79 - "Red Sands Part 3: Flames Of The Phoenix"

Grand, sapphire, alive, teeming, the Earth stood against the blackness, the cold void that was the universe mottled with distant points of light ancient, and infinite. Swathed in the cloud cover of light sterling, forever churning, it stood in all majestic grace, constantly on the brink of annihilation by sentient species at a oft-clandestine but constant, exhausting war. Who could ever imagine the turmoil such a simple sphere of mud and water and molecular life could fabricate from an intricate web of evolution and seeded intelligence, what wonders astonishing and horrors terrifying that set this world apart from the airless pardon of space.

If there were enough molecules of oxygen to allow any sound to vibrate across, it would be a scream of absolute agony breaking the vacant silence of celestial radiation and faded satellite signals, of a creature burning alive, his form stressed and pushed beyond the limits of mortality. A streak of fire burned the heavens, breaking through the atmosphere at an incredible rate of speed, and it burst from the clouds, leaving a connecting umbilical of red flame and black smoke, writhing as if alive. Alive and screaming. As the layers of atmosphere grew thin and vaporous, the flames consuming flesh lessened and eventually died without a sufficient source of fuel. From the scorching friction of flesh against the thinning atmosphere to the bitter, deadly cold of outer space, it was a transition shocking to a biological system even as powerful and stubbornly resistant as his own. The breath was stolen from his lungs, the weight of airlessness staggering, concaving his chest even against the bony plates as the contrast in pressure drew every molecule of oxygen to the surface of his flesh, bursting through the tissues for escape. He was bleeding into the wastes of the cosmos. He curled into a fetal form, defying the numbing pain as he hemorrhaged from every orifice, his eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears, even the great rifts in his skin where the pockets of oxygen had exploded outwards from, seeping a liquid a bright crimson against cosmic black, and slowly forming rippling puddles in the absence of gravity.

Sobek drifted farther towards the stars, the momentum so powerful of his expulsion from Earth's surface that he continued to float away from even the most remote of chances to ever return. The spell that kept him constantly regenerating heralded a new form of pain, as the organic tissues in his brain starved, the oxygen escaping by means of the streams of blood flowing, exploding from his flesh. He felt as if he would implode and erupt in chorus, and in his damaged, blood-soaked vision, his eyes almost having burst from his skull from the sheer pressure, he found his adversary erupting from the atmosphere leaving a trail of emerald fire in it's wake. The clouds parted to allow the synthesis of Goliath and Alexander passage unto the dark reaches, and in his heart, he felt a welling warmth tasting bitter in the back of his throat. Fear, apprehension, dread, any would suffice to describe the emotion in Sobek's eyes near blinded by fresh blood as the lavender-skinned behemoth grew increasingly near, unbridled by the incredible pressures pushing against flesh steeled by magic. He knew the power Goliath now contained, he could taste the energy brimming from lavender flesh, familiar but rare to anything he ad known in a lifetime immersed in the study of magicks ancient before even his own ancestors. He knew what this new creature was capable of, his journey through the clouds living proof.

For this new creature born of two angry mortals had thrown Sobek into orbit.

It followed behind, stoic features concealing a grin beneath a squared, chiseled jaw, and a heavy brow. In a protective sheath of emerald energy, it hunted the prey it toyed with by an awesome display of power fed by gargoyle adrenaline tempered by fay magicks. It approached and eyed him hungrily from an arm's length, smiling still. "How does vulnerability feel?"

Beyond the pain of his flesh regenerating the oxygen constantly bursting from his skin, Sobek expressed amazement in the fact he could hear clearly every word his adversary allowed into the vacuum. He snarled.

"How does it feel to be weak? To be unable to do anything to save yourself?" Through magic, through his breath forging and stabilizing a trail of air enough to allow his words to flow and imprint themselves on the suffering Egyptian, he, they, it being a better pronoun to describe the fusion of mind and personas, berated him as he once did to the leader of Wyvern only moments ago. "We should leave you here, Sobek." it whispered as it approached the prone fetal form, studying the ruptured flesh bulging with blood vessels. "To drift aimlessly amongst the coldness of stars and metal creatures, that would rather condemn you as we would to a silent, eternal, wretched exodus." It was mean, malicious, a being fueled by the rage of battle and a cold vengeance wanting satiation, unlike the titled leader and innocent child that were the sum of its mismatched parts. One would believe such a fusion would result in the best of character, noble and virtuous, but instead, it curled its claws against the immortal's neck in a warning physically unforgettable. "Never finding absolution against the cosmic dust and solar winds that draw you farther into oblivion." Its eyes were fire, erupting from beneath a horned brow and the flowing strands of refurbished ruby red, its eyes were angry, soulless and so very deep as to somehow even flout the reflection of a scenery alien and inhospitable. "But you would somehow crawl your way back to the soils of Earth and again threaten our families as an unremitting disease consuming all we care for, or you would carry with you the secret of our mother's illness beyond the solar system. Either way, we will not allow that."

A mighty fist charged with Avalon energies struck true and drew more blood from Sobek, and the impact knocked the mutated gargoyle away, and with no resistance, he flew far and long and seemingly forever, spanning the length of an entire continent rotating below in seconds and narrowly missing a communications satellite tearing past the gladiators at twice the speed of sound. The battlefield would be breathtaking if it were any concern of the combatants, but all that drove the Goliath creature was retribution, blinding duty and honor and the fact just below him, four angry, vengeful gods wreaked havoc in his protectorate.

"We will have OUR revenge. We shall play OUR game." Goliath/Alexander followed in the energy field of hybrid fay sorcery, catching him quickly by digging his talons into the immortal's leg. "You shall suffer for all the pain you have caused." He drove his clenched fist through the bony plates lining Sobek's stomach and chest as organic armor, shattering them and impacting against flesh, the blood released exploding from the change in pressure. "For all the lives you have taken!" He grasped upon Sobek's arm, and snapped the bone in two, eliciting a silent cry of pain. "For daring to lay your hands to our mate!!" Two massive lavender hands positioned themselves carefully, methodically on Sobek's neck, bracing the forearm against his cheek. "FOR DARING TO THREATEN OUR UNBORN CHILD!!!" Goliath unleashed in a quick twist of both wrists in deadly skill, buried in the back of the Wyvern leader's mind and dared never to use. A crack resounded to the creature who could easily detect it with senses heightened considerably with magic, breaking Sobek's neck, and severing the spinal cord.

His chin resting over his shoulder and on his armored blade, crooked, broken, Sobek's limp body floated away, rotating slightly in freefall. Yet the fusion of gargoyle and human did nothing but watch, seeing a twitch still run through Sobek's talons. The spell worked almost instantly to revive him in a numbed state, and he choked on his own tongue as Goliath merely hovered near him, as if this was all a simple experiment to gauge his healing abilities. As the nerves regenerated, his mobility returned and Sobek, grabbed his head and, ignoring the immense pain like fire, turned it back into proper place, the vertebrae snapping like dry kindling. Sobek flipped himself around and kicked Goliath underneath his chin when the chance presented itself, a movement so quick as to catch him by surprise and mar flesh through the energy field.

A trickle of blood was drawn from the husk inhabited by two, and it watched with glowing green eyes as a tiny stream seeped into the vacuum. A simple scratch, healed by magic, and Goliath reciprocated by charging the field around him and striking his fist across Sobek's jaw, nearly unhinging it from the rest of the deformed skull. Sobek unleashed with a shot to his midsection, inflicting damage and pain, and struck his claws against lavender skin. More blood spilled into the emptiness, Sobek fared well, bringing his fists down on Goliath's shoulders and the nerve endings contained within. Fire and pain flared through Goliath's nervous system, but he shrugged it off and powered the energy field sustaining him from the cold depths.

"That was very stupid." he whispered, laying siege to Sobek's face with his fist. Another, and another, Goliath continued to pummel the Egyptian as they passed above the continent of Australia, a sadistic rhythm to his punishment that defied human strength and even that of the most powerful of gargoyle. Sobek's features were being crushed, Goliath's fist bloodied and relentless, heaping the sum of all unbridled rage, of a leader disposed and mutilated, of a child betrayed and lost.

He stopped suddenly, his eyes once bereft of sentience, now flickering with intelligence and the wisdom to overcome primal instinct, his brow creased in sympathy not for the ailing Egyptian, but for his own mental state. Two were vying for a singular method of action, Goliath's own wants conflicting with Alexander's, and the creature relented for but a second. He pulled Sobek closer, eying his facial structures knitting themselves back together. "We know what you have done, Sobek." the being spoke in two voices, one deep, one adolescent, and letting the Egyptian hear his words. "Our mother is sick because of you, your stench is all over her. We can smell magic, and yours is like sand and heat, scorched stone and the sweat of slave labor."

A smile appeared beneath the crushed protruding skull of Sobek's facial armor, his resolve unaffected by the beating. His mouth slowly moved, presumably to counter the amalgamated gargoyle's accusation, and Goliath extended the energy field around Sobek, to allow a fresh breath of air to his lungs once completely imploded, to breach the gap of hostile cold.

"Speak, monster," it demanded, "we will allow you a single breath to explain what you have done, and a single chance to reverse it."

Sobek sucked in a breath of cool, created oxygen, and stared down Goliath defensively. He chose to remain silent to further aggravate the gargoyle, and it served its purpose well.

"Speak!" it roared, filling the pocket with a bellows fiery and malcontent. "Or we shall remove your jaw and force you to inscribe the answer with your own blood!"

"...I have changed my mind..." Sobek whispered. "I believe I WILL eat your mate after all."

Brighter than the sun, and seen throughout the islands of Japan and Hawaii as a massive flare of energy erupting through the sky, the merge of Goliath and Alexander expressed their dislike to the barb audibly permissible by magic. His scream heralding the power to flatten buildings if allowed to carry on any such atmosphere below exploded across the pocket of air, popping like a bubble, and instead it created a small tremor spreading outwards amongst the stars. "Burn."

Goliath gripped to Sobek's frame and pushed with all his might, throwing the immortal down towards where the North American continent slowly came into view beneath the dark layering of stormcloud, breeding small charges of lightning within it's epicenter above the East coast. Such speed without resistance, until Sobek met the first tier of atmosphere, and as was his journey from the Earth's surface painful, this was tenfold. As the atmosphere thickened, so did the friction against his flesh, tearing, clawing, burning, liquefying tissues and melting any semblance of a humanoid shape from the deformed skeletal structure. A flash of scarlet enveloped him as he descended on a sharp angle, and before the substance of his muscles dissolved completely from the intense heat, he wrapped his wings around himself and shored his melting form as he descended into Earth's unforgiving atmosphere.

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

Through the rain, through the darkened, churning cloud cover, she watched the streak of fire appear and light up the entire sky, reflecting a deep orange against the orchid billows. It pierced the veils of storm at an incredible rate, like a comet or meteor, leaving behind a wake of smoke and flame, and an earsplitting shriek. Elisa stood high on a precipice of debris from a crumbled building, dragging with her fingers sodden strands of raven silk from her sight of the object. It impacted in the section of Manhattan destroyed by the gods, and Elisa braced herself for the explosion in the folds of her long leather coat, a massive shockwave of air and dust sweeping past her and the other officers. A sound erupted, a plume of fire rose into the pouring rains, and Elisa returned her eyes to where the object had landed, a crater twenty feet wide by her guess within the ruins and blemished by flames. "Sobek."

"What the hell was that?!" screamed an officer to her side, watching with wide, terrified eyes as the sky filled with chunks of flaming rubble.

"Never mind that..." came another voice, the fear inherent obscured by sheer, consuming astonishment. Another policeman looked up beneath the brim of his hat to see the descent of a creature undergone a metamorphosis from the injured gladiator having battled within the streets only moments ago. The field wicked any moisture from his skin, the lightning daring to strike close enough was deflected, Goliath was untouched by even nature's wrath. "What the hell is THAT?"

She knew the manifestation from her deepest memories, the proud stance, and the deep, sumptuous shade of lavender. Elisa gazed upon her husband falling from the sky and following the path of the toppled immortal, sheathed in emerald magic, a telltale sign of his merging with Alexander. His wings of energy swept open and slowed his descent, and though superfluous, it was a trait imprinted on Goliath's physical gestures by pure instinct. He settled to the ground aside the crater, the energy literally dripping from his body and spilling to the soil in almost a liquid form. "Jesus Christ..." Elisa muttered, seeing malice replace compassion in his eyes, and an insatiable want for revenge curling his fists and bulging the veins knotted under his skin. "And here I was worrying about him dying from bloodloss." She turned from over her shoulder and eyed the remaining cops. "Okay, boys," she ordered, her eyes bearing her defiance, "get out."

"What?" one protested quickly. "We've got reports three entire U.S. airforce squadrons have failed at taking those things out. The entire section's been evacuated, and we're not leaving you alone in the middle of this mess, especially with those two."

Elisa moved her eyes away, to where the remnant of her husband slowly declined into the crater. "Trust me. Take everyone you can find and get back to the military blockades. This might get messy."

Without a choice in the matter, without any idea of what to do if they indeed stayed, they slowly backed away, and towards the blockades several blocks afar. The last man to leave, a young man, a boy in all aspects, watched the leather-coated detective navigate her way through the rubble. "Where are you going?!" he called after her, receiving no response. "Detective?!!"

Elisa headed deeper into the destroyed neighborhood. "To reach my husband." she replied quietly. "Or whatever the hell he's become..."

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

She was lightning in speed, and fire in fury, a creature of vengeance in a place not her own anymore, the scent of the ripe Scottish bluffs and salt from the ocean horizon driving her into a frenzy, a frequent reminder of everything she had lost. Moonlit skin turned a spattered crimson, the warmth of another's blood delicious, she a warrior without the burden of a conscience. It was suicide she knew for sure, this battle, and she welcomed death in any form.

The younger woman struggled to fight back, swinging aimlessly her fist, and easily dodged by her attacker who sensed the fatigue setting in by skills slurred and slow. Surprised by seeing her future self arrive one more to her ancestral home, she was unawares of her deadly intent, and thus, injured and spent, waged a losing battle against not a being of flesh, but a force of nature.

"Do not worry." the shapely attacker quoted, from a distant memory, as she drove her fist into the younger gargess' face, spreading blood about their battlefield of the tallest turret kissing the star-mottled sky. "Do not wait or look for this catastrophe. Live in the moment." She crossed her fist against the younger female's jaw, the crack of bone resounding and the sudden sharp pain erupting through her knuckles invigorating. Every attack upon her adversary was pure ecstasy, channeling an entire lifetime of failure and death into her assault against a mirror image brimming with the scent of Goliath's musk. She had savagely attacked without any quarter, and even with the younger gargess' battle prowess, she was no match for the warrior forged from a thousand years.

She fell back against the crowned turret edge, the chance to breathe through a constricted throat at last taken with such a swift, and brutal confrontation. "Why?" the beaten gargoyle protested, through swollen lips tasting of her blood.

Demona lay her foot into her younger self's midsection, garnering a cry of pain, mewled from the base of her throat as she spit a trickled drool of blood to the stones. "Attend the petty jealousies and angers that prey upon your heart." she chanted mechanically, ensuring her words were burned into the younger female's mind as retribution for ignoring such a blatant warning.

"Why do you...do this?!"

Demona never heeded the pleas spoken in her voice, beyond caring for any such whine or protest. "Fortify yourself with love and trust," she dragged her fallen self from the stones, "and you need not fear this future." Her hands found themselves clenched and guided into her counterpart's flesh by their own volition, pounding, breaking, and demolishing the younger girl by all comparisons. She saw but red in her field of vision, hair, blood and rage, threatening to push her beyond that edge she precariously walked. "But most of all, fulfill the vows of love you make, for they can surely save you." Hoisting the younger gargoyle to her height by favor of her hands around the slender neck, made slippery by fresh flowing blood, Demona met her eyes, drooping beneath a brow deprived of its golden decoration and deeply cut, and reflecting a youth stolen away. "Do you remember those words?!" she screamed, igniting the calm, ocean air around her with an almost tangible pain. "Spoken by our one true love we took for granted?!! Do you remember?!!" She shook violently her counterpart, the younger woman struggling to remain lucid through the violent assault against her frame. "But you did not choose to listen, did you? You chose to kill your clan instead!!"

"I do not know...of what you are speaking..." the younger version of Demona whispered, her throat being crushed.

Demona sneered, striking a closed fist to her counterpart's stomach. "To spawn a thousand years of pain, of death and war, all to end up killing your only daughter, your only accomplishment worth mention..." Tears made a descent, curling the length of cheekbone and softened features to journey down faded cerulean, as Demona relived Angela's death with a forced aid of blood caked upon her skin. "Our beautiful daughter, lying dead a thousand years in the future..."

Using the hesitation, the native to this timeline broke away and stumbled backwards, breathing heavily and nursing wounds intricately carved by the wild and relentless swipes of talon. "I have no daughter!" she managed, a bout of anger giving rise to a fleeting surge of strength. "Only a single egg among many under the constant threat of death!" They stared each other off, the younger watching through blood-hazed eyes for any movement from the elder, more like an animal sizing up her prey. "And I will ensure their safety...no matter what."

"Yes, you will, won't you?" she accused, holding herself ready, lest the younger try to escape. "And in doing so will create an entire world from just your hands and arrogance that damned everything and all."

"How can I be held responsible for a thousand years of history?!" she screamed back, wiping blood from her lip. "What happens beyond the sphere of my actions is none of my control or concern!"

"An answer I would expect." A smile broke out unexpectedly, dark, and bemused by the entire situation yet to fully register, and as such, the risk of the catastrophic cost of her actions as yet truly unfathomable. "Do you wish to know what is truly, miserably amusing? You will actually try to find peace a millennium from now, to try and seek redemption, but that will prove to be as big a deception as your existence." Eyes flared demon red, bathing the skin surrounding a deep-set gaze hell-bent and deranged with a brilliance breathtakingly stunning, and terrifying. "You are evil, and beyond any such dream of salvation."

The tone used brought a tremor to her wings, rippling the scalloped membranes. It was her voice, but a quality that seemed so very cold, and unstable. "You speak as if we are separate," the younger half of Demona yelled back towards her elder self, near desperate to fend off an attacker seemingly beyond the reach of rational thought, "we are one and the same!"

"No," she bared her fanged teeth as she stalked forwards, heralding an end to any more dialogue, "you are my beginning, I am your end. A perfect circle that shall break tonight."

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

They hurried, left to traverse the ground without any structure to gain altitude on their wings, still uneasy of their surroundings, one vigilant, and the other mournfully nostalgic. They approached the oddly grounded castle illuminated by orange flame ghostly, and flickering atop the guarded walls, a contrast of torchlight and shadow primitive and wondrous and making this palace seem far bigger than its already impressive size.

Through the opened gate, Sata led the way, finding it strange to see the interior quadrangle of castle Wyvern replete with a bustling community of peasants taking refuge within the high walls, the samurai passing by women and children who never bothered to take a second glance towards the battered creature of jade and wing running by them. Except perhaps, to ensure their eyes would not deceive them of legends come to life, protecting them as they slept. As she headed for the entrance inside, leading towards the main courtyard and turrets, she noticed an absence behind her, and slowed her journey to peer past her caped wing. Broadway had strayed, and she found him slowing his gait and looking lamentably around him, allowed the chance to relive a life so long ago. A childhood among his rookery kin, lost by circumstance beyond his choosing or control, and she wondered if even with Angela's death, he would find himself at home here. She had been presented with the chance to revisit Ishimura in her own century, and she too was hesitant in being torn away. "Broadway." she minded him, startling the burly gargoyle and rousing his focus back to her and their task.

He shook his head lightly, blinking his eyes. "Sorry." he whispered, rejoining her side as they climbed the steps to the main level. "Old memories." His eyes fell to his hands, that which had deprived sentient beings of life, the same innocent child who grew up in this place now become a killer. "It's...it's less than two days before the massacre, and all this...will be gone..."

"I know this must be hard for you, my friend," she consoled him, brushing a look of solace across her shoulder with tapered, almond eyes reflecting the firelight, "as is losing Angela, but we have a much more pressing matter to contend with."

He nodded briefly, his eyes threatening to tear up and mar his vision when even just a passing scent or female voice would remind him of Angela. "Save the world now, grieve later...I know." he responded, resentment clouding the hollow brogue, a taloned thumb leading to the edge of his eye to clear his sight. "Same old story."

"We shall honor her accordingly," she promised, emerging from the covered entryway and onto the level just beneath the main courtyard, "after we stop your mother-in-law from doing something very stupid."

"Halt, stranger."

Her instincts stirred by the deep voice seeming to scatter across every buttress and bulwark, Sata stopped dead in her tracks, a bristle through her wings, an irritation running up her spine, and where the unkempt tress slackened from an intricately tied style and spilled loose strands across the nape of her neck, erupted a trail of gooseflesh with a presence so near and gone unseen from her senses. She nudged slender hands to the leather handle of the sheathed katana to her side, sensing the approach of an obvious sentry. Sata looked above to see the woodland-skinned male land across from her, with long silver hair and two horns erupting from the sterling mane and tapering to a sharpened point. He looked of distrust in expression and a wary stance, Sata knew, and she kept her hand to her katana, with the other folded behind her back and gesturing to encourage Broadway to stay out of sight. "Konichiwa, friend."

His eyes roamed quickly and ravenously her form, impressed by the strong feminine curves, but intrigued mostly by her unusual manner of dress, her kimono torn and tattered, and her injuries, her skin bruised and bloodied. "I don't know you, stranger, and your wear and manner of speaking are unknown to me." His voice was a low growl, the gargoyle rubbing his chin, perhaps concealing an engrossed smirk. "State your business here, and explain why you felt it necessary to intrude on our castle so blatantly."

"I cannot say," she deflected his inquiries to keep her involvement in this timeline to a minimum, a perfected ability performed many times over, "only that you must allow me to complete my task."

"An answer weak and lacking of reason, stranger." he snorted, noticing her hand tighten around the hilt of her sword, stained by fresh blood, the scent detectable even from his position. Her leading foot crept forwards, readying her carriage. "You appear to have been in battle. Is this true?"

The mistrust was evident, her unfamiliarity and the bloodied weapon hanging from her robes making difficult any confidence in her words. Sata cocked a ridge to his line of questioning, and answered cautiously, "Yes."

"Against who?"

She sighed, and peeked from beneath her delicate brow to scan the turrets and rooftops, to search the exterior of the castle amongst the shadows deep and consuming, and aiding any concealment of Demona's whereabouts. "You must let me through, brethren." she tried once more, indeed angering the Wyvern gargoyle with her forced ambiguity. "It is a matter of grave importance."

"Brother, explain." another gargoyle inquired of his rookery sibling when emerging from a distant entryway, hunched in posture and colored a dusty cobalt blue. A grouping of winged creatures followed, a few with fresh kill strung to sturdy poles. A hunting party, having arrived home at the most inopportune of moments. "Who is this?"

"While we were out hunting for tonight's feast, it seems an intruder took advantage of our absence." he explained, his stolid brother glancing between his kin and the samurai. "She has recently killed, I can smell the blood fresh upon her sword."

Sata surveyed the entire brood standing a few lengths across from her, wonder mixed with irritation of being caught and slowed in their chase. The Wyvern clan, before their betrayal and destruction, now stood before her, studying her suspiciously, a skepticism of her allegiance suggested clandestinely in dark eyes passed between brother and sister and elder alike. They were known, faintly, told of by way of stories from a weaver through time, and such tales were now given substance by the participants of adventures standing in front of her, presumably to block her path into the bowels of the castle interior. "Please," she was near to pleading, her honor and pride sacrificed for sake of the imminent danger to the timeline, "let me through."

"And just why do you wish entry?" a very familiar voice echoed throughout the courtyard, a soft rumble denoting of gentleness, but authoritative, serving to part the crowd and allow an enormous form to take its place in front. His wings swayed in the gentle, salt-laden Atlantic breeze as if some living, regal cloak, settled high above shoulders impossibly broad, banked rearward and thick to hold such heavy arms. "What reason do you have for such an intrusion into the very heart of our home?"

Sata raised her brow, her mouth dropping open to breathe a name both respected and feared, "Goliath..."

Broadway winced from his place in the shadows, in seeing the younger version of Goliath livid, folding his massive arms against an even bigger chest, puffed and proud, the lavender gargoyle as imposing in any time period. "Oh damn."

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

"Move! Move!!" he yelled, dodging from precisely aimed fire strafing in time with the thunder erupting above, perhaps swallowing whole the strident sound, but not the destructive power. The golden armor he boasted as a sizeable scar from battle, having replaced entire portions of his skin, soaked in the stray blasts sheared across him where his speed had not yet been enough. Having already suffered a few direct blasts, his synth-skin, the layering of synthetic tissue allowing him the appearance of near-normality, had since disrupted, exposing the incredible amounts of gilded titanium and circuitry underneath. Lexington was a blur, his incredible dexterity enhanced by the cybernetics allowing him to stay ahead of the Guild members, a relentless wave of darkness in literal form and figurative manifestation. "Keep moving, don't let them overwhelm you!!"

