Author's Note: My apologies for breaking my 'two-week' posting schedule, but with life, renovations and painting, a bad cold and everything else, I've been a little busy. Plus with a little case of writer's burnout I contracted, it slowed down the creative process a tad, but hopefully it hasn't affected my work and I hope you all enjoy. A little note to Puaena, a heartfelt thank you for our simple correspondence having grown into something much larger over the last few weeks, always much enjoyed and appreciated.

75 - "Powder Keg"

March 18th, 2002
It erupted far into the sweeping lavender haze of the sky almost touching the airless stratosphere, a pyre of flame and smoke and debris, setting afire the surrounding clouds with a golden burst and spreading like a liquid sun, turning blackened night quickly into brightest day. The stones thrust apart with a chaotic succession of incredible shockwaves, spreading through the cornices, and into the courtyard. And as if a clap of thunder and lightning had pressed with the touch of god to the very stones, castle Wyvern split apart and exploded.

The explosion ripped apart the entire ancient, Scottish palace and shook the Eyrie building down to its very foundation deeply rooted beneath the concrete stratum of Manhattan. The severed, jagged chunks of flaming stone spilled over the edges and fell far below upon an unsuspecting populace, as towering turrets and long-standing structures collapsed, and the weight of a thousand tons of stone and metal beams crumpled the Eyrie's top floors almost instantly. The sheer volume of debris and scalding heat overpowered even the best and strongest of structure supports weakened by the explosions above, and the flames dropped like molten lava into the hollowed office floors and fused with the gas released from broken pipes. And like the proverbial domino effect, each floor erupted outwards in a spray of fire and glass and crying out in pain with howling, terrifying shrieks, and continued almost thirty floors down, until the entire building simply snapped like a twig, and toppled.

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

"NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" Elisa awoke with a start to the mechanical shrill of her alarm clock screaming in fear, her skin bronzed with a light sheen of perspiration and soaked to the sheets of her massive, canopied bed. "No..." Her heavy breathing soon filled the empty, vacuous space of her room, the grand chambers lit with swathing ocher sunlight and streaming through three soaring bay windows lining the exterior wall behind her berth. A film of cold sweat played over her brow and she was ignorant to the stream of tears coursing down her cheeks as she quickly stole to the side of her bed, her stomach pushing up the compulsion to retch in powerful convulsive waves. Of fear or her persisting wound or a coming sickness, she did not know. "...it's not real...it's not real..." she recited perfunctorily, a chant to ease her stomach, and collapsed back to her pillows with an arm swathed across her clammy brow, attempting to catch her breath and remove the nausea-inducing images from her mind. "Jesus Christ...why won't these nightmares go away?" Her body shuddered violently from such a vivid dream. And with the smell of charred stone and asphyxiating smoke still heavy upon her senses, she swallowed the vile-tasting urge having risen within her throat.

Almost a week had passed since the night of the Guild's attacks, and yet another day plagued with nightmares had settled upon the detective, stealing from her a needed slumber, and forcing her to stalk the corridors of Wyvern similar to some undead corpse searching for an ever unattainable rest. But today's reason for arising into the afternoon sunlight had a different purpose, that to pay her respects to a fallen friend. Elisa slapped a hand to her alarm, hoping to spare Trinity from awaking in the small, corner room beside her if not already from her nightmare-induced scream, and languidly slipped from beneath the satin sheets.

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

His name is Harold Weinman, and he was a businessman, one within hundreds of thousands infesting the wealthiest sectors of Manhattan's sprawling business district. With his day done, his task completed within the towering spire of steel and the wafting scent of fresh ink, he traveled the concrete steps towards the street below, relieving himself of the expensive silk tie, the proverbial noose around his neck. His steps were hurried for an older man, his graying, receding hair showing his true age, but now a greater purpose spurred the youth and spirit of such once thought lost since his days in Vietnam.

The afternoon sun peaked beyond his left side, at last completing the circle and dropping into its long descent towards the horizon, and he welcomed the radiating warmth before the encroaching darkness could sweep it away. A rather analogous comparison to what he deemed the very state of the world seen from his office windows.

Awaiting him at the bottom of the steps, within the chaos of one of middle Manhattan's busiest traffic areas, a long black sedan stood idling, with the sunlight transforming the sleek raven hide into a gleaming gold. Harold dropped both the tie and his briefcase to the sidewalk, abandoning one life for another with the silent, surreptitious call for an army. The back door opened for him, and without even muttering a word or questioning either the men inside or their intentions, he stepped in. The car silently slithered into the street and coerced itself into the flow of vehicles, carrying Harold Weinman to what he believed to be a greater destiny than his place in an office building, watching his city and world fall apart around him. He has now given himself to protecting his family, especially that of his granddaughter newly born four months ago, from the greatest threat it has ever faced.

He is now part of the Guild.

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

Elisa emerged from the bathroom, showered and dressed in a somber dark ensemble, her mood solemn, her actions unhurried. It was early afternoon, and nearing the allotted time for the funeral of a grouping of policemen and women lost in the attack. And though a false facade for three officers yet spared of death, it served to honor Sara Jasper, the officer who died protecting her lover, and in a greater, unspoken sense, Elisa's deepest secret. She did not want to face this, she did not want to say goodbye to a friend in this cold circumstance, and once more have the crushing guilt compress her chest and heart. The fact that she survived and Sara did not had hurt her deeply, and scarred her soul. So many innocents have taken an oath not to reveal the gargoyles and her relationship with Goliath, and thus, so many innocents have been placed into the path of danger. Because of her.

Her family lives in fear, because of her. And now the Guild represents perhaps the most fearful threat ever forced upon her secluded home once hidden away from any peril.

She fell exhaustedly into the quilt on the edge of her bed, slipping on her boots, and turned on the television across from her, only to have a news broadcaster appear on the large screen in front of a crowd screaming their practiced, chanting song through the speakers.

"...and the rallies have continued, gaining more support. The P.I.T. group as they are known, or people for interspecies tolerance, have resurfaced with a vengeance when the rumors that all the members of the defunct Gargoyles Taskforce were killed last week..."

Elisa's attentions were taken from her boots when seeing on the wide, bulging screen a crowd of protestors outside of the twenty-third precinct, waving their banners and signs and shouting forcefully their message of peace.

"...The theme is unmistakable, that of gargoyles, and the public is once again stirring with rumors about these creatures once thought to be a hoax due to the gruesome and purposeful murders of key figures in the police force. No word yet on whether this was merely pure coincidence, an isolated incident, or something bigger on the horizon..."

"The vultures are circling." Elisa sneered, for in the aftermath of the attack, the aptly named P.I.T. group immediately burst from the darkness with their protests against an invisible enemy, and into the spotlight of the press, already having fed greedily upon the precinct attacks. Even after years of a virtually 'empty' night sky, they still believed faithfully in the creatures of the night. And with the spark lit by Nicole's report months ago, and the murders only adding more fuel, those who believed in the existence of gargoyles have taken to the streets to voice their concerns. "I don't know whether to thank you people," Elisa whispered sadly when snapping off the television, hoping their openly public protests would not draw towards them a deadly retaliation, "or condemn you for your stupidity."

She pulled from across her desk chair a heavy sheathe of leather and her holster and gun, for rarely did she venture out now without the safety of her weapon stowed comfortingly under her arm. Ensuring a full clip, she slipped on her holster and then into her new jacket, a tanned, black leather swaddling her lithe form, the hem left suspended just beneath her knees.

"Mommy?"

Elisa turned around to see the door sliding away from the entrance to her daughter's room, as Trinity appeared from behind in her nightie, rubbing the sleep from her eyes with one hand, and clutching her 'Goyle toy to her chest with the other. A smile at last appeared on darkened, downtrodden lips colored a subdued ruby red, and Elisa asked, "What is it, baby?"

Her wings once folded lifelessly around her shoulders fluttered and opened up to reveal a dark, milky chocolate, the cramped sails instinctively spreading themselves out after being crumpled underneath the heavy sheets and comforter for so long. "Sun." she squeaked, her eyes squinting through the bright, slatted beams of sunlight lethargically roaming across the carpeting. As if searching for the last vestiges of darkness and shadows to feed upon. "Where you go?"

Elisa stalled her answer, and even with Trinity's young age, decided upon a falsified truth to sway her daughter for the time being. "Mommy has to go see some friends." she answered softly, herding Trinity back into her room where the blinds strained to hold held back the sun, and helped the hybrid back into bed with a slender hand scooped underneath her tail. "Go back to sleep, I'll be home just after sunset. Okay?"

Trinity settled under the covers, and nodded to her mother's promise. "Kay."

Elisa watched as her daughter drifted off, and delved her hands into the long reaching seas of ebony silk spilling over the decorated quilt. And the difficult, almost painful words exchanged with her husband last week came quickly flooding back. "I'll be home soon."

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

Through the crowds bereft of any spoken word she drifted, her dark sunglasses hiding away eyes rimmed with scarlet, and bordered by tarnished, muddy brown patches of skin, the result of many a sleepless night. Her long raven hair nearly blended flawlessly into the dark covering of leather flowing gently with each of her steps, and as Elisa passed by, she guardedly peered into each and every face of the crowd of mourners, studying their pale, wilting expressions as if she expected one of them to brandish a weapon and open fire in a crowd of innocents.

Elisa idly nudged the bulge in her dark, trailing jacket, with caution withering to lucid paranoia. Her instincts were blinded by fear when in such a public area even as a funeral procession, a direct result of the attack, still yet to relent its emotional assault and nerve-wracking consequence.

The clouds had gathered beyond the horizon, the rising city towers silhouetted against a slowly encroaching dusting of mottled slate, destined to overcome even the sun's rays and swathe the skies in the prelude to a cold spring rain. And to Elisa, it would fit the scenery far better than the shafts of sun wafting across the cemetery's far-reaching emerald fields.

"Nice coat, Maza."

Elisa turned to the familiar voice spilling between the hushed whisperings of the crowd. "Thanks." she offered to Morgan, the officer and friend emerging from the crowd and appropriately attired in his dress uniform.

"I didn't think the bomber was suited for this kind of occasion."

"Not when drenched in another woman's blood." Elisa cut through sharply, and as if not fully satisfied of her safety, her eyes still roamed and searched through the gathered throng blended into an almost laughable reproduction of a sodden watercolor painting. "So I got rid of it. Too painful a reminder." As Morgan guided her to their seats, Elisa relented the mechanical exterior to her friend, especially when he was faced with the fact of burying four of his comrades. "You want to know the real reason I like this coat?" she tendered in the yielding voice that was ultimately hers and not of the anger, settling into her chair and ensuring the jacket's long ends were safely tucked beneath her legs. "As soon as I put it on," she paused and allowed herself a smile in the midst of a solemn ceremony, running a hand both slender and aching for the touch of her husband down the leather, "it felt like Goliath's wings."

And within the trailing lines of mourners crawling between the rows of white wooden chairs in flawless, unbreaking lines, Morgan smiled to her explanation, and simply nodded. "Anyway, I'm glad you're here, Maza. We lost a lot of good friends last week..."

With his deep voice trailing off, and his eyes perhaps turning away to stubbornly hide his pain, she was stricken by the sudden urge to spill the secret of three lucky officers' survival. "I know." was all she responded with, seeing more officers from the twenty-third settling into their chairs.

The audience noticeably lowered to an absolute silence in respect as the pastor took his place behind a wooden podium. He conducted his sermon with utmost care to a crowd filled with the uniforms of the numerous precincts of Manhattan, and the mourners of friend and family alike interspersed. Yet Elisa heard no words, only a low drone that soon faded into nothingness as she waved her eyes from the four matching caskets draped and swathed in American flags to deep into the crowd, finding the Jasper family in the front row. Though three of the caskets were empty and secured to assure such a pretense, one held the body of a daughter and sister, a friend and shining light to the grieving family, now being offered the pristinely folded flag from Sara's casket from two officers in full uniform.

And Elisa silently appreciated the fact her eyes were concealed behind the dark-tinted lenses of her sunglasses, the warm chocolate blurring to an amber gray with wet, streaked tears, threatening stubbornly to force their way from underneath their entrapment and embrace what sunlight would survive the ravenous appetite of the coming layer of dark cloud.

Elisa cringed in purest instinct when the sky opened up with a sharp, piercing crack, and reached inside to her holster to defend against perhaps an attack. The sound erupted again, strumming the thick, moist air violently and creating an echo that spread as if a ripple in a pond across the entire cemetery lot.

She shook her head in the realization of the simple salute by gunnery soldiers, a tradition she had mistaken for a more sinister purpose. The seven soldiers released a final volley into the air with their rifles, and even when assured of her wellbeing, Elisa still shuddered from the deafening blast, once more reminded against her will of the attack. She slipped her hand from the inside of her jacket, and touched slender fingers to stroke across her throbbing temples. "Damn."

