimson of its eyes fading as was the soul inside. He faltered, his mind once so clear and in command now clouded with doubt and uncertainty in his treasured sister's revealed presence so close, as to touch with his hands and allow a bridge with tactile sense.

"We're running out of time, Goliath." Lex whispered, sensing a drop in power levels.

"...[power reroute unsuccessful...forcing shutdown of essential systems...operational status dropping below fifty percent efficiency]..."

Desdemona heard the robot's cry, and eyed the child of fire and sorcery rubbing a soothing hand over Coldstone's skin. "What do we have to lose, my brother? Except for our sister..."

"Alexander..." whispered Goliath, catching the youngster's attention to the massive gargoyle embraced by shadow and firelight on either side. "Do it."

"All righty then, my pupil!" Puck cheered, and flipped in midair, ecstatic in the chance to see his pupil pass his final lesson in such particular teachings since but a babe. "Come here, Alexander," Puck floated into an opened space within the burning confines, "and bring the subject, if you please."

Alexander rose up, and with a gentle pat of his pudgy hand to Goliath's broad shoulder, told the gargoyle in no certain terms he would have to relent his possessive nature when hovering protectively over his sister.

"Of course, Alexander." he whispered solemnly.

"...what...is happening...my brother?" it called breathlessly to the slowly retreating gargoyle, as it was lifted from the ground and wreckage with the tendrils of magic lancing from Alexander's fingertips. "...[primary systems failing...operational status compromised]..."

"It will be all right, sister..." Goliath calmed the frightened robot, barely enough power to turn its head to see the ground pass below ever slowly, as Alexander dragged the behemoth behind him as if a helium balloon suspended upon an invisible string. "Be calm. Be strong."

The gargoyles all watched in silent reverence the child place the floating robot in the middle of their claimed territory, and rest his small hands to the form held just above his eye level.

"Focus your energy, Alexander." said Puck, sitting cross-legged in the air just at the side. "Feel the entity inside the shell. Look past what circuitry and microchips make up this Coldstone."

"Kay." Alexander closed his eyes and stole away the emerald jade of his heritage, seeing within now, where the lost souls dwelled between existence and nothingness. "I see her, uncle Puck..." he whispered, feeling his fingertips along the subtle bulges and seams within the Coldstone form's casing. "She's pretty...she's got orange skin...an' spirally horns..."

"Yes!" Goliath almost screamed, with Desdemona grasping onto the arm of her mate with such veracity to almost cause him pain. "Yes, that's her!"

"...[power reserves falling to below thirty percent...cognitive functions failing]..."

"You are running out of time, young Alexander." said Puck, almost laughably stern.

"For the spirit to be willing, the flesh must first grow weak." he intoned almost flawlessly, his attention concentrated perfectly upon his task and belying his true age. "Just long enough for souls in flight to pass from cheek to cheek." The form glowed, the eyes once scarlet now turning to a brightly lit platinum, as Alexander reached within to another plane to make contact with the form swirling and near lost in oblivion. He himself grasped for the essence just beyond, a milky cloud in humanoid shape with the wings spread as if gliding through this barren place of stinging ether and a fiery twilight sky. Alexander smiled, when a hand grabbed a hold of his own, delicately feminine and possessed of such comfortable warmth contrasting the frigidity surrounding them. His astral form led the stray gargess towards the portal he had opened upon a corridor of cottony mist, but he found himself unable to bring her through. "I gots her, uncle Puck," Alexander hummed, having hit his first obstacle, and seeing the gargoyle's saddened features become almost desperate, her hand loosening its grip as her form's stability withered, "but I...I can't pull her...she's stuck..."

"Hmmm...no body for the soul to transfer into..." Puck thought aloud as he lounged comfortably in the air as if using it as a pillow, and perhaps already aware of this particular challenge.

"Titania used our stone pieces to recreate our bodies," offered Othello, his memories of his renewal years ago still fresh, "perhaps we need parts of our sister as well."

Desdemona shook her head in defeat, knowing the last shards were used in their renewal. "But where do we get such material?"

"One of us can act as an avatar." suggested Goliath quickly, stepping forwards. "For the soul."

"No, we need a separate body for her to lock the soul permanently onto this plane of existence." finished Puck crisply. "We'll have to work with what we have, Alexander. It seems you'll have to...improvise."

"Kay." Alexander increased the power of his inherited energy, forcing his blood to rush through the diminutive form and pressed his hands deep into the metal, almost pushing against a material acting more as malleable elastic than cold steel. He reshaped the cyborg upon his uncle's command, he twisted steel in the throes of magic and reformed a hardened armor into soft, fragile features, slimmed of its bulk and taking on a more gargoyle-like form, curved, and seductively feminine. Alexander was using the lost soul as a template, imitating flawlessly the robot into what remained trapped inside.

Those of Wyvern's past who stayed glued to the new shape gasped at the incredible likeness to their lost clan member, as a coating of dulled pumpkin orange soaked the smoothed form with a oddly golden-colored glitter rimming the edges, and a sheathing of light chestnut amber filled the growing strands, where between erupted two delicately curving and spiraled spurs.

"It's getting hard, uncle Puck..." Alexander gasped, growing exhausted with such exertion.

"I know, Alexander. Use that power you are tapping into, draw on those who surround you, draw on the soul who you are in contact with."

Alexander struggled, as if he strained against the weight of the womanly form hovering above but ultimately complied and gritted his teeth, drawing on the power he controlled to reform this robot, and even burrowed deep into the ground below, forcing the tendrils of his magic through the thick asphalt and waterpipe and powerline created by man, and siphoning away the power of the unburdened Earth itself. And the figure now complete, formed from the machine once known only as Coldstone, Alexander reached into the world he had opened, and tugged just a little harder upon the hand of the lost sister. She amenably followed his path, guided by his benevolence and childish smile and the promise of new life.