It was growing desperate, only four gargoyles remained outside to defend the castle, with Xanatos and MacBeth aiding in any way they could. Between Mother's dwindling cannons, the diminished clan was giving their all to defend their home, being slowly, mercilessly driven back towards the hole in the outer wall.

But it seemed with the contingent of Guild having already breached the walls, their strategy was not to try for the opened hole any longer, but to destroy anything moving, anything inhuman, and thus, a target.

Lexington became the link between them all, using his computer-aided senses and expertise in strategy to keep them alive, and with the loss of Brooklyn from the battlefield, he became the bond between the warriors, the voice of order in chaos.

Where Desdemona and Othello fought in perfect tandem with the other's movements, bonded by love and the ability to watch even the most subtle of gestures, Shadow was the wildcard, unpredictable, uncontrollable and bloodthirsty. He was willingly losing himself in the battle and moving farther into the crowd, away from the remaining defenders. "Spend your shots freely, humans!" he goaded, his movements a blur, the only indication being the sheeting rain spattering and abruptly changing direction all around him. "I am still not impressed." Thrust, parry, swipe, contact, fist to flesh, cartilage tore, bone cracked, blood rushed, the flashes of gold erupting around his dark form were his nunchuku, whirring into perfect circles and striking lethally with each blow.

Lexington, though inexperienced compared to most in ways of war, knew all too well the look of sheer desire, of bloodlust on the ninja's dark features, how he reveled in every hit, in every kill, as the Guild members flooded like a wave, exhausting their energy shields against Mother's cannons and leaving themselves open to Shadow's attacks. "Shadow?!" he yelled, but his voice did not reach. "Shadow!!"

"Leave him be, lad!" minded MacBeth, his gruff tone similar to sandpaper scraping over his tongue, the former king crossing Lexington's path and swerving his aim over the quickly dodging webwing to upend three Guild soldiers. "Let him lose himself! Let him be what he truly is, a weapon!"

"We've heard what happens when he loses control!" Lexington growled back, his argument made tangible with the bestial screams erupting over the thunder, the storms now centered directly above the Eyrie building. "We have enough enemies to worry about without him pulling a Vader and turning on us!"

"I've lost over forty Steel Clan robots and more than a hundred drones." Xanatos reported from behind him as he fed his laser into a Guild, fed statistics by a continuous stream of data poured directly into his suit. His defenses were being slowly overwhelmed, and he deemed the cost quite staggering, and the ensuing clean up of the wreckage an annoyance indeed. "Now's not the time to worry for something as inconsequential as his soul, or lack thereof."

"Stone cold, Xanatos."

"We will not win this fight by coddling one of the best chances we have." He watched Shadow with intrigue between his own battles, wondering just how the ninja would prove as an adversary rather than an ally. The billionaire carved marble lips into a smile beneath his helmet, perhaps hoping for an even greater challenge than Goliath ever was. "The risk to all of our souls is considerable to death."

Lexington's eyes glanced from the dark tumult that was Shadow to the dead body of Angela lying distant, cold and wetted from the constant rains. Lightning struck, setting aflame the entire sky and alighting her features for a moment suspended in time, she was beautiful even in death. "We've already lost enough tonight..."

He threw a hand to his temple, his eyes itching, and what he thought to be another blaze of lightning revealed much more, a blink of white permeating his sight for just a split second. A hiccup, in time and space and all of reality.

Lexington's visual bionics caught the flicker in even the weakest of visible light, the entire spectrum seeming to blink from existence and suddenly come back again whole and healed. Distracted by such an unusual occurrence, he checked his cybernetics to ensure he was not damaged further than what the onscreen diagnostic display flashing before his eyes would divulge. "What the hell was that?"

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

"What the hell was that?" she whispered from beneath her surgical mask, looking up from the gutted torso and into the surgical suite, having noticed the instant flash. Such a distraction in a time of numbing silence and needed concentration, Annika was drawn from the surgery by something far beyond her comprehension, but not escapable to her senses set aflame.

Dr. Pierce, his absorption into his patient concrete, merely continued to hold Rose's life in his hands, several major organs severed by Sobek's sword. "Clamp."

The gargoyle turned back, and mechanically reached for the tool demanded by the doctor become almost cold in his focus throughout the sounds of battle raging above, and through the floor and operating table trembling with each explosion. "Didn't you notice that?"

As he stitched together the gash more like a chasm throughout Rose's insides, he let himself join in on a one-sided conversation. "What?"

"That...blink."

The good doctor's eyes fluttered, the only portion of human left behind the garb of white gown transforming him into a creature similar to the roosted clan upon the parapets, a savior, a protector. "You mean where everything went white for a split-second?"

"Yes."

"No." Blood spurted across his gloves, as he carefully maneuvered the pieces of Rose's intestinal tract back into proper position. "Suction."

"Dr. Pierce?"

"What?"

"Is that...gunfire?"

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

He stood his ground, steel and titanium and carbon-plastics molded to a bare-humanoid appearance, and taking the full brunt of enough kinetic, destructive energy to make bright half the island of Manhattan if somehow channeled in such a beneficial manner. In purest human instinct, he had raised his arms in front of his face, the delicate link from machine to man translating the compressed beams of energy and bullets dancing across his armor to slight stings tickling across his flesh. The pain, reduced from the true agony if deprived of the futuristic shell, registered through the mindlink software, and Todd clenched his teeth, swallowing a scream of anger on the verge of vomiting into his suit in fear.

He held his place, and not once, even in panic or the sheer momentum of the weaponry against him, stepped back to allow the small but adequate contingent of Guild any advance on the hospital entrance just behind him. They had started firing relentlessly, with projectiles sharpened to pierce steel and energy blasts designed to melt flesh on contact, engulfing the strange winged suit in a hail of their greatest tools for vengeance.

Peace by their gun, their world by their convention, and Todd, a human collaborator of these creatures, suffered for it.

"...shit..." It was a muffled whisper from behind the Epsilon's mask, as the young man truly had no idea how long he could withstand such a deadly armory, the armor's sensors screaming, if anything for him to move from the Guild's path. His breathing increased, the suit knew. His heartrate was racing beyond the established safety limits, the suit worried.

The ricochets gutted the hallway outside the hospital, drywall and protective steel underlay, wood and sterile paint, tile and linoleum, all was being torn apart by the bullets bouncing off the titanium alloy skin. The occupants of the hospital quickly moved the wounded from near the entrance, the wall against the corridor occasionally bleeding bullets into their haven, an occasional strike shattering a distant glass vial or beaker, a reminder effective in its imagery and message, that the war had at last come to them. Hudson pulled Maria from her sheets and into his arms, the captain offering no protest as they moved to a safer location. Delilah, Iliana and the twins moved Matt's bed and the attached equipment keeping him alive into the laboratory, to safeguard their adopted family in the chamber deeper and far more secured. Nudnik and Bronx took cover, the gargoyle beasts scrambling recklessly for any place to hide.

Todd closed in his wings to protect the armor, becoming scorched by the assault, and as Black allowed his underlings to continue firing, he simply released his empty clips to the ground and jammed the guns' vacant slots onto fresh clips attached to his belt, reloading easily and instantly. He was noticeably impressed with the show of defiance by the strange armored being, both surprised by his stand and sickened by his choice of sides. He figured the steel creature to have a human host, the shell remotely humanoid in shape and unable to house the larger gargoyle form. But unknown to the leader of the Guild between his meticulous preparations, was just what his team's actions were enacting upon the suit's operator under the stress. A dangerous fusion of desperation and reckless youth were stirred within a steel cauldron, and Todd opened his eyes to peer upon the group of men behind the bullets ricocheting from his mask, and the one centered in the middle, the leader, the key, the man who allowed one simple fact to elude his well-thought strategy from the very beginning.

Cloaked in one hundred and fifty million dollars worth of near-indestructible armament, Todd was becoming angry.

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

Over her shoulder, with her talons entrenched deeply into thick gargoyle flesh, Demona flipped her younger half onto the stones with such brutality as to crack the stone flooring with the brunt of her adversary's weight, and the force with which she used, intended to break, to kill the corporeal essence of her pain. The irony of her struggle, of challenging an inner demon given substance was lost on Demona, rational thought and an intelligence shrewd and near-unparalleled buried beneath her instinct to end the great pain in her breast. As she drove her fists into her younger self's face and midsection, bruising and splitting flesh, she salivated as if she hungered for this fight, dripping from bared fangs and skidding across swollen, snarled lips.

"I have brought with me the resources to make this quick, demon," she snarled, each blow an addiction stronger than the last, "but I am enjoying this far too much." The upper hand was Demona's, from almost the beginning as even with her counterpart's great skill in battle, her naiveté and overconfidence was unprepared for the ferocity of a jaded shard from a shattered mirror image. The elder gargoyle hit her once more, and used her elbow spur to inflict serious damage across her chest, and that of her knee to crush all semblance of this wretched creature that, to her, never should have existed.

"...my...love..." her plea to her lover was a gurgled expulsion forced through punctured lungs, using her good arm to dig her talons into the stone to try and drag herself away from this psychotic having donned her face, a mask twisted and gnarled beyond any recognition. "...goliath..."

"You will not cry for anyone, demon." Demona hissed, clamping her claws into the arm of her younger self, halting any escape attempt. "You will not plead for a life empty of purpose or merit." She raked her talons across the neck of the woman pinned underneath her, releasing a steady stream of blood from her larynx, and ending any verbal protest in a river of viscous red pouring into the cracks of fitted stone. "All you will do is bleed into the timeline, and pave the way for redemption with your death, or oblivion with my failure." She wrenched her younger self closer by pulling on the strands of fire, her breath nipping at the delicate flesh of her counterpart's earlobe. "Either way, you cease to be."

Demona screamed, flooding the constellations above ten centuries different with a beast's lament, and continuing with her assault.

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

His brow was curled defiantly, and Broadway knew the Wyvern leader to be unimpressed with trespassers in his castle. He knew the determined expression that covered the younger Goliath's face, unwilling to believe so readily even someone of his own species, and stubborn to the point of obstinacy. This Goliath was almost paranoid in his inability to trust anyone in an age of barbarism, only those who proved themselves worthy by blood and battle would gain his faith, and Broadway knew getting past the lavender behemoth would be a difficult task among many. "Damnit, we don't have time for this..." he whispered to Sata, his breath turned to a snarl as he watched with great interest and despondency the collection of clan from the shadows, a confliction of emotions churning the contents of his stomach. "Every second we waste means Demona gains the advantage."

"I am well aware." Sata deflected her answer behind her, surreptitious in her concealment of her companion.

"I will not ask again." Goliath stated firmly, his tone dark, and insistent.

"Please trust in me, Goliath," Sata tried once more, the lavender giant surprised in the fact she knew of his name given to him by the human royal court, "trust in the fact there may be a consequence far beyond your comprehension." Her eyes narrowed, the raven charcoal within sparked with a scarlet ember faint in its glow. "Allow me passage."

The gargoyle to be named Othello in a distant time sneered, favoring the challenge by a solitary woman, "Or what?"

Her scream echoed across the medieval structure and surrounding arboreal landscape swallowing the cliffside castle, dancing, bouncing, reflecting from the labyrinth of cornice and embattled wall, mirroring an anguished soul prepared to undo all that was if she could only succeed against the limits of nature and time imposed on the mortal realm. Though faded somewhat of the intensity when reaching their distance, it was enough to place her location far atop Goliath's turret. They knew it to be a portent of war, and thus, they needed desperately to get through the blockade of Wyvern gargoyles.

Goliath looked up to his daytime roost, the voice so like his angel of the night exploding across the drapery of stars and rolling breeze, but demonic, angry. "My love?"

Sata immediately snapped her predatory gaze towards the turret, the prize found at last. "Broadway, we've found her."

He nodded victoriously from the shadows. "Good, now we have to stop her..." he trailed off. His hand tingled, and he looked, only to see a shimmer passing along aquamarine skin, fading to nothingness and healing again, an instant metamorphosis, telling of the damage being done. "What the hell?" It was a sign he had hoped against all odds he would never see, the unraveling of his existence with the intrusion into the past. "Oh no..."

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

MacBeth's aim was thrown off as he fired against a Guild, his hand, his arm, his entire body instantly phasing, a numbing sensation come and gone and enough to affect his pinpoint shot. It seemed as if all of time skipped a cosmic beat, and all were affected in one small way or another, clan and Guild. They shook off the disorientation and fell back into their battle.

So unsettled by the occurrence, Lexington barely dodged in time from the path of a Guild cannon, flipping from the way as Othello stepped in to fend off the smaller gargoyle's attacker. "Something just made my implants go nuts." he muttered, the phenomenon registering on his cybernetic systems as a disruption though brief, but severe enough to leave a faint imprint across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

MacBeth looked up into the rains, into pure, unadulterated power collected into a singular instrument now more than just a nuisance in the midst of war. "And something is affecting th' storms." It raged above them, lightning spewing from the center of the vortex swirling above Wyvern's ascending turrets like fists of an irritated deity, and it seemed to be growing stronger. It knew, like some intelligent entity, and it sensed some force to be tampering with the delicate mechanisms of nature. A brow sterling sliver lowered over eyes containing a millennium of experience, yet having never seen anything like this. "Mother nature be angry tonight."

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

"Distortion is citywide." the cold computer voice of Mother seeped through the speakers of the computer womb. "Initiating datalink with Xanatos satellite network." From above the skies came the data from the numerous satellites of Xanatos Enterprises channeled into Mother's computer banks, silent sentinels used more effectively to gather intelligence from anywhere in the world with the simple guise and function of communication. "Distortion effects confirmed as worldwide. EM field distortion increasing, atmospheric intensity increasing."

Nicole sat facing the monitor with Trinity in one arm and a salvaged Guild weapon in the other, the reporter secured in the castle's main computer room once again, and watching as Mother's sensors tried to discern the ripples in reality. "What is it?"

Mother seemed to pause in her answer, the battle outside still incredibly taxing to her resources. "Unknown...there is no known source for the entire phenomenon. Each interruption appears as a deformation across every sensor both internal and external...and is growing stronger with every passing distortion."

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

"By Gaia..." she whispered, bearing the brunt of having her very lifeblood drained out into the external weaponry. Infiniti could feel the hiccups as though they were a physical assault, her attunement to the Earth and its spirit acting as an umbilical, feeding the pain from a mother to the child trapped and helpless within the womb "...the strands of time are hemorrhaging chaos..."

Her eyes fell from her manner of imprisonment to Owen, lying unconsciousness below her strapped into the hospital stretcher, and just meters away, but so far from her reach. "Demona...you have no idea how important you truly are to this world..." she whispered, her unique senses dulled by the steel ring, though unnecessary to discern what was causing such chaos in the fabric of reality. Her power had helped nurse the recreated Phoenix gate, a piece of her existed within the small, unassuming medallion and served as a window to see the journey taken by Demona into another time. It was a terrifying sight, seeing firsthand where the most intricate threads of space-time had frayed. "...to eternity and time...to every soul born in the last one thousand years...you made their destiny..."

She bled tears that trailed in great contrast her cream skin become chalky, that fell and spattered to the cold sterling of the Vault, a trickle of blood swirled within the clear, almost translucent liquid, a sign of the damage being done to her form. "...do not so readily throw it away..."

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

"Something's happening. And it's not good."

Sata clenched her hand, numb from the distortion making her flesh intangible, flickering between jade green and oblivion and then returning to some semblance of normalcy. She was conflicted with experience set against proven fact, with so many attempts to change the past gone unproductive, yet so many loopholes exploited. "But time is supposed to be immutable," she echoed the theory thought absolute, "it cannot be changed."

Broadway knitted his ridges together, never having believed in any theory undeviating and adamant in his life tinged by wonder and tragedy. "Demona's one hell of a focal point in our clan's history, she pretty much created the last thousand years. If there's enough damage done in the past, it'll probably cause hell in the present and every single future timeline from here on out." He rubbed his hands together, the contact of real flesh relieving. "I'm no scientist, but if she manages to kill her past self, it'll either change everything we know, or probably make the universe shit itself."

Almond-shaped eyes widened to the danger become tenfold. "If she succeeds..."

His brow lowered over winsome eyes tortured and exhausted. "...she might unravel everything that she made in her one decision to allow the castle to be raided."

Sata realized, for truly she and her mate had influenced many in their travels, and in even the most restrained of manipulations throughout the eras she had visited had changed time for either better or worse. "But with Demona's disruption being so severe," she nodded in agreement, "this particular timeline is in the most danger...and could most likely disentangle. Instead of altering every event from now on," she rubbed a hand against her bloodied brow, "it would obliterate everything..."

"Give or take. Like I said, I'm no scientist...just a cook."

It was more desperate than she ever believed, and she centered back on Goliath, who seemed interested in her one-sided conversation to an invisible companion. "We don't have time for this, now let me through!"

Flicking thinned eyes from his turret to the stranger, anxious to aid his love, he waved his clan into a defensive posture and grumbled, "No."

"As you wish." Sata unsheathed the katana and tested the weight of the blade in nimble fingers, her eyes trained on the Wyvern clan spreading themselves out and readying for a fight.

Ensured his clan would deal with the trespassers, Goliath moved behind them presumably to run to his mate, and as he started up the stairs to the main courtyard, the wind hailed a sudden movement, and the sound of steel taking flight. He wrenched his neck from the path of the object that embedded itself into the stairway arch, a small butterfly sword, the stout weapon rooted deeply into the stone by way of the blade made razor sharp.

"You desire to make this a physical fight," the samurai warned, running her larger blade past her eyes and reflecting a stunned clan in the mirror finish stained a wine red, "so be it."

He immediately shot from behind her, erupting from the shadowed crook like a force of nature himself. He left a howl in his wake, to distract, to release the fire in his lungs, to make himself appear larger than life. In his weight, his bulk and the speed behind his suicide run he was unstoppable, and aimed for the crowd of gargoyles, his family dead and dust and in his way. Broadway plowed through them effortlessly, aiming for a stunned Goliath frozen in place, seeing this member of his clan appearing twice as big and vengeful. Broadway rammed the lavender gargoyle, his shoulder butted into Goliath's midsection, and trampled him to the stairway, breaking apart the stone behind the force of the impact, the cracks spreading in spider-web trails.

Sata leapt in to defend her companion, and swerve any questions to his familiarity by veering her sword into the group and redirecting their attention. She herded them from the stairway leading up onto the main courtyard with a lash of steel that defied even the greatest of skill and velocity, the blade become undetectable if but for a gentle breeze roused by her movements. Othello backed his clan from the samurai, as she quickly handled the woodland-skinned gargoyle who dared venture too close by butting the end of her sword directly between his browridges. He fell, and she could not readily conceal the smirk.

Goliath struggled to lift himself, winded, the breath crushed from his lungs by the damage wrought by Broadway. "...You..." he wheezed, looking up into his younger charge's face, altered by age and hardened by grief. "But...you appear different...larger, and certainly stronger..."

"I grew up." Broadway caught the tip of Goliath's chin in an uppercut that would have taken his head off if not inhumanly resilient, throwing the gargoyle back against the covered stairway. "Sorry about this, Goliath," his voice was apologetic, as he stalked forwards, "but it's better for all concerned of you're not involved." Goliath shook his head, clearing his vision only to have another fist fill the entirety of his gaze, and then, darkness. Standing over Goliath's toppled body, Broadway breathed wistfully, "You know, there was always a part of me that wanted to know how I'd fare against you...guess I got my answer." He turned from the disposed leader to Sata, playing an accomplished waltz against the clan trying to catch her unawares. But her sword proved the greater threat, and she managed to keep them at bay.

"Go!!" she screamed at him from over her shoulder. "Now!!"

He nodded and stepped over Goliath's prone form, heading for the courtyard and the tallest structure in Wyvern.

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

She followed the trail of debris, of broken streets and gutted homes barely standing, the once pristine rows lining the labyrinthine paths now crumbling, and wretched. The absence of the constant city drone was unsettling, of vehicles roaming and screaming, of the chatter of a million beings coalesced, of technology lifting its voice high into the skies, she found this once-loathed background noise become a characteristic now missed. Only the sound of her heartbeat ringing against her ribcage was the driving force behind her dash through the ruined section of Manhattan, of the thunderous pulse echoing in her ears much like the storm above, and the distant explosions by an adversary she wished to gain an equal balance against.

The lost sister was statuesque in gleaming gold, a bare tatter of her tunic dress left hanging strategically against her wet body now reflecting overturned streetlights. Her skin had transformed, the technology inherent in its mimic of gargoyle flesh having metamorphosed in an instinct to protect her from the explosion. And the fall. She barely remembered descending from such a height and pulverizing the pavement beneath her, only waking in a puddle of dirty water with her skin suddenly a deep sunset gold and the texture of smooth steel. The questions she had for such a change, the traumatic scream lodged within her throat wanting release for coming so close to death were pushed back though, behind one consuming consideration, protection, and the chance to revenge herself against a monster she hunted by following his identifiable wake.

It was easy to find him, by his size and the noise his mindless rampage produced, and as the clever sister overturned a small burning vehicle from her path, she stopped suddenly, releasing a golden mane across her brow, emancipated from the tight braid and heavy, each individual hair now a sliver of gilded steel like her skin. He was there, perhaps three hundred yards beyond, her mind measuring the accurate distance within seconds. Set, her would-be murderer cast in sapphire energy, and the hideous destructor raking his hand through another building.

Her mind analytical, she ventured a gaze towards the strange, almost humanoid creature and studied the surroundings, committing instantly to memory every possible chance to stop him, every variable being counted for and running through her foremost thoughts. She took off towards him, gaining speed with every footfall, a silent journey to avoid detection by Set's acute sense of hearing with the large, pointed ears angled to each side, perpetually listening. A flash of gold against the spattering of light and she neared, grasping a discarded electrical wire fallen from the rampage and dragging the heavy corded steel and rubber insulate behind her.

She approached and used her stealth to cross in between his legs, hoping to trip him up using the resilient electrical wire. She looped what slack she had around his left foot, tying it off and using her steel form as an anchor. "I believe the human saying is, the bigger they are..."

Set's curled brow rose when he tried to move forwards and found himself held down in one spot. The sister dug her heels into the pavement, and gritted to hold herself to counter Set's frantic struggle to free himself. The massive creature kicked out of the entrapment swiftly, unbelievably snapping the thick wire clean in half in a shower of sparks from the electrical flow interrupted. She fell backwards, onto her rump, her end of the wire touching to the wetted ground and surging with enough electrical current to feed the entire neighborhood. "...the stronger they become." She rubbed her backside, the pain still evident even without a wound or bruise to show for it on gleaming organic gold and flicked her eyes towards the severed electrical wire. "And here I believed all modern human construction was infallible."

Set turned and spotted her quickly. He was faster than she ever imagined, and as he regained his balance, he stomped his foot to crush the insect that dared stand up against him. It was the sister's speed and agility that kept her alive, as she dodged the foot, the rush of air from the impact pushing her to her knees. She scrambled to evade as Set turned, and another foot hit the ground, sending a tremor rippling the human-altered soils in a concentric ring. She lost her balance, fumbled and slowed, and raised her hands instinctively when a shadow expanded beneath her.

Set brought his foot down to crush the annoyance, and this time, met resistance.

The sister had caught his foot from directly underneath, and used her strength and newfound invulnerability to hold the appendage from completely crushing her. "...not tonight...creature..." Her feet sunk into the pavement against the tremendous pressure, but she held, her mind racing, searching for an escape. It was an inspiration simple enough, as she suddenly rolled out from underneath and allowed Set to strike his foot into the asphalt, devastating the paved pathway. He bellowed, loud, heavy and angered, and drove a fist into the street narrowly missing the sister, and again, the tiny woman escaping the physical translation of his wrath each time.

She was lifted as the sheer force of the blow ripped up an entire piece of the street, and her along with it. Her weight substantially increased by her transformation, she no longer could use the heavy gilded sails to glide, and thus, fell like the proverbial stone and rolled into a storefront. Shaking her head, she turned and found from underneath the tattered awning Set leaning down to finish what he started with his rebirth. "I believe a new strategy is needed."

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

The alarms were a voice unbidden by breath, endlessly screaming within his helmet, telling him, imploring him to get the upper hand against his enemies and fast. Todd could feel every bullet pass along his skin and extremities, the steel skin of his wings being discolored by the blast marks. The Guild still fired, even through the infrequent hiccoughs that turned the world white between the passage of seconds. They had a more immediate goal than having to worry about what could very well be the end of all time, and that was the young man being held in place by the constant gunfire. The one barrier against the detected lifeforms in the hospital ward.

