72 - "A Different World"

March 8th, 2002, Monday morning...
"Damnit, Maza." screamed Maria Chavez, her eyes of mottled chartreuse allowing no emotion to spill unwantedly towards the woman she now directed her anger towards. "You punched sergeant Cooper, knocked him unconscious and effectively took command of a riot squad without any authorization!"

She bobbed a brow resting drowsily upon eyes displayed of their exhaustion with tarnished chocolate, perhaps unused to the morning light streaming through the wooden, slatted blinds. "What's your point?" she drawled, her stance quite slacked and unbridled by her superior's rising tone.

"Maza, don't start with me." Maria almost hissed, but held herself back in spite of how this situation came about, and how it ended as well. "I am suitably NOT impressed with your conduct Thursday night. Cooper still has a black eye and a bruised cheek."

Elisa slipped away a budding smirk, effectively using the falling strands as perfect camouflage to her pride in the power of a well-placed punch. "Sergeant Cooper would have without hesitation fired upon my husband and the clan to get at the Coldstone robot." she answered calmly, stifling a yawn when pursing her ruby crimson lips.

Maria scolded quickly, "You could have handled the situation a hell of a lot better."

"I had to do something! You know Cooper, he's a 'shoot first and never ask questions later' type of guy."

"He's a jerk too." a whisper released perhaps unintentionally, and with only a quick expression of anger passed towards them by their captain, did the awaiting detectives Iliana Starr and Matt Bluestone come to a quick and forcible silence.

"Cooper isn't a jerk, Maza, he's an ass." Maria continued in agreement, yet unwilling to have her detectives running rampant underfoot. "But on paper he's flawless, with an equally flawless record, and that's why this little incident will be entered onto your record. And you're lucky it won't go farther than that, considering Cooper hasn't filed a formal complaint...yet."

Elisa swallowed the response she knew would fly forth deep into the pit of her stomach, her temper reigned in for just this moment.

"I think I've gone to bat one too many times for you, and your husband, Maza."

"They were saving lives!"

"No, Elisa, they were cleaning up their mistake." she revised, standing up and stamping her fists to the desk, igniting a delicate clap of thunder across the slicked, reflective surface. "And I can't keep cleaning up yours. Someone upstairs is going to take notice soon, and eventually decide to dig a little deeper. And then I won't be able to protect you, or Goliath, or Trinity." Maria crossed her eyes across her office to the two redheads having been seated idly as Elisa was pressed. "The same goes for you, detective Starr. I've already stood in front of a judicial review board to explain how those pictures of you and Shadow became front-page news, and saved your little butt from suspension. And let's not mention the little vacation to Japan for an entire week."

"But, I..." Iliana tried to protest, but decided against such a futile effort when seeing Maria's eyes mist over, the reflections of dawn-bred sunlight acting similar to streaks of lightning running across her storm cloud eyes. "Yes, ma'am." she whispered her reply though reluctantly, pouting as if a child being disciplined.

"Now, Elisa," Maria acquiesced, her tone softening somewhat, "you know I am ecstatic Goliath has his sister back, and the circumstances were a little uncontrollable, but..."

"If there were any way to have prevented the damage caused," Elisa quickly cut through, "we would have."

Maria nodded. "I know. As far as I'm concerned, as long as you don't get punch-drunk with any more of my officers, then we're okay. And keep that Hawkins boy on a tighter leash, before I lock him up for being a public nuisance." She then slowly fixed herself back into her chair, struggling slightly to find a position comfortable enough for her gradually expanding form. "Now, getting back to what's important." Towards where a close-cropped hairstyle pushed forwards, leaving jagged peaks of dark crimson to drift onto his high, sloping brow in a halved ring, she found the other half of her best detective partnership. "Bluestone."

Matt looked up, once contentedly settled into the couch along the wall, and now rigid in the subject being brought up. "Hernandez and Smith have been assigned police escorts when out of the precinct," he started, his voice grated with raw emotion, an apprehension gone unrestrained, "and round the clock surveillance of their homes. If the situation calls for it, we'll move them to a safehouse."

"As you all well know, Bluestone, Smith and Hernandez are the last surviving members of the old gargoyle task force." Maria started, pulling the proper files out and allowing the stack to slide across her desk and into Elisa's hands. "Someone out there is killing on a theme. Anyone even remotely linked with gargoyles...dies. And if Dracon was killed for this very reason, this person, or people, knows substantially more than what the public has been told."

"Quarrymen? Phoenix Rising?" Iliana guessed.

Elisa swept away an errant strand and shook her head, her eyes become solemn as she flipped through the files. "Guns weren't their style, nor was killing humans." she whispered. "Though whoever escaped arrest from either group could have formed an entirely new faction."

"One that deems anyone who's had any contact or been associated with gargoyles has been...'tainted'." Bluestone hissed, buried into the folds of his trenchcoat and pinching his fingers to straighten the small patch of red facial hair bred like tangled fire beneath his bottom lip. "Including me...and possibly Sara."

"The 14th has been notified." Maria tried her best to calm him. "You two might consider moving to a safehouse of your own for the time being."

The subtle, down-turned crook of his mouth seemed to show only perfectly his aversion to the idea. "If need be." he whispered nearly from earshot, an insistence quite stubborn to keep himself and all those he cared about safe under his own intentions and fashion.

Maria rolled her eyes, and casually rubbed a hand over her stomach, where beneath the thick, knitted sweater hid the slightly protruding bulge of impending motherhood. "Just keep yourself sharp, Bluestone." she prodded sharply, not one to allow her subordinates to stray too far. "I've already attended two police funerals in less than a month, I don't want to go to a third."

"Are we finished, captain?" Elisa then asked, rubbing eyes shaded with the lasting effects of slumber, and losing the focus of the entire conversation in the growing daylight, her internal clock now set to that of her husband's and wanting for the comfort of her private castle suite. "I'm not really used to the sunlight..."

"Yes, Maza, we're finished."

"Speaking of sunlight, and the warmth possessed thereof," Iliana started in, having abandoned her own heavy leather jacket due to the rising heat of the spring day, "aren't you a little hot in that sweater, cap?"

"No." Maria answered quickly, swallowing an unexpected urge having risen quickly and warningly from her throat. "I am...not. Now...if you'll excuse me..." She stole from her chair as if running from an inferno of lapping flames and rushed past Elisa, holding a hand over her mouth, leaving the three detectives to match their inquisitive glares against each other.

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

In her haste to reach the bathroom at the end of the corridor, Maria swept through the windowed door to her office and dashed into the hall, where she nearly collided head on into a taller, uniformed officer having placed himself just outside the doorway. "Oh, sergeant Cooper..." she gasped, pushing past the police man. "I'm sorry..."

"It's all right, captain," he whispered, steadying himself against the wall and seeing the older woman disappear into the women's washroom, "I was just passing by." He watched her with great interest, the woman who heralded such power and grace in this station among many, and his brow then lowered onto dark eyes narrowed and ambiguous of intent, and where a dark ring of bruised flesh constantly drew an unpleasant memory to Elisa's fist. And even more so, he followed the trail of voices softly breathed from the open office, where Elisa, Matt and Iliana discussed casually, though indistinctly, the furthering situation evolved from the recent deaths of their fellow officers. He had already picked up certain parts of the earlier conversation, his presence concealed behind the door, and the uniform he now wore acting as a perfect mask to allow his illicit surveillance to continue undisturbed.

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

"Well, I'm going home to bed." whispered Elisa, stripping the layers of satin black from her face and eyes with delicate fingertips. "And hopefully my alarm clock hasn't yet been stripped to a thousand separate pieces by little, crafty, orange hands."

"Your new, and still nameless, sister-in-law causing trouble?" Iliana chirped.

She swept away the hairs yielding a haloed ring upon its surface, and shook her head in the fact her home had been slowly dismembered by a screwdriver and an insatiable appetite for the knowledge gained by dissecting any technological equipment in sight. "She's grown up with torchlight, the plague and Viking warriors, and already she's spouting technical specs and playing the Nintendo as if she was born with a controller in her hand. It's weird, and almost frightening."

"And how's Goliath taking the fact his sister is alive and well?"

Elisa seethed a low grunt through thinned lips as if just slightly frustrated with her husband and mate. "I wouldn't know." she said, her words trailing behind as she headed for the door. "Between my shifts and all the time he spends with his sister, I've barely seen him the last three nights. God, I hate Mondays..."

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

He stepped hurriedly to the side and thinly disguised himself into the blandly painted walls, as Elisa walked out and past him, her eyes catching for only a fleeting moment the huddling uniform before returning to her path, perhaps too exhausted to further explore the relentless tickling in the base of her skull. His deception now had proven valuable, and bared the fruit he hoped would grant him favor with his supplementary employers. Pulling out a small, gloss-black cellphone, Cooper dialed a number known only to him and a select few.

"...Black..." it answered, as if the frigidly spoken breath had reached even through the telephone.

"Sir, this is Cooper." he spoke only when allowed to do so, his fear roused by just the imposing voice. "I have the information you need on the last two members of the task force."

"...Good work, agent Cooper, or should I say sergeant..." the voice answered in silky malevolence, smoothed like warm butter through the connection to better hide his purpose, and actually causing him to sound as if a respected member of society. "...I'm so glad you decided to take our cause to heart. Your help has been invaluable..."

He swelled in such twisted praise. "I believe in what you want, sir. Our continued safety and protection from...deviants of nature. Total purification of the human race."

"...We appreciate all the work you have done, agent Cooper. You have been influential in cleansing those who have been corrupted by the gargoyles. They hide under a guise of protection, and yet they have yet to protect us at all..."

"I have access to the shift schedules." he continued, eying the remaining detectives inside the office with a consuming disdain. "I agree it's best to strike at once, sir, and catch them off guard. Three days from now, it seems as if their protection is spread the thinnest it's ever going to get."

"...Good. One last assault will remove those infected from our midst...and we can then move on to more important matters..."

Cooper nodded, and as Matt and Iliana exited from the office, he lowered his head and found solace in what shadows lurked freely beneath the subtle glow of the artificial lighting. He crossed eyes with Bluestone, and dark obsidian ignited a malicious spark against Matt's inviting teal blue, to the point where the redheaded detective felt a chill run up his spine with just the passing glance. "Yes, sir."

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

She had chosen one out of the procession of stalls covered in a dark crimson paint and illuminated with just a platinum square stretched across the entire line of doors, a selection made frantically. And with only a pair of slender, shapely legs draped upon the tiled floor to reveal her presence, she was now cradled lifelessly over the toilet and hanging to the structure for dear life lest she fall powerless to the floor. Her lips caressing the cold porcelain, her breathing distorted and uncontrollably heaving her chest, she flushed the toilet and the regurgitated remains of an earlier breakfast away.

"Well, little one," Maria whispered to her unborn child, opening her mouth against the ceramic tasting of disinfectant, "I guess you didn't like the blueberry waffles." When having steadied her restless stomach, she pulled herself to a hunched seated position and leaned against the wooden partition, feeling the tiny beads of cold sweat trickling down her milky flesh. "And here I thought...Hudson loved waffles." Her hand somehow found itself to her stomach, and rubbed relaxingly the bulge underneath her sweater, quickly easing the nausea brought on by morning sickness. "I don't know. I don't know how to tell him, and with every night that passes...it only gets harder. Will he be happy, or angry, or...or anything..."

She stood in languid form, fixed the long, slitted skirt and sweater and slipped outside, ensuring she was still alone within the confines of the bathroom. She splashed cold water onto her face from the porcelain basin, and took her fill of the sweet yet paradoxically tasteless liquid to remove the rotten tang of bile, and stared pensively into the wall-mounted mirror. And within the reflective surface, she slowly roamed her hands down a creamy complexion, showing through the light foundation of peach and velvet dawn a few lines beneath her deep-set eyes. "Would he welcome you into his life?" she continued, speaking aloud her fears, and perhaps using a reflection without a tongue capable of talking back to unload what had burdened her soul. "Would he change your diapers? Read you a bedtime story?" She fixed her spartan, chestnut hair into a manageable style piled atop her head, having grown longer the past few years, and brushed away a few of the vagrant strands invading upon her brow. "Would he even take parentage of you? And regard you as his own?"

She leaned forwards and pressed her moist forehead to the mirror, and rested, attempting for just a moment to make the pain and fear and doubt disappear. "I just...I don't know what to do..."

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

Monday night...
It was a liquid darkness that crested in measured ivory peaks and gently thrust the breeze towards her, drifting in from the warm ocean tides beyond the city limits. She allowed the scent of honeyed saline and the slightly tainted ozone to play about her form, and reveled in the smells sometimes so different from her native Scotland. It seemed as if only yesterday she had cast her eyes over the emerald forest canopy alighted a familiar sunset amber, only before an eternal darkness would cruelly befall her. She now watched with great fascination the human population below trace their paths around iron towers uncovered from the receding snow, the spires rising higher than any castle turret, and lit from foundation to summit with the almost mesmerizing invention of electricity. The new binoculars having replaced her old awarded her a sight far beyond her natural abilities, and she watched delightedly the massive aircraft seemingly plummet from the star-streaked sky and through the gathering cloud cover, and the vehicles below claim the paved streets as their own.

The lost sister sat comfortably, perched upon the louvered rim of an older building, just watching, and observing with wide, impressionable eyes, frequently forced to move her swaying amber tendrils from view. Clad in a faded cobalt garment resembling her tunic dress of long ago, though of a softer, more yielding material produced in this new century, she folded and replaced the thin binoculars into the small pouch around her waist and leaned back into her makeshift roost of the notched overhang having jutted from the building's side. Three nights, a bare seventy-two hours to assimilate into this new world, wrenched from the cold hand of death and spilled into a robotic form, only to have a young child pull her soul back from the literal brink.

"This world is so wondrous." she breathed wistfully. "How can such beauty exist in a world of deception, betrayal...murder..."

"...you helped kill them all..." It was a voice torn from her memories, and echoing painfully within her thoughts. "...I will never forgive you..." The words rained down as falling fire and set aflame the calmed pool within, forcing a hand to caress her delicate brow beneath the layers of satiny hair. "...YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A DEMON!!!..." It was her scream teeming with rage, nights past and lost to time.

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

Three nights before...
"You...betrayed our clan?"

Demona reached forwards, only to have the slender hand she was grasping for wrenched away in disgust. "Please, you must understand."