The body shuddered, and clenched, as the flow of newly formed blood flowed for the very first time, as the heart pumped and lungs took the fresh, crisp breath of life, an onslaught of sensation almost overwhelming. She screamed out loud, a high-pitched, throated roar that signified the soul had at last taken full possession of the body. She trailed off into silence, and fell deathly limp, as Alexander gently lowered the gargoyle to the ground, faltered and eventually collapsed as well.

****************************************

"All right men, weapons ready." commanded Brock with brutal efficiency, as Elisa could only idly stand by, unable to further protect her husband with her control effectively stolen just as she had done earlier. "The first wave is reconnaissance. Get in there and sweep the blockade and the entire building if you have to. When the F.D. douse the flames and the area is secured, the rest of you will follow. Let's move!"

Todd looked at Iliana questioningly, almost desperately for her to do, or say anything that would stop this, and she could only offer a somber frown rippling her lavender lips into a downward pout.

Elisa watched the first line of officers, clad almost menacingly in black Kevlar armor and full riot gear. "Damn..."

"Fuck, Elisa, do something!" Todd yelled out.

"I can't, Todd. Not without compromising our mates' safety."

"Our mates' safety depends on us stopping these guys from blowing them away with high powered rifles!"

"It's out of my hands now!" Elisa then pulled out her transceiver, once hidden in the folds of her bomber jacket. "Let's hope they've done their job. Goliath!" she growled into the commlink. "Are you there?!! Goliath!! Come on, answer me, Big Guy! Damnit, where is he?!"

****************************************

"Yes!!" Puck swaggered loudly in triumph of his pupil, dancing lewdly upon the currents of air. "And the boy lands a three-pointer at the buzzer!!"

Goliath immediately rushed towards where the female gargoyle now lay cold and unmoving, but alive, and granted existence after a thousand years. He guided his talons needingly over her face, as if to trust and believe only when in contact with her creamy flesh. He roamed her cheek with his knuckles, brushing the long lightened mahogany strands from her closed eyes, the eyelids fluttering lightly as if she was dreaming. "My clever sister..." he breathed wistfully, surrounded by the others marveling at the flawless pumpkin skin. "My sister...you have returned to us...you are whole..."

"Alexander?" Lexington suddenly called out, turning to check on the condition of the young boy.

"I have him, Lex." said Broadway, cradling the sorcerer into the pillowy breadth of his thick arms. "He's sleeping too."

"He deserves his rest." whispered Desdemona gratefully. "He has accomplished a great deal this night..."

"Oh yes." agreed Puck, pressing a finger to the orange gargoyle's temple, as if ensuring of the soul's new home. "He has passed soul transference one oh one. And conversion of matter to living flesh as well." The fay then wiped away a massive conjured tear. "I am so proud..."

"...GOLIATH!!!..."

"Graugh!!" Broken from the senses-consuming reverie of his sister's return, Goliath jerked in the sudden scream sent through his transceiver. "Elisa??"

"...It's about damn time you answered!!..."

"Elisa! I apologize for ignoring you, but we had some...unusual complications..."

"...Goliath, get out of there now!! Lieutenant Brock just took control of the S.W.A.T team and he's planning to storm your little blockade in about a minute!!..."

"There's never time to celebrate..." grumbled Brooklyn.

Goliath was brought immediately back when hearing even Elisa's voice crack and founder in emotional distress. "They are coming." he said gruffly to his clan. He scooped his sister gently from the ground and wrapped his wings about her exposed form, while taking yet another minute to soak in her youthful features in a still, blissful slumber. "We must go. We can exit through the rear of the building."

"...Bad idea!!..." confronted Elisa. "...They're surrounding the entire building as well! They've sealed off your escape through the back door!..."

"Puck?" Goliath asked the fay floating above him.

"Sorry there, Big Guy, but you know I can't cast any magic without big daddy Oberon getting a little angry."

"Then we go up." amended Brooklyn.

Goliath nodded, and gestured his clan inside, as Shadow held back and ensured they were inside safely. The S.W.A.T. team then swarmed the blockade, and through what cracks were left in the wall, through the chinks in the armor and orange haze of the slowly dying flames, they would almost swear seeing a massive form duck into the building and disappear completely.

****************************************

"...Sir, we got movement inside!..." crackled the voice through Brock's radio, of the leader of the first wave reporting Shadow's presence.

Brock immediately looked to Elisa, accusingly. "Who's in there, Maza?" he demanded of her.

Elisa shrugged impassively, and brushed her thumb over her long, self-manicured nails. "Government types I suppose. I didn't see much except for a bunch of suited men in armor, looked like F.B.I. I didn't order an attack as they looked as if they could handle themselves and I didn't want to see our fellow law enforcers get reduced to moving targets."

Brock released a growl comparable to Elisa's husband through his chest and tightened his weighted features. "Watch for spooks, boys." he warned his squad. "That 'movement' you saw may be the feds."

"...Yes, sir!..."

****************************************

"Move! Let's go people!" Brooklyn yelled, as he fed the clan through the darkened labyrinth of stairs and wooden railing, scaling the eight floors in minutes with the police force having swarmed the ground floor and following quickly their unseen prey. "Head for the roof!"

"Roof's a bad idea!" advised Annika in a near scream, the gargess pulling back and quickly closing the door heading to the building's rooftop. "They've got helicopters up there, and the place is lit up like a Christmas tree..."

"Oh this is fucking perfect..." groaned Brooklyn, now herding the entire clan into an empty room and locking the door behind him. "Now what do we do?"