"...stop it..." he whispered inside of his mask, the alarms deafening, overwhelming his resistance and composure, his armor's mindlink setting fire through his nervous system and causing a throbbing pulsation centered on his forehead and the base of his neck where attached the control implants. "Stop it." It was a more forceful command, but lost in the hail of gunfire. It was becoming a blur, the anguished howling of technology, the rattle and clap of guns against titanium hide like a storm contained within his suit, his skin crawling with the sensation of bullets grazing flesh, and Todd could not handle it any longer. "Stop it!" The wings opened up, the razor sharp tips extending from the cradles within the serrated edges of the steel membranes, and exploding outwards towards the Guild. The gunfire stopped, their elusion of the steel flechettes becoming the priority. The wing flechettes sailed past them, breaking up the Guild line and imbedding themselves in the distant wall and elevator doors. "Don't you bastards ever fucking listen?!!" he yelled, the mask translating his young voice as a wintry, metallic growl.

Ignoring what he deemed a mere tantrum, Black threw himself back into the line of fire and opened up with his guns once more, scraping his bullets against the Epsilon's skin. He had heard enough of the excuses thrown to him why the creatures infesting this place and their allies should not die, and the constant sophistry of such heroes' boasts otherwise.

It was almost an audible snap of judgment, as Todd ran towards him, enraged, the war come to his home, the secrets of his family, the pain, the blood and the death far too much for him to handle without releasing it in a surge of raw emotion and fury blinding to the most basic common sense. He swept past the others and collided with Black, lifting the Guild leader from his feet as the Epsilon's boosters powered up, erupting an endless stream of blue-tinged fire from the louvered scoops.

"Stop him!" agent White commanded the others, turning his gun into the thick spiral of rocket exhaust to find his target. The others regained their ground and fired, and only Black's energy shield allowed him to survive the bombardment against the retreating Epsilon, Todd's wild but determined flight taking them both towards the elevator. They met the bombed out entrance and tore through the entire elevator shaft all too effortlessly, and then the wall, shattering steel and concrete and exploding a hole in the side of the Eyrie building, sending debris to spray wildly into the moist air. They emerged outside into the rains, and Todd angled upwards sharply, into the eye of the tempest.

"Damn." White muttered.

Todd risked voyage through an aerial battlefield constant, tiring, deadly, the castle automations waging a war against the two heavily shielded and incredibly armed Guild helicopters. He cared less for the machines and volley of weaponry threatening to destroy both him and the man squirming in his grip, and instead delved deep into the clouds endless and treacherous to navigate. Lightning struck, attracted by the steel alloy and choosing such a target out of predatory instinct, grasping the suit within claws of energy that reflected from his armored hide.

Black could feel the faint charge of electricity curling around his skin through the energy shield, a buffer against the incredible force thrown from the churning mists, but fortunately dissipated by the Epsilon's systems. "Let go of me, traitor!"

Todd chose not to listen. "Shut up."

Black struggled against the young man's grip, hoping each strike from the clouds would not be his last, for a death through recklessness and incineration was not how he envisioned the end of his life. "You'll kill us both!!" Seeing his words again ignored, he took control of such a fate, and planted his gun to the Epsilon's mask, near the temple, unleashing a shot meant to disorient rather than damage, and Todd was both blinded and bewildered. He managed to coerce the armored man towards the ground, his strength augmented by the energy shield, and thus, able to subtly alter the trajectory back through the clouds and towards the castle.

Narrowly missing the castle's southern corner turret and the cannon attached, they skimmed across the rooftops of the main building structure, and skidded to a halt against the stone embankment. Todd shook off the blast taken to the head, and used a wing to ward off Black's ensuing gunfire, the armor-piercing bullets near to gouging even the thick titanium alloy. He leapt towards him, and tackled the Guild leader to the rooftop, where streams of water poured across the slanted structure, making their perch slippery and dangerous. He straddled the fallen Guild member, his silhouette against the streaks of lightning more demonic than any rivaled gargoyle form.

The Epsilon's wing struts released from the bottom a secondary pair of arms, angling forwards to grasp upon a pair of cylindrical objects secured to Todd's shoulder blades. They clasped, and swung the weaponry to each of his forearms, attaching a pair of gatling guns with a shudder and leaving the linked umbilical of bullets leading from both feeds into the ammunition hold on the Epsilon's back. The blades unsheathed from underneath, gleaming in the lightning, and promising a gruesome fate if unleashed into bare flesh. Todd stood over him, hunched, and heaving with every breath. "You want a fight, motherfucker?!!" he screamed, the eyes of the Epsilon burning brightly under the streams of rain pouring from the thick raven shell. "BRING IT!!!"

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

A hand without flesh emerged from the smoking pit in the ruined section of Manhattan, a large claw with only a few scraps of regenerating muscle structure stretched across a scorched skeleton to power this husk, charred beyond recognition. It was an excruciating trial, as the remains of Sobek stirred and roused and defied death even as he could not draw breath from lungs that were not there, even as a missing heart could not beat or pump blood through an endless string of arteries and veins burned away. Magic allowed him movement, his bones though scorched protected enough vital tissues to allow the spark of life to remain only just.

He used a single hand to drag himself slowly upwards and out, eyeless sockets unable to see, Sobek guided by feel alone across the scorched terrain. He grasped upon anything he could find to pull his corpse from the pit, dragging his legs yet to be healed and useless, dead weight.

The Goliath creature entered through the flaming wreckage, a reversal of fate delicious to the being fed by hatred. Another blink in time flashed throughout his field of vision, blanketing the entire city, and he did not care otherwise, all that consumed him was the drive, the urge to destroy. It caused conflict with the passenger held within the parcel of power and brute strength, of nobility expunged in favor of raw vengeance. "We once feared you, we once feared even your presence near to us or our family." It watched the burned shell of Sobek continue to languidly crawl from the crater, similar to watching an insect use only the most basic of instinct to skulk their way through an existence all too short and centered on one thing alone, survival. It was amusing. "But stripped of your one deciding advantage, you are nothing. You bark tiresome contentions of world domination like so many psychotics allowed to roam this planet amongst us, you see yourself sitting atop a throne upon a defeated Earth." Goliath walked forwards, and drove his foot into Sobek's ribcage, the immortal rolling away with the brunt of the strike, nearly shredding apart in his fragile state. A few short steps, and Goliath brought his foot down, resting it onto what remained of the Egyptian's neck, the muscular structure almost nearing completion of vocal cords. "We see a sad, delusional creature with a twisted psyche that far outreaches his true capabilities and power. We see yet another adversary testing his limits against us, and proving himself ultimately unable to meet the challenge."

Sobek vomited blood and bile from his internal organs reforming, pouring from the corners of his mouth and staining the ocher bone around his face a muddy red. A hollow laughter bubbled from the opened throat, "...we...shall see..."

It arose into the heavens much like passion and rage made tangible and flesh, the emerald fire bred by lineage ancient and otherworldly now reacting with the pitch of Goliath's dangerously ebbing mood. "Yes, we shall." Energy spilled over the broken edges of the crater, small chunks of debris rose into the air amongst the power so great as to reverse the pull of gravity, and the being formed from the fusion of Goliath and Alexander reveled in the sheath of warm, comforting sorcery. "Perhaps we should split every atom within your body, and force upon you a near infinite amount of controlled nuclear explosions. For we have nothing to curb our darkest impulses save the farthest reaches of Goliath's vast expanse of knowledge." The expenditure of his power was so great as to send ripples across the airwaves and collapse any structure in the vicinity damaged by the gods' rampage, and the rain-soaked chasm of Manhattan lit up in deep bottle green. "Better yet, we will allow those you stole life from to act as our hands, our vengeance." Goliath lifted from the ground and spread his translucent wings to better concentrate, pulling from the wreckage spreading for miles beyond the souls of the lost, their imprint of life left in the throes of such violent death. So powerful, so tortured, they were a weapon within themselves, laughter, anguish, innocence, sloth and greed, the brunt of atrophied emotion left behind acted as a psychic scalpel carving through Sobek's entrails.

Sobek could feel the regenerating meat around his bones being liquefied once more, the tissues in his brain on fire as the electrical synapses increased by a factor of one hundred, harnessing the energy of his thought and sentience into arcs bursting from his skull. Sobek lived a thousand tortures, he was delivered upon by the deaths he had taken a nightmare unlike any other, an amalgamation of voices and screams that exploded his flesh and invaded his very mind. The voices of young and old were deafening, and would drive a lesser being to madness if not already beyond the brink of psychosis.

"Do you feel that?" the fusion of gargoyle and human crowed, his voice the hand of god nearly bursting Sobek's eardrums. "It is OUR power bringing a voice to the dead we now stand on. The horizons of OUR combined imagination, no matter how sinister and repressed and misunderstanding of the energy we wield, are no longer limited by mortal principles or corporeal flesh." Undeniably, with Goliath's sheer intellect and spirit fueled by Alexander's energies, this new form was as near to fay or god as humanly possible, and beyond such ethical quandaries as mercy and compassion when playing with magicks addictive in their might. Humanity was a concept lost in the merging, unless the two consciousnesses, who had seen empires fall and heroes die in their short mortal existences, were to force themselves apart to salvage what they used to be. But it was Goliath's anger that dominated the personality, and what he wanted now more than anything was to commit Sobek to oblivion. "Your game such as it was, ends here, and now."

His hand outstretched, his veins flowing with Avalon enchantments and ready to deliver a final blow, he prepared to separate every molecule and deliver the ensuing energy to the corners of Earth and space and time. But the winged creature hesitated, the hand suddenly shaking. His features contorted, as if a new battle was forged for dominance.

"What?" It was Goliath's voice this time, his tone, his words, his separate mind. "We can destroy him...why do you resist me?!"

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

"You can't kill him, r'member?!" the child screamed against the giant, his voice an echo in this place of private consciousness and sharp perception. "He knows!!"

The gargoyle stared down the boy held an equal distance, growling, angered, frothing at the mouth in his desire to destroy the creature brought to his knees. The very thought of what he could cost Alexander was now distant in the face of unbridled anger, and the fact he so very close to savoring Sobek's demise. "He will die!!"

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

Elisa climbed the wall of debris made slick by the pouring rain, a treacherous hike to find a better vantage point in order to find her husband, the detective drawn by the spire of light rising from the darkened region destroyed by the gods. Her hands were raw, and cut, the tiny streams of blood trailing over copper skin, but she persevered. Another blink in time, and she nearly lost her grip in the sudden flash, and she stopped to rest, wondering just what was causing such chaos. Elisa at last made it to the rubble's peak, and the devastated neighborhoods fell before her eyes from her height atop the building wreckage. The desolation sprawled long before her, wide, a gaping wound in central Manhattan lit by a strange emerald radiance, and she cringed at the damage now fully realized.

She looked below to the focal point of the blinding light, a reactor of sorcery creating swells of energy spreading outwards, and within the epicenter she found her husband as awe-inspiring as a god, and struggling to maintain a precarious grip on a merged consciousness, his face hidden within his hands, and yelling. He was wasting valuable time and energy in his anger against the Egyptian, by the sheer waves of energy pouring from his form and rushing past her, an anxious itch across her exposed skin where the power made contact. She doubted by watching even the most subtle of his movements and gestures his remaining strength, his chest heaving for breath, that this union made possible by magic would not hold his battered body together for long. And she knew, by seeing his wing struts reformed by pure energy bleed from the old wounds, that the merger was not to heal him, only to lay a temporary patch to a much more desperate injury. "Goliath!!" she screamed into the void, hoping to be heard above the great lake of heaven, above the growing screams of the squall made angry by an intrusion into the past. "GOLIATH!!!"

Below, where the gargoyle had ceased his torture upon Sobek to struggle for control against a foe gone unseen, heard the faint cry over the mewled growls rippling across the sky. He looked up into the rain, to see the cloaked silhouette of his mate. "Elisa..."

"Goliath, stop this!!" she yelled to him. "You're using too much energy!!"

"Sobek will die!! And neither you, or the child inside shall stop me!!"

He was running on rage and hatred, and no matter how many times Sobek would heal himself over, she knew her damnably stubborn mate would exhaust all of his newfound energy to search for a method of the Egyptian's destruction, to use Sobek as the focal point for a fury kept inside the last few weeks, and eventually damn his very soul. "He's immortal!!" she screamed back at him, hoping to sway his single-minded quest. "How many times can you burn off his skin before you realize you can't kill him?!!"

Goliath turned back to the writhing creature entrapped within the sphere of his borrowed magic, suffering. "I will find a way."

"NO!!!" This time, it was Alexander's voice, as the battle continued on a field of consciousness. They screamed together in their war for domination, heralding a cry that shattered windows and collapsed entire buildings, and served to dislodge and crumble Elisa's lofty perch.

The pile of wreckage beneath the detective gave way, and she fell within the midst of debris. She had no time to scream, the reaction lost to the rapid speed of her descent, the thunder and lightning, the cracks in time itself, all a detriment to her composure. The jagged ground below loomed fast, and Elisa found herself staring at a spire of steel, inches from piercing her completely. She had stopped in time, with aid from a floating gargoyle and his expanded energy field halting her fatal plunge.

"We have you, Elisa." said the creature of two, using the telekinesis inherent in all magic to carefully, tenderly adjust her pose and carry her towards him. "Do not fear."

Elisa breathed a sigh both of relief and scorn, "I don't fear for my life, Goliath, or whoever the hell is in control of that body...I fear for yours."

He tipped up his chin, glaring down upon her as he held her in an energy-made extension of his opened, flattened palm. "We are fine."

"Then why are you breathing so hard?" she countered, as Goliath now noticed the heavy breaths swirled into the air, his throat dry and rasped. She moved her eyes to where she could see the leaching of blood slowly pouring from where gnarled flesh met emerald energy. "And why is your back bleeding?"

Goliath twitched his brow, and fluttered his new appendages given to him through the merger. In truth, with his adrenaline having calmed, they both felt the drain on the flow of magic once free and unbridled, once so strong as to deceive the users into an artificial divinity. Goliath was exhausted, physically and spiritually, and his gruesome injuries were already gradually bleeding dry the energies Alexander allowed them both.

She knew that expression, of understanding, of remorse and annoyance in the fact she was right. "Goliath, you're hurt, and even with Alex's magic, you can't last for long."

"You are a contradiction." an unexpected answer boomed, an accusation against her, as Goliath merely altered the target of his anger. "You want for a child in a time of death and are angered by our decision otherwise, you wish for justice but remove us from our position as leader to do so." The celestial flames surged, his wings of crystal green engorging in stature and breeding more light, more power, as the anger returned. It seemed godhood did not suit anyone unprepared, even one as noble and righteous as Goliath. "And now you wish for us to stop when we at last have the power to set all things right!"

Elisa lowered a thin brow, noticing her husband's resentment turn completely towards her.

"We are sick of your constant whine, human." he continued, his words dark, his tone damning of his beloved. "We are tired of hearing your selfish, trivial desires day after day when this world descends into chaos because of prejudice and racism!"

"How dare you!" Elisa screamed back against a god taken the handsome form of her husband, unimpressed with any show of power no matter how incredible or impossible it seemed. He was in all things still a mortal wearing the thin veil of virtual godhood, he was her equal, her lover, her strength, but he was not beyond her concerns, and she was not beyond his. "Everything I have done I've done for a damned good reason! You refused to do anything as my colleagues, my friends, were dying!"

"We could not wage a war against an unseen enemy!! We could not risk our clan!"

"Wrong! You were too damned scared to take any action, and you wanted to sit so high in your castle so no one would hurt you, so the world wouldn't touch you!! That wasn't the Goliath I knew and loved and married, it was a shell having succumbed to his own fears! So I voted against you, and only because half the clan actually decided to dethrone you as well, you use me your pressure valve for that anger you constantly carry inside of you!" She ranted higher and stronger than that of the tempest, the rift in their marriage neither closing nor widening, but remaining with their refusal to see the other's argument. "My want for a growing family with you is not trivial! My want to seek justice and stop any more deaths is not selfish!! My right to decide my own fate is not a contradiction, and how dare you condemn me otherwise!!"

Goliath heard all, and felt the air particles quiver with the power behind her breath, the passion, the movement of energy and emotion on many scales, the fire like a substance visible and almost corporeal to his heightened senses. As silence fell between them, as the dance of rain against the shattered ruins of this section of Manhattan created a mournful song, played to a bass of thunder amongst a lower octave. "Have you forgotten so readily that he nearly killed both you and Trinity." Goliath said to remind her, a bitter tone. "He nearly killed our clan, and perhaps thousands have died at his hands..." Goliath clenched his fists. "He took our wings...HE TOOK MY WINGS!!!" The tortured howl erupted far and wide, spreading like an explosion rippling the currents of air and swelling the raindrops.

"I was there!!" Elisa screamed back, the memory horrifying, but fresh, and entrenched into her every waking thought. "I tasted your blood on my lips!! Don't you think I want to see him suffer for that?!!" Through the drops of rain wetting golden skin, her tears were disguised. "But where does vengeance ever end, Goliath?!" she continued, seeing the battle played across his features, the continuing expulsion of Alexander's energy conveying his readiness to try everything at his near-unlimited disposal to destroy Sobek. "How far will your vengeance reach?!! Will it stop with Sobek, or will his death by your hands, and by those of that small, innocent child inside of you only make things worse?! You'll reach so far into the depths of your soul to try to find any way to kill him, and once you overstep those bounds of mortality, of honor and nobility, you might never come back. Death or decadence, take your pick."

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

"She's right." said the child, another voice to help persuade the sheer force of Goliath's will. "You're mad an' hurt an' tired. An' I can't make you better."

"Sobek must suffer!" he growled, his hatred and pain and want for vengeance so great as to make the walls of their shared consciousness tremble, and bleed with rage. They floated in a place without any substance to stand upon or touch, where a misted womb held them in a fluid-like suspension, and the essence of the two rotated around each other, facing one another and squaring off for dominance. "For everything he has done, I will ensure with the last ounce of strength I now possess that this creature is obliterated from existence no matter how severe my injuries!"

"It's my power." Alexander warned possessively with a pointed finger, a voice tinged with bitterness towards the lavender giant, the being he had always revered, perhaps as the truest definition of hero stealing what was rightfully his. "And if you make Sobek die, my mom might die too." The ferocity was displaced by a despondency Goliath could feel within this womb, the child at last acting true to his age and maturity. He could feel his mother's pain right now, the unique bond distressing him, and as such, Goliath could feel that pain as well. "Are you gonna make my mom die?"

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

Her own anger bursting at the seams, Elisa buried her face into her hands, wicking the moisture from her skin, ridding her sight of the intruding strands of raven silk and hoping the cool water across her brow would calm her. "God...how long will this argument last?" she sighed, blaming herself for reacting as she always did, a volcano. "Goliath," she implored to him, "we can scream at each other until we run out of breath, but I think this marriage is strong enough for us to move beyond what we've both done in the past and focus on what must be done now. Neither of us is right or wrong...we only acted in the best interests of our family, friends...and mate. And in the end, neither of us chose the right path." She reached out to him, breaching the gap to make contact from flesh to flesh as she lay her fingers into his palm and reveled in the warmth. "You're right, sometimes I can be a contradiction. I want justice in the midst of chaos, I want life in the midst of death, and I don't want my husband throwing not just his life away by way of revenge, but his very soul."

He bowed his head, deflecting his eyes from hers. "You...are a stubborn woman..." Goliath whispered.

She took the comment as a gracious compliment, and nodded. "I know." Her fingers twined between his, his large and taloned, and their wedding bands matched together, etched gold glinting a deep chartreuse from the reflection of the energy surrounding them. "You need to stop those things tearing apart the city before Alex can't keep you going anymore. Your revenge, your justice, can come later." Her eyes were adamant, and unrelenting as steel, but as always, and only to him, bared openly to her soul. "It has to."

"If you only knew how I felt...if you only knew the pain this," he turned, looking down at Sobek trying if anything to resist the attack of souls against him, "thing has caused me..."

"I see it in your eyes, Goliath, I feel it with every breath you take." She pounded a hand to her chest, his pain hers through the ever-present link between them, no matter how torn or precarious the connection. "Right here. You're exhausted, you're running on hatred and adrenaline and the rush of pure magic." His hand squeezed around hers, a sign of life, and of relent. "You once saved me from running half-cocked against the Guild after the attack on the precinct, now I'm returning the favor. Spare Sobek now, focus the remaining energy you have left in doing what makes you the most noble man on this planet. Protect."

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

He shut his eyes, and kneaded his brow with his hand, allowing serenity to douse somewhat the flames of retribution. He was trembling, and even Alexander could see the muscular structure rippling beneath his skin, as if some great creature writhed beneath to burst out. "P-Protect..." he whispered within the realm of subconscious, Goliath releasing a tear to descend in his fatigue, in his consuming want for a vengeance that went against all he believed in, that threatened to destroy all that he was. "I...I will not endanger your mother any longer, Alexander."

The boy smiled in relief, and the fact Goliath still stood among his chosen heroes. "Elisa says we have to get th' monsters in th' city, but...th' clan..."

"The clan..." he echoed, suddenly realizing what had been transpiring in his absence from the castle. "They...they are under attack by the Guild."

"It was scary." he revealed, from his short time there and the explosions rocking the very foundation of the Eyrie building. "The bad men were hurting the clan. They still are..."

Goliath nodded slowly, exhaustedly, trusting in Alexander's words, a part of him now. "I know. But we must have faith in our clan to persevere, as these gods Sobek unleashed are our more immediate concern."

"I got th' catlady, but th' others are stronger. A lot stronger. I can feel it."

"And through our link, as can I. Sakhmet was the weakest of all of them." Goliath looked keenly towards the boy. "We, or should I say you, have near comparable strength, but our greatest weapon is our intelligence. These creatures act on some sense of primal instinct alone, and thus, are vulnerable."

"An' th' flashes?"

Goliath ground his fanged teeth together, so many attacks at one time, it was hard to choose between all of them. "Beyond our capability to assist." he at last divulged, at a loss to explain or repair the continuing hiccups delivering the world into nothingness for moments at a time.

Alexander hesitated to touch upon this subject once more, but dared, "An'...Sobek?"

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

The Goliath creature turned towards Sobek, almost nearly reformed, but wracked by tortuous sobs as his torment continued, the voices damning and endless and sending a cleansing fire of retribution through every nerve ending. He could light almost all the Western hemisphere with the potent emotional energy roiling his innards. It was pain beyond the limits of any sort of sentient comprehension, a punishment meant for higher beings that played in the milk of galaxies and extinguished stars with but a sharp breath and passing glance. Delivered unto a mortal made timeless by stolen magic, it was ruinous to flesh, but somehow, Sobek remained intact, perhaps his psychosis the ultimate protection.

Elisa was lowered to the ground on a touch of wind and released from the energy field, as Goliath turned all his focus towards the Egyptian. He lowered his face until the stench of decaying skin permeated his senses. "Your existence was spared," they counseled together, Goliath and Alexander speaking as one without conflict to disrupt the delicate mental balance, "your immortality remains a barrier untested for now, and for that, you should be thankful. But soon, you will taste the prospect of death, and in that fact, you should fear."

"...spare me...such inanity..." Sobek hissed, his words lost in the metallic crimson coating his teeth. "...your world...will soon cry, bleed...and vanish..." Sobek was himself testing the limits of this creature, wanting for the release of Goliath's darkest whims. "...kill me, Goliath..." he spurred the wrath once more, he tested the flames to see how much of the leader's soul he could take. "...let loose all you have burning within...you are more a god than the creatures I released...prove your superiority to all...your divinity..." He saw Goliath's eyes twitch. "...kill me..."

"Goliath, he's goading you." Elisa warned, trying to be the voice he would heed. "He wants you to use everything you have, to exhaust yourself to the brink of death. He wants your soul more than anything, even if it means he dies."

"Our soul is already owned, Sobek, by a band of gold and silver." Goliath raised his hand, and the ground trembled. From the very center of the crater erupted a massive chunk of bedrock raised from the depths beneath the city. A distant building's ruins collapsed, when four large girders were pulled from the gutted skeleton and levitated towards the lavender gargoyle. Goliath clenched his hand and the floating girders twisted on one end, becoming spears with the tips razor-sharp. "You will be dealt with, monster, after we remove your fabricated spawn from our protectorate." Goliath waved his hand, and Sobek impacted against the bedrock slab, an impression of his form made from the power of the blow. He commanded the girders to impale the immortal in gruesome if not deliberate points. Through his palms, and both his ankles together, and a final girder through the upper chest, Sobek was mercilessly crucified. "Stay here. We will return."

He knew of the spectacle he had become, he knew the religious importance and dependence the humans placed on the image he mimicked, and Sobek screamed in the pain, the entrapment, and the mortification. He struggled against his bonds, but could not budge the girders having secured him to the bedrock. He was imprisoned, and only by Goliath's will would he be allowed freedom.

Goliath turned to Elisa, standing within the mists of Alexander's borrowed magic. She turned her eyes from Sobek to the majesty that was her husband. "Elisa..."