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

The crowds soon dispersed when satisfied of their bereavement, leaving a few small circles of good friends to whisper within their private huddles. Elisa crossed past the four new grave markers, until coming to the last, that of Sara Jasper. Trailing her fingers languidly across the smoothed surface of speckled gray stone, Elisa silently whispered, wiping away the tears gathered at the edges of her eyes, "With all the magic in the world, with all our vaunted technology, we can't stop death." She pulled from her jacket a flower, spilling its faded coral blue color over a few sharp leaves spiraling down the lengthy stem, and catching the sun amongst a few stray droplets of water. "We've fought against the most powerful creatures on this planet, and still, one bullet...one single second takes you from us." Elisa crouched and laid ever so gently the flower to the grave, as if it was grown from ice and she was afraid to snap the delicate structure. "Goodbye Sara...and thank you. And I promise, I'll find the bastards who did this to you, and make them pay."

Elisa looked away and towards a silver-haired elder crouched by the grave beside her, placing a bouquet of roses in front of the stone etched with a bordering floral design. He stood up, and even underneath the full beard of sterling steel, his features rutted with lines of pain and age beyond even his advanced years. Dimitri Starr stood silently at his daughter's grave, unbeknownst that the casket freshly covered by rich woodland soil was devoid of any corpse.

"Mr. Starr." Elisa whispered, and the elder Russian turned to greet the detective.

His thick, furrowed brow wrinkled slightly in the attempt to place the voice and slender face framed on either side by a swarthy charcoal, and settling upon her shoulders in a slight wavering curl. "Detective Maza." he responded in kind when matching the young woman in front of him to the name almost unremembered. "I'm glad you came today. To...honor my daughter."

Elisa swathed her eyes warily around her, and stepped up, and threw her arms around the large man, and though surprised, he too reciprocated the embrace. She moved in closer, her lips grazing subtly past his ear. "Iliana's alive." she whispered suddenly, eliciting a shudder of surprise and near shock within the elder Russian.

"What??"

"Shhh." Elisa silenced him quickly, trying to maintain the visage of a comforting gesture. "She's safe."

Dimitri stayed wrapped around the detective, knowing she was allowing the others around them a convincing performance of their grief. "But where? Where is my katya?"

"I can't tell you that, but just know she's safe and healing...and that she loves you." she continued, as Dimitri could not help but to release a gentle laugh in his daughter's surprising survival. "She has a message for you. She wants you to find anything in her apartment that wasn't destroyed by the fire. Especially the autographed Bruce Lee poster."

He nodded, Elisa feeling of the gesture against her hair and releasing from him. An unspoken farewell crossed through their eyes, and Dimitri resumed the now imaginary task of grieving, his heart swelling in his daughter's stubborn ability to cheat the hands of death.

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

Only a single black rose, delicate in ebony petal and placed forebodingly to each grave would mark his passing, the black flowers settled into the loosely piled soil and projecting themselves from the lighter-colored florae. He trawled through the thinned crowd, using his facade of ambiguity as a perfect camouflage to deliver a lasting warning to those fallen in the attack. Though he had not meant for Jasper or Chavez to die, they were perhaps tied in some association, either as a lover to a collaborator or the supervisor to a defunct team whose task was to supposedly defend Manhattan against the greatest threat it had ever known. And thus, that one small, transparent fact justified their deaths for a greater cause he had himself helped to resurrect from the ashes with the aid of an unknown benefactor.

Sympathy was an emotion he did not feel, or perhaps could not any longer, his sensibilities numbed by a tragic past, and thus even he, born from the fires of anguish and a near insanity-inducing sorrow, could not comprehend why these families and friends grieved. For he judged the fallen protectors as enemies in his stark, unforgiving world of black and white, and only saw their passing as a new step, a new level, something to be almost celebrated. He came to witness as a judge those who mourned enemies to humanity, to their very survival, and now in a dark trenchcoat, he slithered through the remaining group like a liquid darkness.

Then he saw her, and they passed by each other nonchalantly, nearly grazing shoulder to shoulder, and an odd feeling crept through him unexpectedly. Enough to halt him in his tracks, and peer back to the raven-haired woman who had done the same. Elisa looked at him with an interest sparked in her eyes, and little did she know, she was now staring down the leader of the Guild. The man who if he knew of her unique place in gargoyle society, would have ensured she shared the freshly dug graves with her comrades.

Elisa noticed his long chestnut hair, transforming to a light sterling at the temples, and his sharply carved goatee, sharing as well the oft feared yet respected mark of age. He looked so familiar to her, especially his eyes of a Prussian-tinted, stormcloud gray, like someone she had known, and yet so different from any of the mourners here, he seemed out of place. Her instincts screamed at her, and her concealed weapon suddenly weighed down on her left side as if a continual reminder of its presence, and its power.

He then dropped his eyes and flicked them away, and continued on his path, only to be swallowed whole by the blackened snarl of bereaved and an unending line of parked cars along the trail winding it's way through the fields and markers.

Elisa too resumed her walk to the fairlane, and tipped her eyes over the contoured plastic edges of her sunglasses, to where the clouds swirled and enveloped the last rifts of sapphire and gold in the sky with an angry lavender gray. The light spring storm had indeed come, and journeyed the distant hills towards the park, sheathing the land in a coating of cold, fresh rain. Elisa felt the winds change dramatically, and shored up the collar of her coat to shield her against the droplets driving sideways and propelled by the breeze.

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

Her name is Mary Williams, and she was but a simple, loving housewife and mother to two young daughters in the shelter of the suburbs. But now drafted by her own choosing, to be the munitions inspector for the Guild, having been assigned this task as her attention to detail was second to none. A mother happily inventorying and organizing weapons of mass destruction, without even a comprehension of the truth, or the innocence of the beings they will be used against, only that of a carefully fed story brimming with Guild propaganda.

Dressed in a dark black suit and skirt, she waded through the massive warehouse stocked almost to the bursting point with armaments and heavy, destructive artillery destined for use in defense of her species and home, impassively checking off the weapons from her clipboard. Having left her treasured children in care of friends, Mary now stood proudly within the ordered bustle of Guild members preparing for the coming battle. For she too had heeded the call spread silently throughout the entire island, and to protect her family and husband, she willingly dedicated all of her self and heart and soul to a cause more important than anything else.

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

The sun had at last set on a day filled with sorrow, and hidden its light behind the distant horizon where silhouetted peaks of iron lit with an unprompted pattern, and thus, released the creatures adorning Wyvern into the drapery of cloud and rain. They retreated inside, again trapped within the walls of brick now a prison due to their leader's continued insistence of their concealment. They drifted apart, each holding a sadness and anger that only swelled and bred a bitter fire in their stomachs with their inability to fight against an enemy that had disappeared back into the shadows from whence it had come. They needed release, and that only lifted the level of tension to a new breaking point.

Elisa stepped from the elevator and into her the main greeting hall, a cold draft passing through her from a distant open window, where outside the storm buffeted against the sturdy walls. She continued on into the halls, where silence had full lease upon the once jovial chatter always associated with her home. It was almost empty, most of the clan having separated themselves into distant corners of the castle, if only to sort through their feelings of helplessness and captivity either on their own or sequestered with their mates.

She found in her solitary journey and from the corner of her eyes, Todd and Annika in the media room, both silent and so changed from their usual buoyant selves. Broadway passed by her with Lexington in tow, and carrying a tray of food for Nicole in the Eyrie cellblock, the reporter waiting to be served a better room than that of her steel, cubicle cell. Shadow as well slipped past her as if a silhouetted specter danced across the wall by a distant light, though silently and insistently reticent more than usual. She thought the ninja perhaps was either going to train, or stay diligently by Iliana in the hospital, waiting for his chance for revenge. The rest were only a conjecture.

She continued on in languid, drifting step, focusing her eyes upon only the blurring trail of interlocking stone lit a soiled, dusty ocher in the artificial lighting above, and thus she barely noticed the massive form move suddenly into her path, drawn to her side by her scent. "Oh..." The winged shadow cast over her and bathing the detective in darkness was of her husband, and a man she did not want to share any words with at this particular moment. "Goliath."

"Elisa." he whispered, noticing the breathless tone and her stance almost forcibly withdrawn from his own form. "How did the funeral proceed?" he asked hesitantly, as if unsure of what else to say, unsure of how to approach her and mend the rift he himself created with his outright and perhaps stark refusal of her most heartfelt plea.

"Just fine. I love burying dead friends..." she snapped back, and pursed dry lips in her embittered tone, seeing Goliath's browridge waver and drop to an odd angle. "Sorry."

He nodded. "As am I. I wish I could have been there with you."

"Yeah, me too." She formed a wounded smile, and outstretched her arms. "But that's life, isn't it? One more kick to the head after another."

They faced each other down not as husband and wife, but as almost two strangers carrying each inside of them both a festering pain set against the other, and an excuse they held on to so stubbornly, it dared do the impossible, that to separate them of physical embrace or spoken word.

"I know why you are angry at me," Goliath started in with his barreled, animal brogue, as he knew Elisa would not be the one to cross the gap so readily as he, "but you have no right to condemn me simply because of how I feel."

Elisa cocked her head, and set her shoulders and hips into a challenging stance underneath her leather coat. "But it's not that simple, is it, Goliath?" she chided him. "You made your choice as leader, and your obedient little mate has to live with that decision. Your total condemnation of another chance at our happiness is why I'm angry."

He narrowed his eyes to better hide away the flickering light erupting from cold charcoal ember, the ardent glow seeping from underneath a heavy, horned brow. His anger was showing now as well. "I only told you the truth about my feelings, Elisa." he argued, holding his place in front of the one enemy he perhaps could never defeat, his wife's persistence and obstinacy. "And my own fears of sacrificing such happiness for the reality of the world we live in. My intention was not to hurt you in any way."

"Says the man who wants to deny me another child."

Goliath hung his head, unable to offer any answer to her malicious claim. Elisa shook her head in sheer exhaustion, rubbed her aching temples and stomped away towards her bedroom. He trailed a hardened breath through his mouth, released from the great depths of his massive, thrusting chest. He was left abandoned in the corridor, where shadows lay swathing paths across his lavender flesh in a reckless self-indulgence to swallow him whole.

He had no choice now but to follow behind and try to amend the pain he in part caused to her, blind to the swirl of light unfolding into the hall behind him from the projectors above, and embedded into the curved fascia of the corridor structure. She watched with electronic eyes the leader of clan Wyvern stalk off after his mate with an intended purpose, and so triggered her programming with a single, overriding command, to ultimately protect.

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

Elisa barged through the tall doors leaving the proverbial trail of smoke behind her, a scowl permanently etched into her young features with the weight of an entire species' survival on her shoulders, and the promise of a growing family shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. She tore off the long, heavy jacket and threw it to her bed, followed by her holster, landing in a heap within the folds of black, treated hide.

"I think I deserve better than that tone."

She snapped thinned eyes over her shoulder to see Goliath standing in front of the doors towering and curved near their peak, her husband's arms crossed against a broad, chiseled chest and his wings raised and sweeping in a defiant posture. "And I quote," she responded in kind, "I will not bring another child into this kind of world just so you can hide away and settle your fears and doubt with soiled diapers."

Goliath merely raised his sharply jutted chin to her repetition of an earlier argument, spawned from her want of another child from their blood. Perhaps harsh then, he lowered his voice to the soft, embracing tone he always used when dealing with his mate. "I just don't think this is the right time to have a child." he tendered with composure, to offset the fires of which he felt radiating from her flesh. "Especially when its life would be constantly at stake."

"Our lives will always be at stake!" Elisa yelled, approaching him and reaching out with an accusing hand, pleading with him to understand her unique viewpoint. "Always. But does that mean we'll constantly deny ourselves any pleasure? Deny ourselves any normal semblance of a life?"

"I would truly love to have another child, but our momentary pleasure could turn swiftly to more pain, especially if that child is taken from us just as Maria's was!" he bellowed, drenching the opulent chambers with a yell brimming with the visceral vestiges a gargoyle scream. And Elisa fleetingly dipped her eyes for but a second at the mention of Maria and Hudson's lost child. "We don't even know if it's possible to conceive again. You know what Dr. Pierce told us, that Trinity was a one in a million chance."

"So now you won't even try?" she cried, the anger melting into a somber, almost desperate plea. "So won't even allow me the chance to be disappointed before we even start?"

"We can try, but not when our lives are so dangerous."

"Do you regret having Trinity?"

Goliath shook his head, the cresting brow having lifted from his eyes in such a statement. "You know I have never regretted having her, but she was conceived and born when we were at a relative peace, and now with beings like Sobek and Kokuei, and Crowe, and now this Guild...we are living almost day to day within the shadow of death." He reached out to caress his knuckles across the delicate copper suede of Elisa's cheek, and for some reason, she pulled away, both wanting for and angered by his simple contact of flesh to flesh. "How can we condemn a child to that?"

"I won't live under the heel of a psychotic madman!" she spat, the anger boiling to the surface once more in what she deemed her husband's defeat. "I won't let them scare me into forsaking what I've always wanted! In what I need to be complete! I won't let beat me...as they've beaten you..."

It struck hard as if a physical blow across his chest, and Goliath uncrossed the massive arms he wielded as his greatest weaponry, only to have them fall limply to his sides. "So," he whispered in defeat with the bare hint of a smile, "it comes down to the fact you blame me. Interesting." Goliath clenched his hands into fists, the muscles having bulged beyond their limits and almost set free from their containment of lavender skin.

Elisa noticed, and tried to take back what cynical words she threw at him like sharpened knives. "Goliath, no...it's not that I..."