"Understand?" the lost sister echoed the word spitefully, her eyes wide and brimming with tears, the pain apparent even in the darkened chamber. "You delivered our brothers and sisters into the hands of enemies you knew would destroy them. You helped kill them all..."

"No, my plan was to allow our clan to live free of human rule!" she explained almost frantically in seeing her sister drift away from her in both body and spirit, a once joyous reunion turned awkwardly hostile in her guilt. "I wanted to free us."

"Free us?" she stuttered her breathing over a trembling ruby lip, and clasped her hands around a slender stomach. "How could you do such a thing?"

"I wanted our clan to be liberated, to be safe." Demona claimed fervently, reaching out towards her sister with open arms gone unbidden. "That is all I ever wanted."

"And thus you willingly sacrificed innocent human lives for our own?"

Demona bowed her head, knowing a millennium ago she had never considered the Wyvern population as worth her spit, let alone innocent. A second in command only driven to protect by her anger and arrogance, she betrayed her convictions and those of her mate and leader. "If you could only comprehend the rage I held inside of myself, swelling with a thousand years of pain and hatred...building into near insanity..."

"And that excuse is what you use to redeem yourself in the other's eyes?!" she replied in a breath of fuelled fury, an anger rarely experienced and tasting bitterly of acid. "What do they think of you?"

"They have...learned to live with me, with what I have done."

"Have they absolved you for killing their clan?" she snapped bitterly, her wings shuddering almost violently in her growing despondency. "For if you came here tonight looking for forgiveness, you will not find it from me." She drifted within her fire-filled eyes the sinuous strands of strawberry blond when tilting menacingly her head forwards, and seethed, "I will never forgive you..."

"I would not be so presumptuous as to ask for it. I want you to only understand why I did such a thing."

"Your arrogance, your pride and conceit!!" she answered for her quickly. "You were always a vindictive woman, and now I know the depths to which you can sink."

"Yes," she nodded ashamedly, "my arrogance cost me my family, and my very sanity. I lived a thousand years of death and war as punishment for my crime."

"And now," she breathed frigidly, "you merely seek from me the chance to ease your conscience."

"I had hoped somehow to atone for clan's destruction, and now that you have been saved..." Demona tried to reach out once more, but found her sister's searing gaze watching for such an occurrence. "I am sorry..."

"Don't touch me." she hissed, stumbling from her chair and stalking away from the cerulean gargoyle as if she carried a disease only passable through her infectious touch.

Demona followed her sister's unsteady path, desperate to make amends for this living embodiment of her greatest crime. "My sister, please, I am not that woman anymore. I am..."

"YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A DEMON!!!" she screamed, her eyes burning with a faded scarlet glow. Like a daring challenge to rival suitors, she tread cautiously, never taking her eyes from her sister, the vision of shadow-swathed azure flesh blurring with her flowing tears sparking platinum in the streaming moonlight. "And you are not welcome in whatever life I may either have been blessed with, or cursed."

Demona watched helplessly the smaller gargoyle tear from the room, her sister's tortured sobs only made louder as a pirouette curling upon the walls of bulging stone, and acting more as a clawed hand wrenching open her chest, rending mercilessly her heart in two. The former immortal walked in a slowing, inelegant gait towards the wall just inside the open door, and rested wearily against the rigid barrier smelling of millennial dust and the damningly pungent reminder of a life so long ago.

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

Now...
And she shuddered, reliving as if enforced by some greater power her spiteful words towards a former beloved sister a few days ago. Her betrayer and executioner, her anger towards Demona now had reached such a degree where it actually hurt and burned within her chest, and she had no choice but to attempt to block out such an unpleasant memory, but damned was her skill in lucid recollection, the memory so fresh as if to blind her, so hurtful as to cause her great pain. "She betrayed us...she betrayed us all. She killed me."

She had cried herself into a silent stupor in her brother's arms that night, while begging him to tell her this was but a nightmare. Instead he had refused, calming her within the leather folds of his wings with his hands skilfully and soothingly guiding down her brow, and relating Demona's true history from the time when he had awakened from his accursed slumber. He left out no detail too small, and allowed his sister to hear the actual truth, that of Demona then and Demona now, the woman who wanted so desperately to be redeemed.

She remembered particularly his voice, an animalistic brogue deep and threatening yet containing such softness, and speaking of the creature now arrogantly claiming to be her beloved sister and her quest for a lasting peace he still believed in. Yet even in his warm embrace of strong arm and draping velvet wing, she sobbed, wailing aloud for her lost family and the painful circumstance in which she now found herself. She screamed at him, pleaded to know why he and the surviving clan would even welcome Demona after what she had done to them, and he could only offer in the moment a gentle sweep of his lips into his clever sister's hair, bound in a braided leather strap just below her shoulders. She felt as if she was drowning, with only a lavender hand to reach out for her.

A car horn blaring from the streets awakened her from a swirl of memories besieged upon her, and she lifted herself up onto the precipice, where the building almost faded from view and it seemed as if she was standing on the strands of air gently pulsating with the city's anarchic rhythm. She unraveled her wings creased in perfect and almost invisible folds, allowing them to shape the breeze to their whim, and threw herself into the milky radiance spread like a fluid sun. She had never flown at this height, struggling with the chaos of currents winding themselves through the skyscrapers, an animal given a stale breath from the stars, and finding her way towards home.

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

The castle welcomed her into its arms graciously, sitting in unreachable height and transformed to an almost unrecognizable fortress, with faces changed, aged, and never before seen. Though her family surrounded her, the laughter of children rang through this place of cold stone, and human and gargoyle existed as one, unbreakable whole. In three days she had been witness to a life lived contentedly, perhaps even more so than her former life. The lost sister chuckled slightly, when thinking of how she now differentiated her existence between that of the life in Scotland and the life just born in Manhattan.

As she entered into the castle, she followed the winding halls and cast her keenly focused eyes upon the scattered technology taken for granted by the rest of her clan. She took a moment to stop near a table lamp and play eagerly with the switch, pulling delicately upon the golden chain and controlling the light bulb in a quick metrical pulse as if a magic spell. "Amazing." she whispered when satisfied with her amusement. "How we ever existed without electricity..." She moved on, passing by the media room, seeing the twins playing their games upon the massive television screen. She watched, enthralled with the moving pictures and simulated figures guided with just the devices in their hands.

She moved on, driven by his scent and the location of his grand and private room, often kept restricted to but only the most trusted of clan. And when approaching softly the towering wooden doors, a light, frothy giggle whispered from underneath the slim crack and danced mysteriously across the carpeting. Her eyes, only guided by her curiosity, roamed to follow the sound. Movement, both delicate and impossibly massive, and she pushed open the door to find a tiny child evading capture as best she could from a lavender behemoth laying a rolling thunder upon the floor in his enormous, unstoppable bulk.

"I have you!" Goliath bellowed when grabbing tenderly upon his daughter's tail to cease her escape. He swept her into his arms, the child laughing ferociously when trying to squirm from his iron grip, that which fought against foes sometimes ten times as strong. "You cannot run away now, my daughter."

"Daddy! No!!" she squealed, as her father's sharpened talons lay to her side underneath the shirt, and sent pleasurable shivers through her sensitive gargoyle flesh, eliciting a cry of joy that only helped to attract the pumpkin-skinned gargess closer.

The lost sister set herself quietly into the embrace of the bedside and hidden slightly by the couch running alongside, not wishing to disturb the father and daughter playing blissfully together, a winged silhouette cast in front of the fireplace lit with roused, peaking flame touching and laying a blackened singe to the underside of the bricked enclosure. She smiled and rested her head to her hand, for it was rare to see this oft-stoic leader of her clan playing so frivolously with a hatchling molded in his form and that of his human mate, as he would rarely allow himself to become so close to any child from the Wyvern rookery, almost as if he feared them. Feared leaking that softer, romantic, poetic side through his formal exterior, and perhaps showing weakness in an age of barbarism.

Goliath lifted up from his daughter and saw from the corner of his eyes the firelight wash upon a similarly colored hide. "Ah, hello, my sister." he greeted the clever one, surprised in her skill of stealth. "And just where have you been?"

"I took yet another tour of this kingdom of iron and glass." she said quietly, noticing the admonishing crook of Goliath's horned crest, as if compelling her to speak the entire truth. "Though unescorted."

"You were out alone?" he asked, almost scoldingly.

"I read a map."

Seemingly satisfied in her excuse, Goliath scooped Trinity from the carpeting and hoisted the child into his sister's lap. "Of course." he whispered, though somewhat intrigued in how this woman thrown a thousand years from her place could navigate such a massive city so easily in three days and with only a few tours given. "It's good you came home," he then said with concern in his tone, ruffling his wings as if sensing what gathered force just beyond the room's balcony doors, "I can feel a storm brewing."

"You worry too much, brother." she chastised playfully, brushing the loose raven tendrils from the young hybrid's impressionable chocolate eyes. "Hello, child." the sister greeted Trinity, as she stared on, her senses confused by the odd scent drifting from her new family member.

"Hi...uhm, wa's yur name?"

She laughed softly, and bobbed her brow in question. "I...don't have a name yet. It seems our clan has left the choice up to me." She allowed Trinity a warm seat upon her lap and looked up to Goliath having loomed over her, his smile flattening. "You are staring at me."

"My sister," Goliath started solemnly, reaching a hand to her shoulder, "Angela has asked me to speak with you, regarding her...mother."

She tensed, her caped wings uncomfortably heaving from her shoulders. "How can a child so virtuous, and honest be bred from...a woman like Demona?"

"Are you going to be angry with her for the rest of your new life?"

"And are you that willing to forgive someone who helped destroy our brothers and sisters?" she countered, surprised in how this man, betrayed perhaps the most of all, could still defend her, the demon.

"I have to." he whispered firmly. "She saved Elisa's life, and also took part in saving my very soul. If she is to ever gain total redemption, and return to the sister we once knew, I have to."

"And you are well within your right to do so, as I have never argued with any of your orders. But as far as I am concerned, my sister died a thousand years ago, leaving only a true demon in form and mind."

Goliath sighed coldly, "My clever sister..."

"No!" she cut him off in an unusual growl, effectively ceasing any further attempt to sway her opinion formed. "No, please...I have already been through this with half of our clan, especially Angela...I would rather focus on what is positive with my restored existence. Being here, with my clan." She glided a hand to Goliath's massive arm, where the muscle bulged obscenely and invitingly to a woman's touch even in a relaxed state. "And with you."

"As you wish. But remember one thing," he clasped his hands underneath Trinity's arms and raised her to his chest, "if this young child born from two former enemies of Demona can enjoy her company so very much, then perhaps you have judged her too quickly."

She looked away, an argument running full circle with a resolution demanding she relinquish her anger. "I do not think so."

"That is your choice."

She hung her head in a sober affirmation. "And where is your mate this night?" she asked, in her own stubborn fashion to change the subject.

"She is working. She came home this morning from her meeting, slept, and went back to work just before sunset."

She sensed something, her skills in observation seeing the sadness contained on weathered features showing wisdom beyond his age, and in eyes slightly tarnished from the young adolescent she once, and possibly always regarded as the perfect choice for a mate. "Is there anything wrong?"

"No." he replied resolutely, perhaps being far too determined in his answer and only giving away the vast weight carried upon his broad shoulders. "Elisa has just been...tired the last few days...weeks, months...she has lost two colleagues in the line of duty, and three more are threatened with the same fate, including her partner. And then there is her...family as well..."

She nodded in understanding. "I was told what transpired between Elisa and her parents. I am sorry."

"As am I. I wish I could repair whatever goes wrong in her life, but sometimes...even the best cannot mend what has been wrong with the world since the dawn of society."

"You always tried to carry too great a weight, Goliath." she whispered, kneading the protruding knuckles of his hand and caressing her talontips onto the muscle swollen around his bone. "Fear, bigotry, hatred...you cannot fix everything."

"Then, my clever sister," he asked with just a slight jump in his tone of voice and looked down upon her, "what would you suggest?"

"I suggest you be with the woman you love, and...never allow her to think she is alone."

"Sound advice, and perhaps adjustable for you and your sister."

"Perhaps..." she trailed off, instantly releasing from his hand lest she move too far and forget the limits set upon their relationship by a choice long ago. For would any ever expect this young woman could carry a flame growing ever steady throughout a thousand years of oblivion for a man who almost became hers, and now has again given his heart and soul wholly to another.

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

She followed behind him as they exited from the master bedroom, watching with singular amusement the massive gargoyle heed cautiously his daughter as she slipped in between his feet and slowly swaying tail, as if he had practiced his step and learned to dodge the excitable child.

"There you are!"

She turned, with Goliath, and they both discovered a young man trawling deliberately through the hall and towards them with a purpose having been seared into his irritable gaze. "Oh. Hello, Mr. Hawkins."

Todd sighed, chewing upon his bottom lip. "Damnit, not you too." he hissed in sheer exhaustion of the relentlessly teasing moniker. "Listen, if you're going to start your new life on a good note, then call me Todd. Please, I'm begging you."

"As you wish."

"Now getting back to what's important...you're starting to get a little annoying!!"

Goliath rolled his eyes in the accusation. "What is the problem now, Mr. Hawkins?"

He lowered his thick, angled brow and held up as evidence a machine once whole, and now picked apart to its very foundation. "Your sister took apart the dustbuster!"

She blushed in seeing her handiwork held accusingly before her, and idly fingered the screwdrivers hidden within her pouch. "I only wished to see how it worked." she whimpered, fawning her lips and drooping her brow.

"Everyone knows how I like to eat graham crackers and peanut butter in bed, and because the dustbuster is in a thousand pieces, I have to sleep on crumbs. Crumbs, Goliath!" he screamed towards the slowly riling leader, holding the detached pieces of the cleaning device as a martyr to his cause. "Do you have any idea how it feels to sleep on crumbs?!"

Goliath nodded, playing with the younger man's annoyance. "Well, yes, Elisa sometimes enjoys cookies in our bed and..."

The lost sister broke through what she knew to be her brother's jest to further anger the young man, and quickly apologized, "I am sorry, Todd."

"Can the sassafras, Tim Taylor!" he snapped, waving a finger to her large sable eyes. "Stop taking everything in the castle apart! I swear to god, if you touch the TV...and when the hell are you going to choose a name? I'm sick of calling you 'hey you, hot orange chick'."

"Why do you humans have this preoccupation with assigning names to absolutely everything?" she chided. "I am choosing. Have you ever decided upon a name for yourself? It is more difficult than it appears."