She held up her hand to deflect any apology, or any speech he may hold. "Alex's power, Goliath's will. A dangerous mix if I ever saw one." Her hand instead drew a line towards where the city was under attack, where a disconcerting darkness reigned in a metropolis of light and color. "The airforce is down, Goliath, every plane and chopper in the area has been taken out, and I'm sure any more will meet the same fate. That leaves you. Both of you."

Another cosmic blink, and Elisa faded momentarily. Goliath grabbed for her hand to reassure she was still existent. "Time is under attack."

"I don't know what these burps in ivory white are, Big Guy, but right now, right here, people are dying...and as this world descends into chaos as you so elegantly stated, we need a hero." She smiled a wonderful smile. "We need YOU."

"No more shall die then." Pulling Elisa's hand to his lips, he tasted strength and passion in tawny warmth much like the glisten of copper under the pouring rain. It was delicious, and scented of jasmine and chamomile cream, even with the cascading beads of rain. "We would perhaps do more, but we have an impressionable child watching our every move."

The smile widened. "You've always been my favorite hero."

"Come." He lifted her, the energy he expended reigned in to become a more compact shield around him, conserved for the coming battle, and Goliath swept open his wings to raise them both into the sky and onto their destination. Unwilling to let her from his sight any longer, she would join him on his exodus. "We shall protect."

"I'm...I'm going to see if I can get through to the clan." Elisa commented, as the city drowned below them in darkness and devastation. "I've been having trouble reaching them."

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

His armor hailed a garbled call on a channel private, and known only to a select few graced with the devices tied together by a global string. Through the static of the Guild jamming frequency effectively cutting off almost all communications, came the fragments of Elisa's voice bursting melodically through the white noise. Xanatos cocked his head, using the filters to better clear the detective's voice.

"...zzzzzzzzare youzzzthere......zzzzz...zzzz anyone zzzlistening?..."

Indeed, did the billionaire concentrate between the battle to pick the splinters of Elisa's message from the roaring static.

"...zzzzzzzblinkszzzz...like the worldzzzzzis hiccuppingzzzzz..." the message continued. "...what'zzzzzzzhappening?..."

It was hard to discern the message, but it seemed wherever Elisa was, she had noticed the same cosmic blinks the clan did.

"...zzzzliath...andzzzzzzzsobek..."

Xanatos jerked back when at last hearing what he had waited for so long, but at the most inconvenient of times when buried shoulder-deep in Guild members trying to peel the armor from his body. A quick swipe of his hands relieved his body of the intruders like tenpins, his martial arts skills translated near flawlessly, and a rake of the stones in front of him with the forearm-mounted lasers scared off those who dared mar his sterling finish with their weapons. "My apologies." he called to the clan. "I'm needed elsewhere."

Lexington noticed the billionaire power the boosters on his armor's back, exploding from the crowd. "Xanatos?!" he yelled out after the retreating shape lost in the chaos just above, as Xanatos fled with but an elusive explanation and disappeared into where the storms were strongest. "Where are you going?! XANATOS!!!" Another ally lost to circumstance, leaving the dwindled contingent a harder task with one more gone, and many more Guild to come.

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

And now deprived of their leader, White had stepped up to lead the charge towards the hospital, the entrance left unguarded by Todd's sudden departure and ripe for their conquest by the smaller contingent having invaded into the deepest reaches of the Eyrie. The pointman entered in first, sweeping the targeting laser throughout the darkened infirmary with the beds emptied of their patients. As the others filtered into the room, he tested the sheets with his infrared scanner, drifting his hand across the impression of warmth left from Maria's presence. Where previously scanned by infrared, the heat signatures in humanoid shape had vanished, and the rooms on either side of the hospital suite were concealed from his intruding sight enhanced by the best of technology. "Thermograph is dark. They're gone."

"No," White would not believe it, "they're not." With a silent gesture, he moved his team towards the surgical bay door, where indeed the walls were shielded on all sides to protect the patients undergoing surgery from any intruder, whether flesh or germ, malicious or not.

The pointman moved towards the opposite doorway, watching intently for any swirl of color to warn him of a presence, and a potential target. The door was left slightly ajar, allowing a slim crack of color to invade his infrared besides the dark gray signifying heavy shielding within this opposite room as well. Using his free hand, he opened the door only to have a long, sterling barrel fall into place between his eyes, and he nearly soiled his suit in fear when the sudden shock erased the fact he wore a near-impenetrable energy field.

"Hi there." Iliana cooed, and pulled the trigger. The Magnum .45 barked fire and smoke, and ricocheted a bullet from the pointman's shield with a metallic shriek. Her injuries still not fully healed, the sheer kick of the oversized weapon pushed her weakened form back into Delilah's arms, as the Guild member suffered far worse, being lifted from his feet and thrown to the floor by the impact. The others turned around to see a massive beast spill from its confinement, as Bronx emerged, a hellhound bent on feeding and appearing as more a nightmare than these men have ever seen. He latched on to the first soldier, his jaws clamping down on the man's shielded arm. Delilah and Hudson followed, attacking between the shaken aim of bullets and energy beams, their screams creating fear and panic in such closed quarters. The echo was raucous, and nerve-wracking, and the gargoyles used their advantage to attack before the Guild had the chance to steady their aim.

Hudson swiped with his sword, reflecting any stray energy beam away and slashing against his chosen opponent's shield, forging from his blade a long stream of sparks bred against the friction of steel on a compressed layer of energy. Delilah fell behind him, facing down agent White and holding to his weapon, a deadly struggle for dominance. The clone snarled against the lanky, masked human, vying for triumph against a hideous creature whose eyes burned a demonic red.

"Winged bitch!!" he sneered with contempt, as they played around each other, crushing the surrounding hospital equipment to wrest the weapon from the other's hand. "Someone shoot her!!"

The pointman grappled in his rise from the floor, his ears bleeding, the bullet having done perhaps more damage than he thought possible. Groggy, he aimed towards White and Delilah, and held his targeting laser until his shot would clear as the gargoyle's back was forcefully turned against him. His eyes blurred, his head ringing incessantly, he pulled the trigger. Whether or not the bullet found its mark was inconsequential, as Nudnik, once contained from the fight by the twins, now roared into battle and rammed his head into the pointman's back. Together they flew across the hospital floor and into the surgical bay door, breaking the seal and emerging directly into surgery.

Both Annika and Pierce lifted from an anesthetized Rose, to see the Guild member stare blankly back at them. He raised his gun.

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

Sata brought her sword handle up underneath her attacker's chin, a strike efficient and fast, but non-lethal to spare the progenitors of her new clan a death before their fated time, and thus, wreck the timeline further by tugging a needed thread out of arrangement. One against fifteen, the hunting party having returned to find her within their home and dripping with blood not her own was surrounding her, readying to subdue her.

Othello she knew, and regarded cautiously, the hunter eying her beneath a viciously curved browridge, such a change from the tightly wound but honorable brethren who shared her home. The others were unknowns, unpredictable in all but one premise, they would defend their home and clan at all costs. Othello then swiped, and she evaded, forcing her blade handle into a female's stomach who took the opportunity when the intruder was distracted. Two down, and Sata whirled with blade drawn towards the others, a full circle used to ward them off and away from the stairwell.

A larger one attacked with his massive body used as a weapon with no defense, until Sata leaned back and tripped him, ending his threat quickly. She was caught from behind, her arms held motionless and her sword deprived, the one equalizer taken by brute strength far surpassing her own. She struggled, and managed to swerve her captor around, her raised feet touching to the wall. "Let...me...go!" she snarled, using the wall to push herself up and over the Wyvern gargoyle. She jabbed her knee directly between his wings, and he cried out in pain as a streak of fire traveled the length of his back.

Sata turned in the ferocity of battle to unleash her fist into another attacker as a pair of hands clenched into her kimono, and suddenly drew to a stop, a young, crimson gargoyle appearing in her line of sight. "Oh," from the rookery perhaps, to explore the commotion outside with an eternal thirst for a thrill, and join into the fray without fear of reprisal, "dear." It was Brooklyn, the younger version, now staring at this matronly gargess with all the awe and sexual attraction a young, hormonally charged adolescent would. The juxtaposition was unsettling, and Sata creased her brow, and then swung her arm into the side of Brooklyn's neck, effectively, gently, knocking him unconscious. "That is for being stubborn a thousand years from now."

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

He was in the clear of the expansive courtyard, empty and abandoned, with shadows looming across the medieval architecture and brought to life through the flickering torchlight, an existence bred to frolic measured in the waning hours of the night. Broadway could hear above him the struggle, where time itself was being slowly pulled apart as Demona ravaged her younger self, hoping to destroy everything she loathed, and all he ever knew.

Racing for the entrance to Goliath's turret where the stone tower met the courtyard level, he thought only of Angela, and suppressed the urge to liberate his lunch to the stones below in the fact his heart waged a war against his mind. To stop Demona would set things right, and condemn him to an existence right, but achingly alone. To allow her to kill her past self would ease the pain he felt, and reunite him with the woman who made him entirely whole in either life, or death. But seeing his hand phase from reality once again made adamant his decision, and his tread not once slowed towards the turret mouth, where a torch-lit stairway spiraled upwards into the celestial yawn of starlight.

Thunder rolled against the parapets, and Broadway had to re-examine the familiar sound underneath an impressively clear sky. The thunder had come alive, the storm he thought he had left behind in the future had simply taken a new, more dangerous form winged and implacable. A shadow crossed above him, far darker than any that lay across the short distance to the turret entrance. Broadway looked up, only to be consumed within that darkness breached by two, white glowing eyes that burned brighter than any star. "I don't need this right now..."

Goliath had risen. And his anger matched that of his future counterpart, in being toppled by some contorted creation as his mate's very life may hang in the balance. He had leapt towards the intruder, and swept the force of the winds themselves against Broadway's chest. Blinding pain erupted through the younger gargoyle, as Goliath unleashed a well-placed fist into his chest, nearly caving in his ribcage. "I do not know what sorcery created you, imposter," the Wyvern leader howled, "but if your attempt to kill my mate succeeds, I will ensure you will never again see the moon rise!!"

Broadway struggled against a creature whose strength increased in correlation to his anger, outmatched in utter ferocity and strength. "I'm not trying to kill your mate, I'm trying to save her!!"

"Then why does she scream so?!" he yelled back as they grappled fist to fist, the leader impressed by this reproduction's brute strength. "Why is her voice tortured?!"

"That's not her..." he answered, only serving to make his argument weaker by a bizarre contention.

"You weave impressive lies!" Goliath flipped Broadway up and over him, throwing the younger gargoyle down to the stones, with enough power erupting from the physical blow to send a shiver through the entire courtyard. "You are some forgery crafted by the foul stench of sorcery, and not the young gargoyle that I am often forced to send to the rookery!"

Broadway shook off the strike from his body, shaking his head to clear his vision and fight back. "No, I'm not...not anymore..." He drove a knee into Goliath's midsection, without a care of the effects such a blow would have on this timeline's version of the Wyvern leader and his reputable temper. "I already told you, I...grew...UP!!!" His fist came like a strike of lightning and all of its awesome power, connecting squarely to Goliath's face and knocking the lavender giant backwards. Momentarily freed from the tempest that was Goliath, he started for the turret once more, leaving behind him a being relentless in his protection of his loved ones. He met the entrance and started quickly the steep climb to the top.

Blood coursing into his eyes, from the gash left by Broadway's fist and separating over the bridge of his nose to mark the dark crevasses of his face, Goliath snorted a spray of breath, seeing red, and flipped to his feet. He ran towards the intruder, seeing a flash of aquamarine skin through the small lanceted portal on the turret. His aim was precise as he launched seven hundred pounds of fury into the air, blind anger directing every action, and plowed through the turret wall, exploding methodically placed stone and catching Broadway unawares as he ascended the staircase. The force behind his flight coupled with their great weight inadvertently acted more as a battering ram, the gargoyles crashing clean through the other side of the turret. The entire structure weakened, it wavered, broke midway through and collapsed in a plume of dust, bringing the entire burden of the tower down upon the castle in a rain of stone.

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

The tower's pinnacle shuddered with the devastating loss of stability, and leaned, and Demona halted her fatal assault against her younger self, the counterpart bloodied and near death. A convulsion of stone, a tearing of support structures and the entire turret crumbled beneath them both. They fell, the future Demona trying if anything to stay near her target between the fragmented stones and choking smoke as they plummeted. She screamed, long and loud and endlessly vengeful, as they were parted, their forms enveloped, and into the explosion of the collapsed turret swallowing the courtyard whole.

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

As if in perfect time with the outburst a thousand years from now, fire erupted within the billows above the displaced castle dark and all foreboding, and the Guild helicopter designated Echo Two suddenly ruptured from the damage taken to the shield by the Steel Clan. The generator had overloaded and spilled from the craft's side a stream of fuel and a trail of sparks between the riveted plates of steel armor. More Cyber-Biotics drones fired as they encircled the damaged vehicle, taxing the shield to its very limits. The shield blurred and erupted, as the helicopter's fuselage burst from the side in a tendril of flame, depriving it of the greatest equalizer. The energy field dissipated outwards, an expulsion of the remnants of energy, and eventually faded away, leaving the sheen of bare, unprotected steel.

"The shield is down!" Desdemona yelled out in a jubilation barely restrained, at last an advantage in their favor.

"SHOOT IT!!!" Lexington screamed towards Mother's holographic form, a warning loud, desperate and screeching.

Swerving her form towards the helicopter, the light-bred apparition of Goliath's mother knitted her brow in seeing the advantage open up, and all available cannons turned towards the aircraft struggling to maintain itself within the air. The cannons fired onto a singular target, razing against the side and undercarriage, the pilot pulling up to just evade the fire launched from the castle's spires. With her insistent programming leading her to kill against her wishes and the direct orders given, Mother commanded all available Steel Clan robots to hurl themselves against the helicopter, using their bodies as ammunition in a desperate time, a kamikaze of hundreds of pounds of titanium alloy and weighted bulk slamming against the Guild craft.

It could no longer handle the severe punishment thrown against the armored carriage, and the massive amounts of ammunition and equipment aboard were to be its greatest downfall. The helicopter expanded outwards into a ball of flame and shrapnel and searing fire, like a star being born underneath the layers of atmosphere. A deep ruby red became the sky, amongst the steel billows of a dangerously swelling storm and raining debris down upon the parapets of the castle and the towers of the city below.

"Enjoy the trip, bastards!!" Lex cheered, as the helicopter's blazing ruins fell from the sky leaving behind a trial of oily smoke, a descent of more than two thousand feet unto the empty street below. "It's a long way down..."

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

His hand unleashed into the storefront where the clever sister had taken refuge, and she barely moved from the way as the entire building's antiquated fascia of curved brick was scraped away by a single swipe. The sister used her speed to dodge the coming blows as Set pounded into the pavement only inches from where she once stood. Constantly moving, she stood a slim chance, her mind racing for a solution as the predator sunk his large clawed hands into the pavement with the most deadly of intentions.

She needed an equalizer, she needed to bring him down to her level to better fight this creature, and seeing the physical sophistication of Set's energy-bound form, an idea suddenly struck through her technologically enhanced mind. Running from him, she aimed towards another building, where yet destroyed fell its tall windowed front, displayed of jewelry and gold and pearl behind the tempered glass, thousands of dollars of merchandise left behind when the employees fled for their lives. It did not concern her. The sister brandished an elbow, using a single blow to shatter the glass with her molten skin, the tensile strength of steel easily breaking through the near bulletproof substance. A large triangular shard, virtually as high as she stood, glistened brighter than the rest. Seeing Set's reflection behind her within the fragment, she grabbed the shard and wrenched it from the frame.

Set attacked, narrowly missing the gilded gargoyle and instead scooping out a portion of the street as if warmed butter, the determent of asphalt and steel nothing to him and his size, his density. He pulled his hand from the sidewalk and street, dragging out a few electrical and phone wires having tangled around his claws, and turned around to locate the annoyance having eluded him.

"That's it..." she whispered to none but herself. "Search for me." The sister dodged skillfully between the wreckage and debris, brandishing the glass shard in her small hands. "Try to find me, let your eyes roam the wrong way." Set looked around him, and concentrated on his environment, rather than his own body, exactly what the clever sister had hoped. She appeared from behind him, having circumnavigated around him to appear just near his left leg, the arched heel's structure making the leg dependant on the bulging rear tendons. Before Set could detect her approach, she jumped towards him, and sliced the shard through the back of Set's ankle, breaking the near-impervious membrane of his skin with a swift attack. "Achilles tendon." she announced clearly, her voice becoming slightly cold, mechanical as she ran the shard through the sapphire energy mimicking flesh, severing the ligament completely. "If severed entirely at the correct point, the entire leg becomes nearly useless." Spouting procedural jargon, she ran off to a safe distance, her assault done, having wielded her knowledge as a formidable weapon. "Balance now compromised by rendering ability to equalize oneself useless."

Set screamed in pain, and wobbled, favoring the wounded leg and swaying from side to side without the proper equilibrium.

"Subject will undoubtedly fall with such height under the pressure of such powerful gravity."

It seemed as if the street gave out beneath him, but it was in fact his wounded, useless leg that collapsed from the weight of compressed energy. Set fell, languidly, drawn out, the impact against the broken street a loud, audible, echoing clap.

The lost sister smiled underneath the golden sheath of skin. "Isn't science wonderful?"

Set howled, and tried to right himself with a leg made useless, the energy lethargic in knitting the layers of charged molecules together. He hobbled, hunched and wounded, breeding an odd, piercing squeal eventually exploding into a full scream of rage. The sister gave no quarter, knowing the energy would weave itself back together soon enough, and Set would be mobile, and the Egyptian god of anger would be furious beyond imagining. Sprinting across the street, she aimed for the fallen powerline, still channeling the electrical current into a bleed of sparks bubbling the pools of rainwater. She grabbed it, without fear of harm in her steel form and turned around only to be grasped within a massive fist.

Set had reached out and snatched her, the sister being crushed within his palm by the rabid deity crawling across the ground. "...ungh..." Under incredible pressure, the sister grunted, her lungs compressed and her internal structures being compacted. "...energy dispersal...needed..." she managed, as Set hoped to squash the little insect, grinding steel bones to powder. She kept her grip strong on the live powerline, and readied a desperate plan. Jabbing the line into his hand, he released her when the pain of the electrical current registered. He pulled away in instinct, and the clever sister dropped to the ground, stumbled, caught her breath and charged towards him. Leaping onto the fallen beast's chest, she stabbed the powerline into the churning layer of simulated skin. "The city shall revenge."

The electricity surged through him, enough energy to feed the entire city block channeling through his form, breeding a scream excruciating to her ears. The sister took the brunt of the energy as well, enveloping her skin, and trying if anything to find a weakness to exploit on a flawless, silky curvature of evolution's greatest living masterpiece. Her transformation held as did she, the technology inherent within her very cells keeping the destructive forces of electricity from burning her alive. She kept the wire lodged into his chest by any means, engulfed wholly within the electrical current.

Set's form bulged hideously, the energy mixing, growing, swelling to a breaking point, as every building and lamppost in the vicinity dimmed or burst, the power stolen and redirected. The creature squalled in pain, the shell holding back the energy of his rebirth from spilling back into the world cracking, serrated lines drawing themselves over his writhing structure, until abruptly, it burst.

And Set exploded. The energy that created him, gave birth to him, and nurtured his rampage, suddenly erupted when released from their bonds. The magical contour and appearance granted by the Egyptian orbs and the one lasting relic of the true Set that modeled his form were obliterated by the overload of power. It was a ripple in a massive pond, the excess energy inflating across the ground in a perfect circle, sweeping debris and broken husks of cars in its wake and acting more like a tidal wave slamming against the gutted buildings. The great sound of a dying wail tapered off, the light extinguished as the energy bled away into the atmosphere, leaving only the darkened street and the glow of raindrops spattering against torn asphalt.

And within the scorched epicenter, stood the lost sister, her golden skin scalding to the touch and steaming. She appeared stunned, perhaps surprised by her survival. She coughed a small puff of smoke, and then screamed, releasing the shaken rage and panic, the fear and anger, all in one consuming shriek. It soon trailed off, and the stood silently, the falling rain cooling her superheated coating. "Well," she gasped, "that was...invigorating." She looked around her, the smoke rising from the seared pavement tinged a light sapphire and glittering with the lasting remnants of Set's energy, the only light in a desolate neighborhood. "It seems...I won."

A girder snapped a few meters away from her, the foundation of a taller building giving way from the damage taken from the explosion, and it toppled from the bottom up. The sister, weakened by the ordeal, looked up, and the enormous building fell, collapsing directly on top of her.

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

Her husband shuddered, and she could see the ripple passing through his skin, but not from the blinks in time, but a deeper feeling that touched his soul. "Goliath?" Elisa asked from her place in the sky beside her lover, held by a gentle touch of magic as they flew just between the building rooftops. "What is it?"

Their eyes roamed the broken city, a feeling, an impression distant and nearly recognizable to make the lavender giant slow in his flight. "We thought we sensed something...familiar..." The winged creature looked in the direction where his sister had destroyed Set, only to be buried by the destruction wrought by the god's rampage, but shook off the pretense and focused on his goal as they approached the outer edge of the destruction. Goliath suddenly angled sharply towards the ground, a change in direction abrupt enough to make Elisa gasp and hold to her stomach in the rapid descent.

Debris, he had spotted it from far above with his keen eyes made astonishing by the boost of magic, and Elisa forcefully clenched her jaw in seeing the ruins of aircraft littered across the ground, a graveyard for the brave and foolish, having dared to test their technology against magic. The helicopters and airplanes scattered across the ruined section of Manhattan, army issue and Guild tech like broken toys abandoned by their master and left to rust within the empty streets. "Are they..."

"Dead." he answered, his senses unable to unearth any semblance of life within the jagged pieces of steel and desiccated flesh, a twisted mess where discerning human from metal was a near-impossible task. "All of them. There is nothing we can do."

"Jesus..." she mourned, moving the sodden tendrils from her eyes as Goliath slowly hovered across the remains. "All these people..."

"Will be avenged." Goliath finished, his voice dominant over Alexander's. Elisa felt the fiery exoskeleton of magic convulse and shift, and she was halted in mid-air. Goliath waved his hand, and rid himself of her presence, she being a liability he could not afford to lose. "You will be safe somewhere else."

Elisa rose quickly upwards on a tendril of emerald green, over the rooftops, and to a higher building far and yet untouched. "Goliath?" she questioned, but when landing, when approaching the building's edge to peer into the city, she knew why he had so brusquely pushed her away. He had found them, the deities hungry for consumption and ruin, led by one instinct alone, and Elisa lay her own eyes upon them for truly the first time, her breath stolen by their macabre glory, morbid in its power to hold steady her yawning gaze. The extent of the devastation they caused was unimaginable, and by Elisa's best guess it had surpassed millions of dollars, an entire chunk of city torn away and by her vantage point, the lights of Manhattan had been extinguished like some great, dark chasm. She shivered. "Be careful, Big Guy."

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

Apep heaved his long tail through a building, cleaving the structure in half and falling tons of steel and iron, the great serpent a sole destructive force, so large, and so very quick. The snake searched through the spires, wanting more playthings like the flying machines that had lay their vicious sting to his hide, and it darted back and forth, lunging its gaping jaw into the crumbled buildings and nipping quickly to dislodge any potential meal.

Septu, the Egyptian warrior and the god of war, Menhit, the lioness and the goddess of destruction, each wandered on a separate path gutting emptied buildings and forging three distinct paths from an epicenter wide and devastated. If left for long enough, they would exhaust themselves perhaps of their given energy, but not without reducing the entire island of Manhattan, and perhaps the entire city on the mainland to utter ruin. The cracks floating through the timeline as visible, perceivable interruptions had no effect on their rampage, without the capacity to understand such vehement fissures strung throughout.

And above, feeling the hiccups in reality pass through his skin with Alexander's finely tuned magical senses, a sense of urgency with each snapped strand of yet another timeline, Goliath suddenly plunged into the fray, his boldness met with power bursting from his skin. Like the frequent thrusts of lightning, he dropped directly onto Septu, toppling the enormous, humanoid energy-amalgamation by shredding his exoskeleton talons into the counterfeit god's backside. "Scream, god," they chided with a snarl, "let us hear the tortured cry of false divinity." Septu bellowed and staggered, the fires of escaping energy bleeding from his back, and he fell away, only to reveal Goliath to Menhit.

The lioness licked her lips in seeing fresh prey, a moving target with the audacity to fight back, and she could not readily resist the primal challenge. She leapt forwards, and swiped at Goliath, who dodged her deadly claws shearing through the energy field surrounding him. He turned and found the lioness upon him quickly, mouse to her cat, and on the receiving end of a wide paw.