"I WILL NOT BE BLAMED FOR THE STATE OF THIS WORLD!!!" he screamed, forcing Elisa back in opened eyed shock with the sheer power of his angered howl, as he tramped forwards baring his gleaming fangs wet with saliva. "I will not be blamed for your sadness, and I am not the one responsible for the death of your friends!! I will not be condemned for my choice not to bring a child into a place of chaos, pain and constant destruction!!"

His close proximity, where his very presence and powerful scent once embraced more the impression of an intimate prelude, now frightened her to the point where she edged back, and fell to the quilt when her retreat gave way to her bed.

"Yet even if you so desire to blame me," he seethed in final argument in order to make her fully understand his position, "then that is your choice...my wife." Goliath leaned back and swerved around, and nearly tore the heavy double doors from their hinges as he escaped into the hallway beyond.

Elisa released a breath in a fusion of relief, anger and sadness, her stomach burning with the fires of nausea, and settled her weighted eyes with dewy lashes, fluttering and closing over a deep, viscous tarn colored like dark rum chocolate. She combed through the strands falling over her face and fell back into the quilt welcoming her weary body, staring into the varnished canopy underside. Where she drew mentally an ever-changing design in the knotted woodwork to help calm her. "Damn." she whispered. "Insult and accuse one half of your soul. What a great day this is turning out to be."

"Mommy?"

Elisa shot up instantly with the tiny voice having caressed upon the air to her side, and found a pair of eyes staring back at her so much like her own, she could have sworn it was almost a mirrored reflection. Trinity peered cautiously through the sliding door of her room, and Elisa almost cringed at her expression. "Oh Trini..." she whispered, knowing Trinity had heard the entire argument pass between herself and Goliath.

"Why daddy yell?"

She struggled for an answer in the midst of Trinity's haunting stare, condemning her silently as a child having witnessed such an atrocity pass with angered voices between her parents. "He's...just tired, angel." Elisa explained with a half-truth capably contained therein. "That's all." And with her daughter's ovaled, trembling lips and her gaze having fallen downwards to the floor, Elisa called out to her, "Come here." With her mother's beckon, Trinity ran across the carpeting, dragging her tail behind her, and used her wings as added lift to jump effortlessly into Elisa's open arms. She clutched the winged babe to her chest for fear this miracle was just an illusion, a dream perhaps, and took her strength from human and gargoyle blended into one small form. "You're part of my strength, Trini, my soul...I love you. And no matter what happens, never forget that."

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

His name is James Li Tagawa, and he was a police officer from the seventeenth precinct of Manhattan, highly decorated with a long and distinguished career of protection. But now he is a weaponry inspector for the Guild, ensuring his brethren were well and properly equipped with the best of destructive power to combat a threat he could not suitably defend against when just an ordinary police officer.

But now he is part of something undeniably bigger, greater, and only growing stronger with every passing day. In the security of the hidden warehouse where rain pelted and dribbled across the metal roof with a dancing, frothy song, he fed to a long, suited line of new recruits their weaponry consisting of powerful handguns, and sharpened hunting knives to be sheathed in hidden pockets. He joined in almost giddy anticipation to keep his city safe from the rumor of winged creatures spreading like wildfire throughout even the farthest corners of Manhattan once again. And now shown the proven existence of gargoyles and other such deviants by the Guild's superiors, he was glad, proud, to spread such power to relatively unknowns, in order to secure his city and world against the beasts who threatened to overtake it in one fell swoop.

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

He filled the entire corridor with his massive, imposing size, his shoulders broad enough to nearly scrape across the outlying stones as did his flared, trembling wings, a creature far too massive and of almost incomprehensible form for the human architects to take into consideration when constructing this palace from the hills of Wyvern. Goliath trawled his home in anger, fuming at Elisa's condemnation of his choice made in both fear and concern for an innocent child. And buried within the viscera of his mind and consuming thoughts, his eyes became blind to any other roaming around him, until a streak of dulled scarlet intercepted his journey both accidentally and rather forcefully.

Brooklyn nearly toppled when forced upon by seven hundred pounds of pure steeled muscle. He steadied himself from the impact, and looked up to see Goliath peering down with reproving eyes. "Goliath, my fault." he whispered, none too impressed at the moment with the man he once respected above both any and all. "I guess being trapped in here for a week is making us all a little numb."

Goliath snorted, "And would you rather send our clan out into the open when we have no where to start?"

"I would rather be doing anything but hiding in here!" Brooklyn growled back, rising to his own impressive height to better face down one of the largest sentient creatures ever known to exist. "Or maybe you should remind yourself of what we pledged to this city and the people we care for by taking another trip to the hospital! You can see Matt hooked up to machines to keep him alive, or Chavez as she cries into Hudson's arms almost every night!"

Goliath settled the swelling fires to allow enough restraint to speak with a voice unbidden by his anger. "Where is your justification for endangering our entire clan to find an enemy no one else can?!" he then asked of his second, unwilling to take yet more abuse from his carefully considered decisions.

"Maybe you should take another look downstairs!" he yelled back, again reminding Goliath of the innocent victims wounded in their war, and convalescing in the Eyrie hospital. "And where is your justification in having probably the best defense against this Guild trapped and hidden inside their castle?! We have given our lives to protecting, and now you deny it to us. You're just as blind as the Guild in your views. And your compunction to protect us and hide us here is turning you into a goddamned coward."

"I beg your pardon?"

"You heard me."

Goliath puffed his chest in the malicious accusation, and silently lifted his head as a primal challenge of authority. His body readied compulsively and prepared for a physical battle even in his attempts to ward off such an ancient sensation, but there would be none, as Brooklyn simply shook his head.

"On any other day, I would have followed you into hell if I had to, but right now...I don't even know who you are. The Goliath I knew was the smartest, bravest, most powerful man I had ever known. And what I see in front of me is nothing...nothing but a shell." With his parting words, he walked away in disdain, his lasting respect for his leader only allowing them to leave the situation without further spite or harm.

"If you lead only with your heart, Brooklyn," he whispered beneath the hardened breath to his second, "then you run the risk of losing your head." Goliath stood silently with dark eyes intensely thoughtful and brimming with remorse, until he too sulked into another corridor and vanished from the light, a leader perhaps slowly losing a clan to follow him in his endeavor to keep them safe.

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

Brooklyn drifted towards the elevator is his attempt to escape the constant, painful wound of helplessness he was forced to endure, until held back by a voice possessed of a peculiar, hypnotizing power over him. That of a low, sultry serration, accented by the Eastern burr of the Japanese isles, and forever imprinted upon his deepest, fondest memories.

"That was unnecessary, my love." whispered Sata, appearing promptly from the shadows in response to the heated altercation between mate and leader. "You don't know what is to come anymore, Brooklyn-san, therefore you are no better prepared to make judgments about your clan than Goliath."

He turned only slightly to greet his lover and the woman who willingly faced imminent death with him every waking night, if only to share with him his embrace and soul. "And that frustrates me to no end," he said sternly, jabbing his taloned finger into the elevator button without mercy for the delicate mechanism, "when the future of this world is a damned total blank! And when given the chance to do something about it, I am denied even that by a man who's younger than I am! Who keeps us here to die an even more painful death, that of cowardice and irrelevance, and the denial of our species' most basic function."

She approached and entered into the elevator cab alongside when the doors allowed them free access to the sterling titanium lift, the samurai seemingly untouched by the anger he spit with every seethed word. "Goliath has made his decision based on every and all circumstance and fact," she allowed him her own point of view in a soft, unresponsive voice, "and he has proven almost infinitely his leadership ability with a lifetime of experience."

Brooklyn curved his beak into a jagged smirk, teeming with his annoyance. "You know, I get a little sick of your Goliath asskissing sometimes." he bantered, though with some truth within the heavyhearted words.

Sata merely smiled to match a better weapon than even her katana against Brooklyn's animosity, watching her mate lose himself intentionally in the lighted number display above the doors. "I have pledged my sword and my life to serving Goliath as an honorable samurai and warrior of Ishimura," she countered quickly when her chosen allegiance came under attack, "and he has never led us down a wrong path before."

"So, you want to stay cooped up inside here as more people may be in danger of losing their lives?"

"I wish to safeguard my clan by keeping them from sight. Or would you rather have Graeme and Ariana flying the skies as this Guild roams the city looking for any excuse to commit murder, just because you are angry?"

The mention of their children silenced him if only for a moment, before the larger picture of an even larger war edging ever closer upon the distant horizon soon reentered his mind. And when politely signaled of their arrival by the mechanical chime, Brooklyn stepped out through the parting doors and continued upon a trail formed of speckled ivory linoleum guiding him towards the hospital entrance. "I don't think Goliath is handling this well as he should be. It's like he's afraid...and that will get us all killed."

Sata followed behind, seeing as Brooklyn eventually came to a stop and leaned against the windows, where his own weathered face stared back in a faded, translucent mirror. "Of course he is afraid," she offered against an outlook both stark and seemingly bereft of choice, "we all are. But are you mistaking his fear for due caution against a powerful enemy which we know nothing about?"

"Caution doesn't mean we ignore what's ingrained into our very DNA." Brooklyn cut back, having to suppress the deep, oily voice echoing within the halls as not to disturb the wounded just next door. "We protect, and Goliath's own viewpoint is skewed by the fact he's married to a human in the line of fire. He wants us to hide here, and hope the Guild just fades away. We have to do something now, or someone else is going to die."

"So are you now considering challenging him for leadership?" she mentioned idly, and meant as a simple jest to perhaps lift his spirits in the unthinkable. But Brooklyn merely raised an introspective brow at her leisurely suggestion, enough for Sata to readily drop the smile. "That was a joke."

He stood up, leaned in close, and whispered with an intention only made stronger by his anger, "Not to me." Leaving behind Sata's stunned expression, he slipped past her and into the hospital, to perhaps hold a silent vigil for his friend.

Sata peered through the slatted, Venetian blinds to see her mate take his place by Matt's side, her appearance of striking exotica marred by the slacked jaw and her almond-shaped eyes gaping and holding the deep charcoal in wavering dread. "Oh dear."

Every word passed between the timedancers was perceived with perfect clarity, filtered, purified, and cleansed of any extraneous background noise. She watched once again, yet this time unburdened by her physical form, existing only as a gleam in the security camera lens zooming in and recording in meticulous detail Sata's anxious features.

Her extensive learning program quickly formed new neural pathways as she observed the painful struggle designated cryptically in her files as one encompassing word, life, in purest and brutal form, a contradiction fighting against what she was programmed with. She had watched yet again the continued damage being wrought against her clan in the greatest weapon ever used against them, that of their own consuming fear and anger. And her programming set into motion a new command, that to strike where the bonds were weakest and aid one half of the heart and very soul of Wyvern.

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

"Hey! Be careful, wings!" she whined, her voice cutting into the stale silence of the barren-walled cell. "That's tight!"

Lexington glanced from his delicate work upon the delicate mechanism, to the young human woman with slightly sympathetic, electronic eyes, until he returned the favor of her shrill complaint with a mere tweak of his gargoyle strength on her bared and slender arm.

Nicole cringed and muffled the obscenities in favor for a single, encompassing word growled through clenched teeth, "Ouch." The reporter decided then to remain quiet and allow the small cyborg to complete his task ordered by Goliath, and watched over ever vigilantly by Broadway from the opened cell door.

"Listen, Rain..." Lexington continued back into his conversation when offered the desperately desired and atypical cessation of speech from Nicole, a microphone extended from an exposed panel on his neck allowing him a dialogue through the private digital channel he designated as his own. "I don't want you to come right now. You're safer where you are."

"...But, Lex, I want to see you again..."

His strong, peaking brows lowered over such large, emotive eyes, either from his girlfriend's stubborn insistence, or the fact he was forced to spill out loud half of his private relationship with a reporter hovering over him. "I know, so do I, but things aren't...it's just not safe right now."

"...You sure I can't change your mind?..." she dangled the enjoyable premise erotically over the phone line, followed by an odd sound Lexington could only discern as her lips puckering alluringly and releasing a growl from deep within her breast.

Lexington could almost see the coy, seductive smile forming on pouting lips colored an ever-shimmering lavender, and played with the enticing image in his mind. "You have no idea how much I want to be in your arms, but right now...it's...please, Rain, just this time, you shouldn't come."

"...Okay..." she relented in turn, suffering with his absence and the fact she could only do so much to soothe his pain over a distant, electronic connection of a cellphone. "...I love you..."

He paused in surprise at such a statement, and almost dropped the tools from his talons, never having heard a declaration such as this freely bestowed upon him until now. "......I know." he stalled with a receptive audience surrounding him, especially wary with Nicole staring at him and only hoping to burrow deeper into a part exclusive only to himself and Rain. But in the face of such tragedy in the past week, in the face of perhaps losing what he has longed for all of his adult existence, he balked and relented a soft whisper, "I love you too..."

"Awwwww." tutted Nicole playfully, resting her head on her free hand and flaunting her lashes ever playfully much to Lexington's embarrassment. "Is that another little gargoyle you have on the phone?" Her eyes suddenly brightened in the realization. "You guys aren't hiding from me another clan, are you?"

Lexington quickly finished the last adjustment, and closed and secured the small panel in the golden cybernetic bracelet attached around Nicole's wrist. "Mother," he then called out, "please demonstrate what'll happen if Nicole strays too far from your sensors."