Goliath pinched the bone just beneath his weighted brow, and silenced what he knew to be Todd's retort when clamping a massive taloned hand over the human's mouth. "Not another word." he commanded, even as Todd muffled his reply through the barrier of lavender flesh. "My sister, please go with Mr. Hawkins and help fix the dustbuster."

"Of course, brother." she answered politely, and caught Todd by the arm, dragging him towards his own claimed room.

"Troublemaker." he whispered to her.

"Viking." she whispered back, pulling the pieces from his hand and skillfully replacing the fractured jigsaw of plastic and metal with delicate hands.

Goliath watched them carefully, with a particular interest in pumpkin hands becoming a literal blur in piecing together the broken vacuum as Todd then explained to her the intricacies of twenty-first century fast food cuisine.

"She's pretty good with a screwdriver, huh?"

Goliath turned to see Brooklyn and Lexington approach to his side, they too seeing the newest clan member take to repairing the vacuum as if she knew of such a device intimately. "A little too proficient, I would think."

Brooklyn nodded to his leader's assumption. "I was down in the garage working on my bike last night, and she practically named every single part of the engine with perfect detail. She said she read a book on engines." he bantered smoothly, unbelieving of an explanation far too simple.

"She's spouting exact dictionary terms and has already gone through half the library." commented Lexington. "She's smart, Goliath, but not that smart."

"Yes, it has been only three days and already she's almost as well versed as we are in twenty-first century technology and customs."

"Well, none of you were reborn into a body created from twenty-first century technology." came a collected tone behind the trio, as Dr. Pierce edged his way into the conversation, garnering a raised and suspecting ridge by Goliath. "I think I may be able to explain what's so peculiar about your sister..."

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

They droned on in perfect, unending succession, metal behemoths creating and delivering from the spinning copper-lined drums and sporadic arc of crackling energy, the power equivalent to feed this entire city if need be. Lined up from wall to wall as unspeaking soldiers, they easily dwarfed their tiny human caretakers, towering above those who maintained these massive generators supplying the vast amounts of energy to the Eyrie building, and atop, castle Wyvern, the tallest building in the world suckling power hungrily.

Yet one in particular seemed interested more in his superior's schedule than his chosen task, able to conceal his lack of motivation within the chaotic swirl of human form between the massive machines. A taller man, he tipped his hardhat lower to disguise his shifting, stealing eyes and leaned in surreptitiously to the clipboard held in the supervisor's hands, scanning for the information he was being handsomely rewarded with. Though drawing a salary and a benefit package that most would be jealous of, the call of money is sometimes too strong a lure.

Provided with what he needed, he slinked off, dodging past work crews and concealing his tread within the constant, heavy whine of the generators, and his direction between the masses of machinery. Settled deep into the shadows, he pulled out a cellphone and dialed.

"...St. John..." she answered, a feminine voice having crackled over the wireless connection, and sounding quite impatient.

"Nicole? It's me."

"...We have a time yet?..."

"Not yet, but it's going to definitely happen tonight." he offered, hoping to seduce yet another mission from this woman paying generously for his place in the Xanatos Enterprises workforce. "But there's only going to be a seventeen second drop in power to the security systems, in order to change over to a newly upgraded system."

"...We're on our way in the chopper right now. Let me know exactly when we can approach closer into the Eyrie's private airspace. With only seventeen seconds, this is going to be a little tricky..."

He kept his dark eyes on his supervisor, trailing his every movement in case he signal for the changeover without the agent knowing. "I'll keep you posted, Nikki."

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

"She's a robot."

Brooklyn and Lexington looked at each other with open, slacked jaws, as Goliath sneered his lip. "I beg your pardon?"

Dr. Pierce laughed serenely having expected such a response, settled into his office chair in the Eyrie's hospital laboratory, his off-white and chemical stained labcoat draped lifelessly over his form. "A crude term, yes." he agreed quickly. "Maybe android would suffice. But either one is as close as I can get to describe what she is. She appears as gargoyle as any one of you down to even the molecular level, but," he emphasized, shunting from his chair and raising a finger, "her body is made up of inorganic material mimicking organic cells perfectly."

"Because her form was crafted from the Coldstone cyborg." Goliath guessed.

"Yes. Bone, flesh, internal organs, even her hair, all duplicated flawlessly, a perfect fusion of man and machine, as it were. We've all noticed how she's adapting extremely quickly to this century, but she's not just learning, she's assimilating. I've watched her, she's sucking up information like a sponge, as if she feeds on knowledge. And almost faster than we can provide it." He trailed through the entanglement of medical devices, wires and abandoned texts having been pulled from their shelves and yet never replaced. He flipped on a computer monitor, depressed a few keys and allowed the three gargoyles to see a line stretch across the screen and crease sharply in a triple-measured cadence, then repeat in seamless succession.

Goliath noticed the similarity to the cavernous thunder erupting within his own chest almost immediately, and said quietly, "A gargoyle heartbeat."

Dr. Pierce clicked his tongue against his lips. "Yup. It's a recording of your sister's heartbeat from an earlier test. And it's perfect, down to the millisecond." He stood to face the lavender gargoyle, his smile evened out. "So exactly perfect, I could set my watch to the rhythm. Nothing in nature can duplicate this accuracy of heartbeat. The same goes for her brainwaves, as according to the electroencephalograph I took, the electrical pulses running through the neurons and connecting axon are virtually flawless in pattern."

"And this is a bad thing?" huffed Brooklyn, the subject matter the doctor sometimes spouted usually flying far beyond his comprehension.

"Not necessarily." he countered, swaying Goliath's fear when seeing his indigo-tinted features tighten, and his eyes thin forebodingly. "Every single person on the planet has a brainwave pattern that's slightly flawed, slightly inconsistent, unique like a fingerprint and built upon and constantly changed by experience and age. Hers...just isn't. Usually when the brain is stimulated, do the neurons charge and send impulses, but in your sister's brain, they are sending impulses constantly even with a total lack of any stimulation at all. It seems her body is just operating much like a computer would, efficiently. Ordered. Perfect."

"Cool." muttered Lexington, this particular development only meaning he would perhaps have another like him.

"Here, Goliath," as if an excitable child darting between his toys, Dr. Pierce quickly grabbed the gargoyle's hand and flattened the palm, "hold this." He held cautiously a glass vial plucked from a small wooden rack, where inside swirled a golden liquid only roused with the gentle ministrations of the doctor, and into Goliath's cupped hand, he poured it slowly, emptying the entire vial. The viscous fluid pooled into the tiny, trailing grooves etched into hide of thick leather, glowing a light platinum against the faded lavender flesh.

Goliath roamed a talon into the substance, a texture and consistency similar to liquid mercury, and where it was torn apart by his sharpened nail, it easily and smoothly flowed back together. "What is this?"

"Your sister's blood."

And as soon as the words left his mouth, the massive gargoyle visibly cringed, and flung back his head in an expression fused with both disgust and surprise. "Her blood??!" he bellowed. "Why is it gold?!"

The longhaired doctor held up his hands in defense, hoping he would be allowed an explanation. "I just wanted to make sure of my findings before I showed you, Goliath. It seems this is a side-effect of your sister's resurrection, as is the daytime transformation to a golden steel."

"Incredible. This does not even feel like blood..."

"Thick and stubbornly resilient...almost like oil feeding a car. But this blood has a little surprise. You remember that little fiasco in Australia with the Matrix nanotech?"

Goliath eyes sparkled in understanding, at last having something similar to compare this substance to. "Yes, this is almost exactly like the silver fluid of the nanobots."

"Bingo. I compared Fox's research to my own and found more than a few similarities." He perched upon a counter, watching as both Lexington and Brooklyn reached over their leader's shoulders and played with the thick substance with their talons. "She's different from any other lifeform I've ever encountered. I only wonder if she knows what she is and is truly capable of..."

"I am aware of what I am, Dr. Alan." she announced her presence from the doorway, surprising the occupants of the hospital. She entered in with an emotionless facade, having listened for quite some time to the doctor's findings. "A freak of nature raised from the dead."

"No you're not." he attested rather firmly, unwilling to have this beautiful woman allow herself to think any differently than what he thought of her. "In fact, you may be the most perfect living being on this entire planet." He rushed over and guided the pumpkin-skinned gargess towards his own office chair, offering the young woman his throne in a kingdom though small, but ruled by him proudly nonetheless. "You have heightened senses, tactility, sight, hearing...even your blood sample shows a much more powerful immune system, most likely due to the technology used to create your new body, and your new blood cells. Your injuries may heal anywhere from ten to twenty times faster than that of a gargoyle. Of course, there are limits I'm guessing, the larger the wound, the longer it probably will take to heal."

"Speaking of my sister's blood," Goliath cut through, reaching his cupped hand towards the doctor, "can you remove it from my hand please?"

"Here, this is what I wanted to show you..." He gently grasped the lost sister's hand, and peeled back her forefinger from a trembling fist, holding the appendage steady when pulling from his pocket a pin, gleaming with an ominous presence and purpose under the light. "This may sting."

"Ouch!!" she winced, as the doctor mercilessly jabbed her soft flesh with the tiny weapon. "My blood," the sister gasped, the slight prick forgotten as more of the golden fluid trickled out and beaded quickly, owing it's viscosity to the strange circumstance in which she was resurrected, "it's gold..."

Dr. Pierce only smiled, giddy in a coming experiment he knew would yield an interesting result. He silently and quickly guided the dulled orange gargoyle's wounded finger and pressed in directly into the pool in Goliath's palm. And almost instantly, did the golden pond reduce and slowly disappear, as the blood taken three nights ago rejoined the rest, absorbed back into the bloodstream as the wound languidly closed, sealed itself, and faded away, leaving flawless tawny flesh. "I knew it."

"Now that's a great party trick." muttered Brooklyn.

"It is like the wound did not even exist..." she whispered, rubbing her fingers together.

"Your blood cells are powerful little suckers, just like nanites and designed, or programmed, almost to work on their own even when separated from the body. And it's not just your body that's near perfect, it's your mind as well." he continued, circling around the stunned woman, and preaching to an audience now captivated, rare they would stay this long when he entered into one of his rants. "There's a very plausible and documented theory among researchers that the brain records absolutely everything it absorbs, every sight, smell, taste, and tiny fragment of information, and stores it all away. From all the reports I've been hearing, it appears you have the singular ability to bring any of this information back instantly. Total recall. You are perhaps capable of using more of your brain than anyone else." He held himself steady, narrowing his gaze and boring into her large eyes, as if to test her. "Six thousand fifty three times fifteen thousand, four hundred thirty five...point six."

"Ninety three million, four hundred thirty one thousand, six hundred eighty six." she answered mechanically without skipping a beat, and her eyes widened, perhaps in fear. "How did I know that?"

"It seems your new brain includes a calculator. Define Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconisis."

"Noun. A pneumoconiosis, or lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust and occurring especially in miners."

He flicked his eyebrows knowingly. "It seems you've been reading the dictionary."

"I...skimmed through it." she answered, shrugging almost sheepishly.

"And I'm guessing you have the entire volume committed to memory." He grabbed a thick medical text from the counter and handed it to her, the gargess surprised in the great weight. "Have you read this before?"

"No."

"Read it."

"As you wish." The sister opened to the first page, holding the bulk of slightly yellowed page in her hands and allowed them to flip past through her talons, eventually skimming through the entire volume within seconds, her eyes flickering subtly back and forth and literally soaking up the information.

Dr. Pierce stole the book away and handed it to Goliath, still staring in disbelief at his sister. "Pick a page, Goliath."

"What?" he whispered, flashing his wide eyes to the doctor standing in front with an ever-widening grin. "Uh, yes, of course...page three hundred sixty seven."

"Eosinophil production is governed by several cytokines, including interleukin or IL-3, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor or GM-CSF, and IL-5." she dictated flawlessly, the words scanned and now brought to the surface in eerie, unemotional efficiency. "IL-5 appears to be the most important and specific cytokine and is responsible for differentiation of the eosinophil line. The difference between mechanisms of eosinophil production in HES and in secondary eosinophilic syndromes is not known. An association has been reported between T-cell clonal proliferation and hypereosinophilia..."

"Okay, okay..." Dr. Pierce stopped her with a gentle nudge to her shoulder, as the language she conversed in went far beyond most understanding. "I think he gets it."

Goliath merely placed a hand to his sister's shoulder, and whispered, "Amazing."

"Amazing?" she echoed hurtfully her brother's chosen word, with Goliath silently offering an apology with but an open, tacit mouth. "Am I...am I normal? Will I able to live as I once did? What if I...I wish to mate? Or produce an egg? Am I now denied such pleasures?" a barrage of questions asked, she curled into herself, and shivered as if cold. "What am I?"

"A living computer." Dr. Pierce blurted without realizing the impact on the clash of cultures, as the sister shook loose a breath from trembling lips. In his repentance, he took her hand in firm gentility, and kneeled in front, offering to battle her fear with a kind and trusting smile. "What I feel is warm flesh, with a steady heartbeat. What my tests show, is a healthy young gargoyle. What I see before me is a beautiful woman given a second chance."

Brooklyn peaked his brow in a casual glance to his smaller brother, the web-winged cyborg's expression turning quirky in the doctor's obvious affinity to this young woman.

"You're as normal as anyone of us. As far as I can tell, your physiology is duplicated perfectly as compared to your sisters, with fully functioning...uh, ahem," Alan then blushed, an occurrence rare and bringing a slight curl to the lost sister's lips, "female genitalia, a womb, ovaries, everything is perfect. I'd say you have a one hundred percent chance of a normal life, and in having a healthy egg sometime in the future, er...that is, of you so choose. We'll have to play this as you go, each step at a time. I promise you, I'll help you will anything that may arise."

"Thank you, Dr. Alan." she said softly, taking due notice in the human's hands still clasped around her own, as if ensuring they would not escape. "Your aid is...much appreciated."

"I think his idea of aid involves a bottle of wine," whispered Brooklyn secretively behind a hand pressed to his beak, as Lexington smirked, "and a Barry White CD."

"Who is Barry White?" asked the sister, knitting her brow.

"Damn, she does have good hearing."

"Goliath," Lexington broke in, clasping a hand to the transceiver embedded with the cybernetic implant in his head, "it's Xanatos. He says he's ready to switch over to the new security system. He wants us in the main computer room."