He ended up against a skeleton of severed girders, and cleared his vision quickly enough to avoid losing his very head as Menhit attacked with no quarter, striking sharpened claws of energy across his chest. He stunned the beast by blasting against her chest a beam of energy and rolled between her fore legs to end up underneath. He struck lightning quick and thunder hard to her belly, uprooting the cat and knocking her over. She rolled, he followed, they danced anew, equal in strength and agility they traded talons to each other's flesh. One particular swipe proved nasty, and Goliath cringed at the wound, and snorted. "Enough of this." He unleashed another beam towards her, an unyielding sum, knocking the animal clean away and into a building, the lioness' durable, sapphire shell exploding clean through the battle-damaged spire. It shuddered on its last legs and collapsed with the requisite support structures completely severed, and Goliath watched the creature disappear into a plume of smoke and debris.

A massive set of jaws suddenly enclosed around him, surprising the gargoyle human merge with such speed. Apep clenched its jaws into Goliath's body and pressed the two massive fangs against his stomach and neck, compressing flesh with the pressure to shatter steel. "...ungh..." As Elisa watched fearfully from above, Apep lifted Goliath into the air, strutting the gargoyle as a prize taken by force and violently shaking the helpless being in its mouth back and forth. Unable to puncture the exoskeleton of magical energy wrapped around the lavender gargoyle, Apep threw him towards another building, the speed creating a projectile from the gargoyle's density, and Goliath crumpled the entire southern wall. It folded in on itself, burying the hero beneath gallant principles that fell short and several tons of steel and brick.

"Goliath!!" Elisa screamed from above, her voice all but drowned in the storms, and all but lost in the chaos of the battle.

A portion of toppled building exploded outwards, as the gargoyle fought his way from the wreckage, perhaps more angered than injured, and used the mighty limbs to knock any piece of debris away no matter how heavy or thick. He licked the trickle of blood from the corner of mouth as the great snake snapped forwards, curling the bulk of its long, serpentine form around the edges of the rubble where Goliath stood. "Your master will not prevail..."

The serpent's head wavered back and forth, a wary stance of a predator locking eyes with its prey, and abruptly lunged forwards again, opening his jaw to completely devour the gargoyle whole and swallow into its belly.

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

Another disruption in reality played havoc with his suit's systems, a blink wiping away even the memory of such impressive technology for a moment in time, and then, returning the flow to normal. Xanatos angled towards where the homing beacon had traced Elisa's last known position, his gifts of the commlinks having come with a price, a tracker in each tying them all to the threads on his fingers like marionettes, a fallback among many, the billionaire meticulous, almost compulsive, in his preparation for all contingencies.

From his vantage, he could see firsthand the startling scale of damage done to his city, extending in a radius nearly a mile wide, and he cursed beneath his mask the master of these creatures tearing up the island city. He descended in the darkness, a quiet chasm of devastation, having followed the homing beacon's trace that abruptly ended here. Why he did not know, and unbeknownst to him, it was the energy field of his own son that disrupted the beacon's steady signal, and that disguised Elisa's path taken with the fusion of her husband and the billionaire's only offspring. He trawled through the debris, cautious in his step to avoid any sort of detection from his allies staunch in their trust of him, and perhaps foolish.

He emerged from the wreckage and onto the periphery of the crater left from a fiery tumble from the heavens, and found vindication at the sight of a gruesome crucifixion. "Isn't this amusing?" he crowed smoothly, his voice like silk and his eyes containing a rare moment of enjoyment in a time of battle and a threat to all reality. It was a little bit of validity in seeing Sobek skewered to a raised chunk of bedrock, and helpless. And so, it was a slow, deliberate gait, to fully relish the view of the immortal strung up by girders pierced through his hands and legs and chest, and soaked by the pouring rain. He eventually stood directly beneath him, hands nonchalantly held behind his back and watching for any signs of life.

Sobek stirred, and growled at his audience.

"How the mighty have fallen."

The Egyptian struggled at his bonds, and glared from beneath a jagged brow of exposed bone.

"I'm lucky not to have been disemboweled after I disabled the Eyrie's defensive shield." Xanatos revealed, as Sobek perked up. "One would think my business partner would arrive on time when I provide a suitable window of opportunity. The Guild's dismantling of my home would have made perfect cover." Xanatos raised his arms, baring the lasers from his forearms and aiming them at Sobek. "Where the hell have you been?"

Sobek could only smile in the fun he had shared with Goliath, an intricate revenge only barely sated, and only barely begun. "...playing..."

"Your little amusement has placed a rather large hole in this city, and killed hundreds if not thousands of people!"

"...I fail...to see your point..."

"You are truly a detestable creature." His mask's visor located the precise locations on where to fire, Goliath's crucifix a pleasurable piece of work in its impenetrable simplicity. "This may sting." he warned, as the streams erupted crimson from the barrels, compressed energy biting into flesh. Xanatos aimed strategically with full power channeled through his lasers, cutting loose Sobek from his bonds by liquefying the skin pierced by the girders, without a care for the tremendous pain caused by his heartless act. Sobek's extremities having caught fire and completely burned away, he had almost freed the immortal, hanging limply by the single, larger girder impaled through his chest. A lone blast exploded the flesh from around the steel construction implement, and Sobek fell to the ground, a cavernous hole in his torso and his arms and legs horribly burned and forcefully amputated.

The lapping flames being slowly doused from the rain, Sobek coughed, the cavity reforming lungs to breathe, and pulled the bloody stumps that used to be his hands to his chest. He raised his eyes to the billionaire, who merely stowed his weapons and hesitantly, vigilantly, offered a hand to the handless. A cruel joke indeed.

"If you're at last finished playing around," said Xanatos calmly, staring down the mutated creature smelling of decay, who smiled back, "we have a deal to discuss."

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

His vision severely smeared by Iliana's Magnum and the shot taken point blank to the head, the Guild pointman saw only the blurred image of Annika's wings protruding from her surgical gown, a rich blush against the sterility of the surgical bay. It was enough. He razed a trembled blast across the operating table with his damaged aim, directly between Dr. Pierce and Annika and inches from Rose's lifeless body. Pierce immediately draped himself over Rose, her stomach left open and bleeding onto his gloved hands, as Annika moved away and intentionally became the target to lead the Guild member's aim away from her patient, and revealed mother-in-law.

"Bastard!" she snarled, slamming him up against the wall to relieve him of his gun. But the shield held against her fists, drenched in Rose's blood and leaving pale streaks of amethyst across the layering of energy as she tried in vain to inflict any damage. Her hand wrapped around his wrist, his gun flooded wildly into the surgical bay, spreading fire into the sterile chamber. "Don't you care about the woman lying on that table dying?!" she hissed through the thick material of her surgical mask.

"If she's your ally," the pointman responded blandly, "then she's our enemy."

"Like I've never heard that before."

"Damnit..." Pierce muttered, forced to continue the operation lest Rose bleed to death under the care of his scalpel. Single-handedly, as Annika and the Guild member struggled around him, fighting with equal strength through evolution and technology, he pieced together the nun's ruptured insides, using all of his skills to make a blur of his hands. They pushed against him in their dance of death, and he nearly severed a vital artery. "Damnit..." He grabbed a clamp and used the suction tube to clear his way through the labyrinth of entrails, as the constant monitor once pulsing with a steady beat grew dangerously erratic, threatened by a reckless barrage of gunfire. "Annika, get him out of here!!"

"I'm trying!!" Annika screamed, her concern gallantly misplaced, for her patient and not for herself. He was strong, with the shield acting as an exoskeleton he overpowered her against the far wall, using his leverage to slowly lower the gun barrel towards her masked face.

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

An odd couple, now brought together in the midst of battle, both Delilah and Iliana handled another Guild member, hearing the desperate cry erupt from the open door to the surgical bay. Where one would distract and lure his attack towards them, the other would use the advantage to assail upon the shielded man either their claws or a well-placed bullet. They could not, as much as they wished, aid their comrade, or they would leave themselves dangerously vulnerable to an attack.

Bronx had one man down on the floor, struggling to shred his teeth through the field as the man yelped in fear from having his stomach possibly ripped apart from the beast hungrily snapping and slobbering across the shield. Hudson now grappled with agent White, throwing the human over an empty bed and only to discover the thin man rolling away and opening up with his gun from a comfortable distance. Hudson deflected the beams with his sword doubling as an effective shield, the old soldier's reflexes sharp, and enough to keep him from losing an important body part. "Yuir a persistent little bastard, aren't ye?!" he growled through fanged teeth, a sense of humor acerbic, but truthful nonetheless.

White would not allow the creature the dignity of a reply, and continued his assault against the large gargoyle advancing upon him, brandishing the damnable sword that waved and lunged against him with a speed almost blurring to the senses. He found no humor in this situation, especially when faced against what he knew to be an experienced soldier.

"Dinna have anythin' t' say, laddie?!" he growled, his eyes burning white, his adrenaline and grief transforming the yielding Scottish brogue to a guttural snarl. "Dinna ye have any famous passages like all th' other would be conquerors?!" White was herded back towards the hospital entrance, as Hudson seemed to effectively employ the brunt of his rage into speed and fury. His sword cleaved through the ENG, missing White by a hair's breadth and reducing a thousand dollar machine to a useless, smoking trinket with its entrails sprawled across the linoleum. "Ye bastards killed me son! Ye took him from his mother b'fore he had th' chance t' live!" The anger emerged when presented with the chance for revenge, a promise made long ago to avenge his bloodline, ended by a single bullet guided by the motive of blind hatred. "Ye robbed me of my son!!"

The vacant mask concealed a smile in a victory gone unnoticed, but appreciated. "We killed your son?" he echoed the statement with a chilled glee. "Good. All monsters deserve such a fate."

He exploded with fire from his lungs and through his veins, and using his strength enhanced by undiluted fury, he heaved his sword as an extension of his bulging body against White's shield, bringing down blow after repeated blow on the human now left with no choice but to cower beneath vengeance taken a physical form, against justice for a dead child. "YE ROBBED ME OF MY SON!!! An' by his blood, yuill go t' meet whatever maker spawned ye!!" In some way, he was using this man as the object to channel everything that threatened to burst from him, as Hudson continually drove his blade into the thin layer of energy coating the masked human, each powerful blow meant to kill.

White struggled to reload his emptied weapon under each blow, the energy field keeping him alive only just. The shield suddenly dissipated from the stress, and White found himself unarmed, and exposed to the infirmary air and the acrid, stale stench of anesthetic. He raised his eyes into the gnarled silhouette, the specter of death having chosen a fitting form. Hudson tightened to the grip on his sword, wanting for an end, for the cessation of the burning pain centered in his chest.

"Hudson, don't do this!" Maria screamed from the laboratory doorway where Graeme and Ariana stood helplessly behind, having watched from the safety of obscurity Hudson descend to a lesser creature, the fabricated depiction of convincing Guild propaganda. "Hudson!!" She held a hand across her healing stomach, and knew her words alone would not tear the elder gargoyle away from the singular manifestation of all Guild.

A horrific yelp of pain echoed into the entire hospital, as Bronx was shot directly in the stomach, and thrown off of the Guild member treating the gargoyle beast more like a tangible nightmare, an apparition to be wiped away without mercy or care. "Get the fuck away from me!!" a frenzied scream erupted. He rose, backing away from the wounded beast huddled in the corner of the room. He turned towards where the gargoyle had cornered his superior, and capitalized on the advantage, firing against the creature's back. Hudson fell to a single knee in the numbing pain, as his flesh smoldered and bubbled from the energy blast, the scent of his own burning skin repulsive. White used the respite to at last reload his weapon, and aimed it towards the gargoyle, only to be delivered upon by a closed fist swung wildly but true to its intended target. By Hudson's hand, he was thrown through the hospital's plate glass window, shattering into a thousand shards that rained a deadly transparency into the hallway. He landed in the corridor and against the opposite wall, his threat ended.

Without a care to the trail of stitches running the length of her midsection or any hesitation of the consequence, Maria ran towards the other Guild member and using her own fragile form to collide with the shield, she interrupted the aim towards her onetime lover, sparing him another fatal blast. Angered, the man retaliated against the human who dared to protect the creatures by slapping her across the face with the back of his fist. She mewled in pain and hit the floor hard, her soft cry a herald to the gargoyle who turned his attentions towards the good captain's attacker.

Hudson lunged forwards, and with the sheer lasting strength he held, drove his sword directly through the energy field, spearing the fragile man incased within. Hudson stared him down as the reality hit, and the cold blade grew warm when immersed in his innards. Disrupted, the shield dissolved around him, and as Hudson pulled the sword from the man's belly with a sickly scrape, he fell, his mask separating from his face when collapsing to the floor.

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

Iliana was pushed back, rolling across the hospital floor to avoid the stream of bullets chewing up the flooring and nearly shredding her prized leather jacket. She fired back, the bullets following precisely the targeting laser and impacting against the Guild member's shield each with a pained scream, inflicting damage in their suicidal path but not enough to disrupt the shield and its power source. Her ammunition casing ran dry, the Magnum left without a bite, and Iliana stared up into the advancing Guild. "Heh," she smiled sweetly, hoping if anything to charm her way from an impending death, "oops. Sorry about the whole 'trying to put a hole in you' thing."

He towered over her, the mask unwavering in dark sentiment. He did not appreciate the taunt.

"What?! Hitler had a great sense of humor with that moustache of his, where's yours?!"

He raised his gun, allowing his own laser to follow up her stomach, neck and face, to center on her forehead. She swore she saw the mask actually sneer.

Iliana shuddered. "It was the Hitler crack, wasn't it?" He depressed the trigger, and only with Iliana's reaction, did she survive the onslaught of charged energy directed towards her with near the speed of sound by rolling away. "Uhm...HELP?!!!"

From nowhere, a right hook, devastating, speed and swiftness and recent training her best weapon besides that of instincts inherited by a hunter and a detective. Delilah nearly pulled his head from his shoulders behind the power of her strike, the impact felt even through the shield. Again and again, without giving him the chance to recover from the blows, Delilah herded him towards the window. "Flying is considered to be the ultimate freedom." she urged, more a warning than any sort of jest or witty banter. Her hands clutched into his chest, she pushed him back and through the armored plating of the hospital window. Using her strength and his momentum, he tore through the sealed portal with the slightest of effort. "Be free." Into the storms he fell, into the cradle of rain and winds swelled and furious, descending several thousand feet to where slick black asphalt would greet him at the fatal speed of three hundred miles per hour, the shield laughably aerodynamic. His terrified expression would say more than his scream, trailing off, as the distance grew too great, and the thunder too great for his voice to be heard.

"Bad ass, Delilah." grumbled Iliana, rubbing a hand across the bandage having salved her wounded skin from the apartment explosion. "But I'm not complaining, only that you cut the whole protection thing a little close." Lightheaded, and still weak, she found a copper-hued hand suddenly fall into view. Delilah offered, and she accepted begrudgingly, holding her features into a reluctant sneer at being saved by this woman especially. "How come you get to say the cool lines?"

"I'm the heroine." the clone answered composedly, with the hint of a smirk. "You're just the annoying sidekick."

Iliana frowned, a deep, resenting grimace lost to the gargoyle having turned around and fled towards the surgical bay. "Gabrielle to your Xena?!" Iliana snapped loudly. "I don't think so..."

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

Annika struggled as best she could, the gun barrel slowly edging its way towards her covered face. Every move she made to counter the resistance he placed against her with the power of the energy shield was skillfully blocked, her body arched over a piece of surgical equipment and unable to exert needed force to push him back and away from her.

He stayed damnably silent, the Guild pointman, doing his job as he was entrusted, to silently stalk and kill any resistance to his cause. Another flash passed through them, but the focus on each combatant was to best the other, and thus, the damage in reality went disregarded.

Annika nudged him back with a turned shoulder and using the extra space, slipped her hand across his chest and grabbed for the gun. Her fingers disengaged the locking mechanism and she pulled quickly and expertly the energy ammunition chamber from the stalk, collapsing the gun into three separate pieces. Before the shock of disarmament was forced upon the pointman, Annika had reached behind her and grabbed for the equipment that had prodded painfully into her back. Defibrillator paddles.

Fully charged for external defibrillation lest the current patient take a turn for the worse, and by Pierce's near-compulsive preparedness, Annika brandished them one in each hand, the wicked smile held beneath the white, sterile cotton of the surgical mask. The Guild man, recuperating from the sudden loss of his rifle, held up his hands to deflect the new weapon. Annika pressed the paddles into each of his palms, and unleashed the full charge of the powerful battery.

The electricity coursed through the man's shield, stinging flesh and nerve impulses and sending a numbing coldness through his body. The surge of energy threw him back, against the wall where Iliana and Delilah had caught the latter half of the scuffle, watching from the doorway. Laid to the floor and helpless, the pointman jerked and convulsed inside the scrambled shield, spittle draining from the breathing slits in his mask as his brain fried within his skull.

Annika hooked a talon to the edge of her mask, and pulled it away to reveal large, red lips curled into a vindictive smile.

"Hey!" Pierce cried out as Annika looked up from the fallen Guild member. "Those were meant to save lives, not to bake fascists!"

She shrugged innocently, "It worked, didn't it? Besides, I don't think we have the luxury of choice in any weapon we find."

Seeing the pieces of the Guild weapon sprawled across the floor, and her face expressing all the amazement words could never breathe, Iliana then whispered, "How did you do that?"

Annika's eyebrows flickered, denoting a repugnance in the fact Crowe's childhood training was at last used, and in her favor. "Daddy thought it best to train his little girl in the arts of war."

"Well if you're finished electrocuting the bad guys, Annika," Pierce's voice broke through, his hands buried wrist deep inside of Rose's midsection, "I could use your help here." Annika moved immediately back to the table, resuming her nursing duties. "Clamp."

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

"Jesus Christ..." Elisa gasped, having just witnessed her husband become a meal for the creature released into the city. "...Goliath."

Apep raised its trunk into the storms and sprayed venom in an insolent hiss, a show of triumph, with a recovered Menhit constantly circling, wary of the presence she sensed. The serpent king but paused in its glory, an itch traveling the length of its stem and it looked down, as a hump expanded in its skin, the barrier containing the energy bulging hideously.

An eruption of emerald light pierced the darkened sky, as a single beam of compressed energy tore through Apep's energy shell. The mimicry of flesh was disintegrated on a molecular level, burned away by the intense heat and power contained from the blast clearing a path for an angry, godlike creature. Goliath spurted from the hole in Apep's stomach, a prospective grave, and tumbled to the ground, covered in a glowing sapphire ooze. "A worthy try." said the two beings fused into one, their breaths heavy and short, as Apep moaned in pain and wavered, the energy flowing freely from the massive wound carved in its side, bleeding the same fluids covering Goliath.

"We have studied Egyptian lore extensively," he growled, "and your predecessors would be ashamed of the slivers stolen from their souls." The ground shivered, trembled and shook, the core of the tremors Goliath himself, focusing the ancient energy flooding his arteries and adrenal glands, and Menhit, the lioness, backed off slowly, sensing the energy patterns of this adversary change radically. "You are not gods, only manifestations, mere collections of roaming energy molecules released by a madman." The sorcery exoskeleton expanded and surged and created a wave of energy come Goliath's cry. "But we are flesh, blood and fire, and the living embodiment of vengeance for every soul taken by your hands tonight." In this barren rift, he would not fear innocent within the crossfire and let loose the unbridled energy to capture both Menhit and the injured Apep within its wake.

From her place atop the building, Elisa had to shield her eyes from the release of energy so great, she could feel the temperature rise considerably in the dampened air, a temperate glow radiating across her hands. It was if an explosion had claimed downtown Manhattan, heat and light a destructive force wielded expertly. It died down as quickly as it had flared, and Elisa blinked several times to readjust her eyes, and look back down into the chasm to see a lone figure resting within a fifty foot wide scorch mark. "God damn."

Resting on his hands and knees, every breath rasped and pained, Goliath took a moment to refresh his quickly draining power reserves, the battery of a fay hybrid running on near empty. "Gods would not dissolve so easily."

A spearhead stomped to the ground from the corner of his eye, a presence making itself known. Goliath turned his neck, to see another figure emerge from the stripped forest of broken buildings. Septu had returned, his injury breeding a trail of fire down his neck and back like a horse's mane, the shell damaged and cracked. But like a true warrior, he forged ahead, the enemy his primary concern and the one driving thought behind his renewed existence.

"Ah yes," Goliath whispered, almost having forgotten about the last surviving creature, "the warrior." He was hunched, the physical form inhabited by two souls haggard and drained, and where the wings fashioned of sorcery touched to lavender flesh, it bled, matching trails seeping slowly down his knotted, muscular back. "We did not think you would be the last."

Septu charged with his spear, and nearly missed the recuperating Goliath, who seemed lethargic in any response but to dodge the famed weapon revived alongside its master, perhaps a piece of the very article itself that grew this spawn in the fields of sowed Egyptian energy. It cleaved into the ground, and split the earth with little effort as Goliath rolled out of the way. The spear caught him in the upswing as he tried in vain to dodge the quick weapon, slapping the small figure away as if an insect in comparison. He evaded with a twist of his torso the spear, the wind screaming and severed by the mighty thrust.

"Damnit, Goliath," Elisa muttered, trapped atop the building's peak and watching helplessly as her husband made no attempt at an offense, "what are you doing?"

"We are stalling." he answered a question borne of frustration and somehow heard from hundreds of meters away. He allowed the giant warrior to stalk him, and stood directly underneath when the gap between the last two combatants quickly closed, his only movement consisting of an extended hand. Septu took notice. "Do you feel that?"

A strange expression washed over the warrior god's face that halted his attack. Pain.

"I see you now notice the strange sensation tugging within your chest." the winged creature taunted the suffering deity, though sober. Goliath slowly closed his fist, his long talons tucking into the thick palm. "We have placed our best approximation of a small, controlled black hole inside of you, and we admit," his fist clenched, shaking slightly with the exertion of magic subtle in its application, but destructive in its consequence, "we are intrigued to see the results."

The forces of gravity pulled the energy towards a single point within his torso, and Septu's form distorted, and collapsed in on itself, a violent demise quick, and undoubtedly painful. It took only seconds for the sapphire-hued energy to implode within a sinkhole with gravitational forces so great as to consume even the light from its immediate surroundings. The giant was emaciated, and stripped of his size and magnificence by a conduit sucking the life from him, and ending the last of Sobek's creations with an audible pop, blinking from existence.

Goliath fell to his knees, as a river of blood flowed across his tongue and ran hot onto the wetted pavement, the merged creature resting in the rain of energy particles, the lasting remnants of a fashioned god. Internal injuries, and an insufficient feed of life-sustaining magic to keep healed a damaged body, Goliath was weakening far beyond even Alexander's capabilities. He raised his hands, shimmering, his entire physical presence fading from the unwinding of time, and faced death on two fronts. "A useless exercise." he sighed, his eyes burning despondently. "USELESS!!!" His tortured scream echoed into the vacant wastes, a gravesite for hundreds unfortunate not to escape a petty vengeance wrought upon him, and thus, his province. Such devastation on a staggering degree, it was a meaningless death for any human that now lay beneath the layers of rubble. "Sobek..." Goliath lifted off into the air, tugging Elisa from her rooftop perch with a flick of his fingers and lashing her to his side. "Sobek will pay for this."

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

Demona desperately forced the pile of broken stones from her body, and emerged into a violet sky, suckling the fresh air and franticly scanning the turret debris for her prey. Through the settling cloud of dust she found her, from the scent of blood, and the trail of red fluids painting the barren stone, and Demona leapt towards her younger self, who had managed to stray from the brunt of the tower's collapse by sheer, dumb luck. Bleeding herself, and hurt, she nonetheless continued her manic tirade unaffected by the collapse of the main Wyvern turret and caught the younger gargoyle crawling away to any sense and form of safety. "No, demon!!" she hissed, and clutched to her counterpart's lacerated neck. "Your fate is already decided..."

Near them, a pile of stone exploded upwards and filled the sky, as Goliath uncovered both himself and Broadway with his wings lifting the tonnage from his body, entangled within the heavy debris. Disoriented, all he saw when attracted to the nearby commotion was a version of his mate attacking ruthlessly a pulpy mass beneath her. "My love...?"

Bruised and scratched, the blood seeping into the thin layering of dust, Broadway shook off the fall, and though dazed, he pushed past Goliath to run towards Demona. But Goliath caught him, and they resumed their struggle, each trying to reach the battling duo first at all costs. "Get off me, damnit!!" Broadway yelled, Goliath's massive arms clenched firmly underneath his shoulders and impossible to budge. "That's not your mate!"

"You think me dull-witted, fool?!"

He flickered again, his body phasing from existence. "No, just goddamned persistent!"

And from the stairway beyond, Sata emerged, battle-weary and spent, the remainder of the Wyvern clan still conscious from her attack quick on the intruder's heels. She spotted Demona promptly just beyond in a clearing, the fury of her cries unmistakable and drawing. "Demona!!"