"Of course, Lexington." the disembodied voice of the computer intelligence promptly echoed throughout the entire cell.

The wristlet powered up, and birthed a steady, blinking light, and as Nicole leaned in to examine her newest accessory with a reporter's examining eyes, a sudden electrical charge flowed through her frail flesh. "YEEEEEOOOOWWWCH!!!" she screamed, frantically trying to remove the sensor bracelet even as her blood boiled in response to a near-cruel demonstration.

"...What was that?..." asked Rain, in hearing the cry of pain through Lexington's microphone and the line left open perhaps intentionally.

Lexington laughed, a justified hilarity bubbling across his tongue in seeing Nicole's face contort in pain. "Our unwanted houseguest has been...acquainted with her punishment if she tries to run away again."

"You little fucking bastard!!" she snarled, as the electrical current slowed and relented the fierce attack upon her arm, her hand shaking with the amount of voltage having passed through her system. "This thing could have killed me!"

"What better way to teach you not to misbehave." scolded Broadway from the doorway, even he having to suppress the rare taste of laughter against Nicole's discomfort. "You now know what'll happen if you try and escape again."

"I think you guys enjoy torturing your prisoner far too much." she hissed with a fawning bottom lip, her entire arm nearly numb and cradled against her chest. "Especially you, fat boy."

Broadway calmed his temper, and instead decided to remain the clearer head in this ongoing squabble between prisoner and chosen warden. "Hey, Bronx." he subsequently called to the gargoyle beast lying lazily on its belly just outside the door. "C'mere boy."

His ears perked up with the command, and beneath the ridges gargoyle in design and evocative of intelligence, the deep golden eyes broadened and Bronx happily complied with his master's wishes. He trotted towards Broadway, and waited at his feet with a stubby, boned tail wagging impatiently, staring up into the burly gargoyle's deviously creased brow.

"See the nice lady?" Broadway offered, cocking his head towards Nicole, with Bronx whimpering in some sort of understanding. "Go show her how much you like to play."

"W-What?! No, wait!!" Nicole shrieked in fear as Bronx bounded towards her, sending more than two hundred pounds of thick gargoyle brunt into her lap. "GAAAAHHHH!!!" she screamed, fending off the garbeast and its wet, slick tongue coating her skin in saliva tasting of a previous meal.

Broadway crossed his arms and smiled, as Lexington scrambled to get out of the way lest he be trampled. "Well, if ever I'm depressed," he commented to his smaller rookery brother, "I know how to cheer myself up."

"Get this fucking thing off of me!!"

"Hey, what the hell is going on in here?!" A crimson-hued hand slapped inside of the cell door, as Brooklyn suddenly appeared. His reproving eyes searched through the cell, with the massive beast of dusty cobalt hovering over a recoiling Nicole immediately cowed by the timedancer's sharpened bellow. "Are you two finished yet? Or are you just going to screw around all night?"

As Lexington and Bronx slinked from the cell, Broadway yet budged barely an inch from his appointed second. "Well, excuse us for trying to squeeze any amusement possible from of a week of sheer boredom, death and hell." he chided his smaller brother, his size the greatest equalizer between them.

"This isn't a goddamned joke, Broadway." the second in command snapped back, already justified in his reprimands by sitting by Matt's side, with only the drone of machinery to answer his calls to the sallow, comatose detective. "This is our very extinction we're talking about, and it looks like you're taking this just as trivially as Goliath is. But instead of cowering in a damned corner like him, you play around like a bunch of hatchlings."

"Lexington and I have all done our jobs, Brook, just as Goliath has." Broadway maintained flatly. "And I for one think he's done right by keeping us here."

Brooklyn rolled his eyes in contempt. "Oh Jesus, not you too...first my mate comes rushing to his defense, and now my brother. Can't you see what he's doing? Or more importantly, what he's not?!"

Broadway's glistened eyes, of familiar charcoal brushed by the lasting vestiges of his youth, fell into the shadow of a thick, lowered ridge. "And what would you do if you were leader?" he invited the debate, interested in just how far the second chosen over him would take this. "Lead us so valiantly into a direct firefight with the Guild? How courageous...and stupid."

Brooklyn cocked his head, and flared his eyes daringly. "We are perhaps the only chance this city has against a powerful, maniacal militia that can infiltrate and kill and destroy almost effortlessly."

"And we lack a very important weapon they can use to infiltrate...humanity!" his frustration crawled across the roof of his mouth in a grated growl, the oft-gentle, ocean colored giant becoming incensed at such impulse-driven blindness. And from beyond, did Nicole listen in intently. "I want revenge as badly as you do, but Goliath is right, we're stuck in the castle until Xanatos can help find them or they make the next move. And as much as we hate that, we have no choice."

"Well, considering half the clan feels as I do," Brooklyn upped the ante in their argument, in order to come out ahead, "that we should be doing something more to safeguard those who're still lucky enough to be alive, something's got to change...and soon."

"Interesting." Nicole mused from her place on her bed, seeing this argument as yet another chance to dig for any stray information she can grab. "So if the clan isn't completely decided, do they take a vote or something? Or do they battle to the death in some type of gladiator clash?"

Brooklyn and Broadway both turned to the reporter and chorused in perfect sync, "Shut up, Nicole!!"

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

His name is Thomas Martin, and he was a simple security guard in a museum frequently attacked by shadowed assailants, and hoping for something more than an existence forced into the background by a cruel society. Now he is a heavy machinery operator for the Guild, moving into place powerful assault suits and salvaged surplus missiles racked with an almost obscene number and power against the walls. He's no longer alone, and treated as an important part of a family.

He felt power as he had never before, and a peculiar joy in the chance to become a greater part coalesced into a greater whole. It was an opportunity to help those who once ignored him, and shunned him by status, and perhaps mend a wounded rank by becoming the proverbial hero against the darkest forces ever to settle upon his city. For just one shining moment in the spotlight, he would readily commit genocide against a species he has yet to see with his own eyes.

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

She clutched to the object brimming with her daughter's powerful honeyed scent, a unique aroma of floral mists and scented soapy moisturizer used in her bedtime baths, and that which claimed a small part of her soul. Elisa held 'Goyle in her arms, curled into a fetal position within the chaotically rumpled waves of white satin sheet, and having allowed Trinity an escape from her mother's internal pain in the arms of her older sister.

Her breathing had slowed to help settle her stomach, churning and forcing through her body a heavy nausea reducing her arms and legs to weighted, immovable lead. Though the concussion suffered in the attack and its power to tear through her head and body a fire of lightning quick pain had slowly disappeared, it had been quickly replaced with a somewhat familiar illness. And she passed off an ominous warning as yet another symptom.

"Elisa."

She looked out from her refuge and found over the fur-covered plaything nestled into the sloping crevasse of her neck, a familiar shade of lavender skin though almost transparently iridescent. "I didn't know there was a hologram projector in my bedroom." she muttered.

"In order to serve the needs of my clan better, there are projectors installed in almost every single part of this castle and the top three floors of the Eyrie." Mother explained succinctly, her holographic form seemingly settling into Elisa's desk chair, to better put on airs she was as much a living, breathing being as the woman beside her. "Though I only use the emitters in private bedrooms when completely necessary."

"I'm glad." Elisa responded, licking dry, swollen lips. "The last thing I need is a computer intelligence watching me as I undress."

Mother allowed a smile to lift upon the physical form she commanded, and only serving to add to her beauty. "I admit, I am...confused, Elisa," she then started, dissolving the smile for favor of a delicately horned brow falling into place, "at your family's recent actions and dialogue exchange the last week."

Consenting to this hologram's odd, almost human-like behavior, Elisa crawled herself to a near seated position, her brow slightly creased with the perplexity of Mother's statement and her stomach still mercilessly clenching against her illness. "How so?"

"In the data streams, files and journals I have access to, I would have expected this clan to take strength from their bond of family and friendship in such a time of pain. But that does not seem to be the case."

"No it doesn't." Elisa readily agreed in but a whisper of her own throaty brogue, playing teacher to this computer-generated facsimile. "Because this is different. This is a prelude to a bigger, and bloodier fight. We've rarely faced this kind of enemy, one that is part of the very people this clan wishes to protect."

"Then why does this Guild not realize that?" Mother questioned further, cocking her head to the side, and her expression softened into that of a young child misunderstanding of the world around her. "Can they not see they are hurting innocent creatures who have in fact aided their own world on numerous occasions?"

Elisa lowered her eyes and slowly nodded her head. "Protection can be blind sometimes." she whispered regretfully. "In humanity's drive to protect themselves, they make enemies of innocents, and unite themselves out of fear and a common foe."

"And is not protection of those you love one of the most important entities?"

Elisa bobbed upwards her thin, arching brows, and nodded. "Usually. But not when it means killing innocents in cold blood..."

"And because of his impulse to protect all he cares for, you now condemn your own husband as severely as you do this Guild. Just for the one reason he is fearful to allow any more innocents into that same path of destruction the Guild themselves have created. Including another child."

Elisa perked up, sensing a rapid turn in conversation and knowledge. "What?"

Mother then smiled in what almost could be described as a shrewdly commanded deviousness, the innocent expression turning to that of its true form, the learned matron and guardian of those who willingly give their entire souls to a simple, draining premise, that of protection of their island, and even the entire human race.

"Oh very good." Elisa cheered brazenly the hologram's penchant for human observation, and a passive tenacity she was almost beginning to admire. "How much did your little sensors and cameras catch?"

"Enough." she consented to her reach beyond the tiny room holding her electronic consciousness. "Enough to see your mate continually suffering to keep this clan safe, and you as well."

"Why are you doing this?"

"I am programmed to safeguard this clan at all costs, Elisa, even from their own emotional problems. You, and Goliath, are the focal point of this clan, and I have observed in the short time I have been online that the others hinge their hopes and dreams on your strength and the bond you two have created between yourselves. And as of now, this clan is in danger, not from any external source...but from within."

She smiled in response. "So you trick me into revealing that I indeed have condemned Goliath for no reason but my own anger. What cute little pile of computer chips you are."

"Your title of detective does not do you enough credit, Elisa." Mother cooed with a justifiably programmed admiration. "I can see you are suffering, and in my studies of the human condition, I know there is someone you can always speak with to ease your fears."

Elisa slowly shook her head, knowing exactly of whom this computer sentience in the form of a woman was speaking. "That would be...a little difficult right now..." she whispered remorsefully.

"I know." Mother nodded, moving from the chair to the bedspread, with an unnerving absence of sound and even scent. "I offer my services, Elisa. I can listen, if you wish to talk."

"Aptly named, aren't you?" Elisa joked, allowing herself another counterfeit smile even through the pain. "Are you petitioning for role of my mother?"

"Right now, Elisa," Mother interjected, a serious facade eliciting a sullen expression from Elisa, "I am the closest thing you have."

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

His name is Taylor Robinson, and he was a construction worker and skilled welder usually found over hundreds of feet in the air, dangling precariously from cold-riveted beams of massive iron and steel skeletons, where he would do his part in helping give birth to yet another towering skyscraper callously thrust into an already bursting cityscape. Now he is a weapons designer and engineer for the Guild, using his great skills to piece together armaments and fantastic weaponry, to add to an already impressive arsenal and empower their forces beyond mere readiness and into a sheer phobic psychosis.

He has asked himself time and time again why he joined so readily this group that kills and maims even those of his own race. But he too cannot ignore the ramifications of such associations, where humans affiliate themselves with creatures who, according to his new employers and the finely filtered information fed to him, would rather destroy and wipe out his species with a mere wave of a clawed hand. Gargoyles, mutates, mythical creatures, all were now proven terrifyingly real as was their impact upon this world and its people, and perhaps even beings not of this world, infesting his home and awaiting their chance to destroy what he so cared for.

He now sees himself in a war, with the heavy price of extinction at hand. And where the humans who sympathize with these destructive animals are now branded defectors, traitors. He now sees only in black and white, and two sides to be taken in a battle he will give his life for. And he has since ceased asking himself why anymore, only when.

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

"I don't wish to speak with you, Demona," infuriation clawed at her throat, her voice echoing in angered waves caressing the rounded stones of the hall, "so I don't know why you still persist in trying to change my mind."

"I came here to see my daughter," the cerulean-skinned gargess quickly responded, a powerful amazon warrior reduced to chasing after her clever sister as she quickly escaped down the hall, "it was not my intention to..." Demona paused in her explanation, knowing anything she may try or say or even do would perhaps never sway her sister's pain and hatred towards her. "I did not mean to inflict any pain upon you."

She stopped, and turned, and opened wide charcoal gray eyes with a dusting of sapphire towards the flames stroked and tamed and falling over leanly muscled shoulders, and wondered just why Demona would persist in vain to gain her favor. "Your very presence here pains me." she hissed towards her sister, their bond of childhood and family slowly disintegrating. "Even the sight of you brings an anguish to my heart far worse than seeing the wounded I watch over in the hospital."

Black eyes narrowed, bulging cherry lips sneered. "And how long will you condemn me for an act I have already been punished with for a thousand years of pain?"