Angela hobbled to the windows, and stood cautiously to the side, where spotlights from the hovering aircraft now beamed through and into each and every room. The clan ducked from the narrowed, menacing streams of light crossing as a sentinel through the entire room, as they clung to the walls and corners to hide themselves as best they could from the enveloping light, with Goliath ensuring his unconscious sister was secured in his embrace. "They're everywhere." she gasped in a slowing fear as Broadway stepped beside her. "This Brock is...very thorough."

"Dad?" moaned Alexander, revived from his daze in Broadway's arms. "Oh, hi, Broadway."

"Are you okay, pal?"

"I'm tired..." he whispered, trying his best to revive himself, a stubborn demeanor much like that of his parentage.

"You should be." said Lexington, rubbing a hand through Alexander's thick mane. "It's not everyday you bring back a soul from the dead."

"Did I do good, uncle Lex?"

"Yeah...you did good."

"Goliath." Shadow cut through in the low, accented rasp, watching from the hall outside. "They're coming..."

"Should we risk it?" Brooklyn eyed Goliath, the leader approaching slowly the window, where outside the beams continued to pass in meticulous fashion, and the glaring pulse of the police cruiser lights, almost obscuring the crowd of police watching from below in a fusion of interchanging cerulean and crimson. He peered to his sister, still asleep and safe within his arms, and furrowed his spurred brow in hesitation. "Goliath?"

"They are just below us, Goliath." called Shadow, hearing the officers' steps on the stairway growing louder.

"Goliath!"

"We move now." he said suddenly, almost inaudibly, until his tone lifted to a robust command. "Out the window."

The others looked at each other in stalling apprehension, the only choice left to them to launch themselves into the open air and fend against the barrier of the police helicopters and the lethally exposing spotlights.

"I'll go first." said Shadow, sweeping past the others, with Delilah taking due notice in such an act. "To distract them. And perhaps take the proverbial spotlight off the rest of you while you escape."

"But you'll be caught." the white-haired clone protested the desperate feat.

Shadow looked back over his spurred-shoulder as he opened the window and allowed the rush of evening air to touch upon his readied wings, his eyes unattached of any regret in his decision. "Perhaps."

"This is the police!!" a growled call forced it's way beneath the door, signifying the police force having held themselves in the hall just beyond the thin wooden barrier. "We have the building surrounded! There's no way out! Surrender now, and you won't get hurt!"

"Oh damn." Brooklyn muttered, as he and Hudson braced themselves against the door. "Well, what are we waiting for? I prefer the window to the door!"

"No..." mumbled Alexander from Broadway's arms, slamming shut the window with just a wave of his hand before Shadow could escape, and nurturing a small glowing sphere, reflecting a faded bottle green off aquamarine skin.

"Open up now!!" the police yelled out again, with the spotlights having centered on the room in which they now concealed themselves, the last chamber gone unchecked and the last possible place they knew whomever was here to be hiding.

"No!!" Alexander screamed, expanding the pulsating ball energy in his hands, now bathing the entire room and the occupants in rich emerald. "We're going away."

"What the hell?" the police officer holding just outside whispered, seeing the thin shaft of green light spilling through the thin crack underneath the door. "Let's move in!" He allowed the others to pass by with the steel battering ram, and as the gathered squadron readied their automatic rifles, the door was fractured nearly in two by the weight of solid steel. And released almost immediately was a blinding emerald light shooting past him and his men, and stealing away their sight for a second before it passed, before it retreated back inside and left the hall dark and untouched once more.

Clearing his eyes, he ordered the team in, and into an empty room. He saw only a patch of faded smoke rising from the middle of the floor where an oddly ringed scorch mark lay credence to any occupation of the room, and lowered his weapon. "Uh...building is clear, sir." he spoke bewilderedly into his radio. "I repeat...building is completely empty."

****************************************

"Empty?!" yelled Brock in frustration, as Elisa smiled craftily when overhearing from afar. "You saw movement! You heard voices! If whoever, or whatever that was ripping up the street isn't in the building, then where the hell is it?!!"

"...I don't know, sir..."

"DAMNIT!!!"

****************************************

"Well, damn." Brooklyn whispered, as the entire clan watched safely from more than a block away the swarm of police helicopters forcing their lights down and into the entire block to desperately find the escaped. He steadied his stomach, the instantaneous travel across an entire city block playing havoc with his insides. "That was close."

"Too close." echoed Sata, sheathing her prized and safely recovered katana and dusting the light coating of debris from Brooklyn's beaked face. "Thank the gods for young Alexander."

"Speaking of which, he seems to have passed out again." Broadway mentioned, still holding the sorcerer curled against his chest, derived of consciousness from such an exertion upon his young, almost fragile form.

"Of course..." replied a disembodied voice echoing throughout the entire darkened rooftop. "He expended quite a bit of energy in that little teleportation stunt."

"Oh gee, thanks for the help, Puck!" Brooklyn yelled out to no discernable target, but knowing the trickster was merely concealed from his sight. "We almost got our tailed-sprouting butts thrown in jail back there!"

"Or blown to bits by some trigger happy cop." Broadway added.

"But you didn't." the voice countered in an ever delighted tone. "You are all alive, safe, and free. And you now have an extra gargoyle to crowd your little castle in the sky."

"I suppose we owe you...our thanks." Goliath grumbled quietly, still holding to the restored and sleeping gargess, his eyes unable to tear away.

"Is that...appreciation?? From the mighty, and might I add sometimes quite stolid Goliath?? Wow..."

Goliath barely raised a brow to the barb thrown against him, as his sister murmured softly and moved only just, brushing a hand against her face and burrowing deeper into the velvet lavender of the leader's barreled chest. "Let's go home."

****************************************

"Welcome back, Goliath." hailed Xanatos to the clan landing upon the courtyard stones, though appearing as if having waged a war, their attire charred and tattered, their skin broken, bruised and caked in dried blood. "I see your plan was...successful." He smirked, as Goliath passed his eyes from the billionaire to his majordomo, Owen standing rigidly and adjusting his eyes as a silent response to Goliath's quirky glare.