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

She rushed underneath the overhang to dodge the droplets bursting from the scattered cloud cover, a spring storm coalesced from the warm cotton drifts once suspended far over the island shores. She shook loose the spilled crystal from her caramel wings in annoyance, the membranes cut in two separate halves yet taken to the wind as perfect wholes, and slicked back the escaping golden strands of hair kept impeccably unspoiled and tamed mostly with a tied band of leather. "I truly wish these so-called television weathermen could actually predict the weather," she muttered in a tone unlike her accustomed song, slipping a talon across her brow to shed the lasting beads of water adhering to her sweeping spurs, "as soon as I step from the castle stones, it begins to rain."

Her slender hands drifted to the wing-shaped handles sweeping downwards and cast in copper, and swept open the balcony doors, the owner of this Victorian manor seemingly indifferent to any intruder to her private home. And in the wind heralding the beginnings of the storm, the draperies of translucent silk were roused to life, sweeping about her body as she slowly entered into Demona's living room. "Sister." she called, in seeing a form adorning limply the loveseat to the side, her dark cerulean flesh swathed in dark shadow and melting into the couch with a tangled blanket wrapped haphazardly about her.

"You smell wet." she whispered, recognizing the scent of a familiar Wyvern resident, yet without even a bother to physically acknowledge her presence or remove the lifeless strands of dulled crimson from her eyes drooping and bereft of life. "Don't get any water on the carpeting."

"Good evening, my sister." she answered, closing the doors to prevent the swelling tempest from reaching its claws into this quiet refuge.

"What do you want, Desdemona?"

She cocked her brow in surprise, and quickly lay forth an insinuating joke, "I don't think you have ever called me by name in all the time I have had it." She allowed Demona her place in a comforting narcosis, and crept around the darkened room with padded feet, seeing it immaculately kept, sparse even, with only a few assiduously chosen paintings and embellishments left to mar the otherwise bare walls. But over the massive fireplace, a few placed picture frames piqued her interest, with the former immortal's daughter and Broadway on the day of their mating ceremony. One of Trinity, the young hybrid seated respectively into Demona's lap, and another with Todd and her human form set against a daytime sky, her smile displaying a rare and buoyant mood in the middle of streets of Manhattan. "Your daughter mentioned you sent her away." she then whispered, wiping a smudge from the glass of Angela's picture and replacing it to the mottled marble surface. "Why do continually refuse her desire to help you? Especially now?"

"She cannot help. This is before her time..."

"And your friend Andrea?"

Demona buried herself deeper into the pillow used to support her head, clenching her talons and nearly shredding the pillow casing. "The last person I need to see is Andrea, especially when I am constantly reminded of the fact I killed her sister as well."

Desdemona winced in her sister's incessant task in making this conversation far more difficult than it ever had to be. "You decided not to tell her of her sister's true fate, I know, for that is your choice between the two of you. But Andrea did in time absolve you of your other crimes. And as will our sister..."

Demona laughed almost disturbingly, a troubled, rasped cackle laying softly into the stillness of the room, with just enough power behind the breath to momentarily suppress the constant tapping of the rain against the balcony doors and windows. "She is alive for less than an entire night," she whispered, now staring up at the sloping ceiling, "and I unload my soul onto her...only to greedily ease my own conscience. I should have never told her."

The caramel-skinned gargoyle perched herself upon the edge of the loveseat, and allowed her hand to guide itself over the subtle curve of the body beneath the blanket. "And then what?" she started in an admonishing timbre, her severity of tone betrayed by the soothing hand warming her sister's exposed skin. "Allow our sister to renew her life under false pretenses and your guilt to wholly consume you? It was better you told her so quickly."

"I had my life at last to where I could at least bear it...I could finally sleep without the constant nightmares...the pain...and then she comes back."

"A living reminder embodying your ancient crime." she mused, much to Demona's disdain, the former immortal forced to hear yet another trying to impose themselves upon her life and into a matter she wanted kept private.

"Seeing her was the greatest joy I have felt in a long time, and then when the euphoria faded away, the most powerful torment. Like I had swallowed acid, and someone had thrown up on my soul."

"You could be throwing away a rare chance to redeem yourself further." she said huskily. "You should try to speak with her..."

She waved away the obtrusive tendrils resting over her brow to reveal a hardened gaze colored a deep charcoal black, and abruptly cast off her quilted covering. "I think not." She swept away from the couch and her sister, resolute in a path journeyed rapidly across the room. She had disappeared almost completely into the shadows beyond her writing desk, where only a thinned, shimmering silhouette of cerulean and deep ruby red allowed any semblance of the retreated gargoyle to a wandering eye. "I will not further complicate her life with my disfigured soul." a voice echoed, giving away her position as Desdemona's eyes followed acutely the voice thrust from the darkness. "I won't be coming by the castle any more. You are all...better off without me."

She released an open breath in to the still air forced so by her sister's reticent demeanor, and curled up her crimson lip beneath a nose catching the scent of the water still upon her skin. "So, you tell her of your secret, and then disappear, abandoning us to your own fear and perhaps even hoping it will all fade away." she whispered, shaking sadly her head. "How very mature of you."

"I never hoped it would go away." the voice of tamed malevolence whispered, averse to the taste of her sister's biting words. "Just that she would at least understand why...but that never happened, and it never will." Bathed in flaming red, she peered out from the shadows shaped of gnarled furniture. And flashed close to her breast, clutched to the tunic sloping over her feminine curve, a bottle loomed into view held securely in azure talons. "A gift, from a business associate."

She stood, lured to the sister's side by the amber glass pleasingly shaped and wrapped in golden foil. "I thought you had rid yourself of such a crutch."

"I depended on this to ease the pain, to numb the screams inside of me, those that cried and blamed..." She stopped when caressing her talons along the slick, alluring surface, possessed of a smile both crooked and tinged with despair. "And never have I been more tempted."

"Please," she hoped to sway her in steady voice, to relieve her of this burden carried as an addiction, "let's not start this again. Last time, I went home with a sore jaw." She wrested away the bottle and mercilessly flung it towards the fireplace's gaping mouth, the bottle's contents released in a ferocious eruption of glass shards and cresting amber liquid and coating the entire marble cage in liquid fire.

"That was most likely expensive."

"A momentary relief is alcohol, and it only makes the pain worse."

"I happen to like the taste." Demona countered coolly.

"I think you mostly prefer the temporary erasure of sorrow," and Desdemona corrected, the sisters facing off gaze to gaze, "I assure you, whatever pleasure you get from this liquor is a deception, and you know that."

The former immortal bared her fanged teeth and ran her tongue across the smooth, clean enamel, her lips curled back as if a predator. "Yes. In fact, I have something better to ease the pain..." she said cryptically.

"And what do you mean by that? If I find anymore bottles, I shall do the same thing..."

"Stop it!!" she then screamed, surprising Desdemona in such a powerful howl launched from a heaving, buxom chest.

"What?"

"Why do you treat me as if nothing happened?!" she continued her rant, stalking forwards with her talons readied for the kill. "Why do you come here and try to comfort the very woman who helped destroy you as well?!"

"You are my sister, my clan. And I believe that woman who existed during my time of death was merely a specter created from anger, pain and dementia, and who eventually faded away, leaving us something new." She trailed away towards the fireplace and the once unified pieces of the bottle strewn chaotically by her own hand. She scooped the shards into her open palms, and sifted through the glass like she had discovered purest gold. "An amalgamation of different lives, bits and pieces fused together to create something whole, tainted maybe," she stressed, when holding one large, irregularly shaped splinter dripping with the remnants of liquor, "but of a good heart."

"Then perhaps you are more a fool than my own daughter," she warned in frigid passion, coating the air before in her in a wintry vapor, "blind to an enemy merely pretending to want such redemption."

Desdemona tilted her chin in the baseless threat, her sister blowing pure smoke. "Perhaps. Or perhaps I see as Angela sees, and Andrea, Goliath, even little Trinity, the scared child trapped within the beast having lost her claws and yearning to be free."

"You dare much, sister, to speak to me this way."

"I dare," she snapped back, "for I cannot ignore my duty to protect my clan. And perhaps you subconsciously push all of us away in some deranged sense of protection as well."

"I AM NOT SOME TAMED PUPPET ALLY OF YOUR CLAN!!!" Demona snarled vehemently, casting the fiery breath to all corners of her darkened mansion, and exhaling thunder to wage war with the growing storm just outside. "I do not wish to fly around at night and protect the so-called innocent!! I have no heart, no remorse in my actions! I killed, and I reveled in it." she gasped in utter defeat, but serving as a warning.

"Then why do your eyes betray you?" she whispered, as Demona raised trembling hands only to find her cheeks moist with the twin trails of her own liquid pain, shed without her realizing. "You shed tears in your mistakes, and that only proves your possession of a heart, and a soul."

"No..." she still fought, still battled against giving in so easily. "It does not."

"How frustrating it must be for you," Desdemona started when forming a circle traveled around her sister, a slow and calculated gait with hips cocked and lips pursed if only to mimic and provoke the tiara-crowned gargess, "to be possessed of a conscience you do not want, to feel remorse for the dead...to show such weakness."

"I won't hear this..." her voice fell to a whisper broken by her uncontrollable sobs, her shoulders drooping and draped by her hair reaching down between her slack wings like crimson claws. "I won't be scorned."

"It must burn within your heart, the deaths of all those you stole life from." she continued relentlessly, returning to the pictures above the mantle and eying with now an unusual contempt. "You might as well destroy everyone who tries to help you. And rid yourself of any light within the darkness you cling to for morbid comfort." She threw down the picture of Angela, the glass cracking and spilling a few loosened shards from the frame, as Demona winced, stunned by such an act both brave and ruthlessly cold. "Kill your daughter and her mate." The picture of Trinity followed suit, crashing loudly to the floor. "Kill the innocent child of your greatest enemies." And at last, the picture of Todd Hawkins joined the broken pile upon the hearth's hard, unforgiving surface. "And the human who reached out to you, and offered you friendship. Kill them all, the clan, your sister, me, wipe us all away and be done with your whining!"

Demona stared from beneath her lowered brow, the charcoal of her eyes ignited, as was her spirit in such a brutal show of strength. "How dare you mock me...how dare you trivialize my fight when you have no idea what it's like."

"It seems your fight is abandoned quite freely whenever you face even the smallest of hurdles." the caramel-skinned gargoyle hissed, sensing the heat radiating from her sister's body, and hearing her heartbeat growing in strength and seeming to want to erupt from her chest. "You used to drink yourself into a stupor, and now you merely hide yourself away in this brooding mansion. How sad to see a warrior fallen..."

"Do you know how hard it is?!!" she howled, sweeping up towards her and laying upon her sister a heated breath breeding the scent of flame. "Forever being tormented by the past?!"

"You cannot dwell in the past!! Not anymore!" she seethed, edging closer only to daringly stare her sister down in a searing gaze. "You must move on, if but only for your restored sanity."

"How do I move on when the very reminder of what I have done now adorns the cornices of Wyvern?!!"

"You suck it up, coward, and DEAL WITH IT!!!"

Her fury risen to the base of her throat, Demona unleashed in instinct against the word used to cruelly describe her and swung her clenched fist against her sister's unguarded jaw. With the crack of bone, she struck all too true and instantly dropped her sister, Desdemona unable to block such a blow savage and swift like the winds. She collapsed to the ground at Demona's feet, moaned, and fell unconscious.

Her heartbeat slowing and the crimson mask having faded from her eyes, she sighed and nudged the limp form with her foot. "My sister?" she called softly, rubbing her sore hand where the blow still remained fresh, as did the pain. Yet the fallen gargess remained deathly still, her quickly swelling lips slightly parted to allow a fresh breath to pass through, and stained with a trickle of blood. "Shit...I hate Mondays."

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

She admired this woman even in the silent journey towards the castle elevator, possessing a reserved dignity and strength contained in a form seemingly lithe, slender, and unassuming of the power she controlled. The sheathed katana flashed with every seductive sway of her hips, the blade, arched slightly and unpretentiously menacing in it's minimalism, glinted softly in the artificial lighting from the tapered tip to the etched hand guard hidden beneath her robe's waistband. She looked above to the trail of platinum, a path almost created from light, recessed into the corridor's curved ceiling and leading their way towards the elevator doors.

"You seem...pensive tonight, Delilah-chan." whispered Sata, slipping her hand from the kimono's long sleeve to depress the lighted elevator button. "More than usual."

"What?" the clone was shaken from her thoughts and startled into a conversation. Her eyes swerved down to the Japanese gargoyle, as she just nearly avoided a collision with her newly acquired teacher's suspended wings. "Oh, Sata, no, I was just...thinking, I suppose."

The emerald gargoyle smiled and turned thinned eyes only slightly towards her adopted student, peering out from the purest raven hair tied elegantly up behind her curving spurs and seeing the ivory-haired daughter of Elisa rubbing a hand thoughtfully against her other arm with eyes turned downwards almost submissively. "You are thinking, all right." she mused, a voice floating serenely and tinged with the Japanese accent of her homeland. "But just what thoughts do you dwell upon so contemplatively?"

Delilah looked up, and struggled with the very words. "Him, I guess." she revealed, embarrassed with just Sata's slightly scolding expression.

She sighed, in both sadness and contempt, watching the digital counter above the elevator doors count quickly upwards. "You must learn to let him go, Delilah. He has moved on, and so must you."

She brushed away the obscuring entanglement of hair always seeming to drape across her right eye, and breathed regretfully, "My world just seems so...different, without him in it...and every time I see him with...her, it's like someone jabbed a knife through my chest."

"Parting with a loved one is always difficult." she agreed, though somewhat callously in her chosen task of helping Delilah to channel her anger into something only exploitable, in helping her move beyond a relationship torn cruelly away from her.

"If only he could see me with another," she breathed half-jokingly, though the sting of isolation sometimes too hard to bear, "then he would know just how much it hurts..."

Sata reared knowingly a ridge in the clone's bitter statement, and turned her attention back the sterling doors reflecting her jade skin in a distorted image, as the mechanical chime at last signaled the arrival of the elevator cab. The doors opened with the customary hydraulic hiss, and Sata widened her almond-shaped eyes in the surprise beyond the parting steel marked with a lavender stripe. "Ah."

"Oh, good evening, Sata." the voice a charming baritone answered, with still the remnants of his once abandoned Irish drawl giving a European prominence to his tone.