"My first guess would perhaps be yet another thousand years, or when I am at last long dead...again." she emphasized the last word to relate the dulled ache in her chest when thinking of her clan, lost to her it seemed only a month ago. And thus, the constant memory kept the wound ever fresh and bleeding scarlet red. "Whichever comes first."

"And what can I do to redeem myself in your eyes?"

She stalked forwards birthing a rare, malicious grin, and even though she was shorter than her sister, smaller, more delicate, she placed forth no facade of fear, or trepidation when staring down one of the most intimidating gargoyles of her rookery clutch. "Bring back the dead." she challenged brusquely. "Bring back those you helped destroy."

Demona curled her bottom lip inwards to hold the angered scream, expecting such a response from such a question. Her power of cultured word and biting tongue seemingly stolen by a single, simple, outwardly fragile creature.

"That is beyond your so-called power, isn't it?" the unnamed sister continued, answering before Demona could throw to her yet another excuse. "Now I see just how weak you truly are. If you'll excuse me, I have wounded friends to care for." She turned away and continued down the hall, leaving the former immortal to feed her rage to the nearest wall, unleashing a clenched fist into the stone and mortar.

She was enveloped in the thin cloud of amber dust when having pulverized a good-sized chunk of solid stone, and pulled back an injured fist from the small crater, her knuckles red and swollen. But thankfully the skin had not been broken completely apart, and with no spell of Avalon sorcery to stitch wounded flesh back together, she found it almost a blessing. "Perhaps dear sister," she whispered underneath the heated breath like dragon's flame, "I shall surprise you yet."

"Well, it's a rare treat to see an enemy talked down by her own sister."

The deep, polished burr trembled down the length of her neck and spine, and Demona shuddered at the voice tinged with the lasting remnants of a Scottish accent. She turned slowly but sternly, to unleash a deep, condemning gaze down the length of the hall towards the owner. An almost erotic pleasure settled throughout her stomach and extremities when quickly provided the chance to channel her humiliation, her talons grazing across the thick, leather palms of her clenched hands. "Hunter."

"Hello, demon." Jason lanced back. "I was wondering when we would meet again."

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

She had curled herself into the warming, leather embrace of her wings colored a frosted ivory, reading by the soft light of the chandeliers suspended above on golden chains and seemingly hung from the darkness itself. Perched high upon a massive, sturdy bookcase in an empty library, she delved uninterrupted into the thick volume until abruptly summoned.

"Delilah." from the shadows it came, from nowhere and nothingness, and yet possessing a definite presence in a voice womanly, and caring.

Roused from the scripted word upon yellowed, fragile pages, Delilah instinctively looked up from the spherical shelter of her wings and into the darkness. Beyond where the light was unable to reach, her senses were confused by a direction concealed and blurred by the echoes skipped and scattered across the room ever lightly. "Mother??" she called out to her only companions of the shadows once thought to be without a voice. "Is that you?"

"Yes. I just wanted to inform you that Jason Canmore has arrived."

She cocked a brow in the mention of the visitor, and closed her book, but not before carefully marking her place in the leather bound tome. "Where is he?"

"In section three. But I must warn you, Delilah. Demona is in that same section right now."

Her eyes widened in fear, dreading this situation from ever arising in her home. "Oh no..."

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

"You must have very large, and very durable testicles to show your face here, Canmore." Demona accused sharply, warning of her intent and standing her ground in a readied stance. "I should kill you now. It would certainly make me feel better."

He leaned back into the padded vinyl of his wheelchair, his cell of steel and thinly spoked wheels, and held loosely to the lengthy stems of a floral arrangement wrapped in delicate, colored tissue. "I hear you're mortal now, demon," he chided almost playfully, the ground between them leveled to both his reward and her ultimate indignity of simple mortality, "it would be a shame if something were to...happen to offset that track record of longevity you've got going."

"I assure you, hunter, you would not be the one to end my life, for I would never allow myself such an embarrassment." She swung her wide hips on either side of the loincloth perhaps far too revealing for daring curves seemingly carved from Scottish stone, as Demona roamed towards the man turned prey in a walk perhaps described by any other man as seductive, irresistible. But to Jason Canmore, it was the perceptible, dangerous stalk of an animal preparing for the kill. "To be defeated by half of a man," she purred with malice, blowing a cool, husky breath into the air thick and still, "would be in death the greatest of disgrace."

She towered over him, embracing the dark-haired man into the gnarled shadow of her flared, lavender coated wings. But he neither flinched nor even dropped the jackal grin when in the face of death itself. "You talk big for a woman who's been cowed into the role of whiner and nursemaid."

Demona leaned in, with her gargoyle canines flashed in enamel ivory towards the human, a smile curling full, luscious lips into a feral caution. "My restored allegiance to this clan is the only reason I have not opened your insides, Canmore. Never forget that."

"Sweet talker." he cooed, enjoying immensely the fact she was so close her hot breath caressed his skin and raised the pores into a stream of gooseflesh. So near to rending her claws across his belly in retribution for a thousand year old hunt, yet unable to hurt him in fear of wounding her carefully constructed status in this place. "You know, demon, it makes me wonder just how long you can keep this up."

"What are you driveling about, human?"

"This little game of hero." he clarified quickly, as Demona relented her stance and pulled back only to allow him to further his cryptic statement. "We both know what you are, and what you'll always be. A killer. A merciless, heartless demon with no regard for human life."

Her wings snapped, sending a shiver through the dark leather membrane. "You presume far too much."

Jason slanted forwards, his pride and knowledge of just what this creature standing before him truly was as his greatest weapon. "Do I?" he contested bravely. "Did my father? A thousand years of killing humans, of destroying and taking pleasure in each life you snuffed. The gargoyle they knew so long ago died, and in her place was born a demon. I just wonder how long it will take for them to realize that before you bring death down on them as well."

Demona spurned the words, deflected them from skin made as adamant as steel in a hundred lifetimes drawn together in one long, unending curse. But she wondered in the instant flash of clarity just how truthful his words did ring. But eventually, lucidity blurred to ardent fury and Demona lunged forth, clamping her hands to the armrests of the wheelchair and bringing her face intimately close to his own, studying features she would almost express as handsome, if not a constant, haunting reminder of the pain she endured by the entire Canmore lineage. "Listen closely, hunter," she growled, "I have worked very hard to get this far, and I'll be damned if someone like you ruins it for me. And if I have to rid myself of any such opposition to my redemption," her eyes flashed a ruby scarlet, bathing the human in a blood-soaked hue, "then so be it."

"What a great bit of wisdom to impart onto little Trinity." Jason sneered. "Why Elisa even lets a repulsive creature like you near that child is beyond me."

The rage set afire her blood and dictated a singular, dangerous action to the former hunter's words, as Demona raised a fist into the air with a devastating intention, until forcefully stopped by yet another hand more slender and of a deep copper bronze.

"Demona." a voice so damnably familiar breathed coolly behind her, and for a moment Demona thought it Elisa, until the talons nearly clenching into her flesh told instantly of the true owner. "Don't."

"Ah," she yielded to the young gargoyle emerging into view with a loathing tone, "if it isn't my prodigal daughter."

"I guess Goliath hasn't discussed with you proper etiquette when dealing with castle guests." condemned Delilah, releasing quickly from Demona's wrist for fear of a quick and painful reprisal. "Usually we don't attack our allies for no apparent reason but our own viciousness."

"Allies?" Demona brightened to the word used. "Oh how delicious they consider you an ally, hunter."

"We've accepted you, haven't we?" Delilah thrust her courage in a meaty snarl. "Jason has been nothing but considerate and friendly towards me...I mean, towards all of us."

The one, betraying word had slipped, and with the slight blush mushrooming onto high cheekbones painted a tawny cream, Demona tilted her head at Delilah's evident awkwardness. "Oh my...please don't tell me you actually enjoy the feeble courtesy from this human." she inquired almost intrusively, but only to satiate her curiosity and the amusement of such a coupling. "You were far better off with the ninja. He at least is a real man." she vaunted justly, as Delilah spawned an indignant scowl to her remark. "But it's fitting though, a misfit creature of science with a broken man..."

"How would you like this creature of science to ram her fist through your thick skull?!" dared the young clone, her eyes flaring a fiery red.

"Try it, clone." Demona stepped up, almost pressing against her with a challenge readily accepted from a remembrance of betrayal and shattered hopes taken the form of gargoyle. "Please...try it."

Now faced with the actuality of a physical struggle, Delilah swallowed and forced down the lump in a dry, constricted throat. But she held her place defiantly, perhaps Elisa's inherited stubbornness causing her more trouble than her form could take.

"Delilah, it's all right." Jason soon intervened, for fear this could lead into something far more dangerous, and tugged lightly on Delilah's arm to pull her back to safety. "It seems we're just too big to be in this castle together. I'll go."

She turned and quickly pleaded, if at the least to be polite, "But you don't have to."

Jason only yielded to the current situation, never wanting to make it worse than it already was. "Yes, I do." He handed her the bouquet of flowers to hesitative hands, until Delilah accepted the gift and passed to him saddened eyes, but grateful in the attention he now paid to her. "Besides, I've accomplished what I've set out to do." he whispered, and eyed the floral arrangement in the clone's soft hands, then cocked an assertive brow. He wheeled around and headed for the elevators, leaving Delilah to stand alone and watch him fade from view.

"When?" she whispered with a rarely shown rage spilling across her lips, and nearly crushing the vibrant flora in her talons. "When will you ever treat me as if I deserve the life I was given?"

Demona raised her chin, and spat, "When you quit your stale whimpering, and ultimately prove to me you are not some weak, gutless child stolen and bred from my blood."

Delilah turned in the face of such ferocity, Demona never being one for subtlety or consideration, and always brutally to the point. "What do you mean?"

"You have been granted what others would kill for, clone. A soul. A family. A real life! And yet you continually waste it with the cries of a woman who has lost her lover." Demona circled the young woman blessed with her features and the cold reminder of a former lover, damning her for showing such weakness. "You once had a man willing to die for you, and you threw that all away because you could not handle his past. You cry and moan and bitch about the hardships you have been through almost constantly."

Delilah peered with livid eyes towards the woman who shared her blood, angered in her bitter swipe against a pain that nearly tore a hole through her heart. "How dare you call my pain trivial. You can have a child, I can't."

"You have seen barely a fraction compared to any of us!!"

"How the hell would you know?!"

Demona folded her arms beneath her chest, and drew in a breath meant to calm and refresh her tongue. "I once sacrificed everything I held dear because of my pride, and deeply rooted perspective." she started in a yet softer tone, though however brimming with the aggravation that something born from her could be so excruciatingly fragile. "And now look where I am today. Forced to crawl my way out from the deepest pits of hell after a thousand years. If I were you, clone, I would celebrate what you have, instead of bitching about what you do not."

"I have nothing." she whispered, idling the delicate petals of the roses. "I lost Shadow. I lost the man I...I love more than anything."

"Then 'dear daughter'," Demona wet her tongue with sheer condemnation of the clone's timidity, but as she turned and sauntered down the hall, ultimately reminded her with the courage and modest simplicity of a choice, "if you truly want him, I suggest you get him back."

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

The stones, though smoothed, buffed and fitted together with such precision as to leave but a hair's breadth between, lay a gentle bouncing rhythm to his wheels as he guided himself towards the elevator. He wondered why he was continually drawn here, to a home for the creatures he once hunted and lived everyday to kill, to where a woman lived with the man she turned him away for, and to a young gargoyle who reminded him of what, and who he desired and yet could not have.

His thoughts too focused to observe the shifting of shadows in the hall beyond as he reached out to depress the button, he neither realized a massive specter vomited from the inky blackness nor the intent of a creature commanding a great weight and strength, and an irrational anger held towards him. Jason sensed only the brush of wind crawl across his neck, before turning and being swallowed by darkness with a subtle hint of lavender and ashen gray.

Shadow reached out and nearly wrenched one side of the wheelchair from its base, effectively holding Canmore in place. "Why are you here again?" he rasped, his face contorted into an angered, animalistic grimace empowered by his hatred for this human.

"I have been welcomed here by Elisa long before you ever joined this clan, Mr. Minamoto." surprised in the ninja's ability to suspend himself as but his namesake, Jason answered quickly, his enthralling tone only serving to add to the ninja's annoyance with even his presence, and smile, and glib mannerisms. "And I happen to be friend with quite a few of the clan. Who I thought I might try to cheer the up after the attack."

"If you even harbor thoughts of touching her, human," Shadow warned with the taste of death upon his searing exhale, knowing exactly who Jason was speaking about with an all too evident partiality, "then I suggest you proceed with due caution."

The brows went up in surprise, and perhaps even a liking to the challenge. "Gee, and here I was confused why you ever two broke up...and don't you already have a woman?"

Shadow's thin, obscuring eyes slitted to near invisibility in the dark, murky complexion he boasted from hatching, only to birth twin sparks of sapphire rage. "I don't like you." he advised the human, his entire form expanding and bulging before Jason's eyes. "I don't like what you are, or represent. You are the same as this Guild, a hunter of gargoyles and other innocent creatures."

"As you can clearly tell, I gave that up a long time ago." He waved a hand across his bound legs, immobile from a damaged spinal cord, and bereft of the once powerful muscle tone. "Occupational hazard."