"Alexander?" Fox then asked hurriedly, her son her primary concern, especially when the fledgling sorcerer was stolen away by his teacher without her permission.

"Right here." Broadway offered the sluggish child to his mother, with Fox gratefully relieving Broadway of his burden.

"Hi mom..." he slurred, appearing as if awakened from a deep sleep, rubbing his eyes from beneath the falling strands.

"Hey, kiddo." she whispered, hugging her son to her slender torso. "So, did you have fun tonight?"

"Yeah. I raised th' dead."

"Has Elisa arrived yet?" Goliath cut through, asking of his wife.

"She's on her way up with Todd and Iliana." said Xanatos, stepping forwards to gain a better vantage to the gargoyle now squirming slightly in Goliath's arms. "I have yet to inform them of your sister. I thought you would appreciate telling them yourself."

"Thank you. I would."

"Mmmm..." the recreated she-goyle moaned, her voice soft, for unused were her reformed vocal cords and never touched by a voice such as hers until now. She shuddered and jerked, and nearly choked on her own tongue, the sudden thrust into consciousness causing severe and pained nausea, a confusion of senses. "B-Brother?"

"Hello, my sister," he whispered softly, helping to dress the pumpkin-skinned gargoyle in a large, long-sleeved shirt offered by Fox upon their arrival, "how do you feel?"

Her eyes flickered and eventually opened, a gaze blurred by a menagerie of color and shape and foreign substance, and she blinked to bring it all into sharp focus. She caught the scent of the castle so familiar, though tainted only slightly with cold technology and the sharp piercing tang of twenty-first century air pollution. "Where...where am I?" she whispered, steadying her stomach.

"Home, sister." he answered, lowering the gargess to the ground, her wings drooping lifelessly. "We are home."

She looked around, her eyes opened in full to the hovering gargoyles surrounding her, and the near blinding spotlights illuminating the courtyard. "H-Home?"

"Castle Wyvern, my sister." Desdemona offered, crouching beside her to drawing a hand over her shoulder and wings, flinching in the sudden and warm contact of another.

"Wyvern?" she looked around, seeing indeed now the familiar cornices and turrets soaring above the courtyard's level, cast in artificial light as the spotlights caressed the stones and lifted into where only the stars drifted in an ever revolving journey. "It...looks different...smells different..."

"Goliath!!" the scream of an angered woman echoed across the stones, defined clearly by her ferociousness and femininity and catching the ear of all gathered there, drawing a few raised brows and knowing smiles. "Where are you?!!"

"Who is that?" the lost sister asked timidly.

Goliath sighed instinctively, "My wife."

"W-Wife??!"

"Damnit, Goliath, you almost got caught!!" Elisa barged through the ring of gargoyles and stood angrily over her husband, her eyes on fire and her fists clenched and trembling. "What was so damned important that you...ignored...me..." she trailed off, her anger evaporating, for around Goliath's massive shoulder, a pair of wide charcoal eyes peeked out and Elisa and the gargoyle locked their gaze. "Oh."

"Elisa." Goliath started, guiding his wife's slender hand to rest in his sister's. "I want you to meet...my clever sister." Elisa gasped, and fell to her knees, as they both looked intently at each other, with the gargess quite wary of the human staring at her in such a way. "Her soul was trapped within the Coldstone cyborg just as Othello and Desdemona's were."

Elisa squeaked a bare laughter in such a vivid description now given real substance, and the reason her husband had been so preoccupied as to not give an answer. "Oh wow...hey there. My name's Elisa. I'm Goliath's...wife."

"But, my brother," the pumpkin-skinned gargess protested, darting her eyes confusedly between her sibling and the raven-haired human, "what about your mate? Our fiery-haired sister?"

Goliath and Elisa looked at each other, and balked their response. "Ah...perhaps we should get you to the doctor, my sister, to ensure you are truly...all right."

****************************************

"What is this machine?" she asked, running her slender hands over the casing of the computer, inquisitive even now when seeing the futuristic equipment in the Eyrie hospital and laboratory, her curiosity piqued with such a bizarre device among others in this sterile place smelling of pungent disinfectant.

"It's called a computer." came Lexington to the rescue. "It's a machine designed by humans to perform menial tasks and usually do things they can't."

"Ah." she answered, having recognized a few of the symbols on the keys as letters and cautiously punching in a few words, taking delight in seeing them appear upon the blank screen as if magic. "All these devices, these machines, they are...so wonderful..."

"One of the best things about the twenty-first cen..."

Brooklyn quickly nudged an elbow into Lexington's side, bringing the web-wing to a silent pause with his pursed beak.

She turned to see the rest of them falling silent as well, the entire clan having crowded into the hospital and awaiting Dr. Pierce's tests to be completed. Even with her questions of how the castle came to be atop the tallest building in the world, and how the swarm of technology and foreign dressings came to infest the corridors she roamed, they avoided carefully the truth and relented to Goliath to break the news to her. She noticed their demeanor as well, her observational skills never having dulled even after a millennium of oblivion. "You look so...different, than what I remember." she whispered, focusing on Lexington, then Brooklyn, Broadway, Bronx and Hudson as well. "All of you...you have changed, aged, mated. What has happened? How long...has it been?"

Brooklyn stepped forwards, and looked trustingly upon a woman he used to have to crane his neck slightly to look face to face when but an adolescent. His youthful features faded somewhat, his face containing within every subtle line and crease forty years of pain, laughter and tears, he smiled, and merely brushed a comforting hand to her shoulder. "It will all be explained soon. I promise."

"I'm sorry for attacking you...for attacking you all."

"You remember what happened?"