"Think of your children, samurai," the cerulean-skinned gargoyle yelled to the advancing gargoyle, her warning serving to halt Sata's approach, "let them be your last memory." She held by her talons her younger self, dying and unable to even move, let alone mount a defense. "For they will no longer exist after I am finished. And for that I am sorry."

The very thought of losing her children, for never having shared a moonlit night with her mate in their conception sent a shiver through her wings, and thus, Sata held her place obediently, but watchful. "You cannot do this..." she pleaded, hoping there was a spark left within the creature of vengeance clutching her talons into her mirror's neck. A mere twitch, perhaps a flick of her wrist, and time would rupture with the younger Demona's spine.

Seeing Demona ready herself, Broadway cried out, "Demona, no!!"

"Demona?" Goliath tested the strange word as he relented his attack, seeing the form beneath what he thought his mate tremble with a bare sliver of life. He discovered to his horror, the limp figure was she, the sharer of his soul, and the holder of his dreams and destiny clutched within the claws of a distorted mirror image. He released Broadway completely to become an observer, allowing the time-displaced gargoyle to wade closer to Demona. The Wyvern clan having braved Sata's attack filtered onto the courtyard, but with Goliath's forthright gesture to back off, they withdrew to a safe position, as confused as their leader.

"Don't you see what's happening to us?!" Broadway tried again, slowly stepping over the rubble from the fallen tower towards Demona, the gargess wary of his movement towards her. "To all of us?!" He held up his hand, a flicker passing through the flesh. "We're fading away, becoming nothing! Because of what you're doing!"

Demona smiled in her victory, her hand, her entire body phasing as well, walking a fine line in between existence and nothingness. "Good," she whispered triumphantly, "that means I am so very close to setting right all that went wrong."

"Don't you see?! Your one decision made our entire future, your one decision to help your clan saved billions and ended an entire war that would have condemned human and gargoyle alike!" yelled Broadway, trying desperately to convince her, to do anything that would release her hand from around the neck of her younger self. "The defeat of Madoc, the first hybrid child born of gargoyle and human, the release of the guardian spirit!!" As Goliath watched on helplessly, Broadway crept closer, keeping a continuous dialogue to distract, and convince if possible. "Everything is heaped on top of that one decision, layers upon layers of conscious choice and fated encounters, and without it, you would condemn billions to death before they even live! You'll either alter everything that allowed us to win that war, or absolutely destroy this timeline itself!"

"I know." she warned, cognizant it seemed of her actions. "It is not destruction, it is restoration. We are all an anomaly in a broken stream of time, a singular mistake by my pride," her eyes flicked behind her quickly to gain sight of Broadway, "so please, save your whine."

"My mating to Angela wasn't a mistake, neither was my life with her. You'd kill Elisa, Trinity, and a whole world not yet to be...is this what you want?"

"Yes."

"And what about Todd?" whispered Sata from behind her, unrequited love an even better weapon than her sword, and Demona's brow quivered in just the name spoken.

Hesitance played on her face, regret at last. "Todd?"

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

The Epsilon's gatlings were unleashing their fury against Black, the Guild leader running from the endless stream of ammunition tearing across the castle rooftops, between the ancient stone overhangs and crooks of turrets and darkened, drooping bartizans, slick by rain, treacherous by their sharply angled slopes. Todd fired relentlessly with every weapon he had available, but he seemed to be set against an enemy superior in tactics and speed, able to presume his attacks before he even made them, and blend into the twisted shapes and contours of Wyvern's highest rooftops and disappear. "Slick bastard..." He relented the gatlings, the heavy barreled pipes hanging from each forearm winding down and hissing steam, and stowed them quickly to the sculpted brackets on his shoulder blades, to gain back better maneuverability on this precarious field. He hunted through eyes of technology, searching through the wetted darkness with his infrared. But Black's shield scattered any discernable sign of heat, and the lightning constantly streaking the sky made such an advantage utterly useless. "Where are you?!" he growled, stalking warily and hungrily, and brandishing his suit's unsheathed knifes against any shadow daring to move.

Lightning tore through the stirs of violet, velvet fog, and Black slipped from his concealment firing into Todd's back, his weapon powerful and doing impressive damage to the thickly armored suit. Todd cringed, the impression of pain not detrimental, but sudden, and enough to throw off his balance and whatever composure he had managed to hold onto. He turned and fired with the suit's lasers, but missed, Black a specter already gone. Thunder rolled across the blanket of storms, confusing the suited human and allowing Black another opening as he circled around. Into Todd's chest came channeled energy, scorching the armored plating. "And here I thought this would be a challenge!" he yelled to the suit's operator over the primal roar of the storm and its constant expulsion of rain.

"I've been thrown through tables by guys punier than you..." Todd muttered, extending to fire, but Black quickly moved into the field of his reach and knocked his arm and aim away, using the shield to pummel his fists into premeditated joints in the Epsilon's shell, attacking the weaknesses he knew from years of experience in weaponries. His long-range weapons rendered virtually useless, Todd tried in vain to retaliate versus Black's quick moves, his shield powerful, perhaps more than any other Guild member, and allowing him to become a weapon himself, living, breathing, thinking dirty urban warfare.

"You're a damned novice!" berated Black, easily dodging the razor sharp swords from such close range, though the divided blades on each arm came far too close for him to surrender his offense. Todd's fighting ability was impressive for a self-learned barroom brawler, but predicable to a veteran of pain and wars this host of the winged mechanical beast could ever imagine, and Black capitalized with every misplaced thrust Todd put forth. "Why they allowed someone like you to defend this place is beyond me! Better have a mindless automaton expend its batteries than risk the life of a rookie!" Close quarter fighting required a skilled expert, and Black seemed to enjoy the fact the ultimate potential of this imposing suit was not being exercised, as it should be.

He was partly wrong.

Todd swung determinedly and backhanded the shielded man with enough force to collapse a small car, the strength delivered impacting against the shield and nearly crumpling the energy layer around a stunned Black, who tumbled back and down the rooftop slope. "No one calls me a rookie, you little bitch!!" Todd followed quickly, too stubborn and livid to relent the fight, and leapt towards him, Black rolling from a clawed foot crushing stone and steel shingling. He stood to catch Todd's hands falling down to exact whatever twisted desire the suit would grant, and they struggled against one another, each vying for dominance. "Why won't you die?!!" screamed the boy within the steel enclosure a mimic of demon.

"I can't die!" Black strained to answer, the physical strength sheer and near overwhelming. "I'm an idea, a religion, a revolution in human philosophy! We are unity by force, and peace by elimination of everything deviant that threatens humanity!" Through the frosted eyeslits of his mask, Black shot fire towards this stubborn impediment, unable to fathom why he fought so hard to defend the breeding grounds for monsters. "We can't die, I can't die, and what makes you think you will be the one to dare make the attempt?"

Todd sidestepped and gained an advantage with his clawed feet, using the traction to push Black backwards into an adjoining wall, crumbling the stonework. "I'm not bowing down to some fucking tyrant flying a Guild flag on a pile of dead bodies!"

"You can't fight the grand designs of evolution!!"

"Watch me."

Their private battle waged on, each fighter ignoring the storms just above them, nearly touching them in its proximity and reaching down to swipe at them with bursts of celestial brilliance and cleansing fire, making white the world of darkness underneath the heel of nature.

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

"That brash, unruly young man who transformed every conviction you held for the human race." Sata continued, edging even closer in a moment of uncertainty. "Who opened that darkness within you, and stole your heart while you both dined on blueberry crepes and chilled wine at your favorite Manhattan bistro. I know you care for him, I know you...love him."

Demona closed her mouth, biting her lip to unsuccessfully keep it from shaking and spilling the truth. "With...all that I am..."

"Will you condemn him to a future ruled by Madoc and the Unseelie?" she maintained the dialogue, creeping closer. The others held their breath, without any suspicion to the ramifications of this drama playing out before them. "Will you condemn him to slavery under a despotic fay?!"

"He is strong! He will survive!"

Sata shook her head, and hoped to make Demona understand in her fractured emotional state. "Would he survive the destruction of this timeline? Either by Madoc's rule or the end of reality, the human you love would die."

Tears coursed, breathing slowed, the weight of her heart pressing against her chest making difficult any response. The pain was blinding, paralyzing to emotion and any thought beyond the quest to rid herself of that all-consuming agony. "...I...I don't care."

"Yes, you do." Broadway interjected, almost directly opposite Sata and carefully treading through the broken remains of the turret. "You're more than this. Better. You've come so far, become a part of our clan more than anyone ever realized..."

"I HAVE NO CLAN!!!" the demon snarled, tightening her grip on her younger counterpart's throat, and sending a strong, vanquishing ripple through the time travelers' flesh. "I have no ties to that pitiable brood of misfits and machines, I never did, and never will. I will save my daughter from the death she was doomed to...or I will end all of my pain in one fell swoop and Angela and I will be reunited! In every conceivable path, it will be a glorious climax."

Sata was unbelieved of the words, the glacial tone used by the transformation of Demona into something far more volatile. "To save Angela you will kill Todd?! You will obliterate Elisa's daughter for your own?!" Her eyes erupted red, and she dug her heels into the stone floor. "You would dare kill my children and risk everything that is because you continually, childishly blame yourself?!!"

Demona was beyond listening to the attempts to save what should not have been, steadying her gaze to the mewling female beneath her. "To watch eternity implode with a billion stars rupturing all at once will be a grand exploration of my deepest desires, samurai." Her talons sunk beneath the flesh of the beaten angel of the night, crushing an already severed larynx to constrict the airflow and tremble the weakened strands of time. The flashes grew stronger, more determined to wipe the travelers from their incursion into a time almost sacred in the span of history. "To see my daughter risen from the ashes is a final gift to her, as is this demon's death..." she paused, realizing she had treated her younger self as a separate entity, "my death, an assurance she shall live free and safe. You were good to her, Broadway, and for that...I am thankful." Both her hands curled to the battered flesh and starved the young gargoyle of oxygen, crushing her throat, esophagus and spinal cord.

Sata was an instant blur set into motion by instinct alone, snapping from her place and tearing towards Demona with breakneck speed. Broadway watched from his vantage, too far to affect an attempt to aid the daring ronin, and as if time pulled back to allow a better view, the jade gargoyle slowed in her desperate leap. He could see the flecks of dust kicked up by her movement, he could see the flesh being punctured by Demona's claws, he swore he could even see the air ripple across his senses and discern the spark of oblivion being readied to envelop all of them.

Sata collided with Demona, brushing against the demon with her weight coupled with the speed of her wild dash, the combination enough to oust Demona from her throne of bloodied flesh. The two females tumbled across the courtyard, as Broadway ran towards them and Goliath to his mate, her beaten body left to drown within a slick of her own blood.

"GET AWAY FROM ME!!!" screamed Demona, enraged, struggling violently and ferociously against Sata, barely holding the belligerent gargoyle down. She raked her claws against Sata's cheek, and escaped from underneath her to reach into her loincloth, an object hidden within the white folds of fabric, only to be tackled by Broadway and the tremendous girth he used effectively. The phoenix gate fell from her belt, once clipped securely and now free, it skipped and rolled across the courtyard, a useless trinket wobbling to a stop. A small, simple revolver appeared as well, an antique amongst a usually favored modern cache joining the gate as it clattered onto the ground unseen by the travelers, a last resort if Demona was unable to undo all with her bare hands. "No!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!"

"You won't bring her back!!" he yelled, wrapping around her to restrain her flailing limbs tearing across his skin. "And I won't let you take even my memories away from me! It's all I have left of her!"

Demona howled, a chilling, deafening wail that echoed far and wide and across the Scottish cliffs and unto the Atlantic sea. But Broadway held firm against her violent protests, holding it seemed a force of nature against his chest, one wracked with ten times a lifetime of pain. He eyed Goliath carefully drawing his mate into the breadth of his arms, offering comfort to a gargoyle alive only just, the timeline secured with every rasped breath she coaxed into her punctured lungs. "Grab the gate!!" he yelled to Sata, trying desperately to keep a hold on Demona's legs. "Let's get the hell out of here!"

Sata hesitated from letting go, then lunged to pluck the gate from the stones. She took only a moment to decipher the rudimentary controls, and breathed mystical fire from her hands as the gate summoned a portal back into the twenty first century. It vibrated strangely, and grew hot, Sata noticed, it was pulsing with life.

Broadway attempted to lead a resistant Demona towards the portal, a difficult task like holding living fire, but remained vigilant in his direction forwards. "We're done here."

"No," Demona whispered, "not yet." She slashed her claws across the resilient skin of his stomach, and Broadway screamed out in pain. She forced a spurred elbow into his face and he dropped her when blinded. Both she and the samurai reacted immediately, Sata for Demona, and Demona for the gun. The cerulean-skinned scooped the revolver from the stones and whirled around, and as Sata quickly reached to snatch the weapon away, it fired with deadly pinpoint accuracy. Sata caught hold a moment too late, as the bullet traveled in less than the blink of an eye towards its target. It hit its mark, the younger Demona jerking with the bullet passing clean through her skull. With one clap of metallic thunder and the sulfuric mist of gunpowder, she died in Goliath's arms.

"Boom." Demona whispered, laughing precariously despite Broadway and Sata's horrified expressions. "There goes existence."

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

She felt the death immediately, Infiniti having shuddered violently as the bullet tore through distant flesh, and the instant when the focal hub of this reality's flow of time kinked and shattered. "By Gaia...no..."

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

It exploded, reality.

Time did not change, it could not, it was unable to effect so many modifications at one instance, and thus, the cousins of space and time surged and coughed and hemorrhaged infinity all into one insignificant realm, with the catalyst of Demona's death so powerful it drew an abundance of others into this fragile strand. With so many vital threads of time severed all at once, the continuum vomited forcefully unto its inhabitants a blood-dimmed tide when unable to heal itself, an entity unlike any other. Wounds opened in the very fabric that separated an eternity of planes from each other, the sometimes-incompatible energies bleeding from the gashes and unfolding the purest of chaos.

The entire atmosphere around the planet Earth, ground zero for the disruption in time and space, slowly began to ionize, the storms growing and extending their reach across the entire sphere from the nexus over Manhattan. Lightning intensified, and thunder rumbled a death knell to six billion inhabitants, the storm becoming the physical manifestation of the damage to the timestream and funneling beyond the atmosphere.

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

The clan and Guild noticed the intermittent flashes grow more frequent, and more powerful underneath a raging storm like heaven's belly having split wide open from stem to stern. Lightning burned the sky in time with the cracks appearing to part the churning breath of nature, the storm appearing to form a wounded expression and screaming as time divided and twisted and melded together. The gladiators every single one stood within the nexus of a dying reality, peeling layer by intricate layer as the remaining threads snapped.

The battle waged had become a lesser ideal on the face of anarchy and proverbial Hell on Earth, and all fighters exposed to the elements now braved the powerful gusts and rain of fire from above, destroying parapets and effectively introducing a destructive third party into the battle.

They scattered, the clan retreating towards the castle, but Shadow, having strayed so far, merely chose this time to attack in the Guild's confusion, the ninja seeing this as an advantage though somewhat veiled in its attempt to help. They scattered to avoid the gashes ripping open in reality, and he delved into the retreating lines of Guild soldiers, picking them off one by one, roaring loud and vengefully between the cracks in time and space, enjoying the bloodlust of battle, the heat of the storms, the delicious loss of restraint.

Othello took Desdemona into the folds of his wings to protect her, as he, Lexington, and MacBeth sought shelter against a ruined embankment. They took the interlude in chaos to rest beaten forms, but watched as the storm pressed down upon their home with a wrath never seen before. The flickers grew fierce, erasing the substance of their bodies and minds and the essence of their lives, teasing them with life and death all at once.

"Look!!" cried Desdemona, as a flicker of light erupted onto the stones near them. As if the very air itself was ripped apart by an invisible hand, a portal opened, a window into another time and place. It was more a singular point in the multiverse, like a bead of sand on the shores of an ocean of infinite light. "What are they?!"

"They are windows..." muttered Othello, his eyes holding glossed fear as every conceivable moment in time and alternate thought opened before them. Past present and future collided.

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

Slightly dazed, Maria moaned, tasting the tickle of blood against her lip, and felt strong arms lifting her from the floor. Into Hudson's arms she was pulled and she found comfort against his chest. She forced a smile when encased in his warmth and the blanket of his sweet musk.

"Are ye all right?" he whispered, seeing from underneath the corner of his brow the twins checking on a lethargic Bronx.

"No one hurts MY man." she kidded, reaching into the soft bristle of his beard, only to clutch to his shoulder as the entire floor rumbled and shook. It blinked, it cracked, and the air around them tasted of acid. She stole deeper into his embrace, as the winds pounded against the Eyrie, the broken window a hole into an external bedlam as the winds howled through the torn steel plate. She faded quickly, as did the other occupants of the hospital. "Hudson, what's happening?!"

His wing struts ached. "Somethin' be very wrong."

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

Her body cooled under his touch, the warmth seeping through her wounds and the tremendous blood loss, and as Goliath held the limp form of his mate, he whispered to her, shook her lightly, trying if anything to rouse her from the clutch of death. But she was still, silent, lost to him for eternity. "My...angel of the night..." From his throat came a sound unlike anything ever heard before, a howl into the night and under the full moon that spilled across every turret and battlement. If was deafening, heartbreaking, tortured, it was a bay of loss and grief that rippled even the still waters of the ocean beyond the Wyvern cliffs.

Sata turned away from the grisly sight, and unto a shaken, volatile Demona, lost in her own world, and continually laughing, the once unsteady mental balance perhaps tipped in one deciding favor. A shimmer passed through her, fading from substance to nothing, the samurai even feeling the momentary gap in flesh. "You have condemned us all..." she reviled the flame-haired gargess, crushing the small revolver in her hands, that which ended the world with a single shot. "How...how could you do such a thing, Demona?"

She bared her teeth, the pain having drifted away in the promise of sweet, eternal slumber. "It felt good." With Sata's expression one of fear in Demona's indifference, Demona laughed, wickedly, coldly, as if she had disposed of a monster. "I should have used the revolver as soon as I arrived, but I so enjoyed the warmth of her blood on my hands." She studied her hand, fading, and dissolving from the timestream with a slight tingle spreading through her nimble fingers and on to the rest of her body, only the blood of her victim remaining tangible. "And now time will re-invent itself for the better. It will resurrect itself from the ashes of the old, touched by the wing of a phoenix."

"Damnit..." Broadway muttered, running a hand down his weary features, having failed in his quest, and now faced with the end of everything he knew, in either an alteration he would not be aware of, or a death sentence to a cosmic pyre. He rubbed his talons over the Phoenix gate in his hand, peering upon the tiny, unassuming charm that caused all of this, slightly humming, and sighed.

"What do we do?" Sata asked, flickering.

"We go home...and be with our loved ones before the universe implodes."

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

Lightning struck and Goliath fell, plunging into the city and barely stopping his descent just before his feet touched to the damaged ground. Elisa held in her scream as she and her husband hovered inches above the ground, another close call she could readily do without when in the initial stages of pregnancy. The skies were bleeding, and Goliath was weakening in his merging with Alexander, unable to continue on any longer without a respite long overdue.

Elisa tumbled to the ground beside him, thankfully landing upon both feet. Pummeled by the driving rain, she sought refuge to the side of her husband, who struggled to rise. Standing on the edge of the crater, Goliath broke away from Elisa and stumbled into the scorched periphery of Sobek's earlier descent, only to discover an empty bedrock slab, carved by focused fire and stained by fresh blood. "What?" His eyes widened, kindled in bottle green with the spark of rage. "WHERE IS HE?!!!" he howled. "There is no method he could have used to escape!!"

Elisa stepped beside him, the painted slab fresh with scarlet. She followed the erratic trail started from the bedrock's base, that somehow vanished along with the strange footprints distorted and partially washed away by the rain. Like he had taken to the air. "He must have had help."

Goliath immediately hunched over, and clenched his talons into the ground, scraping jagged lines into the blackened soil and forcefully drawing the answers from the tacit earth. His nose twitched with a brimming scent, his senses besieged by familiarity, he could not believe what registered so clearly to gargoyle instincts and fay awareness in all things magic. "We can taste limestone dust." he growled, his teeth clenched tightly as to grind diamonds between the white, fanged enamel. "We can smell a familiar energy pattern." The scorched soil sifted lightly through his fingers, as he attempted to filter the distinctiveness of the second hand in Sobek's escape. "Wyvern..." A sudden fear crept into their hearts, both Goliath and Alexander noticing a trail all too precise in the direction towards their castle home. It was an unimaginable premise, but the danger presented was too significant to ignore. "We must go. Now!"

Lightning struck again, and this time, the sudden loss of substance actually pained Elisa, fading and reappearing as the timeline took great strides to remind them of the true danger. She cringed, the pain strangely centered in her stomach as mother and the undeveloped child physically separated between the gap of seconds. "Goliath..." she winced, as her knees buckled and gave out. She fell, much to Goliath's dismay.

A stream of fire channeled towards the ground and hit near them once more, the crack deafening and the very air charged. Flames exploded from the strike, a fire raging into the spilled remnants of fuel and wooden debris as the gargoyle threw his energy wings around the human leaning against his chest in an instinct of protection. Goliath and Alexander could feel every individual molecule compress and fade in their shared physical form, then flicker back. "The wound," he swept his gaze towards the castle hidden within the churn of storm, "is centered above Wyvern's parapets."

Elisa fell her jaw, her home under siege from two opposing forces, humanity and nature. Her hand clenched onto Goliath's arm. "Trinity..."

The magical field was revived through great exertion, and Goliath flapped his fading wings to steal into the air and bend the currents, no matter how strong, to his will alone. "Our daughters need us." It was a strain even to gain altitude, and the gargoyle rose slowly but surely into the air, he and Elisa heading towards their home in a desperate race.

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

Nursing a gash across the uppermost rim of his mask, running from brow to hairline, White stumbled down the hallway away from the hospital, his entire force either unconscious, dead, or thrown to the mercy of the winds. He was disoriented from the brutal egress from the infirmary and the impact against the wall, the flashes in time hindering his escape. The floor shook beneath him, making his tread unstable as he tried in vain to navigate the hallway with blurred vision.

Climbing back up the rope ladder used to descend into the elevator shaft from the hospital, White spoke clearly, angrily into his transceiver, "White to any available chopper!"

No response, with the growing storms now playing havoc with the radio systems, communications had suddenly become unreliable.

Dangling on a steel-braided ladder after being defeated so easily and massaging his throbbing temples with every chance he got, White was beyond furious. "This is agent White to any available Guild helicopter!" he screamed. "Respond!! NOW!!!"

"...zzzzzzEcho One here..." the surviving pilot replied through static, a little more than busy as the last remaining helicopter strived to endure the aerial battle and the raging storms. "...sir, we've gotzzzzzztrouble, zzzzzomething is wrong, the zzztorms they're..."

"I don't give a damn about the storms!" the Guild second-in-command passed off a dire warning in order to sate his anger and complete this mission at any cost. "Ready all available missiles."

"...zzzzzzzzwe don't have clearancezzzzzz to fire on the castle!..." the pilot answered, his voice tightened by anxiety. "...We needzzzzzzBlack's approval..."

"I am second in command of this organization, young blood!! And I want every available missile you have ready to melt this place to its girders! Besides," his mask concealed a malicious grin, "Black's probably already dead..."

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

A section of rooftop beside Black exploded as the lightning tore a chunk from their battlefield, and his shield flickered, the power to sustain the sheath exhausted by the fight with the armored sentinel. They were thrown back by the strike from above, Black recovering quicker than Todd, and he capitalized quickly, razing his gun directly into the Epsilon's midsection, exploding a barrage of energy into the armor's midsection.

Todd knocked him away and crawled off between the oddly colored lightning, the armor damaged, and his stomach on fire. Black followed tenaciously, the upper hand his until the user decided to unleash the full potential of this suit by way of reckless abandon. Firing into Todd's back between the wings while he made his retreat to a safer position, Black brewed fire from the Epsilon's steel alloy skin. Todd dropped to one knee and whirled around, his arm being driven into Black's chest from behind his retracted wing, the impact oscillating through the shield like some giant tuning fork, shearing against Black's equilibrium. Todd opened his forearm laser, Black aimed his gun, and they grabbed each other's arms, dancing a dangerous stalemate against each other.

Lightning struck once more, perhaps to prove its superiority over these men who deemed themselves greater than nature, a forked tongue lashing from the clouds and forcing them away from each other in an explosion of light and fire and the power of a freight train. Black's near-depleted shield completely dispersed, the Guild leader rolling down the rooftop slope to a stop, steam rising from his exposed leather suit. Todd's neural link to the suit was forcibly disrupted, entrapping him within a barely functioning husk. They both were forcibly disarmed.