"Don't toy with me, human." Shadow snarled in perfect deadly fashion, his form lacking any definition against the absence of light with the exception of his glowing eyes. "And I suggest you be careful in your quest," a taloned fist closed and shook with undeniable power, "or I shall break whatever is not already broken..."

"Shadow."

The shinobi of spurred sail and claw retreated, daunted only by the placid summons cast towards him. He turned his mahogany eyes towards where a shock of white hair and wing to match entered into view as Delilah crossed by him with eyes condemning of his actions, and he pulled back to allow her access to Jason. "I was not going to hurt him," explained the dark warrior, with a malicious smirk, "much."

"Why don't you go to the dojo and work off some of that anger before you kill someone?" she suggested composedly, standing by Jason's side, and the human's smug grin forcing Shadow's lips into an irritated mask. "We need all the human allies we can get, remember?"

Shadow thrust a snarl towards Jason in response, a snort forced into the air so hot the curling waft of breath could almost be seen, and then answered, "A wise idea." He slipped away down the corridor, vanishing his massive, winged form between where the muted light bathing the walls in distant, spotted rings did not reach, and the ninja effectively disappeared before he even reached the distant end. Like a shadow that existed only with the breath of a flame now extinguished, he was gone with but a lingering trace of his scent in the air.

Delilah sighed and caressed a probing hand over the flowers given as a gift, but now serving to confuse her love and set it against a desperate want for such attention. "Why do you come here?" she then blurted to Jason.

He found himself surprised at his inability to verbalize properly a question he already knew the answer to. "You know, I've been asking that question a lot lately. But it's simple. I like it here, as my family isn't the exact model of perfection." he joked, though sadly. "And I like you." He grasped to her hand and grazed along the supple, copper flesh so much like Elisa's before Delilah abruptly pulled away bashfully. "I'm sorry, I know I can come on strong at times, but I would really like to get to know you."

"Jason, I...I don't know..." she faltered, her eyes skimming unconsciously towards the darkened hall where Shadow once loomed, his scent still wafting across her delicate senses. "I'm just...I've been going through a rough time, with everything that's happened, and now with the attack last week...I just..."

"Need time to breathe." concluded Jason.

She shrugged her apology, and whispered, "Yeah."

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

Her name is Sonya Kal Amil, and she was once a young, brilliant university student on a full scholarship to a prestigious school of ivy-league rank, and now she is the personnel coordinator for the Guild, ensuring order on such a massive scale, using her education to further the cause she had heard about through an inconspicuous and campus-wide e-mail. The word had spread throughout the best and brightest of youth, and she allowed herself to be swayed by such courageous, inspiring words to help save her world and family.

As she watched from a catwalk stretched high above from end to end of the vast, cavernous warehouse, where hundreds of dark-suited Guild members toiled tirelessly below her, she felt a pride like never before, even greater then when accepted to the university. She had not even reached the age of twenty, and already, she was partly responsible for the whole of humanity. As a larger, glorious entity, she held them within her very hands.

She had accepted the deaths, the lives they were forced to take. Even the lowest of Guild underlings knew of the sacrifices they would be called upon to make, but perhaps she would not have to stain her hands with blood. Perhaps she could stay within this warehouse, and watch the war unfold from the safety of insulated, steel-lined walls. She did not want to die, but she did not wish to live under the rule of such creatures infesting her nightmares since but a child.

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

Even as his wings nearly brushed across the roof, his size and ample, commanding brawn unimaginable, he crept near silently across the white tiles lending a reflection of polished lavender. Beyond Matt Bluestone, the detective surrounded by his machines, the breathing tube taped into his mouth to ensure his lungs were refreshed in a perfect, unfaltering cadence with life-giving oxygen. Beyond Iliana Starr, resting silently under the sedatives, her pale flesh wrapped in gauzed bandages and nearly suffocating the slender woman to salve the superficial burns. He approached the dark corner from opposite the doorway, and hovered over the blanketed form of Maria Chavez, the captain deep within a restful slumber, and he hoped for her fractured mental health it was at least comforting, and devoid of any pain.

He wished for her the sweetest of dreams, to perhaps touch the sky with wings of her own and dip her hands into a liquid heavens, to stir the stars as if an infinite pond reflecting the lights of the city. Of a yielding stillness and harmony, he hoped she could find a place all her own, where she could heal and rest and perhaps be spared if only for a night from the tragic loss of her child. A child of the clan, and stolen from them all by a single bullet.

Goliath reached out and moved a loose strand of hair from her brow, rejoining the tangled thread of deep mahogany brown with the others tied back behind her neck. A hand curled beneath her chin as she repositioned herself slightly in her sleep, and Goliath found himself smiling at such innocence. It was a gesture eerily similar when watching his Elisa drift off in his arms, and he would often sit for hours to merely savor her scent and the warmth of her slender, unembellished form pressed up against his own. Such fragility compared to his race, such childlike purity, and a rare chance to see beyond the often self-imposed barriers these strong, aggressive women barricaded around themselves.

"She doesna look good, do she, Goliath?" erupted a guttural brogue from the side, as Hudson emerged from the laboratory entryway and approached a surprised Goliath with tired, ageless eyes. "Pale flesh, weak arms, a lack of tears from cryin' so much over her dead boy." He spoke of her so differently than what Goliath now perceived, seeing not the beauty Maria held and Hudson treasured, but only the shell left from a brutal assault upon her most intimate of being. "That be what th' Guild give t' her, and now we sit 'ere waitin' t' die."

"I thought you most of all would appreciate my extreme caution in sending out our clan, old friend." said Goliath quietly, to better concede Maria with a needed slumber. "Or have you succumbed as well to your hatred and anger? Have you become what we fear the most?"

Hudson approached the bedside where a weathered hand reached out in purest instinct to that of Maria's arm, to feel the pallid, desiccated appendage both slight and weak from a severe lack of appetite. "My blade wants fer flesh, lad." he boasted a rage in true primal desire, and coupled with a raw Scottish tongue. "My heart yearns fer justice."

"Justice, or blind revenge?" Goliath argued in seeing what Hudson's eyes imprisoned behind deep ebony, a look and deadly intent he witnessed too often by those in a torturous agony consuming them whole. "You once talked me from killing Xanatos. Do you know retract those words you preached so well?"

"It not be yuir mate layin' in this bed." Hudson growled, his voice rising as the fires churned in his belly and lay siege to his chest, making it difficult to even breathe. "It not be yuir child deprived of life before he even be birthed from his mother. Imagine if it be Elisa layin' here. What would ye do then?"

"I would be angry beyond anything you could ever see or imagine," Goliath promptly told of such a truth, his words forceful and unbidden by his attempt to keep this dialogue civil, "and I hope I would have a clear head to realize I could be sending my clan into such a fate such as Maria's."

"My child be sittin' in a jar because of those bastards."

Goliath released a troubled sigh, and nodded, to a pain he hoped he would never have to experience. "I know." he whispered sorrowfully, their private loss becoming his loss as well, for as leader of this clan, he gathered all the collective pain as best he could and heaped it upon his impossibly broad shoulders. "But I need you, Hudson. I need you, as you once were. Calm, as an ocean tide. Your counsel is vital in this matter."

And yet Hudson shook his head, hovering close to Maria to almost smother the woman in his shadow and presence and breath. "Nay laddie, I be beyond any compunction t' help ye wisely."

"Damnit, Hudson!" Goliath vented through clenched teeth, surprised his oldest comrade and mentor would stoop to revenge. He was better than this creature born of angst and misery now standing before him, he was better than all of them, even possibly he who claims the position of leader. "You know full well what revenge does! Look at Demona! Look at what it cost her!"

"I be havin' justice, as a true gargoyle should! Or have ye forgotten that while hiding us away in this castle?!"

"You speak with nothing but anger!

"Enough." it was Maria, awakened from her rest by the gargoyles arguing on either side of her hospital bed, a conflicting pair of growls having intruded upon even the cradled realm of her dreams. "Both of you." She struggled to raise herself, a stabbing pain from her stitching setting a trail of flame through her breast and legs. "I won't lie here...and watch friends fight over something that is too damned simple for either of you two to grasp." With the help of Hudson's extended arm, she propped herself against the pillows, and stared to the man with whom she shared both ecstasy and pain. "Revenge is not justice. And I've seen too many fine police officers...get killed by such a stupid premise."

"What ye declare as stupid," Hudson disputed, "denies what gargoyles be. We dinna use a system of dawdlin' courts an' two-faced lawyers t' dispense true an' proper justice t' those who deserve it."

"Go ahead then!" Maria screamed, fighting against her injuries as her lungs filled with the fiery mix of oxygen and straining with her stomach pieced together only a week ago. "Go running into a glorious battle with your sword flailing! Spout justice as your excuse to get yourself slaughtered by an enemy that is stronger than you are, and take away everything I have left!" Hudson relented and tried to offer his aid to Maria as she winced and grimaced in the pain of exertion and grunted speech. Maria shunned him and his hand, fighting back the tears. "You know what Goliath is doing is right..."

Browbeaten into a silence by the only woman who could perform such a task, Hudson surrendered the rage, but drooped his eyes from Goliath's sympathetic gaze, and turned away, curling his taloned hands into fists beneath his beard. Trembling, enraged and beyond compassion for any human daring to boast the Guild's symbol. "Perhaps..."

"But Hudson's anger has a valid point, Goliath," said Maria, turning to greet the giant gargoyle, trying desperately to play a rational voice lest she break down into a garbled mass of tears and screams, "what are you doing to find the men who...killed our child?"

Goliath leaned in and graced to her cold skin warm lavender flesh, a hardened leather sheathe worn in battle and smoothed to silky suede by evolution. "Xanatos is doing everything he can to find this group, as is Elisa with the help of your precinct," he whispered softly, "but they have hidden themselves extremely well. They seem determined to conceal their forces and place of operations. There have been reports only of some sort of secretive messages sent throughout the island, as if a call for an army. The source is...still unknown as of yet, but we are still trying."

"And your friend MacBeth?"

Goliath winced. "Still missing...and presumed dead."

"I'm sorry." Maria blinked her tired eyes as a response, and tipped her chin ever so slightly. "Thank you for everything you've done."

"You are part of this clan, Maria." Goliath bestowed to her the assurance and faith of family, and comforting words in hopes to ease her great pain acting as a cold fire lapping at her flesh. "Never forget that. Your loss is ours as well." He lifted to where Hudson had drawn into the shadows beyond the bed's overhead light, and only a wheezed, weighted breath and silhouetted shape gave certainty to his presence. "As is yours, Hudson."

He drifted forwards, his eyes never leaving those of Goliath's. "I think I should let ye know, Goliath," he started, as Maria winced at his grave tone of voice, "I held concert with Brooklyn not too long ago, and I find myself...agreein' with his position. We have t' find them, an' not by stayin' put 'ere."

"Then you shall follow him into death, old friend." Goliath warned severely, his control over his emotions wavering, but he endured and fought against the primal urge if only to spare the wounded captain. "Only you can decide whether or not you wish to disobey my direct orders, as I once thought my position and perspectives meant something to you. In the end, I am your leader, not your jailor." He swathed a hand over Maria's shoulder as a farewell, and slowly receded from the elder couple with wings sagged over his shoulders and lifelessly caped, trudging back towards the door and out into the corridor.

Maria immediately clawed a hand into Hudson's leather tunic, clutching with all the strength that remained, and perhaps reassuring herself he was indeed real through the onslaught of fevered dreams brought on by the mental anguish she had suffered. "Promise me, Hudson," she whispered, eyes pleading for his life, "promise me you won't sacrifice yourself or any of this clan for some stupid, pointless revenge."

The old soldier trembled his tattered wings and closed his eyes against her piercing forest green, shaking his head. "I be sorry, Maria, but I canna make that promise t' ye." he cautioned. "Th' Guild will pay fer what they took from ye."

"The man who shot me is already dead! What more can you do?!"

"They all be payin' with their blood, an' their souls!" his growl was as sharp as the sword bound to his side, still sheathed through his belt even in this sterile place of healing. "I be revengin' what they took from me..."

"You're not the one in this bed!!" she opened up against him in a high-pitched scream fueled by the memory of her past lover's death, and serving to further magnify the intense pain pitted in her stomach. "You're not left with an empty hole in your body where your only child was pulled from!!" Tears streamed down the tarnished, wintry porcelain of her flesh, as her belly clenched and fought against her with a battle often besting even the strongest of willpower. "And you're using this as just an excuse to satisfy your anger with...killing...oh god..." she cried in agony as her wound flared and censured her words with constricted lungs. "...damnit..." She delved into the embrace of her sheets, gritting through the throbbing pain trampling across her already fragile form and spirit.

"Maria, I..." Hudson tried to reach out for her, but she brushed away his hand with a brutal slap, choking back the sobs liberated freely from her throat.

"Save it." she hissed, her eyes scarlet blushed and moist with tears, the wetted trails having turned the pale skin back to a deep bronze. "If you want so much your precious vengeance...then you have to choose between your glory and satisfaction...and me."

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

Goliath emptied into the stark hallway layered in darkened ivory hues, and for a moment his path lay undetermined, confused almost in the numerous attacks set upon him from so many a side. It was a faltered journey towards the elevators, and he slowed his gait to a near stop, taking the time to refresh his massive lungs with air tainted with the unfiltered tang of anesthetic, and the gargoyle leaned against the wall for support, burying his ridged brow into the folded crease of his forearm. His tail lashed languidly, stirring the glossy surface of the tiling, and he rested, his slow breaths slicked up against the painted surface.