"Greetings, Canmore-san." she replied cautiously, settling her eyes downwards to the wheelchair-bound former hunter, his sapphire gaze as always predatory and seductively enticing. "And just what do we owe the pleasure?"

He wheeled out as Sata stepped back and allowed his chair passage onto the stones. "Goliath and Elisa's offer to visit anytime I wanted still open?" he offered jestingly, noticing Sata's if not wary stance when crossing her arms and hilting her waist above her hips, though not due to his sordid past, but the reputation he had quickly gained for his irresistible charisma in a life gone straight.

Despite the fact the time displaced warrior had only met him a few times, she knew his kind well, gracious and caring in soul, but often brash, aggressive to the point of arrogance in exterior. A man who when he set his sights on something, he would pursue relentlessly. "Of course." she answered. "Though why now of all nights?"

Jason shrugged. "Why not?" he responded, leaning to the side in his chair when noticing the wings of ivory membrane, and discovered the copper gargess staring back at him questionably. "Holy...er, I mean, hello, Delilah." he whispered, moving with a bulging upper body his chair towards her, if only to allow himself the pleasure of taking her hand and laying a gentle kiss upon suede skin glowing a ruddy bronze and tasting of floral moisturizer. "It's been far too long, Ms. Maza."

"Mr. Canmore. Aren't we the charmer." Delilah spat intentionally, quickly pulling her hand away from the grinning shark seemingly trawling through the ocean depths. Though unable to resist a feminine fascination, she took a moment to admire the thin black shirt stretched beyond its capacity over his well-muscled upper torso, ironically made more so by the forced confinement to his wheelchair. She swiftly concealed the smile having crept onto her lips, and turned away when her cheeks flushed with an unwelcome warmth much to Jason's amusement.

"Jason, please." he tendered quickly, settling his thin and devilishly arched brows onto glistening eyes the color of frozen ice and sweeping away a stray tendril of inky black hair. "Anyway, I was just here to see your mother and the others, and meet the new arrival."

"Oh yes, she's most likely with Goliath." Delilah offered rather hurriedly, allowing her hand to direct Jason down the corridor. "I think I saw them heading towards the main computer room. I think you'll like her."

"Yes," Sata whispered purposely, "fresh meat. Though she is of the winged variety, and may not suit your...requirements."

"My dear Sata, you wound me." he joked, bowing in true respected form as best he could to the robed samurai gargoyle, mocking her oft-rigid demeanor. "Uhm, Demona isn't here, is she?" he subsequently asked, guardedly, the leer swiftly turning dark and fearful.

"No, though I have often wondered what the resulting encounter would yield." Sata smiled deliciously, as Jason cleared his throat and wrapped a hand around his neck.

"You and me both." he acquiesced, all too aware of the risk involved in somehow running across the demon given free reign here, chanced by even his infrequent visitations to the castle.

"Come, Delilah, we have practice." Sata ordered firmly, having held open the elevator doors for a while now. The clone grazed past him smoothly, as Jason took the opportunity to grasp upon her hand once more and effectively hold her in place.

"I hope to see you again, Miss Maza." he purred deeply, as Delilah merely tilted her chin upwards and smiled sweetly, then backed away and entered into the elevator cab alongside Sata. Jason could not help but to display his triumph in a smirk when she disappeared from sight. "Yummy." he whispered in sheer surprise, having seen a woman quite different in stance and conduct than what he remembered of the formerly timid child. "Damn, she looks even better now that she's single again." He laughed slightly as he wheeled himself down the corridor, and unaware a darkened shadow had watched the entire affair unfold accidentally from an intersecting hall.

He stepped out from his place where the light was obscured and even obliterated by the subtle crook of the castle's stifled architecture, his lips dangerously sneered. The thick vein on the side of his neck pulsated madly with the rush of adrenaline and crimson fire, in seeing the human dare to touch his former blossom with such audacity, and even the clone to smile in an obvious and transparently falsified seduction. Shadow swept away lest he do something inherently rash, and headed for the door leading outside to calm himself.

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

He entered briskly into the room with walls of computer monitors and hard-drives, his massive structure dwarfing the sophisticated machinery in winged form and a basking, enveloping shadow, and seeming almost out of place in such a realm contrasting his tenth century rearing and manner, and advanced in modern context. Where equipment pulsed with the lifeblood of Wyvern, regulating the power and other amenities they usually took for granted, Goliath met Xanatos bathed in the crisp glow of the screens, with Owen beside him as always, and he nodded a greeting to his landlord and majordomo in perfect mistrusting fashion.

Lexington jumped into the seat facing the main computer console, the chair automatically moving forwards on a grooved track to embrace the console and keyboards and match to his smaller size. The desk shivered, and released, curling in on delicate hydraulic arms to almost surround him on all three sides, as the cyborg plugged the awaiting connecting leads into his dataport, and allowed himself an avatar to the computer information. "All stations have reported in." he announced, blindly poking at the keys with eerily efficient succession. "Power and security transfer ready to proceed."

She watched him, the small, energy-bound web-wing with the wires jutting from the golden metal port under his right ear, and even with her curiosity drawn to the menagerie of machinery and Lexington's unique association, the lost sister released a trembled breath loud enough for Brooklyn to overhear.

"You okay, big sis?" asked the second, as Dr. Pierce, having tagged along in sheer inquisitiveness, noticed as well her anxious demeanor.

"Do all of you just jump around from one circumstance to another?" she asked of the room, having been almost herded into the main computer chamber just after witnessing the frightening abilities possessed by her new form, and without further explanation to fully enlighten her to the point where she did not feel the urge to retch with such an uneasy stomach. "Is this all your lives are? Endeavor after endeavor? When...when do you ever take the time to cope?"

"We make the time," said Brooklyn coolly, "or we go insane. You'll get used to it."

Her hand fell to her dark sable eyes, where beneath the pumpkin-colored skin flowed her golden, mechanical blood. "I hope so..."

Brooklyn snaked an arm around her shoulders. "So your blood is practically full of tiny machines and you read as fast as a computer. I've been thrown through time for forty years, Lex is half metal, and Goliath married a human, we all have our quirks."

The lost sister broadened her gaze, looking to Dr. Pierce beside her for confirmation of Brooklyn's statement. "Quirks?" she echoed, as the good doctor shrugged contritely and replaced his hands into his labcoat pockets. "Quirks...of course."

"Are we ready, Lexington?" Goliath asked, hovering over the smaller gargoyle and watching as he readied the new security program, awaiting only the necessary power and connection to the castle's main systems.

"Yes. I'm signaling for the power drop off."

"I must admit, Goliath, I am interested to see the results of your new security system," Xanatos whisked silently by the gargoyle's side, "though I still don't see why you didn't like my choice of the CY.O.T.I. sentience."

"I'll refrain from reciting the list." Goliath cricked his neck and barely laid a thinned, piercing eye towards the billionaire, before returning his attentions back to the monitor displayed of the power status. "How long?"

"Seventeen point four seconds." Lexington answered, his bionic eyes lost in the scrolling data streams. "With the amount of energy flowing through the building and the castle, we have to lower the power levels and power off the security system during the switchover or we may blow something out." He jerked slightly, a common occurrence when receiving a transmission, affecting his organic physiology almost like a hiccup. "Generator room supervisor has reported ready. Power drop in progress, security system powering down..."

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

The drone of the generators dimmed and slowed in intensity, reducing their rhythm for just a moment to allow the power to adapt to the new system and allowing the employees here an unfamiliar sensation of near quiet.

And he watched the screen readout vigilantly from afar, clasping his cellphone in white-knuckled hands. The readout indicated the power drop-off and the lack of power to the security systems, and he immediately summoned the reporter on the other end of the line. "Now, Nikki." he whispered, without calling attention to himself from the others monitoring the power transfer. "Seventeen seconds and counting..."

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

It threw off the screaming beads of rain with the power of the rotor spinning a perfect circle into the soiled drifts, and delved through the cloud cover led in singular purpose by the faint lighting beyond bred by the Wyvern spotlights.

"How nice of them to light our way..." joked Nicole, seeing their target growing ever closer through the windshield besieged by water sharpened into blades by the winds. She looked to her watch, having set the exact time when signalled, and whispered, "Fourteen seconds..." She readied herself, and unlatched the seatbelt from around her willowy form, holding steady to the cockpit door as the turreted spires emerged into view. "Wow." she gasped in the sheer beauty presented.

"Be careful, Nikki," the pilot warned, holding the smaller craft on course amongst the howling, turbulent airstreams as they drew nearer, "this is rash, and if you get caught, I won't be able to bail you out. And neither will Vinnie."

"Vinnie doesn't have to know anything." she countered in a quick lip, this extra-legal assignment known only to her and the pilot. "You're just...testing the helicopter after the repairs."

"And what if you're wrong? Like most of us think?"

"If I'm wrong, than being in prison for breaking and entering is a hell of a lot more dignifying than reporting on dog shows and county fairs for the rest of my stagnant career. But," she paused, and looked back with a wicked, wanton smile in her hopeful triumph, "if I'm right, then I discover a castle full of gargoyles, and I make history."

The pilot shook his head, his lowered flight visor fortunately disguising rolling eyes.

"I know Xanatos is hiding something up here, and gargoyle or not, I intend to find out."

"It's your funeral..." The helicopter banked along the southern side of the cornices, obscured slightly by the suspended cloud cover almost attempting to protect this place held deep within its milky bosom, and the pilot held the craft steady as best he could, buffeted by the winds reflecting off the castle walls. He edged closer as Nicole opened the door, seeing the castle structure clear to her ravenous gaze. "Nine seconds, Nik." he warned, pulling in as close as possible to allow the reporter access, but without shearing off the ends of the rotor tips against ancient Scottish stone unforgiving in its solidity.

Nicole watched with resentful awe the tendrils of mist stirred by the powerful rotors wrap and coil themselves along the serrated archer's posts as if daring her, perhaps concealing where no safe ground existed and doomed her to a two thousand foot drop to the streets below.

"Five seconds, and they'll know for sure I was in their airspace!"

She inhaled a steadying breath and jumped out, traversing a distance of about a couple meters and hitting the notched wall rather brutally, tumbling into a pitched roll as she snagged unexpectedly the cornice. Seeing Nicole resting safely on the castle, the pilot immediately yanked the door closed and pulled his craft away, disappearing back into the clouds, the milky depth closing upon the retreating vehicle as if he had never tried such an intrepid feat. Nicole pulled herself from the heap she had formed upon the ground, managing a limp towards a darkened corner and muffling her cries of pain lest she be heard. "Damnit, only on a Monday...this had better be worth it..."

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

He noticed something wrong almost immediately, the air itself having laid quiet whispers to this disguised fay's hearing with a voice undetectable to human ears. From the being contained within the suit more expensive than an entire wardrobe, he felt the slight variation, the strumming of the currents so far above the concrete soil.

"Owen?" Xanatos noticed his majordomo's roving eyes, and pried his steely glare away from the computers.

"An aircraft." he announced coldly, trying abortively to gain access to the security monitors but failing with the unsettling lack of power. "I heard it, Mr. Xanatos. Felt it."

"You sure it wasn't the storm?"

"Thunder has a particular ring, throaty, alive. This was mechanical. Pulsing." He roamed the room, and pressed his hand to where the technology did not reach, pressing his fingers to cold stone to reach out further into the delicate environmental filaments connecting stone to metal to air and wind, and only accessible by those with sorcery in their blood. "A helicopter."

"And?" he demanded though composedly.

"It most assuredly entered our airspace, coming extremely close to the castle's parapets, but other than that, I cannot tell."

"Wait." interrupted Dr. Pierce, having subtly eavesdropped upon the conversation between his employers. "YOUR airspace?"

"I own the airspace around the Eyrie building, Dr. Pierce." Xanatos answered smugly, allowing his proud smirk to further incense the doctor's sensibilities, and yet garner a smile small in itself to creep along Pierce's lips. "The price charged by the state was substantial, but there's nothing like owning a piece of the sky."

"The helicopter is gone now, sir." said the rigidly statured man with pale skin, taking his hand away from the wall and adjusting his glasses.

"But how coincidental it roamed so close exactly when the power to our security systems dropped and changed over. Start an investigation, Owen, with all employees that had access to the upgrade schedule. It seems we may have a mole."

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

Beyond the rain that slicked off her skin and hair, the thunder rumbled and rolled dominantly through the breadth of the misted, purple sky just across from her, appearing mere feet away as she stared into the heart of the storm itself curling around the Eyrie building's impressive height. Over the pounding of her beating heart, she cradled herself within the crook and darted her eyes nervously to each side of the wall. She had made it, she was through the barriers, beyond the security guards' very reach, and she readied her small camera when pulling it from her backpack, grinning foolishly and subconsciously damning her impulsiveness.

Nicole used the wall to lift herself onto her feet, and after the pain had died down from the injury to her leg, she slowly and craftily snaked along the stone barrier around the taller structure. From what partial plans that were made available by Xanatos himself years ago to show off his latest prize, she knew this particular section, the southern bend, to be the proverbial rear of the castle, and she deliberately made her way towards the courtyard in a journey marred with the constant view of the open city through the parting clouds.

She stopped though, quickly and with reservation, when seeing the first security camera fall into view, having resumed its tireless chore of scanning the parapets. The security system was once more on full alert, as Nicole had well expected. But as the camera roamed away, she poked her head out and found herself staring directly into the courtyard, behind the water fountain and pool rippling with the falling rain spread across its jeweled azure surface, and where above loomed the main observation turret, unknown to her the daytime perch of Goliath.

But one sudden realization stood out, as she trailed her eyes along the flooded cornices, streaming with trails of water off every crook. "Where the hell are these so-called gargoyle statues, Mr. Xanatos?" she sneered in elation, the best excuse having kept most rumor hunters at bay now completely vanished. She watched the nearest camera turn leisurely upon its radius, and sat patiently while filming the empty courtyard, timing her chance to pass by undetected. It moved, and so did she, creeping along the wall and using the massive shadows cast by the turrets to secure herself.

She had centered her gaze upon a thick, wooden door, appearing more as a medieval gate bound by two hulking iron straps, and guarded by yet another camera just above. Trapped in a corner between two electronic sentries, she weighed her options, and decided rashly to run for the door when the camera turned away. She hit the wall hard when losing the traction along a slick, wetted path, and slinked with her form pressed up against the fitted stone, until reaching the door. As the camera roamed slowly back towards her, she reached desperately for the door, hoping to grasp upon the handle before the camera lens caught her.