Without the mindlink to properly control the suit now heavy and unresponsive, and a headache erupting from the damaged circuitry patches on his forehead and spine, Todd managed to turn himself over, only to have a gun barrel press against the steel membrane of his throat, where the slim seams of titanium alloy overlapped to construct the neck joint. "...shit..."

Black had recovered quickly to take advantage, and held Todd down with a knee against his chest and a weapon to his neck. His long, sterling-streaked tress hung limply over the edges of his mask, the leader exposed to the rains for the first time tonight. "I told you," he hissed, lodging the gun securely into the armor linkage, "you can't fight evolution!"

"Evolution is already happening, it's called humanity growing to accept the differences they see everyday!" The Epsilon's eyes burned an emerald flame in defiance. "You're obsolete, bastard."

The bravado repelled easily, Black eased the barrel of his weapon between the armor's seams, to better assure his threat was sincere. "Take off your mask," he warned again, "or I make a new hole for you to breathe through!"

"My armor will deflect your little capgun!!"

"Are you sure?!" he pressed, his hand only twitching to make the shot and deprive the operator of this suit his neck. "Are you absolutely secure in that steel shell of yours?! There are chinks in every suit of armor, and I think I just found yours! Before you blink, I could kill you!!" Todd swallowed, hesitating in any answer or reprisal that could cost him dearly. His apprehension forced compliance, and Black's strategy of using such fear proved a greater tactic than an all-out, physical brawl he knew he might not win without the equalizer of his shield. "Take off the mask!!" he ordered.

Inside the helmet, Todd licked the beads of sweat having journeyed in tiny streams to curl over his upper lip, and lingered, the pain of the object pressing into his throat registering to the suit's sensors.

Black thrust the gun barrel harder into Todd's neck, and howled over the storms, "TAKE IT OFF!!!"

The Epsilon mask split down the center, an invisible seam emerging and hissing hydraulic steam, the sides of the mask moving away to reveal a face so young compared to what he ever imagined. "A boy..." he whispered, startled, the features staring back at him somehow familiar in their distortion of his own. "A goddamned boy nearly disrupted months of meticulous planning. I hate youth, so damned impulsive..." A flash of silver caught his eye in the lightning, and Black grabbed for the necklace around Todd's neck, having peeked just above the armor rim to be seen. He grabbed it, and held the small cross in his palm, studying the trinket, engrossed by a sudden recollection unearthed from years of a constant refusal to remember. "Where did you get this?!" he screamed towards Todd, but the young man declined to answer. The gun now pressed to exposed flesh, and Black reiterated, "Where'd you get this?!!"

"It's...it's my mother's..."

"Your mother's...?" he whispered, running his gloved hand over the small silver cross where a familiar inscription was carved by his own demand, a swirl of memories so powerful they literally took his breath away. "Rose." His eyes ascended slowly towards his adversary's face, as if he feared what now lay there, and instead of an unknown, he found an incredible likeness that plagued every dream, and twisted every nightmare. He recognized this young man, this boy, and found his own eyes staring back at him, stormcloud gray with a touch of sky sapphire. "T-Todd??" he gasped. "Oh my god..." The gun released from Todd's throat, he backed away, almost stumbling, almost deathly afraid of the young man staring at him quizzically, as if a spirit from his past come to haunt him. He tripped over the castle embellishment wet and meant for simple decoration but now a detriment to his escape, his breathing erratic, and his wide-eyed stare frenzied and unbelieved.

"How do you know my name?!" Todd asked, almost demanded, when seeing the Guild leader's willingness to bring this battle to the verge of death immediately vanquished. "Who are you?!" he called out against the erupting storms, his voice anguished much like the rolling groan of nature. "Who are you?!!"

He was gone, lost to the streams of lightning bleeding from the clouds, and the shadows, black against black a perfect camouflage for his escape from the rooftop, leaving Todd with an anger gone unfulfilled and many more questions left unanswered.

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

He was running as fast as his legs would carry, trying to navigate his way through the labyrinthine halls twisting and curving to get to the courtyard, his journey hampered by the periodic flashes in time, that which made flesh intangible for moments at a time. Black never fully expected what he would find here, he knew he was leading his team into dangerous territory, but to discover a ghost that wore his face cracked the glacial exterior of the Guild leader and forced upon him a frightening sensation, that of panic, and fear. He reached to his mask and opened a communications channel to every available Guild receiver. "Black to troop carriers! Get back to Wyvern now!!" His voice bordered on a scream, as he commanded his forces through the static. "We're pulling out!! I repeat, Black to all Guild!! Retreat to the outer edges for immediate evac! Now!!"

"...zzzzzwhat?!..." came White's protest through his communications device, surprised perhaps to hear of his leader's survival. "...We're so close!! We'vezzzzzlost so many on this missionzzzzzzz...and I'm damned sure going to..."

He would not endanger the boy he had abandoned on the rooftops any longer, and with the storms getting stronger by the minute, the rest of his forces were threatened. "I SAID RETREAT!!! NOW!!!"

"...Damnit, NO!!!..." screamed White. "...Echo One, zzzzzzprepare to fire missileszzzz!!..."

"Belay that order!!" Black tried to overturn his second-in-command's rash decision, static layering across his comm-channel and breaking his words apart. "Get all forces out now!!"

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

Pulling himself from the elevator shaft, White took off into the hallway, searching for the exit outside. "I won't let these creatures exist any longer!!" he yelled into his mask transceiver towards Black, wherever he may be. "We've come too far to give up now." He managed to find a doorway to the exterior, and emerged into the courtyard, and into chaos, the storms wreaking havoc as they strafed lightning across the delicate stone structures. He saw the struggling craft in the sky, uncaring of the helicopter's desperate fight for dominance. "Echo One! Aim at the main castle structures and fire!! Reduce this place to rubble!!"

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

The creature of Goliath and Alexander perked up immediately, such hatred, such contempt acting like a connecting thread from the nearby metropolitan pillar to his acute senses. They looked with fear towards where in the distance, where their refuge to rest of an alley afforded a view through the slender corridor mouth of the grand structure having risen from the depths of the city to tame the sky itself.

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

"Mom..." It was Alexander who sensed the want for revenge of fallen comrades, of a burning desire for extinction heard like a scream inside of his brain. And that hatred for an entire species threatened the most important thing to him.

Inside the shared conscious, Goliath rubbed his brow, his eyes flickering as the exhaustion sapped his strength and concentration. Through Alexander, he knew of what the child feared, he could see the concern disfigure youthful features into a mask all too decipherable. "Go."

Alexander centered on his companion, frightened to abandon him lest he succumb to the injuries. "But..."

"Separate yourself from me," he commanded, his gentle voice now imposing, and from equal partners maintaining the symmetry to a leader and his underling, Goliath dominated the contest of wills, "I am drawing your remaining strength to keep my body healed."

He shook his head, breeding tears from the edges of his eyes. It seemed stubbornness was a trait inherited by heroes, even those still not old enough to even comprehend their valor. "No, I don't wanna!"

"NOW!!!"

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

An explosion of light engulfed the alley, consuming the brick walls on either side, as Alexander was forced from Goliath's body by the gargoyle's sheer will, the child expunged into the cold desolation of reality. He tumbled to the urban corridor in front of an astonished Elisa, and immediately the child felt the isolation of an empty consciousness, without that voice, that confidence and intelligence helping him to become more than the simple red-headed crossbreed. When the emerald glow at last subsided and died out, Goliath emerged, broken, battered, and bleeding profusely, his wings still despairingly absent from his shoulders. Open gashes were the physical scar of his battle with Sobek, and blood poured freely, the scent noxious, tinny and overwhelming.

Elisa immediately threw herself to his side, to help steady the behemoth as he slumped against the building wall without the strength to support himself. "Goliath..." Roaming her hands over his body, mindful of the numerous and grisly lacerations on almost every limb and piece and appearing exactly how they had before, she tried if anything to keep him erect.

Alexander hesitated in seeing Goliath as he once was, near death, then took off in tears past the Maza couple, and threw himself into the air, a bubble of bottle green forming around him as he ascended quickly to the spire reaching far beyond the churning clouds.

"...where...am I...?" Goliath asked feebly, his voice now a whisper, the merging having taken everything he had left to give.

"Don't you remember?"

Goliath struggled to grasp unto a swirl of memories, of purest power, of near-godhood almost within his reach and then torn away. "...y-yes...but most of it...is a haze..." he whispered, and then lost his balance. He fell, collapsing seven hundred pounds onto the concrete and puddles of collected rainwater, a muddy brown fused with scarlet.

Elisa fell with him, able to keep his skull from banging against the cold, urban floor with her hand behind his head, twined gently into the wet strands returned to a deep russet sable. "No, come on, Goliath!" she screamed, a shimmer sweeping across her skin, her entire body being ravaged. "Come on, you have to move!" She looked over her shoulder, between the buildings that would threaten to be her husband's tomb, and found within the tempest gone mad the steel foundation that held their home above. "We're almost there!!"

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

Dodging the lightning, forging a desperate path through the Steel Clan and the Cyber-Biotics drones, the last remaining Guild attack helicopter made its way to the proper altitude and station to lock its targeting systems onto the main castle structures. The pilot struggled to maintain the position with the remainder of the castle's defensive automatons focusing their attack onto the one last Guild craft, as the gunner readied for a weapons lock.

"Did we receive confirmation from Black?!" yelled the pilot, dodging gunfire from the drones scraping across the shield, blanketing the helicopter cockpit in a pale rose.

"No!" replied the gunner. "I can't reach him, there's nothing but garbled static coming through the lines!"

"Everyone else is out and the transports are pulling away, and I can't hold myself here for long! The shield's going, and either the defenses are going to finish us or these storms will!!"

The computer signaled the lock, and the gunner quickly made his decision by agent White's concord, hoping he would be justified in taking out the creatures' roost, risking a deluge of steel and stone upon the innocents surrounding the Eyrie building. From the attack craft's artillery wings exploded fire and smoke, and four missiles emerged into the storms, heading straight towards Wyvern with a piercing shriek.

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

"Oh bloody hell." MacBeth muttered darkly into the lapel of his duster, seeing the missiles direct themselves to just above them, ensuring devastation on a scale even further than the storms could ever wreak. It was not enough to have a raging temporal storm and fissures between the delicate membranes of time, but a stubborn adversary merely adding more fuel to the fire. He damned his sense of honor, and the debt owed to these creatures for helping him reclaim a soul once lost. "We've got trouble."

Mother detected the missiles and guided the remaining cannons to fire against the incoming missiles, huge, roaring behemoths that deflected every shot the computer intelligence could rally. They were shielded as well, and growing closer. "Unable to affect damage." she reported sadly, but fired continuously nonetheless in any slim chance she could break through. "Prepare for imminent impact." Her holographic form shimmered in a blink in time, and she closed light-bred eyes. "I am sorry."

"NO!!!"

The missiles suddenly ruptured from the inside out, as if the disembodied scream had shattered them like glass, the energy shields containing the powerful explosions meant to tear apart the very foundation of the ancient fortress. The shields dissolved and scattered, and released the kinetic force of the missiles into a harmless spray of fire and debris. From the edge of the castle, floated a small, contained sphere that bobbed and weaved itself through the flashes of lightning, and rose to a sufficient height to allow the passenger to stare down the gullet of the Guild helicopter.

"What the hell...?" whispered the pilot, though his craft was buffeted violently on all sides, his eyes focused on the strange glowing ball of energy holding itself at the same altitude.

Alexander was not impressed, nor was he appreciable of anyone who would dare hurt his family in such a brutal manner. He sat cross-legged inside of his bubble, impervious to the rain and protected from the brunt of wind and storm, though fading like all the rest, cracking and preparing to shatter in the waves of time. He raised his hand, splayed chubby fingers and scowled menacingly. "Go away." His bubble surged and channeled a stream of liquid energy towards the helicopter, and engulfed the craft, scraping away the entire defensive shield in a single, powerful blast.

The helicopter emerged when the pilot descended sharply to escape the discharge, as Mother's cannons fired in time with the remaining Steel Clan and drones. The last attack craft exploded in mid-air from the endless barrage, ending its threat in a fiery scream.

Alexander remained where he was, watching with boyish fascination the machines molded after gargoyles and the smaller, wasp-like drones fly past him towards the Guild members fleeing for their lives from the storms. He slowly looked up, and he met the entity surging over the spires of his home with a gaze hollow and cold, and irritated. He could feel the threads snapping one by one, bleeding into this timeline, and though the mechanics of temporal tampering perhaps bewildered him, he saw what no one else did. He perceived with faerie eyes every strand of every timeline, every loose end dangling free, and formed a simple plan to counter a convoluted task.

"Gotta grab th' strings," he chirped, satisfied in his scheme, "an' make 'em better."

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

The portal allowed them access back into their time, and from tranquil Scottish skies they emerged into chaos unleashed onto their rightful home. Broadway came through first leading a shaken Demona, with Sata having taken up the rear, and the party immediately raised their wings to deflect the howling winds and rain, surprised by the sheer ferocity.

It was a squall having ascended from a simple weather phenomenon, to become a temporal storm that bred the destruction of their existence, and the gargoyles found refuge as best they could against a broken wall.

Demona instead kept her eyes trained onto the sky, where lightning flashed, and the constant blinks turned everything white for seconds at a time. She smiled, the rain warm and the thunder a final herald that seemed to grow louder with her presence. The coordinator of all the chaos had returned, and in retaliation, the storms growled against her. She in turn wandered from the flaming portal that closed quickly and into the middle of the bedlam erupted, staring up into the face of the strongest adversary she had bested, and without a care for her safety. "...so beautiful..."

As he watched her, the Phoenix gate in Broadway's hand suddenly flared with fire, the familiar energies in this timeline rousing the medallion to life. "Damn!!" he wailed in pain, his hand burned and the skin bubbling across his palm. "What the hell...?"

Sata watched the gate tumble across the hands as if guided by an invisible string, flashing across time periods as easily as one would cross between rooms. "It is hungry..." She understood this resurrected talisman's nature, and even without the influence of the trickster Loki, it possessed a mind of its own. It was searching, looking for the energy that fed it, that gave it life, and subsequent to a frenzied dance across the winds in flame it disappeared within a curl of its own fire. Glad to see it gone, her eyes returned to the courtyard, with the Guild members retreating as best they could between the surges of lightning consuming stone, and the portals opening between timelines, dragging wounded kin towards the outer edges of the cornices and waiting for the cargo helicopters to dock against the sides and evacuate their forces.

Several retreating Guild members were in front of her, and fell into the wake of a sudden sinkhole in gravity, pulling them towards an emerging portal's churning periphery. The window unstable around the edges, the men were caught between two different times and ripped apart, their bodies torn and shredded at the molecular level and dispersed into harmless, background radiation. Another was hit dead on by the lightning, searching out potential targets and obliterating the inhabitants of this particular timeline, and all that would remain of the masked man would be a disembodied scream and a scorch mark spraying ash across the wet stones.

She swallowed, and wished their souls well in such a gruesome fate. It was then she noticed an absence to her side, as Demona had strayed far into the open. "Demona!!" she screamed the bringer of all of this, standing calmly in the middle of the courtyard and seemingly unaffected by the lightning tracing paths of fire across the stones. "What are you doing?!"

"I wish to be touched by the very hand of God himself," spreading her arms to the sky, an invitation to seize her soul from this mortal shell, she awaited oblivion, "and annihilated only by a rival deserved of the honor."

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

"...I was...so foolish..." Goliath whispered, babbling incoherently with the loss of blood, vaguely aware of Elisa's hand guiding through his hair. "...perhaps I am...not fit..."

"Yes, you are." Elisa argued, leaning over him, hoping to be the beacon that kept him from slipping into an unreachable unconsciousness. Gently, she rode her knuckles down the sharp ridge of his brow, tracing strong features slick and tacky with the coagulating blood adhering to lavender skin. In the chaos of a ruptured timestream, she ignored the impending doom if only to steal those last few moments to comfort her mate. "Goliath, I'm sorry...for taking from you what was rightfully yours..."

"...you did...what you thought...was right...I understand that now..." He coughed a blood-gargled laughter from his throat. "...you were always...too damned proactive...for your...own good..." His eyes wavered, and the grip on Elisa's hand faltered as the gargoyle started losing consciousness much to her dread.

Elisa noticed his breathing slow, so hoarse, rasped and painful with each gulp of air, and now, barely a whisper. "Come on! Damnit, Goliath! You were ready to sacrifice your life just an hour before, and now you're suddenly giving up?!!"

He tried, he fought, but lost the battle against the darkness. He mouthed silent words lost on a breathless murmur, his perception drifting.

"Come on, Goliath! We may only have moments left! Make them count!" She urged him, but he did not budge, his eyes rolling to the back of his head. "Make them count for Trinity! You said our daughters need you! You're damned right they do! We all do. I need you, your baby needs you!!" She grabbed the massive paw, and placed it to the warmth of her exposed stomach, a contact of flesh, of father and the child he created through a bonding of love and passion. "Feel that, Goliath! Our baby! Feel the heartbeat, feel the life! You could always do that, you knew when Trinity was kicking even before I did!" She screamed, and used everything she had to raise the toppled giant stubbornly refusing to move when so very close to sanctuary. "You know what the future Trinity said! Her name is Liberty!! Feel her!! FEEL HER INSIDE OF ME!!! DON'T GIVE UP ON HER!!! COME ON!!! DON'T GIVE UP!!!" Her words unanswered, she leaned over and sobbed into his chest, her pleas reduced to an unintelligible whisper amidst the pool of tears trickling across the clefts of his muscled chest. "Don't give up..."

Goliath stirred, and found the strength to slowly open his eyes.

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

The portals grew in size and number, exploding different threads into this one trying if anything to keep from completely shattering and sending an infinite amount of hosts to a premature death. Flickering from existence, but unwilling to allow even the universe to chose his manner of death, Shadow continued to fight against the retreating forces. He dodged the portals' outer orifices as they suddenly burst open all around him, seeing firsthand what two timelines grinding against one another could do to all too fragile flesh.

The portals displayed an eerie sight, as all and every conceivable sentient choice was played out in different worlds. Gargoyles ascendant to rule an emptied world, the extinction of an entire species, children of mixed blood and race and heritage, couplings never before thought probable, every window that opened teased the ninja with a possible realm. Even a young, winged girl with dark skin and white hair, and a glowing Japanese tattoo etched onto her familiar, pointed brow. He steadied his gaze, and they stared at each other.

"Father?" she called through the intersection of timelines.

"Who...?" Another portal suddenly opened to his side, nearly shredding his wing if not his reaction immediate, and an alternative world and time fell forcefully into view.

The mahogany of Shadow's eyes reflected a battle, this battle, or at least a version near identical, the Guild and clan engaged against each other and an innocent moments from death. It was a moment horridly familiar, in the fact he was too far away then to make any effort to help his fallen comrade and the window taunted him with another chance to rectify his self-blamed failure. "Angela..." He chose quickly between the two windows, and instinct would ultimately guide him, as Shadow rose and being careful not to touch any of his flesh to the portal's churning edge, leapt clean through.

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

Barely less than an hour before now in a sliver among eternity, where a singular Guild member would gain fame for killing a beast. In an offering of chance, he found the lavender female distracted, a deadly mistake when not a clansmen around to dutifully watch her back, and he fired when the path was sufficiently opened up between his brethren.

"Angela!" Lexington warned from across the courtyard when seeing the shooter aim for her back, his voice but drowned in the wake of another clap of thunder.

The bullets hailed an unearthly scream as they filled the air with a lightning flash of shaped copper and a stream of oily smoke curling within the wake, a crossfire of steel which ensnared an innocent in their web drawn across the courtyard. She was graceful in her movements to avoid such a fate until now, and even the best of agility awarded by a form superior to man could not escape an inevitability akin to this.

But with the perversion of the timeline, the daughter of Goliath now had a guardian angel injected into her universe and watching for this very instant, as Shadow emerged and threw himself into the proven-fatal trajectory of the Guild's bullets. They clipped across the spurs on his shoulders as he stole Angela into his arms and protected her from a fated path.

"Shadow??"

"Hush." Wordlessly, he veered through the crowd with Angela in his arms, caught sight of his counterpart, blinked in surprise at his mirror image immersed in battle, and headed off back towards the portal. With Angela secured, he jumped through and rolled across the stones, dodging between electrical columns arcing from cloud to stone and the Wyvern defense automatons merely herding the Guild stragglers towards the castle's edges.

He ran to where the clan had holed up against the temporal storm, stopped directly in front of them, and opened his wings to deliver his cargo. Before a crowd of onlookers staring wide-eyed at his trophy, a rescued Angela tumbled freely from the dark leather cloak.

"Holy shit..." whispered Lexington.

Angela whisked the wet tendrils of her hair from her brow, and raised her eyes. "What is everyone looking at?"

"Angela?"

"Lexington..." The flashes in time ripped through her skin, liquefying her essence. She grunted when her lungs suddenly opened up to the air in a fraction of a second, the intangibility loosening her mortal covering. "What's happening?"

The cyborg settled his brow mournfully, Angela having escaped one death only to face another. "The end of the world."

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

The bubble rose higher into the clouds, just beneath the massive eddy that covered all of Manhattan and spread across the Eastern coast, a veil of darkness and death. Alexander tested the strength of the temporal storm, the lightning attracted like a magnet to his Avalon magicks and attempting to sear the sheltered child within his refuge of energy. The winds unable to penetrate the interior of the bubble, Alexander floated freely, serenely, his legs dangling beneath him as he stared into the heart of the tempest, contemplating.

He was gathering all of his energy, the last reserves left from defeating false gods, and pushing against the storm itself, the heart of the rupture in time. He could see every mutinous thread that had snapped and hung free, every timeline that spilled into this one and transformed nature into an extension of its pain. The bubble around him expanded, lengthened, to become a long shaft of light that spilled into the clouds and divided the darkness with a brilliant emerald needle. It made contact with the courtyard, and inside the narrow column lay order, tranquility, and a mended reality.

The boy struggled to tie these loose threads together, to meet each severed end to its mate, and line-by-line he repaired the damage as fast as a new breach would reveal itself. The beam of light, of purest, unfiltered energy, of a soul made visible to the human eye grew and expanded into the storms bringing lightning down upon the castle and surrounding populace. It burst through the atmosphere and touched the heavens, shooting into the coldness of space and far beyond.

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

A simple chime heralded the arrival of the cab behind the sterling elevator doors, a journey from the earth to the heavens within a steel tube shaking with the sway of the building itself. The doors slid open, and out fell Goliath, collapsing into the spacious corridor, a trail of blood chasing his battered form and led from the larger slick inside the cab. Having traveled with her husband via the elevator from the private parking garage, Elisa now hugged herself around his upper arm, steering her husband as he precariously provided locomotion through the violently shaking building. Embellishment fell in the severe tremors, the building falling to pieces around them and reality pulsing and wrinkling, their journey was nearing completion.

"...we must...find our children..." Goliath whispered, using his hand clenched into the stone walls to slowly prod himself along, a reckless chase. "...and ensure...they are safe..."

She noticed the desperation turn bruised features into a clear sign of what troubled him. "What is it, Goliath?" she demanded, exhausted from carrying a seven hundred pound creature through the city streets and up two thousand feet, her arms and hands completely covered in his blood, blackened and moist. "What could possibly scare you more than our own reality puking all over us?"

Goliath struggled to remember through a haze of magic so great as to steal even his memories, and the rush of godhood, a danger inherent and made frighteningly valid by a small child's otherworldly senses. "I...I do not know...I cannot remember...Alex took with him...almost everything..." He hurried his pace, knowing there was an evil lurking just beyond the realm of his memories taken when the merger between he and Alexander was forcefully disrupted. "...but there is danger beyond these flashes..." he gasped, reduced to a crawl, besieged by intermittent flashes stealing their physical forms. "...I will...see my daughters..." Goliath's determination was resolute, even as he body slowly failed him and his vision blurred. "...I will be with them...and if these are our last moments...Trinity will not face death alone..."

They turned into the corridor where housed the main computer room, and immediately stepped onto a corpse still shielded by the remnants of the power source attached to his armory belt. Two more Guild bodies lay further up towards the doorway, pooled in their blood as if a layer of veneer stained wine red, and threadbare by the exertion of an animal. It was a massacre contained into the narrow junction between corridors and painting the edges of the computer room door a deep, viscous burgundy.

Elisa tasted the bile rising in her throat, the smell a powerful contaminant adhering to the walls. "Jesus..."

"Demona's signature scribed in blood."

Led by the jest in an all too familiar tone, Goliath settled his eyes beyond the dead bodies to another lying slumped and motionless against the stone wall, holding in the flow of blood from his side, a trial behind him leading down the passageway and disappearing into nothingness where the hall curved from sight. Time blinked, hemorrhaged and the wounded gargoyle suffered as well as the Mazas. "Brooklyn."

He nodded to the leader he had dethroned, detecting the anger welling in his throat, and studying the majestic creature deprived of his wings and physical prominence. "Goliath."

"...Demona did this...?"