The trials he faced were quickly taking its toll, but he was determined to hold fast to his principles and the decisions that would only serve to safeguard the lives he was entrusted with. And persistently, for he knew he was right. For a leader to falter or weaken in any way would condemn his clan to certain death.

A strange sensation then touched upon his wing on the left side where it caped over the shoulder, starting as a faint warmth and soon spreading into something bigger. "Goliath." It was Mother, and as Goliath turned his eyes to the hologram of his birth mother, he found her holographic generated hand caressing across the sensitive membrane. Though not of a solid form, she did possess a slight corporeal presence of photons and laser light translating a sophisticated computer program into physical data. And thus, as she reached out to Goliath, his heightened gargoyle senses could feel the hologram light and the heat given off pass along his wing-covered shoulder.

"Mother." he greeted blankly, wondering what would possess her so to reach out to him in such a manner.

She realized the impact of her gesture and swiftly pulled away. "Goliath." she said once more, her smile instantly returning memories of a lifetime so long ago. "I was wondering if I can do anything for you?"

"Change the world." he stated perhaps as a joke. "Rid this planet of hatred and fear and sorrow."

"I'm sorry, but that is beyond my programming." she returned. "And beyond perhaps anyone's power."

Refreshed only just, he nodded and breathed wistfully, "I know." He pushed away from the wall and continued his way towards the elevators, only to have Mother appear directly in front, her holographic form effectively blocking his path.

"I think you should speak with Eli..."

"Not now, Mother." he cut back sharply and doggedly before she could even finish, his path leading him right through the hologram's body, with Mother forced to endure passing through the entirety of the gargoyle's muscular form.

"How rude." she stated, surprised and somewhat fascinated in the sensation granted to her. She watched as Goliath entered in the cab, and noticed particularly his features furrowed and needled into his flesh the pain of a man suffering for his choices. "This clan is incorrigible."

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

She watched him the doorway, wielding his form as a weapon forged from fire and pain and steel, and beyond the limits humanity could never reach for fear their fragile bodies would tear apart under such physical exertion. The nunchuku were nearly indiscernible to the naked eye they whirled around his hands and arms so damnably fast, as the ninja danced and played a deadly waltz upon the dojo matting to work off his anger accumulated and overflowing beyond capacity within a tattooed chest.

Delilah trailed the sides of the dojo, heading towards the weapons rack as Shadow continued either unaware, or unwilling to acknowledge her presence, even with her scent most likely having flooded his senses and overpowered the dojo air with the flowered perfume she favored. She looked over the rack with selective, demanding eyes, where several katana, staff and sword lay perched and secured in varnished oak, rising their razor sharpened peaks towards the sky. She chose the weapon to match her current skill level of training from her newest teacher, Sata, as her fingers smoothed over a long, thin bo staff, rigid, though wavering slightly when pulled from its receptacle. She pulled a matching staff as well, and turned to see Shadow continuing his exercise, the chink of golden chain, the slap of leather-wrapped wood against gargoyle flesh and the strain of six hundred pounds upon the floor, it became as a song all its own in unceasing, melodic rhythm.

She glided towards him, and inexplicably he stopped as she reached a distance of a few meters, with his back turned towards her. Delilah readied the staff and with a snap of her wrist and arm, it sailed towards the ninja. Shadow immediately twisted from the waist and snatched the bo staff from the air. "You son of a bitch." she hissed.

He narrowed his eyes, and relented the waried stance, opening his wings to direct a current of air towards her. "I'm sorry?"

"You just can't let live my own life away from you, can you?"

Shadow only smiled in the accusation. "You assume far too much."

"Assume this," Delilah traveled her right foot forwards dragged across the mat and into a posture only begging for a response, as she tightened her grip upon the staff and speared it towards him, "hiretsukan."

That ultimately served to coerce the dark warrior into a fighting stance, as he sheathed his nunchuku and played the staff about in nimble, taloned fingers. "Sata has taught you how to insult in Japanese," he growled, matching Delilah's daring posture and her willingness to transform this into a physical struggle, "but has she taught you how to fight?"

Delilah held steady her bo in a stubborn silence, watching for any twitch in his position she could use to her advantage. As Sata had instructed her, she need only wait for her opponent's first move, most often made by a simple impatience for the sheer thrill of the fight. But Shadow was as still as his daylight statue, obdurately petrified and even unblinking as he stared her down with eyes boring more into her soul than anywhere else. His tail then stamped upon the ground, and it scared her into motion perhaps on purpose. She flew forwards him on instinct and before her mind could even react, she jabbed her staff towards Shadow's chest, but he blocked it. She whirled around and swept at the legs, but he blocked it. His movements were exceedingly incredibly fast, a speed only witnessed from afar, and now experienced on an intimately dangerous scale.

"I don't know why you persist at this game, Delilah," teased Shadow, fending off her blows all too easily, but strangely satisfied in her learned skills and bringing such exciting seductiveness to this young woman he never knew before, "you are well aware that you cannot win."

Through the grunts of powerful strokes, she answered akin to a darkened purr, "You think I'm an innocent doll made from porcelain. I assure you I'm not." She channeled her anger into her weapon, lashing out with precisely timed attacks though marred with her inexperience, and where Shadow took advantage. "Any man who shows the slightest interest in me you immediately attack." she lay the greatest of blame upon him, spinning around to dodge his thrust, and hearing his staff tear asunder the wind and graze her flesh with shaped oak. "I'm not yours anymore."

"I never claimed you were."

"Why aren't you with Iliana right now?"

"She's under heavy sedation tonight, to help heal from her...attack. I cannot sit there without being constantly reminded..."

Delilah held the staff up in both hands to defend against Shadow's brutal lunges, his weapon bringing the fire of enjoyment and lust down upon her, and with every strike her body shuddered, the staff threatening to snap well in half and shower them both in shards of oak. Each thrust was more powerful than the next and the young clone knew he brimmed with anger, and exuded such rage into every action devoid of any compassion for her safety. "You're angry." she mused between the powerful blows, her shoulders feeling the brunt of Shadow's attack.

"You are right. I am angry." he answered, slapping his staff to her side and gaining in response a garbled wheeze from the clone, her ribs compressed by the power of his blow. "I AM ENRAGED!!!"

She scampered backwards almost in an instinct of fear to narrowly dodge Shadow's subsequent assault, his reach of arm amazing to her, as she nearly lost her footing. "So you want revenge." she continued, rising her staff to collide with his wrist.

Shadow advanced unfazed by the blow, his staff spearing towards her and snapping almost teasingly from side to side, traded between his hands with great expertise. "I want to kill those who even dared to touch what I care for!" he growled, scraping across her flailing hair in his savage attempt to make contact with his weapon.

"And thus you take it out on whoever you choose." she argued, this game she initiated growing increasingly dangerous as Shadow played ultimately to win, no matter the personal cost.

"I am not allowed to exact the pain on those who forced it upon Iliana."

"Does that mean you have to attack Jason in your little quest to make yourself feel better through revenge?!"

Shadow sneered and they crossed paths with their sticks, clapping the wood together and each trying to gain the upper hand. "Please don't tell me you enjoy that Canmore's pleasantries or even his presence." he mocked what affection he thought she held for the former hunter, and in truth, that perhaps made him angry above all.

Delilah avoided another coming blow by dropping down and rolling away, as Shadow brought his massive foot upon where she lay just seconds ago, sending a rippled tremor through the dojo floor. "I enjoy a man at last treating me like...like you once did..." she whispered, struggling now with his mounting stimulation in the battle, allowing absolutely no mistakes on the young woman's part. "Like I was the most important thing in the world."

His eyes relented the bloodlust for something much sweeter, that of compassion. "You were."

And her eyes matched with the color of a dying sun. "Liar."

The struggle increased, Delilah holding her own in a last desperate bid to prove to him her power, her strength, even as her body grew fatigued and the light copper wetted with a thin, glowing sheen of perspiration. Until they both turned and clashed in one perfect blow, holding their staffs against each other. They used their strength in tandem against the other, but Shadow easily outmatched her. He steadily pushed the staff she clenched to into the delicate slope beneath her chin. Her airway being gradually cut off, Shadow pressed on, wanting not for a simple defeat, but for her willing surrender.

It was pride, between the two that escalated this simple spar into a brawl.

As stubborn as her DNA and blood, of two mothers combined, she persisted, even as her mouth opened farther to allow more oxygen against a constricted throat. In one last effort, Delilah urged suddenly to the right and dropped one side of her bo down between Shadow's legs. And using all of her strength, she forced the stick up, and into his crotch.

Shadow's brow popped up and only a muted squeak released from through his fallen jaw. His features contorted in visible pain, and his eyes nearly rolled back into his head from the waves of pain emanating through his entire body. He relented his attack, and Delilah stumbled backwards surprised, soothing her throat.

"Shadow!" she instantly cried in absolute apology, dropping her staff to the ground as if scalding hot. "I'm so sorry...are you all right?"

Unable to form a coherent word apart from a shivering hiss of air through his gritted teeth, he swallowed, regaining what composure remained after a brutal blow to his manhood. "......yes." he at last answered, his voice only a fraction of his powerful, accented rasp. "I am...fine...shimatta..."

She prodded closer, and hesitantly reached up to stroke a hand across his strong cheek, and Shadow reciprocated by leaning closer and enclosing her slender paw in his own. "You're the only man I know who can take that kind of punishment and not scream like a little girl." she joked demurely, refreshing the cherished memory of their once lost touch.

Shadow too coerced stubborn lips into a grin, and hunched over the young clone forced onto her toes to bring herself closer, their breaths mingled. She pecked at first, testing his resolve to the touch of her mouth tasting of cinnamon, and he then plunged to graze his lips across her own in the desperate want for contact. "Delilah, I..."

"DELILAH!!!"

She tore away from him with eyes wide and realized to what had almost passed between them, and steadied her breath. She looked to where the dojo doorway released into the training area a human frenzied in approach, with the expression of sheer bliss, as if having discovered the gargoyle race all over again. "D-Dr. Pierce?"

"I did it!!" he screamed towards her, screeching to a halt at the couple's feet, his hair falling into and obscuring deep-set eyes.

"Did what?"

In his excitement, he brushed aside the intruding hair and straightened his lab coat. "I figured out how to safely grow your child outside of your body."

Delilah choked on her next breath, and appeared as if she would collapse into a heaped pile of wing and tail, until Shadow's bracing arm wrapped reassuringly around her shoulders. "...h-how?"

"Thailog's cloning tube," Pierce answered, as if such a simple solution had escaped him for so very long, "and the hardware Xanatos used to grow him. With the research from Hudson and Maria's child, I'm sure I can successfully duplicate both the tissues inside of your womb and the biological process of gargoyle childbirth in that tube, and allow the baby to develop there. And of course, there's the glaring fact if you actually want to try and have a child now." Catching his breath after the lengthy explanation, his lips turned slightly downwards as he approached this next subject with due caution. "But there's something else I need for this to work..." he advised respectfully, especially when seeing Shadow standing beside her. "I need a male sperm donor."

Delilah searched the room still reeling from the shock, until a promise once made to allow her the greatest of gifts, that of a child, entered into her mind, and her eyes instinctively found those of Shadow's.

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

She flipped lazily through the channels, resting into the folds of her unmade quilt draped across her shoulders and staring entranced towards her television across from the bed, her large, chocolate eyes reflecting the screen. She knew not what she was looking for, unless perhaps to find more reports of the P.I.T. protests erupting throughout the entire city. Settling on a local news channel, Elisa dropped the remote and washed her hands over her face and through the strands of silken ebony caressing the sides of her high cheekbones. She slowed her breathing to the serenity of barren solitude in her bedroom, her stomach still unsettled from the slight nausea.

The doors standing tall as towering sentinels were suddenly and brutally thrown open, as Goliath barged through into the darkened foyer of their bedroom. He glanced his eyes to his wife and then away, moving in an opposite direction.

Elisa watched him trawl towards the fireplace, lit with curling flames peaking in gold and orange and emerald green from the fuel of natural gas, crawling their way across the stone enclosure. She particularly noticed the pained expression he wore as if a scar minded from fierce battle, and rose from the bed and followed his path, engulfed in the shadow streaked across the room from the fire outlining his massive form. "Goliath?"

He turned his neck, and from behind the long sable tresses alive and sparkling with the firelight, he peered from beneath his heavy horned brow with eyes she had rarely seen, an anger brimming like the flickering dance of flames across the moist sheen of ivory and deep charcoal.

She took the subtle hint of cold silence, and approached cautiously in tender word, "Goliath, I was able to...sort out some of my feelings and, I think we need to talk..."

"Oh yes, here it comes." he sneered, watching the flames groping for and biting at his hand as he waved the massive paw near the fire for the warmth. "I have already been challenged by my second and my oldest friend tonight, do you wish to contradict me as well?!"

She turned instantly from regret to accusation, spurred by the growl thrown against her. "Well, excuse me for wanting to apologize."