She shook her head, moving the suspended auburn strands about her shoulders. "It is mostly a blur. I remember feeling...only anger...I was fueled by purest rage. I needed to find my brothers and sisters...it was a driving purpose that I clung to, and in the process, hurt those I did not recognize...and possibly innocent humans."

"Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, sister." Othello whispered, rubbing his bandaged side, where the sunrise would heal his broken ribs with the promise of a well-deserved slumber. "And we were rewarded richly with the victory."

"Well, I'm all done here." Dr. Pierce announced, swiveling around in his chair, with Goliath having hovered over his shoulder the entire time. "For someone who was just raised from the dead, you're perfectly healthy." he said softly, enraptured by the new arrival now staring at him with large, emotive eyes. "In fact, I'd say you're the healthiest person, human or gargoyle, in this entire room. Or probably even in the entire city."

The pumpkin-skinned gargess looked back to Goliath for confirmation, and he nodded in composed admiration of the human doctor to ease her fears. "Thank you, Dr. Pierce...I think..."

"Alan." he corrected gently.

"Oh. Thank you, Dr. Alan."

"Daddy?"

Goliath turned to the tiny chirp from the hospital doorway, the crowd dividing to allow the tawny-skinned child to pass by them underfoot. She traveled carefully, through this place only associated with troubling memories, and though she enjoyed the company of Dr. Pierce, who always tried to make her trips here as comfortable as possible, even the most buoyant of jokes and sweetest of confection would not settle the fact the numerous tests on such a unique creature would leave more than a momentary physical sting. "Hello, Trinity." he greeted the hybrid, lifting her from the floor and into his lap.

She now stared with a look almost melancholy, and reached to touch the soft skin of the copper-colored hatchling, containing the faint traces of robust gargoyle thickness. "I still cannot believe you have a child with a human mate," she whispered, hesitant to accept this particular development, "let alone having taken parentage of a single hatchling."

"Things...have changed, sister." replied Goliath, and running his talons through Trinity's hair reaching far between her wings.

"You still have yet to tell me of your mate." she insisted almost angrily.

"Daddy," Trinity then raised herself in his embrace, pointing over his shoulder, "look."

"All right, I am here, daughter." she snarled flatly to Angela, her toneless voice brimming with an annoyance in being dragged from her work and privacy at an hour to her that would be considered late, especially when giving half her life to the human world. Demona stepped in to the room, her eyes thinned, and the dark tarn of ashen-hued obsidian flitting to the winged horde on either side. "Why have you called me here and what is this damned surprise you keep refusing to tell me about?"

She leaned out from her place upon the examination bed, only to catch a glimpse of fire tamed and given the styling and silken texture of hair. "Sister?"

The voice having instantly drawn her eyes, Demona stared headlong into a face she thought she had helped to kill long ago, and nearly collapsed to her knees in the shock acting as a physical blow. "...sister...my clever sister..." Demona faltered in her path towards the gargoyle yet paused just before contact with the pumpkin-tinted flesh. Her breathing became sharp, nearly uncontrolled, and she raised a hand towards the confused gargoyle cautiously, as if to touch this apparition would cause it to vanish in a virtual puff of smoke like all her dreams. "You're alive..." Demona skimmed her sister's orange flesh, and brusquely pulled the smaller woman into her arms, daring the dream to disappear if only to hold her sister for a moment. "You're alive!"

"Ungh..." she gasped, as Demona nearly crushed the life from her in the embrace. "It is...good to see you, my sister. But..." She pulled from her sister's arms, and looked to Goliath. "Where is the rest of our clan?"

****************************************

"They are...all dead?" she whispered morosely, settled into a massive armchair, the curved, bulging surfaces of tightly wrapped leather seeming to swallow her lithe form almost whole. "Our clan...my brothers and sisters..."

Goliath, sitting beside her almost guardedly, moved his hand and covered her own, trembling with the flood of information she had received, almost eight years worth assimilated in less than two hours. The library darkened and swathed in brooding shadows, remained almost deathly silent apart from the gentle breathing of the entire clan, gathered to help tell a story almost unbelievable in its premise and content, but true nonetheless. "I know it is...difficult to accept, my sister, but..."

"Difficult?!" she snapped, raising her tortured and tearing eyes to her brother, and even in the darkness, the pain existed, curling around the charcoal as reflections of the library windows, and the moon perched just beyond the paned glass in a pock-marked half circle. She lifted from the chair and strolled aimlessly until she reached the sill, looking out into the cornices, and beyond, the city so majestic, and yet so alien. "You tell me I have been risen from the dead a thousand years into the future, and our entire family except only for a lucky few are dead...and then merely say it might be difficult to accept?!"

Goliath turned back, seeing Desdemona cross by him and quickly come to her sister's side. "We all felt like this when either awakening from the spell..."

"Or being brought back from death itself." Desdemona finished, sidling next to her sister with a softened, practiced step.

"Our clan betrayed by the captain of the guards..." she whispered, pained. "I thought he at least accepted our kind."

"He made a mistake." Goliath mended slightly the harsh truth in favor to grant his ancient friend at least some dignity. And in that sense, he slid his eyes clandestinely towards Demona, having too sealed within her greatest sin to further spare any unneeded pain for both his former mate and cherished sister. But he knew as with her trembling form, and pursed lip she chewed upon, this very secret once contended with was now threatening to tear her apart. "He thought he was aiding us, serving our best interests," he continued, speaking both to his sister, and perhaps Demona, "and in doing so, was betrayed himself, and unwittingly wronged us."

"It was perhaps the hardest reality I had to accept when Othello and I were brought back," Desdemona carried on, "but eventually I did."

The lost sister touched a hand to the glass, her talons trailing down the warmed crystal surface, marveling even in this simple creation having been perfected for a thousand years. "How?"