But suddenly, as her fingers nearly contact made contact with the target, the door swung open and around, trapping the reporter between the wall and the door, although quite fortunately concealing her from the camera. Nicole held in her scream of surprise in having the heavy door nearly crush her, and froze, her face pressed up against the thick, wooden slabs of oak shaped to match the arched entryway. She then cautiously peered out, and her eyes opened wide, as did her mouth. "Oh my god..." she gasped inaudibly through the falling rain and the thunderstorm surrounding this ancient place.

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

The cold rain sloughed from his massive form, small rivulets of rainwater transforming into mighty torrents and casting off his spurred shoulders and wings, dousing the fires of anger once bred by being mere witness to the cruel passage of life. He thought perhaps he would escape to Iliana's apartment, and attempt to find solace in her arms. But the laughable endeavor would only satiate his selfish desires for so long, and the pain of lost love would return. He did not wish that upon the woman he cared for, and now found himself questioning his newfound relationship and weighing the option of allowing Delilah to live her own life away from his.

His flesh absorbed wholly what moonlight peaked through the clouds, allowing only the water resting on the surface to radiate a softened, ethereal glow and outline his masked features. But even with the pouring rain dissolving any sight, sound or smell he noticed almost instantly the subtle change in his surroundings, and he sniffed the sodden air, the chaos of scents changed by one small factor of a perfume and faint musk unfamiliar. The dark warrior turned towards the door he had just exited through, only to find a slender, blond woman staring at him in sheer surprise.

It seems her hunch had paid off, perhaps her theories branded outrageous only correct in the seconds before her impending death. "...you..."

Shadow's eyes erupted with a sapphire flame, and his wings flared lethally. "YOU!!!!" His scream echoed across the entire castle courtyard, and into the very sky itself, as strong as any growl released from the clouds.

"Oh god," Nicole gasped in absolute horror, "you a-are the last guy I wanted to s-s-see..."

"ST. JOHN!!!" he screamed, stalking forwards as the woman edged herself in front of the door, perhaps hoping to escape into the lighted passageway. "What are YOU doing here, you little, deceitful bitch?!!

"S-S-So, you...remember m-me, huh?"

Shadow smiled almost cruelly, baring his teeth soaked in saliva and dripping from the sharpened fangs. "Oh yes, I remember you," Shadow pulled from his leather holster and into full view of Nicole's trembling gaze his nunchuku and readied the tow-linked weapon for the kill, "and what you cost me as well." Without any care of any consequence, he rushed forwards.

Nicole instinctively pulled from her packsack a small bottle, and released a stream of acidic fluid towards the ninja's glowing eyes, spraying the gargoyle with a full shot of mace. Shadow stopped, and in what would drop a regular human like a stone, he merely blinked the searing liquid from his eyes, seeing Nicole through blurred vision scurry away in terror as if the prey, directly into the castle.

He smiled like a man possessed, and slowly pursued in a slower tread, intentionally disregarding the chance to warn Goliath of an intruder he wanted so anxiously to deal with himself. In his home, on his terms, and in his particularly deadly fashion.

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

"Transfer successful, new system powered up and online," Lexington announced proudly, his accomplishments in improving upon a program displayed in just a knowing smile, "and functioning perfectly."

"Okay, brainiac," Brooklyn slapped a hand to his brother's shoulder, "now how is this better than our old system?"

Lexington turned and narrowed his eyes to the brick red hand and a distrusting disposition. "The new system is all tied together under the new artificial intelligence. It's like the castle itself is alive, and can see and hear, and even feel everything around it." Still staring at Brooklyn, he tapped as if conducting a symphony across the keyboard, triggering the security measures. "Now let's see just how well this system works..."

And instantly, did the computer monitor displaying the castle schematic and blueprints target an unidentified object moving deeper into the castle. "Foreign entity detected." the computer announced in a voice womanly and soft, yet dominantly to the point.

Brooklyn smiled. "Wow, it does work."

Goliath though frowned, his new system triggered far too quickly for his tastes. "Lexington, activate the Mother hologram." he ordered quickly.

"Mother?" Xanatos parroted the word with interest.

And beside them, with Lexington's keystroke, a single photon of light flared into existence, followed by a flurry swirling into a slender form, as if having shaken forcefully a snow globe shaped in feminine contour, and swiftly took on more defined features as the computer constructed the being layer by electronic layer. Faded lavender skin and long ebon-sable hair marred with streaks of sterling silver, it was a gargoyle, female, gracefully aged and almost eerily transparent. An exact replica of Goliath's birth mother, dressed in a flowing white dress and appearing as a hologram projected from the projectors above.

"What the hell?" gasped Brooklyn.

"Mother, version one point zero. Online." it announced in a strangely animate tone and turning to face the stunned group with deep, reflective eyes, except of course for Goliath and Lexington who examined their creation in the proverbial flesh. "Intruder detected, Goliath," she continued, her task to protect a singular notion, "main corridor, section zero three."

"Elder..." whispered serenely the lost sister, unable to help but smile in seeing a lost clan member come back to life. "Section zero three? Where is that?"

"Near my bedroom." Goliath hissed. "Close off that area! NOW!!!"

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

It was a maze in her frantic dash, and she the proverbial rat could only bounce off the walls as she tried in vain to navigate the winding corridors. Nicole followed the walls as best she could, and eventually found herself in the main hall, leading into such private places as the bedrooms of the only two interspecies couples residing here.

"Intruder alert." she announced loudly over the intercom system, as Nicole stopped only to listen to the new artificial intelligence taking total control over the castle. "Sealing off section zero three."

Nicole found either side of the wide corridor being sealed off, as massive metal doors slid into place over each entry to the hall. She ran towards the opposite side, only to impact into immovable, solid steel. "Damnit!" she screamed in frustration as she tried the other side, traversing the entire length in seconds in a futile attempt to beat the heavy barrier. She rested against the closed security door, and tried to steady her breathing.

CLANG!!!

"Shit!!" Nicole shrieked, as a fist-shaped dent suddenly appeared in the door just beside her head.

"ST. JOHN!!!" It was Shadow, on the other side of the door and trying to gain access to the woman he knew to be on the other side by the lasting scent. He ravaged upon the door with a rage fueled by recent events he blamed upon both himself and this meddling reporter, impacting with his fists and leaving telltale signs of his anger directed towards this infuriating barrier, keeping him from his prey. "ST. JOHN!!!"

"Oh shit!!" she wheezed, slowly moving backwards and watching as more dents appeared, the door almost bowing under the incredible pressure. "Shit, shit, shit, shit...this is fucking great!"

"I will rip you limb from limb, you propaganda-spreading, lie-spewing cow!!"

"I hate it when I'm right." Nicole cringed, and headed towards the only open door down at the other end of the hall. "This was a very stupid idea..."

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

He tested the metal with an assessing knock with his knuckle to the barrier, and hearing the slight twang rippling up towards the very peak of the door, he sighed. "Well, this is new." Jason whispered, having been trapped on both sides as well in a smaller corridor when trying to navigate his way through the castle. "I really have to read the brochure more closely."

"My apologies, Mr. Canmore."

Jason turned around to the holographic representation of the elder gargess, standing rather indifferently beside him, allowed her presence here by the emitters installed in the hall. "Wow."

"There is an intruder in the castle and I had no choice but to seal off the immediate and surrounding areas for safety reasons." she continued, crossing her arms behind her back. "Until the intruder is properly secured, I cannot open the doors. I hope this does not inconvenience you in any way."

"There...is a bathroom near here, is there?" he asked, as Mother smiled. "I mean, one that's wheelchair accessible?"

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

"Mother, identify intruder." Goliath ordered promptly.

"Intruder designate: human. Female." she replied, accessing the thermal sensors to better see the intruder. "Matching city records to facial structure." And on the main screen, a list of city records flashed by, all female, and all being scanned against the trespasser's features. "Intruder identified, Goliath." On the screen, the press pass photograph of Nicole stalled and matched to the intruder, much to the clan's dismay. "St. John, Nicole. Reporter, WVRN news."

Brooklyn immediately groaned, "Doesn't this bitch EVER give up?!"

"Mother," Goliath cut through his second's rant, "is there anyone in that section right now?"

Mother nodded, using the thermal sensors and the unique heat signatures and heartbeats to identify all in her castle. "Yes, Elisa and Trinity."

His brow raised in apprehension. "Jalapena."

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

She stepped from the steam-soaked bath area into the room darkened and painted in the reflections of rain spattered windows casting odd trailing patterns across the walls, the detective reveling in the subtle if not enjoyable sensation of her toes engorged deeply into the plush sapphire carpeting. She toweled off her hair, dampened from the recent shower, the strands of satiny ebon released from the folds of cotton. "Thank god this Monday's almost over." Elisa whispered, roaming languidly to her bed and flopping down to the quilt with enough force to rouse the mattress and bob the tiny form of her daughter resting beside her.

"Whuh! Mommy..." she cried in surprise, scrambling towards her mother and welcomed into awaiting arms strong and maternally docile.

"Sorry, baby." she whispered, clenching the child close to her shirt and drifting her fingers across her wings and the soft membranes of dark chocolate flesh. "Did you have fun tonight while mommy was at work?"

She pulled back and washed away with tiny, taloned hands her long hair. "Yuh. I play wif auntie...uhm, auntie..."

Elisa laughed slightly in her daughter's inability to assign a proper name, and aided the child in ridding her cherub features of the thick tress, drawing the collected strands behind her ears tapered by a gargoyle inheritance into a slight point. "You like your new aunt, don't you?" she relented, asking of the truest judge in character, that of her daughter and her unique affinity and abilities in sensing emotion.

"Yuh. She nice."

"Yeah," Elisa yielded her stubbornness to the sister who offered her nothing in the last three days but a gracious and amiable hand in friendship, much to her contempt, "she is pretty nice, isn't she?" For of course, she wanted this gargoyle to be unsociable, reticent even, perhaps malicious, allowing her to justify an unwanted twinge of jealousy in her husband's distinctive friendship with his sister, an emotion and weakness she dreaded. But no such damnable luck. "Of course, if mommy finds her new sister getting a little too fresh with her man," Elisa then started, hoping to erase the feelings in her humor, "what's going to happen?"

Trinity balled her tiny fists, mimicking her mother in a less than appreciable mood. "Mommy go pow!"

Elisa smiled in pride, her daughter's own indomitable spirit seemingly turning out in similar fashion to her own, a defense mechanism hereditary and destined to aid her in her future. "That's right, baby." she applauded the hybrid's veracity. "Right across her face."

"Mommy? Why th' cassel say twuda'lert?"

"What?" Elisa raised a fine brow, unknowing she had missed the A.I.'s announcement when in the shower. "What do you mean, Trini?" she replied to the odd statement, even as the intercom system started beeping incessantly. "Hold on for a sec..."

And as soon as she allowed the intercom presence into her room with the touch of a button, a voice abruptly called through, "...Elisa!..." It was Goliath, his voice high in emotion, a tone that managed to elicit a trail of gooseflesh on Elisa's milky nape. "...We have an intruder in the castle, Nicole St. John. And she's been sealed off in your area as we speak..."

"What??" Elisa gasped in surprise.

"...Get yourself and Trinity out of sight now!!..."

"Big Guy, there's no way that woman could get into my...bedroom..." She had turned, and found at her doors a young blond woman matching her angered glare for one of both victory and an exhausted fear having run its course through her form. "Oh damn."

"She has real wings..." the reporter wheezed when seeing Trinity uncovered from the Halloween costume having concealed the child's true parentage six months ago. "I knew it!! I knew your husband was a gargoyle!"

Elisa grabbed Trinity, and hefted the confused child to her chest, reaching into her nightstand for her firearm. "Give me one good reason I shouldn't blow your head off." she snarled, aiming her weapon towards the cringing reporter with enough anger distracting her better judgment to readily do so.

"Because you're a cop."

"And a mother first." she amended. "But you're right, the fact I'm a cop is the only thing keeping you alive right now." She then settled her weapon inexplicably, as Nicole took a few more steps into the bedroom, staring at the child partially hidden from view around Elisa's left shoulder. "But that won't stop him from killing you."

Nicole turned around to lay her eyes upon a lavender slab of rock-hard flesh, the abdomen rippled and heaving with a methodically exhaled breath released through clenched teeth as a growl. She craned her neck, trailing up past the chest thrice her width to see eyes alive in ivory fire and his wings spread menacingly, a massive, angered winged silhouette blocking the entire doorway and preventing any light from spilling into the room. And behind him, a restrained Shadow hungrily eyed the reporter, as Broadway and Othello held him cautiously by each of his arms in case he do something rash. "Well..." Nicole stammered, swallowing hard when surrounded by a menagerie of considerably large and livid creatures. "M-Mr. Liath Maza, I presume..."

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

She moaned, and opened eyes wretchedly heavy with a forced slumber, and shaded a deep obsidian in the darkness. The gargoyle stirred, and the relentless pain roused in her jaw awakened her quickly. "Mmmmmm...Demona?"

She held the icepack steady to her sister's jaw and lip, injured by her own hand, even as the caramel gargoyle tried to move from her relaxed position in her lap. "It's good you at last awakened, my sister."

Desdemona groaned and raised a hand to rub soothingly across the malformed bruise fashioned upon her jaw, and grimaced when her mouth stretched far past what its wounded callus would allow. "You punched me..." she announced in surprise, wincing when the words flowed so freshly over her split and swollen lip. "Again. Why do I bother even coming over here anymore?"

"Because you are as stubborn as I am." Demona answered, smiling.

"Now I know why humans hate Mondays." she drawled, the wound causing a slight slurring in her tone. "They are painful."

"I apologize." Demona uttered quickly, with regret flashed in the dark ambrosia of eyes tortured beyond her years.

"My memory is quite indistinct at the moment." she jested shrewdly, clearing her sight to bring into focus the strands of crimson falling over her. "Did I at least prove my point before I was so viciously slugged?"

"Partly...yes. Though I am still angered you destroyed my cherished pictures."

Desdemona took hold of the icepack to relieve her sister, and took solace in the numbing sensation of ice dabbing gently onto her wound. "I ensured only the frames would be ruined. But I hope my demonstration was...effective?"

Demona tightened her grip around her fallen sister, the former immortal having taken the gargess into her arms upon the loveseat when so brutally depriving her of consciousness. "Very."