Goliath leaned back from the caged inferno, and touched his squared chin to his shoulder, looking intensely at the woman who would share with him his existence bonded by a golden ring and spoken vow. "Why do I doubt that, Elisa?"

"I really don't know."

He slammed violently a clenched fist onto the mantle above the fireplace, effectively displaying his anger with sheer power. "I thought you of all people would understand and respect my decisions, especially not to have another child right now." he chided, hoping at least she, his soul taken human form, would not abandon him. "You lived through the attack, and the death, you have already buried five friends in the last month alone, and now you would willingly threaten an innocent child's safety?"

"I want my chance!" she screamed, tearing her hand at her shirt. "I want our chance for happiness, for a growing family and a dream I've had since young, and I'll be damned if I let some maniacal bastards ruin what I finally have after so long and so much!"

"I don't think you have given this decision and the ramifications that come with much consideration."

"On the contrary, I'm well aware of the consequences, perhaps more than you are." Elisa argued, the one member of this clan having seen the deaths arrived from the newest adversary in person, in chilling physicality, tasting the blood and gunpowder even to this day. "I have seen too much death around me, and I'm well aware just how quickly our lives could end. Thus I think it's only reasonable I want to live each day to it's fullest." She watched him mull over her words even from their distance and his concealment against the mottled stone wall cast in shadow, his bulky form blocking the light of the fire. "And now as leader, you have decided this without even my consent. I have agreed with each and every one of your decisions so far, to lock Nicole up in the castle, to suspend all patrols and keep the clan in hiding, but this is not clan business anymore." Elisa's lower lip quivered, wobbling only slightly much to her chagrin, her emotions spilling outwardly from a wounded soul. "This is our business, no one else's. You can't decide this without me and expect me to smile and to accept it."

Goliath walked towards her, the shadows swathing his dark lavender hide to appear as black as the drapery of sky beyond the window glass. "This concerns not just our lives but the life of an innocent child!" roared the gargoyle in his journey towards her. "How dare you be so damned selfish!"

Elisa's brow rose to an impressive height, a smile formed from the blame now forcefully dumped upon her. "Me selfish?!" she echoed in disbelief. "Oh, buddy boy, I think we're a little confused. If there's anyone here who's stifling freedom and the power of choice, that would be you!" she snapped, a once articulate argument transformed into a hollow, cynical scrap.

"I have made such decisions only to safeguard almost thirty lives, including yours! And a child that would put you at greater risk!"

"Bullshit! I think maybe you are just afraid!!"

With an arm thicker than the entire span of her waist, Goliath swept away the couch separating the couple, the heavy piece of furniture being thrown against the wall as if a toy to allow him access to the focal point of his anger. "You are damned right I am afraid!" he sparked an eruption of bitter fire across his tongue, edging closer to Elisa to where she craned her neck to complete the near two foot journey to his brow sheltered eyes. "Afraid to see my mate and unborn child killed prematurely by racists! Do you have any idea what that would do to me?!"

"And do have any idea what being denied everything by the man I love more than anything in this world is doing to me?! Maybe you should tell Trinity you don't want her around anymore because you're too afraid to fight for her freedom and right to live!"

"I will not be spoken to this way!!" His stance of flared wing and a violently lashing tail dancing behind him implied his readiness for such a battle against his small, slender wife, but she neither sensed such alarm nor found herself fearful in any manner. "Especially by you!!"

"Too damned bad, pal!" Elisa snapped back, jabbing a few fingers into his chest to only provoke the fury running through his veins. "Or are you going to order me into silence too like the good little tin soldier I am?!"

"Don't tempt me." he warned, tapping the edge of his wing against her shoulder to reciprocate the callous gesture. "It would be a blessed silence if I could plug that flapping hole of yours if for but a minute!"

Elisa leaned back, eyes as wide as her mouth. She wiped the hair from her brow, slicked against the light sheen forming from the peculiar heat flooding through her body. "You big bastard!" she snarled, breathing courage as a gargoyle.

The jugular throbbed with the thunder beating in his heart, but inexplicably lighting the fuse to his form's desires, the body always more honest than the mind. "You little wench!!"

"HEARTLESS, THICKHEADED JERK!!!"

"STUBBORN, FOOLISH NAG!!!"

The fevers raging, Goliath and Elisa both pulled back from one another with wide eyes, a roaring rhythm of hearts joined into one, and the heat of passion flowing through their veins and fueling a dry heat upon their breath. Elisa suddenly stole forwards and jumped against him, wrapping her arms around his neck and planting her supple lips to his mouth. Goliath reached under with both hands and clenched his talons into her buttocks, heaving the slender woman from the floor and tightly against his mighty chest. They kissed, their tongues dancing furiously and each voracious to taste the other's flavor. Of vanilla and musk and the acidic taste of flame, it was a maddening delirium and the sweet pleasure from their touch driving their actions.

Goliath stumbled backwards against the wall, and slid to the floor, as Elisa straddled his stomach engorged and striated with muscle feeling more of titanium than flesh. She tore upon his bottom lip with her teeth, groaning in his mouth with a fusion of pain and pleasure of Goliath's claws scraping the bared flesh underneath her shirt, and becoming as an animal in the fury of seduction and passion unleashed. And though brought together by their love, the pain shared between them and the burning lust, it would be an awkwardness that would ultimately break them apart.

Elisa released from his mouth, at last taking the chance to breathe and calm the fires of passion for a clear, lucid consciousness, realizing what consequences would come from a sexual coupling between them. "Goliath," she gasped with swollen lips grazing against her husband's cheek, her chest heaving for a fresh breath of cool bedroom air, "I...I still want another baby."

Goliath waved a hand towards where the wild tendrils of raven silk drifted invitingly towards his hands, and swept them back over her shoulders sympathetically. "And I cannot in good conscience grant that request, Elisa." he whispered, true regret tinged upon his graveled voice.

"So...where does that leave us?"

"...and in breaking news, a massive protest has broken out in Central Park..." The television set had broken through the question left dangling between the married lovers as a silent, destructive force, as Goliath and Elisa both turned towards where broadcasts displayed across the screen of a large crowd surrounded by lush, almost suffocating greenery. "...The P.I.T. group has organized a large demonstration in support for the creatures they believe to be real, gargoyles. There are almost three hundred protestors in attendance at the erected concert stage at Great Lawn..."

Elisa thinned her eyes. "Damn," she muttered, holding herself over Goliath's lap, "does that seem a little too...inviting to you?"

"This is exactly what I have feared." he rumbled, so deeply in fact Elisa felt the tremors pass through from his chest into his receptive flesh. "If the Guild practices their approach of destruction upon any gargoyle allies, those protestors could be in the line of fire."

"And what better way to rid yourselves of an enemy when they willingly group themselves together in an open space." Elisa hopped from her husband, and as she grabbed for her coat, Goliath flipped up from the carpeting and rose to his full seven foot, seven inch height. "We should warn them."

Goliath hesitated, in leaving this castle to allow yet another target outside the stone walls of safety, but nodded when so many lives could be at stake.

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

His name is Jonathon Maxwell, and he was a simple assistant manager of a small grocery store, hidden into the less-traveled crook of Manhattan's elder neighborhoods. But now is a very important part of the Guild. He came tonight as his mission dictated, he was chosen to deliver the payload and exact the cause upon an enemy, the traitors screaming their protests of peace and brotherhood into the night under the encircling penumbra of a light, sheeting rain. Through the crowds of protestors he slinked, where the screams for justice and equality to a race of creatures drowned out even the perpetual drone and high pitched squeals from the city writhing just beyond the trees. Such stupidity repulsed him, and as he approached the erected stage without even a question from the crowd, his task seemed so effortless.

After leaving his duffel bag surreptitiously behind a supporting stage beam, he shed no tears when escaping from the scene, and without bothering to even turn his back for one last look towards where the crowd held deep within it's hub his younger brother, huddled with a few of his friends. But he was of the Guild, and his own flesh and blood had betrayed him to the enemy and their allies, and thus, he deserved the fate awaiting the crowd.

As he skimmed the edges of the clearing, he pulled from his jacket a small device hidden within the palm of his hand. He kept walking, his path unfaltering, and as he reached the outer edges of the park, he hesitated. He wondered why, as his hand would not readily obey the commands he had given with a mind all too clear of his intentions. Perhaps it was the stray thought of what would happen to his brother, and when their mother would learn of such a fate befalling her youngest.

But he brushed it aside, depressed the trigger, and stepped into the busy street to effectively disappear.

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

His wife cradled into the brawny hulk of his arms, he fought through the currents and rain using his weighted bulk as momentum, and approached the park sprawling in emerald tendrils and lashing out against the encroaching steel predators. Goliath settled into the building nearest to the section of the vast park where the rally was being held, and from even across the street he could see the lighted stage between the trees and black foliage. He landed, satisfied with the darkness obscuring his form, and both he and Elisa watched from the louvered rooftop edge of brick and mortar the gathering of protestors within the park.

"The precinct back-up should be coming soon." she explained quickly, her eyes keen and darting about, searching for anything that would endanger the innocents calling valiantly for her husband's equality. "I'll go down and scout for anything unusual and put out a warning to the crowd."

She passed by him, and Goliath caught her arm through the thick leather of her long coat. He peered to her with emotive eyes, and trembled his response, "Elisa...please, be careful." She nodded, and reassured him with a half-smile, knowing they were opened against his wishes into a dangerous predicament.

But before she even left his embrace, a bright light opened up against the shadows of their concealment before the sound even caught up to it, and the shockwave soon followed. Elisa pressed instinctively into Goliath's chest from the crack of thunder grating across the air and the rush of forced, superheated wind. One third of the entire Great Lawn section where the stage once sat was now a column of fire reaching towards the sky and burning away at the clouds and rain, and almost swallowing in its merciless fury the bulk of the crowd of P.I.T. protestors.

"OH GOD!!!" Elisa screamed and turned into Goliath's chest, unwilling to see such destruction and unfolding before her eyes once again, so damnably similar to her nightmare. "Oh Jesus Christ no..."

Goliath opened his brow to the explosion, stunned beyond any comforting words to his wife curled and clutching against his torso, the pain of her nails drawing blood indiscernible. He could hear with his heightened senses the screams of dying innocents, and the wafting stench of burning elm and flesh as the plume of orange and golden death blossomed into a mushroom swirling with thick, black smoke. "By the dragon..."

A winged form charged into the space beside the lavender giant, and dashed towards him with an anger ignited in his eyes glowing white-hot. "THERE'S MY JUSTIFICATION!!!" Brooklyn howled at Goliath, obviously having followed his leader from the castle and into the open, and now before his eyes lay a perfect validation becoming an engulfing wave of flame overtaking the park. "Damnit, people are dying because of the Guild!!" he ranted with a voice tainted and enraged beyond the benevolence normally associated with the timedancer, as Goliath peered to him with broken features. "And if you're not going to do anything about it, then I will!!"

Goliath turned back to the park engulfed, his eyes rimmed with tears in seeing such devastation. Brooklyn's words suddenly rang all too true, and as he delved his face into the breadth of Elisa's wet hair, he too shed tears for the dead caught in a deadly war. But could he condemn his clan to such a possible fate without losing all and everything he cares for. It was a question weighing heavily on his tortured heart.

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

He watched as Central Park erupted in a light as bright as the sun, set ablaze with a shower of flame descending upon fragile foliage only released from the imprisonment of snow weeks ago. The park burned, as did the protestors, the survivors of the initial blast running for their lives at the flames swelling through the trees and crawling over the emerald carpeting of grass, devouring what lay in it's path and grabbing for flesh to scald and scar and burn. He almost respected the power of explosives, to make dark night as summery day, to open the caves and hollows where the monsters dwelled. To rid so many collaborators from their midst in one fell swoop and as if punishment from the heavens, he wiped them all away.

He casually sipped his sherry from the wide crystal goblet, where the scarlet fluid dipped in orange from the fire erupting below him from the balcony, and swirled with the gentle ministrations of his hand. He was too calm to see death on such a massive scale, he possessed too cold of an exterior to hear the mangled screams and still remain even remotely of the human race. His companion soon joined him on his right shoulder, as the aptly named Agent White slithered up in a tacit step to watch as the flames at last died down, and he turned to greet his second in command. "Beautiful, isn't it?" he posed smoothly, with burnished orbs of stormcloud gray affixed as if diamonds, deep, dark pools, glassy and empty. "Fire cleanses. Wipes out the disease of such blind affection for the creatures who exist only to destroy."

The blond-haired man simply nodded, though perhaps annoyed with spending so much time in destroying only the supporters of the gargoyle threat, in skirting around the edges of their true target. "Yes, sir." he answered noncommittally.

Mr. Black finished off the rest of his liquor, and sniffed the air probingly, enjoying the scent of fresh rain filtered through the sky with dark decadence. "I paid my respects to Miss Starr for her task in drawing the gargoyle out today, and leading us straight to his home."

"How considerate of you." White cracked the parched, pale skin into a malicious smile, a long game at last brought to a close. "When do we attack Wyvern, sir?"

Impatience he found was his friend's greatest weakness, but he knew as well it had been far too long, he had held off his militia only for their preparation, but they as well grew restless wanting for the fight they gave up their lives for. "Our forces are almost ready." he assured his anxious comrade, watching the small section of Central Park slowly burn. "It will be very soon."