"With my family, those who survived, and those who we have found. Yes, our family has diminished from what existed a thousand years ago, but the last clutch is safe and grown, and living a peaceful life on Avalon. We have found more gargoyles, and more clans around this world. We have more human allies than ever. We are strong, united. We are clan."

"Clones, cyborgs, robots, immortals, battles, computers, magical creatures, automobiles, massive iron cities..." She spilled a lone tear onto the window, skidding down the glass and pooling onto the sill. "I feel...lost...swallowed in some nightmare..."

Wrapping around her to feel her warmth and inhale her earthen scent, Goliath held her trembling shoulders steady with his braced form, pulling his sister into the breadth of his massive chest. "We are here with you, sister. I...am here. I will help guide you in this world. We all will, and soon you will adjust just as we did." Goliath slid a talon under her chin and lifted her gaze back towards the city. "It is an amazing world we now inhabit. With wonders beyond your wildest dreams, sister, to satiate your curiosity and keen mind."

She turned into his chest and rested against him, as his wings shored up and tightened against her. "I am...I am glad I'm here with you, my brother."

"Always and forever, my clever sister."

And from afar, Elisa watched with an interest her husband hold this woman like no other except perhaps her, and wondered just how close they used to be.

****************************************

"Well, this has been an interesting night." she mentioned idly, buried underneath his massive arm as it curled around her shoulder, his talons rubbing soothingly into her side. "Makes it worth the fact I'll be getting yelled at by Chavez soon."

Goliath peaked a brow in Elisa's assumption as the married couple entered into the courtyard and headed for his turret in the cresting dawn light, spilling over the ragged, uneven horizon. "Was she that angry?"

"She didn't sound that way over the phone when I called her, but...I think I'm going to get it soon."

"What makes you say that, my Elisa?"

Elisa caught his offered hand as she trailed behind him up the winding, torch-lit staircase, the gargoyle leading his mate up the steps of the passageway narrow and foreboding. "She wants to see me Monday morning in her office." her voice echoed slightly, even in a quiet whisper. "I think she wants to yell at me in person."

"Thank you."

"For what?"

Goliath turned and pulled Elisa gracefully from the opening, depositing his wife to the stones. "For holding off the police until we could release my sister."

She merely shrugged in such an act, and pressed against him, roving her hands about the muscle contained beneath his thick hide, the pangs of jealousy over Goliath's treatment to his sister washing away as he guided his hands through the sweeping curves of her hair, and placed his lips into the haloed crown. "It felt good to slug Cooper." she whispered. "He's a jerk."

"I will speak with Chavez if you like, to apologize for any inconvenience or actions taken by my...impulsive mate."

Elisa smiled, and reached up to trace a finger over the peculiar direction and form his mouth had taken, that of a grin. "It's rare to see that kind of smile on your face, Big Guy." she said. "You usually only have that goofy grin after sex."

Goliath raised his chin, and scowled playfully. "Hrm."

"Goliath?"

"Lexington?" Goliath asked, when seeing the cyborg exiting from the stairway and hopping to his side.

He opened with a breathless, dry tongue, "I'm sorry. For causing so much damage...I rebuilt a robot only to end up watching it tear apart the city."

Goliath only nodded and held up a hand, to sway the smaller gargoyle's guilt over the entire situation having arisen from his very workshop. "I may have been angry at first, but I realized it wasn't your fault. You took the proper precautions to ensure Coldstone would not do such a thing. It was Puck who took control of the robot, and allowed it life." He placed a hand to his charge's shoulder, bracing. "And perhaps without your unique skills, my sister would not have returned to us."

"Actually, Lexington, I wish to thank you as well." said Xanatos, joining the group and fixing his silk tie, edging a sharpened eyebrow upwards. "It's been a while since I could offer my services to the mayor. And now I can further polish my tarnished image by paying for the damage, and thus improve my chances for bids for construction contracts. Your clan is so good for business sometimes, Goliath. And you'll be relieved to know, detective," he turned to Elisa, "the police have written off the incident as an isolated terrorist attack, at least, that is what they're telling the press until further investigation."

"But they won't find a trace of the so-called terrorist because it doesn't exist anymore." Elisa replied. "It seems we did a good job in keeping the clan hidden from view. I guess I should thank you for all your help, Xanatos."

"That would be a gracious gift on your part, detective."

"Forget it." she barked quickly, keeping the billionaire always on his toes. "If it wasn't for your little pet fay..."

"If it wasn't for Puck," Goliath intervened, placing a hand to Elisa's shoulder to ensure her place lest she unsheathe her claws, "or Alexander, my sister would perhaps not be taking her place below upon the cornices."

"I'll thank Alex," Elisa backed into her husband's chest, with a finger pointing directly towards a smirking Xanatos, "and that's it. But please, Lexington, the next time you decide to fix something, please keep it simple."

"Don't worry, I don't plan on fixing any mass weapons of destruction anytime soon." he whispered. "And I was actually hoping to help you install the new computer intelligence system..."

"I was hoping you would say that." said the leader expectantly. "I need your help as well, in some...reprogramming." Goliath hopped to his perch, and allowed Lexington to swoop away and take his place as well, just as the first streams of light broke through the darkness, the city shedding from it's cover of night ever so slowly.

Elisa leaned over to see Desdemona guiding her pumpkin-skinned sister onto an empty perch, the notched roost now claimed as her own. "Looks like she's settling in." she whispered, as Goliath peered down to her, the restored sister having studied the island and mainland cities sprawling beyond what her large, iridescent eyes could perceive, then allowing her gaze to follow up the turret and smiling back to her brother graciously. "Big Guy," Elisa started, in a furtive tone, seeing a dark cerulean-skinned woman standing far back and watching her sister with haunted eyes, "why didn't you tell her about Demona? I mean the real Demona."