"You cannot give up what are so very close to." she admonished, struggling to raise herself off of Demona's crossed legs. "And I will not let you, even if it means more bodily harm."

"You could never defeat me," Demona sneered playfully, "even in our practice spars under the second's watchful eye." She helped Desdemona to a seated position on the padded loveseat, allowing the split-winged gargess to hold steady the ice to her lip. She brushed a hand down the gargoyle's slender shoulder, her smile falling some. "Did you..." she started, a helpless, breathy tone, the golden tiara drooping along her forehead ridge. "Did you mean it when you called me a coward?"

Desdemona released a laugh both faint and edged with serenity. "No, my sister. In truth, you are perhaps one of the strongest women I have ever known. Which is why I am impossibly annoyed when you decide to throw your redemption away so effortlessly."

"How can I face her?" she pleaded. "When so many deaths linger between us?"

"You can face me quite easily."

"You have had time to adjust."

"Give our clever sister the time, and eventually, she'll see what we all do."

Again the word Demona centered upon, and repeated wistfully, "Time...yes..."

And Desdemona did so notice the peculiar smile touch upon her lips fleetingly, one of pain fused with an abnormal prospect, yet chose to ignore it. "I hope you have at least learned something tonight," she said, touching tenderly her talons across her lip, the bleeding having at last stopped, "or I was attacked for no apparent reason."

She bowed away, and watched through the layers drapery silk adorning the wall from ceiling to floor the water cascade and strafe across the windows, pushed by the wind. "I have learned my comfortable place in Wyvern has become that no longer."

"In the words of our friend, Mr. Hawkins," she snatched a hand to force her sister's face towards her, uncaring of any consequence with such an act, "too damned bad." Demona narrowed her gaze, and Desdemona only fortified her own. "Deal with it, sister. You caused her this pain, and she has every right to be angry with that woman who existed a thousand years ago. It is now your duty to show her the woman who exists now."

"My duty?"

"You owe her that at least." Desdemona laid the icepack to the coffee table, stood up, and towards where drifted the vaporous, almost spectral silhouette of the windows behind the translucent material of the drapes, she wandered. A streak of light racing furiously across the sky beckoned to her contemplative eyes, alighting her hardened features in the instantaneous flash of purest platinum. "You wish to make those understand your actions?" she whispered. "You wish to atone? Then start with our sister, for you have an obligation to those you wronged. And you cannot run from this task so damned easily."

Demona paused, and nodded. "I understand, my sister."

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

"This is now the third time someone's broken into the castle!" Elisa directed her anger towards Xanatos, the easiest target within range of her passionate breath. "Why don't your so-called security measures ever work?!"

"The human ability to adapt is stronger and more effective than most machinery or piece of technology, my dear detective. You know that." Xanatos spoke only with glacial calm, his iced demeanor the perfect defense against the fire-filled mate of Goliath and always enjoying the chance to match wit and voice against her. "But with Mother now in place, no one will be able to get past this security system unless they completely destroy the entire castle in doing so."

Elisa thinned her eyes, sealing boiling chocolate away beneath a delicately shaped brow. "And just how is this...hologram better than the castle's old system?"

"I am the castle, Elisa." Mother answered succinctly, the hologram in question standing patiently to the side of the library's Western wall, and fixing the holographic strands of sterling streaked hair falling about her shoulders. "To quote Lexington, I see, hear, feel, and know everything that happens within this dwelling."

"Too little," Elisa looked over towards where Nicole had been forcefully seated into the library couch, and secured on all sides by guards five times her size, "too late."

Mother rimmed her mouth with a self-conscious smile, brought online just minutes too late. "True."

"I don't know what you guys are mad at," the reporter started, her features twisted rather smugly and possessed of a tone that belied her carefully controlled fear, "I just got the story of the century." Her eyes roamed freely now, to the creatures both seated and standing, the reporter having been forcefully ushered into the library and deliberately surrounded by almost the entire clan. A fusion of anxiety with sheer triumph, an odd feeling tickling the base of her spine, she brushed it away and allowed herself the chance rarely obtainable by anyone to see these creatures firsthand.

"You are very lucky your presence didn't warrant activation of the external weaponry, Miss. St. John." Xanatos chided quickly, the dark-suited billionaire placed composedly to the side.

"Or what?" she challenged, for to her, it seemed more of a threat than a warning.

"Or you would be dead." Mother explained in turn, as Nicole's proud smile turned downwards slightly.

"Oh."

"What a shame that would be..." growled Shadow, the ninja swathed in the shadows deep beyond the crowd, as if to keep himself far from the reporter in order to sway his deadly impulses, for even her scent drove his heart into a frenzied beat and set his blood aflame.

Nicole grimaced, when seeing the reflective glint of his sloping, angry eyes, and the tattoos carved into his chest somehow glowing, and holding within the Japanese scrawl an eerie orange light impossibly lit without any source of illumination. And even as she as last whisked her eyes from the dark warrior, now seen in the very flesh instead of through a camera lens, she flashed towards Othello, the hunter baring down on her suspiciously and disallowing her any comfort in his home impressively breached by, to him at least, mere vermin. "Why do I have the feeling I may not live to see morning?"

"Because it is a very real possibility." Othello snarled, leaning down and clenching a fist trembling and exuding from the dusty sapphire skin an intimidating, lethal power, and ensuring it was in direct view of the smaller woman.

"My brother, please." Goliath warded him off, acting as his mate would in such a threat, as Nicole leaned further into the couch and stuttered her next breath.

"We have identified and captured your associate in the main generator station, Miss St. John," said Owen, the majordomo entering into the library, "and have brought him up on charges."

Xanatos brought up his bottom lip, creasing the straight lines of his goatee. "I suppose you never shared with him your suppositions of the secret we hide up here."

She shrugged impassively. "Why would I share my glory? He got his money. And that's all."

"And now he is facing six months in prison for divulging confidential information, despite the fact he had signed the standard employment contract forbidding him to do so." Owen explained, looking over the documents in the collaborator's police report, the printout of his substantially larger bank account, and even the contract in question.

"It was his butt to risk." Nicole huffed. "I gave him half my paycheque, and if he wasn't careful enough not to get caught, then that's his problem."

"Now begs the question, Miss St. John," rumbled Goliath, cutting through what he deemed inconsequential matters in the face of the bigger problem, "what do we do with you."

"You could let me go..." she cooed almost hopefully.

"And see our faces and the location of our home on the news the following night?" scoffed Brooklyn in his usual sarcastic method, holding up the small camera he had confiscated from Nicole's bag. "I don't think so." And in front of Nicole's eyes, he slowly closed his fist and crushed the expensive equipment into a wadded pulp of wire and metal casing.

"Hey!" she screamed in a rising temper. "You beaked bastard!! That was WVRN property!"

"Oh..." he clucked, littering the ground with the camera pieces. "Was it? I'm so sorry...and choose your words carefully when speaking about the beak."

"This is fucking ridiculous!" she now ranted, trying to lift from the couch and only to be restrained and pushed back down by Othello. "I have every right to free speech, and to let the people know that gargoyles, and holograms, and robots, and...and," her eyes found Lexington, hovering over her like a starved vulture when crouched on the sofa's wide arm, "and weird cyborg things live directly in the middle of their city!"

"Why?" Annika asked, her voice tranquil even in the face of an enemy. "Why do they have to know about us? Especially on your terms?"

"Because, cheerleader," she sneered, as Annika bristled her wings in confrontation, held back by Sata's bracing hand, "for years there has been report after report of unexplained attacks on the populace by police, and odd, animal-like injuries from hospitals. How do I know you all aren't some vicious, xenophobic creatures that attack innocent humans just for the sheer thrill?!"

Annika rolled her eyes in exhaustion of a simple-minded belief having run rampant through even a species as intelligent as humankind. "Would we gamble our safety and lives protecting humanity every night if we hated them? Would Goliath have married Elisa and had a child with her if he despised humans that much? Would I have married...uh," she paused, knowing Todd was still protected from her by his absence, "forget that."

Nicole eyed her warily, and returned her attentions to the proclaimed leader of this clan. "You claim you're an intelligent, compassionate species, and yet you choose to hold me here against my will."

"Can we trust you to keep our presence concealed?" Goliath countered.

"As soon as I get out of here, tall, dark and lavender, I'm bringing back an army of video cameras and using you as my ticket to a Pulitzer."

"You would willingly expose us?" the lost sister spoke her mind, seeing yet the same prejudice and fear translated into the present from a thousand years ago, that which would readily jeopardize the lives of the younger members of clan Wyvern. "You would endanger children for...for some sort of glory?"

"It's not just for glory." Nicole looked to Trinity, the winged child held in Elisa's arms, and weighed the choice against a longing, haunting stare of light chocolate. "It's called informing, and ensuring the safety of the public, which is MY duty. The people have a right to know..."

Goliath closed his eyes and released a breath in his next chosen action. "I thought as much." he whispered solemnly. "Othello, Broadway, please escort Miss. St. John downstairs...to her cell."

"Cell??!" she echoed painfully, as Othello wrenched a massive hand around her entire upper arm and heaved her from the couch without concern to any damage to her more fragile form. "Wait!! Hey, you can't do this!!"

"Goliath?" Elisa whispered in surprise, seeing Nicole escorted against her will out of the room, screaming furiously her protests to the silent behemoths having attached themselves to each of her arms. "What are you doing?"

"Ensuring YOUR safety."

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

The rest of the clan had been recalled from their patrols and quickly collected into the library after hearing just who had breached their defenses in a well-timed coup, and now they listened with interest the very heart of their family bounce an argument between them, their voices once held softly now growing as did their tempers.

"My decision stands, Elisa. She'll be kept downstairs in the Eyrie cellblock until we can find a more hospitable room that can be sealed and monitored."

"I don't like this, Goliath." Elisa whispered, protesting the imprisonment of Nicole in the Eyrie's detention area, where once her husband spent a night both unforgettable and frightening.

"What would you have me do?" the lavender giant swept around to face his wife, and opened his arms in a questioning manner. "Allow her the freedom to destroy everything we have built together?"

Elisa balked in the face of her husband's logic. "I don't know." she renounced softly. "But when we're forced to sink to this level..."

"We are ensuring our family's safety, Elisa," came the deep, impassive drawl of Othello, as Goliath and Elisa were now reminded they shared their private quarrel with the entire clan gathered in the library, "and that of you and your daughter."

"But at what cost?" Delilah complained. "That of our integrity?"

"I think keeping the clan, and our human allies safe is worth it." Broadway cut in quickly, rubbing a soothing hand across Angela's arm.

"He's right." agreed Shadow, the dark warrior sickened by the show of support for the reporter and willing to end this entire feud with his bare talons. "She has caused me..." he swallowed his slip. "She has caused us enough problems in the past. I say we let her rot in that cell."

Brooklyn wrinkled his beak into a scorning smirk. "Oh yeah, that will help human gargoyle relations...letting her die as our prisoner."

"I do not see the problem in holding her here for a time at least." Sata opposed her mate's side. "Perhaps it is the only way to quiet her extraordinarily large mouth."

"As much as I hate that woman, nothing justifies wrongful imprisonment," Annika snapped, having been a captive herself for her entire life, "especially when the prisoner is innocent."

"But is she innocent?" Lexington asked of the dawn-tinted gargess. "She's already tried to expose us several times before and we all know she will for sure if she gets out."

"Maybe she will change her mind if we convince her we are not a threat." fought Angela in Nicole's defense, one with a unique perspective on relations between humanity and gargoyle. "Convince her of our place in this society."

Elisa nodded quickly, and agreed, "And locking her up in a jail cell isn't helping matters. Besides, the helicopter pilot will report her disappearance when he doesn't hear from her soon."

"Let me handle the repercussions of her absence, detective." Xanatos offered with a smile born of his talents.

And Fox, reclining beside her husband, grew a crafted smile. "Oh yes, David and I have plenty experience in making people...disappear." She cocked her eyebrows, and though her teasing tone suggested otherwise, the others only passed between them uneasy glances.

"Might I remind you that Miss St. John has a record of tenacity untouched by any other reporter in New York," Mother prompted coolly, the incredible likeness to the gargoyle of a millennium past unnerving to those who once knew her, "and thus only releasing her now, either to freedom or the authorities, will only allow her to expose this clan."

"An' exposure be th' worst thing we ever be facin'..." Hudson burred.

"I hate to interrupt," Jason interjected cautiously, having stayed for curiosity, and to offer any aid much to the ninja's disdain, "but even if no one believes her, any rumor, no matter how small or outlandish, and if it relates to the subject matter, will often always be listened to by the bad guy types." He flicked his brow knowingly. "Trust me. And if Nicole is released and spreads the word, it could cause you guys more trouble than ever before."

"And to us humans who have gargoyle lovers," Todd agreed, "it'll make our lives just a little bit harder. Especially those with kids."

"And thus," Goliath rumbled firmly, the dispute in morality having run full circle, "my decision stands."

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

The purring whine of the elevator was almost relaxing, the gentle vibrations being sent through the cab a massage to tired feet. Elisa fixed her eyes to an indiscriminate spot upon the sterling steel wall, as Goliath stood mutely beside her, the couple divided and lost in their thoughts. "I don't like this." she suddenly blurted out.

Goliath sighed, "I am well aware."

Elisa slapped her hand to the control panel and effectively halted the elevator in mid-journey. "Goliath," she turned towards him, eyes flaring and her stature readied for that of a confrontation, "I'm already living in the same building with two known criminals. Imagine if it was made public knowledge that I participated in the cover-up and unauthorized imprisonment of a public citizen."

"Elisa, your husband, 'Liath Maza', officially exists in the employment records of Xanatos Enterprises, thus is your excuse for living here. And Xanatos and I have spoken and we both agree the best place for Nicole right now is confined to that cell, especially with the recent murders. Imagine if our clan's existence was made public..."

"I do imagine." the raven-haired woman seethed, staring with eyes unblinking towards her caped husband taking up most of the elevator cab. "I fear it every single, goddamned day! But I took an oath to uphold the law."

"Elisa, this is too close!" he in turn bellowed, the entire titanium enclosure ringing with his growl, and with enough power to lift the silky strands from his wife's shoulders. "Too close!!"

"I have just as much stake in this as you do, perhaps even more!" she snapped back, laying a finger down directly between the heaving pectoral muscles, and jabbing accusingly. "But I'm a cop, sworn to protect everyone from the unjust thrust upon them." She could see the anger and helplessness in his features, her husband opened to her as if a well-read book, and noticed by the fact his massive draping wings had lifted from his impossibly broad shoulders, he was not to be argued with in the mood Elisa would often describe as leader mode. "And now I'm betraying that very oath I have risked my life for countless times."