Goliath stroked back the falling strands of sepia dusk from his brow, and took notice of the changing winds. "My sister has already been through so much," he answered solemnly, "and I did not want to further compound her pain of losing her clan, and perhaps ruin Demona's continuing redemption. And ultimately, my Elisa, it is not my secret to tell. In the end, only Demona can make that choice."

"If you say so." Elisa tipped up on her toes to press her lips against her husband's, the sweetened taste of jasmine and cinnamon Goliath gorged upon without hesitation. "I'm happy for you. Trini and I will see you tomorrow night." She backed away as Goliath flared his wings and readied for the sun. She watched with great admiration her husband strike his pose as the wistful thinker, and the lavender she cherished transform to a somber gray. "I'm happy for you..."

"Elisaaaaaaa!! I think you'd better get down here!!"

Elisa instantly pulled away, startled by the voice reaching up to her height. She and Xanatos both traveled the staircase and found both Todd and Demona in human form waiting there, the young man's brow raised in surprise and his features twisted more than usual. "What is it?" she asked, as Todd merely pointed towards where the lost sister had taken to. Elisa turned, sweeping the hair from her eyes, and gasped. "What happened??"

"Now this is friggin' weird..." Todd muttered, as Xanatos stroked his goatee thoughtfully.

Elisa approached the statue of the restored gargess, and where she would expect stone, she found only a gleaming golden statue reflecting the sun's budding rays. She reached out, to make contact with the statue of the sister, eerily smooth to the touch. "Feels like...steel." Elisa whispered, her fingers roaming each crevasse and slope, and trailing down the hanging wings. "It's warm...like the others."

"I think, detective," Xanatos mused, "we had better inform Dr. Pierce."

****************************************

"Computer, start recording." he ordered, as the computer systems roused to life and purred with power and submissive receptivity on command. "I have examined thoroughly the young, and may I add very attractive gargoyle's blood, and found more peculiarities than just the odd golden color and unusual thicker viscosity, which I concealed from everyone else until I could study it further. It seems her cells almost resemble microscopic machines molded in the exact shape, comparable to the already proven nanotechnology, according to the data in the computer database. When her body was formed from the Coldstone robot, it almost appears as if the cells were duplicated from both gargoyle DNA and the sophisticated technology of the cyborg's frame, a fusion of man and machine at the molecular level. A perfect bonding."

Dr. Pierce plucked the glass vial from the centrifuge, and held it to his eye, the amber tinted blood now having turned to the remarkably golden steel parallel to the statue outside, and inspected by the doctor thoroughly on Elisa's request. "Even when separated, it seems her blood turns to this steel element as well as her body when the sun rises, as if the technology inherent is trying to mimic the gargoyles' stone sleep, even down to the cell. The peculiar thing is, since taking the sample of blood and before it turned to stone...er, steel, it didn't show any symptoms of cellular decay. It was just as fresh before sunrise as it was when I took it, even at room temperature." He uncapped the vial, and tipped it over the counter, the steel having molded to the shape of the glass container falling with an audible clatter to the hard surface and rolling towards the edge before being stopped by the good doctor. "There is definitely something different about this particular gargoyle..."

****************************************

"Damnit!! I can't believe you never allowed me to cover that story!!" she screamed, irate in being forced away from the commotion in downtown Manhattan, forcefully sweeping the long strands of blond from her eyes burning cold fire. "I would have gotten something instead of Marshall screwing it up!"

"Travis is one of our best reporters, Nikki, and you were needed elsewhere when the attack happened." said the station manager, calming Nicole St. John, the spirited reporter now tearing her nails into his veneer desk. "Besides, what makes you think you could have done any better?"

"Well, for one, I wouldn't have gone down on the first shot, Vinnie..." she muttered, referring to Todd's recent blow to the reporter's groin, causing him to lose the story, and almost his lunch.

"He was attacked by some gang punk, screaming something about his mom." he explained, only furthering to rile the explosive rocket fuel flooding Nicole's veins. "He hasn't even recovered yet, he's in his office with an ice pack glued to his balls."

Nicole fumed, and roamed the office in a deliberate circle. "Did we at least get any footage we could use?"

"The editor's going through it right now, but..."

"There were rumors this thing had...wings."

He dropped his elbows to the desk, to better hold his weary head. "Oh please, not your gargoyles again. Your story was fascinating, but pictures can also be faked."

Nicole flared her eyes. "You think I faked the pictures I took??"

"I don't know what to think anymore. You've never lied before, but...you've produced nothing new to prove your argument."

Nicole bit her bottom lip, reduced to a rare pause in dialogue in Vinnie's logic. "Something I'm about to change. I promise you that. I know Starr's hiding something..."

"Again with Starr..." he sighed. "You know you're lucky she hasn't pressed charges against you for invading her privacy."

"Of course she hasn't! She wants her little secret to be quietly buried because she's busy fucking a gargoyle!"

"Enough!!" he snapped, fed up with her continuing obsession. "This ends now! Get tangible proof, and I'll gladly open the story again."

Nicole released a steadying breath and crossed her arm beneath her chest. "How much footage were we able to get tonight?" she whispered.

"Not a whole hell of a lot, besides a bunch of fire, a big wall of wrecked cars and then static after the camera was dropped and almost destroyed."

"We'll see about that..." She dashed from the manager's office, leaving the older man to rub his creased brow in irritation. Nicole hurried through the halls of the WVRN news station, until coming to the editing room and bursting through the door, unallowing any quarter or obstacle to slow her frenzied pace. "What have you got?!" she yelled to the editor and his companion, surprised to the point of a near heart attack in her unannounced presence.

"Oh, damn, Nikki..." the older man breathed, clenching a fist into the material of his shirt. "Nothing really. At least, nothing we can use on the air that's different from any other station's footage."