"I will protect this family to the bitter end," he finalized, with his wife cringing at his chosen words and the tone used, "and I can justify protecting over more than forty lives even if it means ignoring my principles. She will only bring attention to this place when allowing credence to her report, she'll uncover expose our family," he softened his tone, "and you."

"She isn't Sobek, she isn't Madoc," Elisa tried to reason with him, but found herself partly swayed by his judgment, "she's just a human."

"With the power and knowledge to reveal our existence, and cause more damage than any foe we may have faced in the past."

Elisa swallowed a hardened breath and tried to force herself to say anything, anything at all, but she knew this situation to be unique, and dangerously delicate. With a tired hand, she lay her soft, copper skin to that of her husband's warm, inviting flesh, running her fingers down the adamant surface of straining leather and drawing a smile if not small from downtrodden, ruby lips. She leaned in and eventually fell against him, as Goliath embraced her quickly, folding the smaller woman into the folds of his wings, comforting his love and drawing his lips into the flowery breadth of her hair. They rode in silence for the rest of the way.

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

"Well, this was the worst Monday ever..." Nicole muttered, lying on her side on the cot provided, and staring madly at the walls unadorned though ensuring of her imprisonment. The cell was furnished with the bare amenities, allowing her some luxury until she could be moved to a more comfortable room. But even that fact would not ease her anger, her annoyance in being silenced with the greatest secret in perhaps the history of the planet resting on the tip of her tongue. "Damnit!!"

"I apologize for your treatment, Miss St. John." came a voice through the intercom overhead, as Nicole sat up. "But in my opinion, you brought it on yourself."

"Well, well..." she whispered, as the cell door unlocked and opened to the massive lavender gargoyle and his wife behind. "If it isn't the Mazas, my favorite mismatched couple. So good of you to visit me in the slammer. Where's the little squirt?"

Goliath shuddered with a forced breath and crossed his bulky, vein-swathed arms. "So, after all of your scheming, you at last make it into the very heart of your home. Is this what you expected?"

"I had a feeling Shadow lived here, and maybe you, but finding an entire clan...now that's news."

"And a death knell for innocent gargoyles."

Nicole's eyes turned cold, defending her own chance. "The people have a right to know."

"Does my family have a right to die?"

She twitched uncomfortably, but shrugged it off as any experienced reporter would. "So you're going to lock me up? Doesn't seem very honest or decent to me..."

"It's ironic, Miss St. John." Goliath broke through. "Usually, any other human who desperately wants to keep a secret would have perhaps killed you without hesitation."

"Well, aren't you noble..."

"I never claimed to be noble, I am only protecting my family."

"And I'm protecting my city." she restated determinedly.

"You cause turmoil and chaos with just words." Goliath quickly lay blame upon her. "Are you that blind to see you are doing more damage than anyone else when spreading unfounded rumors?"

"Unfounded??" she echoed with a lifted brow, sitting up on her knees. "How much shit has this city gone through in the past eight years? A lot. And I'm guessing you and your clan were either responsible or at least involved for half of it. It was you who caused that war in the streets last week, it's you who leave those wounded criminals tied up in alleys and innocent people with the image of winged monsters, and it's you who spread your destructive battles all over the city ripping apart entire neighborhoods..." she listed the incidents she knew about, and casually drifted her thinned eyes towards Elisa, who merely looked away. "So, what's it like doing a guy with wings, Maza?" she then chided, attacking the detective with the truth as her backing, and hoping to squeeze as much information from her in perhaps a moment of anger. "Seems kind of freaky to me, I mean, he is a lizard and all..."

Elisa released a growl reminiscent of her husband, and swiftly bolted past her mate to strike back. "This city would be a charred pile of rubble if my husband and my clan hadn't risked their asses to save the ungrateful people here a hundred times over!" she barked, leaning into Nicole with a finger pointing condemningly, and possibly mere seconds from transforming her anger into a physical blow. "You are so goddamned blind and naive it makes me sick! You're just the same as everybody else. Labeling gargoyles without even taking the chance to get to know them."

"You sure you're not hiding a pair of wings beneath that outdated bomber?" she sneered.

Goliath speared a large hand in between his wife and the reporter, knowing Nicole's unique skill in unleashing the anger held deep within was working far too easily with Elisa. "Elisa..." he admonished, holding his wife back behind him.

"Your wife's got spunk...tiny."

Goliath curled his lips into a baneful smile, and Nicole now thought she had perhaps pushed too far. "I am doing everything in my power, Miss St. John, to keep myself from inflicting grievous bodily harm." he warned. "You have hounded us, hurt us, and now threaten the very sanctity of our home, our lives, our existence, and condemn us to captivity, experimentation or death."

"And after desperately trying to show me your softer, more sensitive side, you lock me up and throw away the key." she cut back.

"I wish it didn't have to be this way, Miss St. John," Goliath whispered, as Elisa quickly exited from the cell, "but it seems you have left me no choice. Goodnight." He left, and the cold melody of technology echoed through the room as the door slammed shut, and latched tight.

The reporter huffed a breath, and fell back limply onto her cot, imprisoned within the bowels of a building infested with her ticket to greater fame and fortune. "Oh, I really, REALLY hate Mondays..."

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

Her home was emptied now, silent, save for the soothingly rhythmic spatter of rain against the Victorian-styled shingles and the winds dancing the crystal beads across the balcony deck. Demona had said her farewells to her sister, as it grew increasingly closer to dawn, as Desdemona had allowed her to salvage at least some of this night for her needed sleep. But instead, Demona passed by her bedroom and roamed into the lowest level of her mansion, below ground and secured perhaps more than that of castle Wyvern.

Her laboratory, torn from a page in a medieval horror and lit with gas fed torches, Demona settled into her leather office chair and pulled closer to the massive tilted apothecary table set in aged oak and held upon stone pillars, a clash of time and cultures though mixed flawlessly. "Atone for my actions..." she whispered to no one but the surrounding air scented of dust and artificial flame. "I intend to, dear sister." Turning on the bright light held on a long, swiveled arm, she pulled towards her and into the spotlight centered on the table surface a hinged, wooden box framed with lead strapping.

She peeled back the lid, and reached in, her fingertips caressing an amulet large and weighted in her hand, and showing off its unassuming splendor in a ring of light reflecting from the golden-rimmed edges. "I once intended you for a darker purpose, but now with you, my creation, I can correct what mistakes I have made and erase a thousand years of pain." she whispered, pulling from the box, the crested amulet. Her obsidian eyes were mirrored in the gold plating, where within the curving periphery of precious metals the detailed circuitry could just be seen with the most observant of eyes. "I will make everything right one more...I promise you that, my clever sister." She held it as cautiously as she would a newborn, her talons outlining the golden figure within a sea of ruby jeweled background, the unmistakable form of a large bird set aflame and taking flight. "I promise."

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

As the sun now threatened to spill over the edges of the red-stained horizon, he watched with an interest beyond normalcy the darkness once having dominated the sky now being obliterated, slowly wiped away in an indolent, methodical sweep by the growing light. How he loved such a sight, a perfected metaphor for a purpose he took willingly to heart without hesitation and twisted his features into an eerily proud smile.

He continued deeper into the building as those around him readied themselves. Dressed in black suits colored a somber ash, their forms were only defined by the stark resistance to the walls of blinding, sterile white, and they appeared as if stolen right from the city streets, though having been recruited to an ambition in order to protect themselves and their families in a misguided sense of security. Beyond doors sealed and guarded ever vigilantly, he entered into the very bowels of this dark place to find him, and his undeviating path soon brought him towards a single portal at the end of a corridor devoid of doorways, the steel barrier armed and secured against any unauthorized entry. Using a keycard and private code, he was allowed access, and passed through yet another dark hall, until stepping into a spherically constructed room sheathed in an erratic, vibrant flicker confusing to the senses, with the powered monitors having formed the entirety of one perfectly curved dome.

"Agent White."

Not surprisingly, he heard his name called from the darkened chair and desk surrounded by the tepid glow of news programs and raw static, a silhouette looming against the screens, and he allowed a moment to adjust his sight. "Sir." he sounded promptly, standing at attention.

"You heard agent Cooper's report?"

He nodded to the shape where he knew inside the breath of darkness dwelled a very powerful man. "Yes sir. And if I might be so bold, it's about damned time we are at last going to eradicate the traitors from the twenty third and move on to our true objective."

The seated one though sighed in his chosen second in command's temper and impatience threatening possibly his greatest weapon, that of his better judgment, and only with the fact this man had never faltered in serving both him and their cause did he excuse the anger-filled tone, and remained placid in his demeanor.

"Cooper has expressed...'misgivings' about detective Maza as well, sir." he added softly.

A spark flashed in the cold shadows gathered around the eyes holding the hard, impenetrable opacity of storm cloud slate where also peaked a hint of sapphire, as the man swiveled around and stood, setting in motion the tawny fire of the sherry the delicate glass in his hand contained. "Mrs. Maza is being carefully considered as well, as is captain Chavez, but until we find concrete proof they have any connection to the gargoyles, we will not harm them." He straightened his collar, and relaxed his hand around the thin crystal balloon of the goblet when savoring yet another sip. "Any more sightings with detective Starr? The one your men have colorfully dubbed The Shadow?"

Under the hair bleached of any color save a wintry frost, his brow wrinkled, his features contorting slightly as though he had attempted to conceal his loathing, and he cleared his throat and answered, "Yes. Although this one is hard to discern sometimes, he visits regularly, now more than ever before."

"And has our surprise been planted?"

"It will be soon. But what if we merely scare him off?" he protested, wanting for such a more delicious fate to befall the dark beast. "We should kill it now, and be rid of it."

Wisdom versus impetuousness, an old war in which he has watched claim in battles the best of man. He then spoke in a voice grated and tinged with constant pain, but a serenity admired by those beneath him, "We've waited months for any sign of others like him, and yet nothing. Except more rumors spreading our forces across the entire island. Perhaps if we stir the nest a little, we can draw him, and any other, right to us. And I think discovering his lover blown to bits will do just the trick." He lifted a fallen strand of chestnut from the thick, ruddy tarn of flint beneath a thick brow, his eyes tired and perhaps wanting for an end. "And our other target?"

"His castle's like a damned fortress, and we have to work delicately. But everything should be ready by the deadline."

"I want one single strike, White." his tone demanded perfect obedience, as did the bridled fury in his stare. "I don't want any warning to allow our targets to escape."

"Three nights from now, we'll cleanse the human traitors, and wait to see what we draw out into the open."

"And what about the reporter?"

"Our source at the station reports she departed on an unscheduled helicopter trip hours ago but didn't return with the pilot."

He drew up his eyes to the thinner man, chastising himself for actually being surprised, the reporter in question always beyond his capacity to guess and control. "Their destination?"

"Unknown. The pilot never filed a flight plan. He called it a test run."

He admired such tenacity, and buried his smile into the chalice when touching his lips to the liquid sweet like chilled fire. "St. John will show up soon enough." he whispered, his tongue dry and his breath set aflame with the liqueur. "That woman could survive a nuclear blast. And she is still our best hope in finding the gargoyles, as somehow, she has already uncovered what we could not." He finished his drink with a single, concluding swig and replaced the emptied goblet to his desk, where a droplet of cherry-tinted fluid rimmed precariously the edge and sloped to the veneer surface. "Well, it seems there is nothing more, agent White. Prepare our forces. We attack the twenty third in three days." He pointed brusquely towards the door, ending the conversation. "Leave me now."

"Yes, sir." he bowed slightly and left through the doorway, and sealing the older man away within his sanctum.

He dragged his weathered hands across the thick bristle of his goatee, the dark mahogany turning a sterling silver at the chin, and matched with the temples being streaked with gray. He powered down the monitors, bathing the small room in darkness, and left through an opposite door disguised as part of the wall. Another hall, another door, it was perhaps the only object to which he showed fear, displayed by his delicate tread as he approached. It demanded of him his identity, his handprint, and only with absolute verification did a rush of compressed air thrust towards him as the door unshackled it's electronic locks, and opened.

The pure, re-circulated oxygen almost burned through his lungs when hitting him so abruptly, it smelled of sterility and ozone, and centered within the soft illumination from above did a tented netting embrace the light upon its sheer surface. He moved slowly towards the near translucent silk draped over a large hospital bed, and inside a form quite indistinct lay still. He pushed away the netting and came to the bedside, where massive machines held to the soul of a young girl within the sheets, and a labyrinth of wire and tubes allowed her yet another day of life.

Weighing perhaps less than a hundred pounds, she was twenty-one years if not appearing fourteen, emaciated, sickly, but to his eyes, beautiful, angelic even when smelling of death. Her hair drifted shoulder length, feathery and a light chestnut brown, and he strung his fingers through the soft satin, and brushed it away from her face. "Hello, Sarah."

Her eyes fluttered, and cracked open, a deep forest green that of her mother's shimmering through the narrow slits. Too weak to mount even a whisper, she just smiled faintly when seeing her father standing by her bedside, and curled her frail fingers around his hand.

"You are the very reason I created the Guild, to protect you at all costs. To find those responsible who did this to you so very long ago." He leaned over and buried his face into the hollow of her neck, kissing her gently and taking great solace in the rhythmic beat of her heart, anemic but steady, and powered by the creature formed of computers and medical equipment hovering over her shoulders as if her own personal angel of death. "I lost your mother and brother almost twenty years ago in that car crash, the crash those...winged beasts caused." He swallowed the pain centered in his chest, the screams of loved ones forever scarring his soul and haunting restless nights, keeping this man awake and despairingly alone, his only cure to keep from going insane sitting by his daughter's side with a book in his hands. "I wish you were well enough to live free of these machines, to see the world around you." he said, as the young woman allowed his words to fill the emptiness of an existence wounded by her dependence to the machines. "It's a different world we live in now, my baby girl, one of monsters and those who would dare protect them. But I shall ensure it's cleansed of any and all deviation, whether it is evolution gone astray or some twisted meddling by man. I will free us, save us. I will avenge my wife and son," he dragged a few knuckles over her cheek, where the bone protruded from pale, thin flesh, "and you. You are all I have left, I will revenge you...and heaven help anyone foolish enough to get in my way."