"Even the chopper got nothing," the other added, the WVRN helicopter pilot, sitting back-ended on the chair and nursing his coffee, "somehow our camera exploded in mid-air. Weirdest thing too. Here I was, hovering over the street just above readying for a prime shot, and then I see some green mist passing by the cockpit windows, and bang, the camera shoots sparks and dies."

"You sure you can't get anything?" she asked, sitting beside them both and peering closely into the monitor showing the news footage of the blockade constructed by the clan.

"There's definite movement through the cracks, but other than that..." He shook his head when trying to filter any visible clues.

Nicole eyed intently the screens, as the footage played on. She tipped her chin onto her arms and watched for anything, trying to pick from the barely discernable shadows engulfed by the flames anything she could use. "Wait!" she yelled suddenly, in seeing a familiar color scream by in the midst of an orange haze. "Go back...pause it there..."

"What is it?" the editor asked. "What do you see?"

Her eyes narrowed, to see through the cracks a recognizable hue. "Lavender."

"It looks like an arm."

"And a wing." Nicole growled in her discovery, in seeing just enough of the Wyvern leader constructing the wall to identify the massive form. "I've seen him before. A little early for Halloween, isn't it, 'Mr. Liath Maza'." she whispered hungrily. "Costume my ass."

"What the hell is she looking at?" the pilot whispered to the editor, and receiving a shrug in response.

Nicole swept around, to look at the helicopter pilot. "You guys tapped the police radio frequency right?"

"Yeah, why?"

"And you said they mentioned something about some dark figure entering into the building?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Big and black. They said it could have been either one of the terrorists or a fed."

"It was neither." Nicole corrected him sternly.

"What's simmering in that little, twisted brain of yours, Nikki?"

"Nothing, except that everything is leading to a certain point, a certain place, and a certain group of people trying their best to bury my story." He grabbed the pilot's jacket, and pulled him close. "How long until the helicopter is fixed?"

"Four days until the new cameras get installed, then she's flyable again. Why?"

"Because," she bared her teeth, and turned back to the paused footage, "we're going to pay a little visit to the highest building in the sky..."

****************************************

She found her restored sister surrounded by the others following sunset long in coming, each excitedly grabbing upon her inquisitiveness with the promise of either a tour of the castle or New York, or a display of the latest technology, or a history of humanity having grown and spread so far from her former life. The pumpkin-colored gargess remained trapped within the middle of the circle, darting back and forth between their requests for her time, trying to discern a single voice from the chaotic wail.

"If you please, children..." Demona announced clearly, a growl that drew them to her presence almost instantly. "You'll drown our poor sister with your choking enthusiasm."

Desdemona took heed of the former immortal's admonishing tone, and smirked. "We apologize, sister." She nodded in repentance to her, brandishing a warm smile. "In our haste to introduce you to our century, we may have overwhelmed you."

"Overwhelmed is not the word I would use." she replied, brushing the auburn bangs from her knitted brow, and fixing her eyes to a passing airliner obscuring the stars in its path.

"If you please," Demona started, her tone become serious, "I wish to speak with our sister...in private."

They bred expressions born of a silent apprehension, knowing by the grave appearance Demona presented she wished to allow their newest clan member the entirety of the truth concealed from her the previous night.

"But, so soon?" Angela whispered cautiously, a protest to spare unwanted conflict, and ducking her eyes slightly from her mother's wounding glare. "Are you sure? Are you sure you wish to...mother, I don't think..."

"Angela." Broadway silenced her gently, holding back his mate for sake of she who in human terms was known almost laughably as his mother-in-law, and Demona soon nodded her appreciation. "Let her do this."

"Do what?" the lost sister inquired. "What is happening?"

Demona merely held out a hand, requesting her sister's presence, and she complied readily, drifting from the group and following Demona inside. She chose a room away from any presence to dare intrude, and settled her sister into a chair adjacent to the couch she had opted for.

Disconcerted in her sister's insistence to keep the lights off, the pumpkin-skinned gargess shook her wings free and steadied the sails fluttering in her uneasiness with Demona's numbed demeanor. "You seem as if you carry an uncomfortable weight upon your shoulders, sister."

"You were denied the whole truth." she started swiftly, before losing the courage gained over an entire day spent in restless solitude and gorging on expensive coffees. "There is so much more to...my life, than what we...what I have told you..."

She nodded in response, folding her hands nervously into her lap. "A thousand years as an immortal being, I suppose you have many stories you wish to keep to yourself."

"But it is far more than that, and I cannot start your life this way, basing our renewed rapport in such deceit." Demona leaned in, licking her lips to refresh the parched skin, and shifting nervously her shoulders and tail in unison. "You know how Goliath and I are no longer mates."

"Yes." she said sadly, always one to have taken such comfort in their relationship, but seeing in even a short amount of time just how much he truly loves Elisa. "But he has yet to mention why you two...broke relations, after he awoke."

"When he awoke, I was not the same person."

"A millennium of battle and death, I suppose you would have changed..." She bowed her head, knowing her sister had hardened in soul by seeing even the tempered steel of her eyes. "...in some ways."

"More than you can ever know, sister." she hissed, a tone brimming with resentful laughter. "I have mulled this over all day...fifteen hours spent awake, knowing you may forever change how you think of me...after I tell you..."

She stole forwards with her hand to lay upon Demona's frigid cerulean flesh. "Nothing could change my opinion, my fiery-haired sister." she whispered soothingly. "But what weighs so heavily upon your heart?"

Demona slowly lowered her head, the golden tiara adorning her brow being showered with thick, streaming flame, perhaps to better hide her tearing eyes when securing her resolve. "I was the one who betrayed Wyvern." she said quietly yet firmly, with her sister being forced back in such a frightening revelation. "I helped to kill our brothers and sisters...and eventually caused the entire downfall of our clan. In short, sister, your death...was at my hands..."