He nodded again, "She probably caused all of this, the eruptions in time...everything. She tinkered and toyed and played with things she shouldn't have, and crafted from the little horror shop beneath her mansion a new Phoenix gate." He rubbed a bloodied hand across his bruised cheek. "Then she kicked me in the face."

"Why...why would she...do this...?"

"For Angela." he whispered, his brow drooping in respect to the fallen. "To bring her back...from the dead."

The reality hit him as would a god smite a lesser being, and Goliath nearly collapsed under the sheer weight of his daughter's loss by Brooklyn's elusiveness, to spare him perhaps the words he longed never to hear. With Elisa stunned, the giant bowed his head and dribbled shaking talons through his hair, purring a growl into the passageway floor. He broke away from her and raised a fist to the doorway leading into the computer room, and with a single strike stimulated by his grief, ripped the door from its secured hydraulic track and did more in one blow than a contingent of Guild could not.

Flames suddenly burst from the opened chamber, a compressed charge of ruby fire channeled into the hall, raising the ambient temperature by fifty degrees. Waiting for the flames to die down, Elisa crept around the shield of her husband and peeked inside. She deflected the enormous heat and light with her hand, and gasped at the sight of the entire computer control room ablaze. Her eyes were drawn towards the source, a succubus of golden steel indulging freely on the conduits broken by Demona's own hand, and feeding on the magical-imbued energy pouring into Wyvern's hub of control. The Phoenix gate had been drawn back to the richest source that gave it so much power, and threatened any who happen to be in its path. "Trinity!!" Elisa screamed, seeing her daughter in Nicole's arms, the duo stuck in a corner of the room behind a wall of pulsating mystical flame, a barrier high and deadly to traverse. "What the hell is that thing doing?!"

"It's feeding, Elisa." answered Brooklyn, leaning up against the doorjamb, his eyes centered on and reflecting the talisman held within the nexus of fire. "It's not just a machine or medallion, it's a living, breathing thing, an entity to be respected...and feared."

And indeed, with the infusion of Infiniti's energy giving life the myriad of technology and magical ingredients used in its construction, it was animate, and hungry.

"...I have faced gods tonight..." said Goliath, his voice building into a proud rumble, scraped from the roof of his mouth by his rage. "...and paid for my very right to exist with a daughter...and some damnable trinket...will not risk another!!" Lumbering past Elisa and led by his sworn duty to protect overriding any safety concerns for himself, he lunged directly into the flames, and reached out for the gate and grabbed it, trying to pull it away from the machinery as his flesh burned and boiled.

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

"Let's go! Move, move, move!!" he screamed, loading any Guild member into the heavy behemoths that would be fortunate enough to reach the castle edge. White pulled a wounded man into the cargo helicopter, one of five that touched down to Wyvern's exterior to load the survivors. They were weighted, and cumbersome enough to ward off the high winds and allow the Guild a secure retreat.

The cannons were silent, as Mother found no need to further kill another, the battle interrupted by the temporal storm above. The Steel Clan and drones had been altered of their approach, defense rather than offense, and stood idle nearest the main castle structures. The Guild were retreating in droves, and the computer intelligence deemed her trial by fire and blood a successful test, if not for the fact her programming had conflicted with severe consequences. She had killed, despite her encoding otherwise.

White had taken complete advantage of the castle intelligence's ceasefire, the only option now to withdraw without any major offensive weapons, or any weapon possible to defeat the new threat slowly dissolving their physical forms in violent cracks erupting throughout the entire electromagnetic spectrum. "Is that all?!" he yelled to the last few men and women climbing into the safety of the cavernous cargo hold.

"We think so..." a wounded woman answered, pulling the mask away from her face and rubbing tired eyes, having seen firsthand what she imagined the depths of hell. "It's an absolute mess out there...and we couldn't see anyone else."

A hand suddenly clamped to the side of the door, and stopped it from closing. Black pushed his way inside, drenched and haggard from battle, and stood before a stunned White and an equally amazed troop. He pulled away his mask, and cast thinned, angered eyes towards his second, damnation unable to match the fire in his steeled glare. "We'll talk later."

As the troop carriers nudged away from the castle, Black stood by the cargo bay door, slightly ajar, and gazed out towards the grouping of clan standing within the hole opened to the castle interior. Through the flashes of light, he found the child he had run away from, joining his comrades to watch his forces' retreat. They met eyes, and Black released a shaken breath, "Tell the pilot to get us the hell out of here..."

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

The sky cracked, splitting from inside out with the massive wound to the timeline, and pieces fell, leaving holes of nothingness in the heavens. The portals widened, further injuring this time, collapsing without the strength to support itself under the crushing weight of so many realities bleeding atop it. The earth shook from the Eyrie foundation out, a whirlwind surrounding the entire spire and secreting lightning from its depths.

The storm engulfed the entire tower, spreading outwards into the populace as a final, inevitable executioner to decide their fate.

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

The Phoenix gate fed hungrily off the conduits, gorging on more of Infiniti's energy, and running fueled fire through every wire sautered and enchanted. A wave of energy expanded from it, the machine activating by its own accord the circuitry that controlled the doorways into every conceivable timeline. Flames curled vindictively around Goliath's flesh, the lavender giant trying to calm the wicked machine from its absorption of the very heart of Wyvern with his bare hands.

Elisa reached through the flames towards Nicole and Trinity, seeing her daughter huddled into the reporter's arms, teary-eyed and screaming for her parents. She could not reach her, the flames eating at her leather jacket and exposed flesh. "TRINITY!!!"

"Stay here." A flash of crimson filled Elisa's eyes, as Brooklyn swept past her and through the arcs of fire filling the entire room. Ignoring the excruciating pain numbing his entire side, he grabbed the reporter and covered both her and the tiny hybrid into the thick sheath of his wings. He made his way back through the swirls of orange and biting red, deflecting the sparks from his own skin and handed the child to her grateful mother, smothering the babe to her chest.

The interruptions in time were growing fierce and closer together, but Goliath still struggled to pull the gate from its mooring of the main power conduits, his palms and forearms blistered by the intensity of the medallion's stubbornness. It was spreading fire to the computer banks, and knowing the power running through this room, and the fact it threatened to explode the equipment, he held on. But in its struggle to remain where it pleased, the gate lashed out with tendrils of flame, the circuitry triggered and sending streams of time-altering energy in every direction. "LEAVE!!!" he warned, as the gate hummed and vibrated.

"Not without you!!" Elisa yelled out, as Brooklyn wasted no time in plucking an unconscious Fox from the ground and pulling both her and Nicole to safety through the bedlam of an inferno. "Goliath, let go!!"

The lavender giant looked from behind his shoulder to see Brooklyn haul Fox and Nicole outside, and ensured of their safety he released from the gate, unable to hold his grasp any longer with his hands terribly burned, and hobbled towards Elisa and the doorway. She refused to leave him, as he lurched towards her through the deadly arcs of flame. Goliath approached with the best speed he could gather, and Elisa turned to lead him from the room.

Brooklyn fell against the opposite wall in the corridor, with Fox and Nicole collapsing to the floor, one conscious to appreciate the pain from a daring rescue. He looked back to watch the Mazas at last reach the doorway, far too slow it seemed as the events unfolded. "Hurry up!!"

The gate, unstable and overflowing with incompatible magicks, triggered, and opened a portal towards them, capturing the family and engulfing them within its power before they could escape. They evaporated in a stream of light, every molecule in their body shifting simultaneously from this timeline in a compressed stream of matter guided by the gate's desire alone. They completely disappeared along with the gilded medallion, just as the open conduits caught fire, and the delicate machinery, bleeding openly, overloaded and erupted. Almost the entire room was engulfed in an explosion that funneled into the hallway, a choking cloud of black smoke filling the halls.

Brooklyn raised an arm against the blast, and screamed, "GOLIATH!!!!"

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

A tiny point of humanity within the expenditure of power beyond imagining, Alexander shed tears in pain, but held on, restoring a delicate balance as the column of his energy slowly swelled.

The clan huddled together, taking strength in their bond, and meeting their fate as a family, one that faced oblivion and worse together. Desdemona clutched to Othello's chest, leaching tears onto his warm flesh and hoping her last memory would be of him. Lexington placed a hand to Angela's shoulder, Shadow kept his eyes trained on the storm, meeting death with eyes wide open, and MacBeth, he retreated into the folds of his jacket, and closed his eyes, hoping to die with dignity, and in a proverbial blaze of glory like any king would desire.

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

Maria clutched tightly to the security that was Hudson, glad to face death if held for an eternity in his arms. She would never be alone again.

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

Delilah rubbed a hand across the cloning tube that housed her child, a cluster of cells between her and a former lover fused by the spark of life. The promise of procreation a testimony she was more than the barren experiment she deemed herself.

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

Todd looked up, his mind in turmoil, questions of his past and future colliding as he closed his eyes, and filled his thoughts with gilded strands of silk, of a smile, a face, a buxom form etched in his memories. And the end of the known universe would not take him without a cocky smile.

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

Sata kneeled beside Broadway, each thinking of their mate, the burly gargoyle male huddled and crying into the rain, fading fast. He would be reunited with Angela soon, it seemed, and he prepared himself for death. His body was dissolving in a stream of particles, becoming purest light, a rebirth as conscious energy.

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

Engulfed in the smoke streaming from the computer room, Brooklyn huddled on the ground, nursing his torn side wet and numbed by pain. In the wake of the explosion and his own impending demise, he thought of his family, and more importantly his clan. He wondered now, as his skin peeled from his soul, if he had indeed failed them all.

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

The boy whimpered as the strain on his abilities threatened to reach beyond what he could give, but held on, the universe cringing at the sheer amount of power released. Every creature across this planet attuned in such magic shivered in their final moments, hearing inside their minds the pained cry of a young boy unwilling to have his family hurt in any way.

The entire city was preparing for the end, perhaps the entire world, for in one instant all were equal in an impending death through one simple, irrational act, guided by pain and the hope of resurrection. The cracks spread outwards, breaking apart the very fabric of reality, with one small, special boy trapped within the nexus of every timeline intersecting into one and creating more energy from the merging than the birth of the universe billions of years ago.

The light intensified, it engulfed the entire castle in pure white, like fresh snow, comforting and serene and chaotic all at once. It swelled across the entire island in a spherical wave, expanding across the city, the entire Eastern coast and beyond, and for an instant in time, nothing in this entire reality remained.

But silent white.

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

From nothingness, came subsistence, slowly leaked into the void of matter and sound and color, and fading to the menagerie of life's enduring rhythm.

A gentle rain fell to the stones, warm, refreshing, trailing across each fitted seam and forging a thousand paths towards the curving battlement edges. It was silent save for the touch of floating water against the damaged cornices, a moderate hymn being crooned in a champagne soprano, frothy and crisp. Smoke rose from the scorched parapets, castle Wyvern soundless, and almost whole.

The storms had cleared, leaving a mournful lavender gray to hide the stars and bring a light, cleansing rain. The cracks sealed, reality remained unchanged and intact, though volatile from such damage suffered, the lasting mewls of thunder blanketing the distant horizons more than an ominous warning.

A moving figure dropped suddenly from the air and onto the stones in the middle of the battle-ravaged courtyard, a spatter of emerald green sprayed outwards and dispersed. Alexander dropped on his haunches, uncaring of the water soaking through his pants. He was exhausted, drained and empty. The child had tied almost all of the broken threads together, and prevented eternity from bursting upon this world with a lesson successfully learned from his mother, a double knot.

With the brunt of the damage repaired, he had pulled every loose time string without an end into one singular point, creating an open wound, a nexus of temporal energy hovering a foot above the stones to his far right, and left to hopefully slowly close on its own.

The child's eyelids drooped, and Alexander collapsed into an unconscious heap of designer children's clothing and swaddled strands of ruby red, a waft of smoke bred from his mouth and eyes.

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

He pulled back the armored wings of the Epsilon, peeking out from the sails of black titanium to see death, to prod the specter for authenticity of his demise. His hand waved past his eyes, and clenched into a ball, the sensation of touch essential to ensure he was actually intact. Feeling the substance of rain tumble down his face, he gingerly tested the air in front of him to be sure of his continued existence. "Well," Todd started, a sudden rush of breath allowed at last through his lungs, "I don't know about you guys, but I'd be checking your shorts for cake." He drifted a suspicious gaze around him, as the gargoyles once holed in their protective crook lifted into the gentle rains. "Are we missing any vital body parts?"

Lexington quickly scoured his gleaming metallic form to detect any damage. "I'm not, thank god, these parts are hard to replace."

He chuckled, and teased his taloned fingers across the small patch of circuitry on his forehead, deadened by the bolt of lightning that could have killed him as well. "Well how's that for a kick in the balls?" Todd muttered mournfully. "We survived."

Desdemona ran a hand up Othello's arm, his flesh though torn and battered, but as exactly as she remembered. She smiled. "It would seem we are whole, Mr. Hawkins." Her eyes wavered on her mate for an instant before dropping to a miraculously rescued Angela, still confused in her predicament and the center of attention. "All of us."

The daughter of Goliath set into place an angered brow, trying if anything to ward off the thankful if not disturbing glares, as if they were examining her, and discerning whether or not this was indeed the genuine article. "I believe someone skipped ahead a few chapters without me..." she whispered, standing with Shadow's aid, and fixing her shredded tunic dress as best she could to maintain an important visage of poise. "I am swept into Shadow's arms, spirited away through some kind of glowing portal and then experience the pleasant sensation of having my flesh melt from my consciousness." Her eyes darted upwards into the clouds, now bereft of their destructive power and returned to a sense of normalcy, almost eerie in the sudden transformation. "May I please demand with the appropriate tone just what is happening without coming off as a complete and total bitch?"

Lexington approached this topic with due care. "You don't remember three bullets passing through your guts?"

"Are you saying I died?"

"The actuality of death is only in the eye of the beholder." MacBeth breathed coolly, stowing his guns beneath the folds of his duster. "Though every beat of yuir heart right now proves otherwise, we all watched you die, and what we saw canna be disputed."

"But how...?" Angela whispered. "I was not injured, I was hurt in any life threatening way..."

The ancient king wicked a droplet of rain from his sterling brow with the edge of his gloved thumb, and stroked his beard curled around the veiled smile. "Dying is not such a big deal everyone makes it out t' be."

Angela stiffed her brows, holding out her hands to the cynics still staring at her unusually "I am here, I am flesh, and I am alive! Can you not see this?"

"Perhaps you should inquire of the man whose arms held you while you took your last breath."

She looked across the courtyard by Othello's prompt, where the damage wrought against their ancestral home was impressive, but as always repairable. Where bodies lay in the wake of battle, humans plucked from the populace and swept into a war with an enthralling call to duty now dead for their trouble and misguided gallantry. A distant corner held a huddled mass, mourning the loss of his mate with sufficient time to grieve after the world seemed not to end as he expected. "Broadway?"

Slowly removing his hands from over his face, he looked up and turned to the voice. Broadway craned over his shoulder around from Sata's offered arm, and his gaze lethargically trickled the courtyard towards a lone figure somewhat blurred by the rain. The hourglass silhouette so familiar, so indistinct it appeared a delusion brought on by his demanding battle with the past Goliath. "Angela?" The burly behemoth started a brisk pace in seeing the mirage of a lover come miraculously back to life, expecting the image to fade, and dissipate between the clutch of his hands when close. He stopped in front of her, and timidly touched to her offered hand, and thus, the image did not lighten or evaporate. He threw her into his arms, and the two lovers embraced in the rain, Broadway eagerly, desperately guiding his hands to every part of her body, to make a fading memory genuine once more. "Oh god...Angela..." Giddy, relieved and dazed, he muffled a response into the lush mane of sable falling across his lips, "But you died...you died in my arms..."

She pulled back, to witness tears obscured by the rains. To sway his fears, she roamed her talons across his cheek, to show him she was indeed not a figment of a head injury, or sudden fantasy spurred by the trauma of the end of the world. "I did no such thing."

He pressed her close, using his wings to enclose her completely, to better make her a part of him. "I felt your heart stop under my palm...felt your cold body against my chest..."

"I pulled her from one of the portals just before she was killed." Shadow explained when coming upon the lovers. "It is conceivable that this is not YOUR Angela."

MacBeth harrumphed, solving an intricate puzzle. "You're a counterpart, lass." he announced quickly, much to the mated couple's surprise. "One Angela among a trillion."

"But then where...?" Broadway turned to where he had abandoned his mate upon the stones, to a crumpled, howling figure wailing and damning all eternity. "...is my Angela..."

Demona clenched to the still body with all her strength, crying into the sodden strands released from their binding and splayed across her daughter's corpse, a shroud of woodland satin. Unhinged, angered, and cheated even when devastating the very laws of nature, it seemed the limit to what her already precarious sanity would allow. "I offered all of eternity if but for one single life...her life..." she whispered, looking up towards the blanket of cloud, and whatever force beyond that constantly endured her life with pain. "I offered to end all the mistakes spawned from my own! I offered myself, in return for her! Why did you not want it...?" She fell her head into the cleft of Angela's neck, crying, searching for any warmth in the inanimate flesh, and sobbing for her daughter. "I can't even die when pitifully mortal..."

"Mother." Angela encouraged, the living Angela, from behind.

Demona snapped her head around to the cry, and the sheer concurrence of another Angela appearing from behind jolted her from the corpse. Wide-eyed and hysterical, almost mad, Demona stumbled away, desperate to escape this apparition now haunting her. "No...you're not real!!" she screamed, lurching across the stones and desperate to escape from the haunting image.

Angela stared down to her own dead body, an unsettling scene for anyone even of a stronger resolve, the lavender female's chest opened and coated in blood, her jaw slack, her flesh cold and sterile. "This is not me." Angela followed her mother's shaken path, an arm extended. "Mother, please, that empty shell is not me!"

"No!!" Demona continued in her delusion, fallen from the brink of perception and entrapped in her own pain and a fabricated reality. "You're a fragment of what's left of her soul, nothing more!! A ghost..."

Angela leapt towards her mother, and grabbed her hands around the hysterical woman's wrists. "Feel my warmth, and every beat of my heart!!" She shook her resistant mother, to better display her tangibility, and prove beyond any doubt she was indeed of her blood, not an easy task considering this Angela was a counterpart among an infinite brood strung across the wastes of conceivable reality. "I am no spirit!!"

"NO!!!" Demona howled, breaking away from and snarling at the image that dared to wear her daughter's face. "Stay away from me!! You're dead and dust!!" Insanity reigned, having broken Demona's already volatile balance as her eyes lit up in crimson. "DEAD AND DUST!!!"

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

"...dead and dust...dead and dust..." A swirl of light and the tang of local sedatives filtered through the air, white tile and pulsing machines reflecting off a glassy concaved surface that held eerily constant, and never blinking. Demona's eyes stared off into the distant infirmary wall, wide and frenzied, the gargoyle shivering and nearly comatose. "...my beautiful daughter is but a ghost...wandering aimlessly the halls..." Curled into a fetal position on a far stretcher and clutching to the sterile sheets for any sense of comfort in her severely disconnected state, she babbled incoherently, a string of lexis thrown together, of pleas and repentance and a want for death. And a restless spirit unwilling to allow her peace to her pain. "...dead and dust..."

"Mother?" Methodically stroking her talons through her mother's hair, Angela stood vigil by Demona's side, witness to one of the most powerful influences in her life reduced to a crying, blathering whelp. "Mother, it's me...I'm here." she whispered calmly, soothingly. "I'm real, and alive. Please..."

"...she tries to speak to me...she won't let me sleep..." Demona huddled into her hands and took refuge in the blankets, shaking, and deranged. "...I want to sleep..."

Angela sighed, as any attempt to break through the shattered mental condition proved useless, a wall erected to shelter the cerulean-skinned now preventing any connection from daughter to mother, no matter how slight. And she wondered, if truly this was her mother, and this realm her world. She had come from another thread, stolen between two lines scraping against each other for but a few moments in time. She was already wary of her surroundings, eyeing surreptitiously each clan member gathered into the Eyrie hospital as if to examine them for any differences drastic or subtle.

Broadway stood behind her, draping his mate in generous, aquamarine wings, to ensure he would never feel the absence of her warm skin upon his. He too sensed the odd change in Angela's scent, just barely off to make him doubt. But now, here, she was alive, and whole, and brimming with life as opposed to the corpse assigned a number and tray in the Eyrie morgue, along with the rest of the dead Guild members unable to be retrieved by their brethren in the rapid retreat. Some of those dead by his own hands, and the very remembrance of their blood spattered across his hands gave rise to a shudder passing down his spine. But he swallowed his remorse, to better concentrate on what came through the battle unscathed. He was fortunate, they both were, to be given a second chance no matter the circumstance of her resurrection.

"No survivors."

Broadway looked up from the bedded matron to another stretcher across from him, where Brooklyn engaged in a whispered conversation with his own mate, Sata ensuring his bandages were tucked tight to contain the bleeding from his wound. To salve the injury for the break of day, and a healing slumber.

"The morgue's overflowing with a hundred and three Guild bodies, which leaves no trace to their whereabouts." the new Wyvern leader continued, as Sata busied herself in her work, unwilling to link their respective gaze. It was as if she did not want to relinquish any of the anger held by the insurrection he staged to dethrone Goliath, by power of his ever-hypnotic charm cast in black marble. "Our newly reborn sister's dead, Demona's completely traumatized and almost comatose, Mother is barely functioning, the main computer room's a disaster along with the castle exterior and a quarter of the island, Sobek's disappeared somewhere into this city, Owen's missing...as are Goliath, Elisa and Trinity..." He shook his head and craned his neck to look over the hospital filled with wounded, and the overhead televisions bursting with news reports of the chasm in downtown Manhattan, and the substantial loss of life continually mounting with every body unearthed. The lingering pain in his side served as a cruel reminder, to the burden of leadership he had willingly undertaken by force. "My first outing as leader has turned out to be one hell of a damned mess."

"The point is moot." said the samurai hardheartedly, but with a purpose behind her severity of tone. "Your uncertainties are a waste of breath and thought. You now have a responsibility to this clan that cannot be skirted." She decided to raise her eyes, to fight stubborn fire against alluring ice. "Yes, we have suffered grievously, but to falter now would only ensure our conquest. You have assumed a grave responsibility, Brooklyn-san," she cocked her brow to frame her almond-shaped eyes, and cupped his face with her hand to press her lips to his cheek, "be sure you do not fall short." Having nestled her mouth into the crook where his ear sloped smoothly from the etched austerity of his beaked jaw, she whispered, "In your youth, do you remember a battle with a certain jade swordswoman just before the massacre?"

Brooklyn looked quizzically at her, an unusual question under any circumstance. "No, why?"

Partially satisfied the timeline had not been altered in any significant method, she pulled back, and disguised any hint of a smile in the pleasure of channeling the brunt of her anger into a singular blow wrought a thousand years hence. "You deserved it." She slapped an admonishing hand across his wound, and took her leave, passing by another wearing her mate's crimson shade, dulled and blended with a hint of emerald. Her daughter.

Ariana approached cautiously, fearful of this encounter. "Mom, I'm sorry." she whispered repentantly, sheepishly staring to the floor and fiddling with her hands in a nervous gesture. "But, I thought I should make up my own mind about..."

"You are not old enough to have a mind of your own!" Sata seethed in true motherly fashion, cowing her daughter into an obedient silence. "Not until I say so. You are a young girl, not yet a woman. And you cannot even fathom what your decision may hold for the future, or how delicate this clan and our relationship with the world we live in truly is. And until you mature and experience the depths of pain and passion life can award, and truly earn the right to make such a decision that impacts not just yourself but an entire clan, your decisions are best kept to yourself." Sata lessened the glacial tone that practically breathed ice into the warmed air, and tipped a talon underneath her daughter's chin to raise her eyes. "Grow up, then you may approach me on more equal terms and test my patience on every decision from apparel to mating, but not before."

Having witnessed the conversation, and duly impressed by his sister's bravery, Graeme sidled next to his sister when Sata roamed to another part of the infirmary. "How pissed is she?"

Ariana brushed away from her brow and cheek a wave of delicate strands, and tucked them back behind her ear, a trembling breath released. "Her pupils were throbbing."

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

"Fox. Fox, can you hear me?"

She lifted the darkened haze from her sight, blurred, intense, and far too white for any sense of comfort. The gentle voice lured her from the void of unconsciousness, her body weak, and starved. Fox stirred, her hand clenching within her husband's entwined fingers. "...uhnnn...David..."

The billionaire carved marble features in his best version of a smile, cupping his hands completely over her own and feasting upon pale, sickly flesh, but bursting with her distinctive savor. "I'm here, wildfire."

She licked parched lips, full and dry and thirsting for liquid. "...what happened...?"

He handed her a glass of water, and helped her to drink. "You lost consciousness in the computer room, and missed one hell of a show."

She crooned an irritated sigh in the fact her sickness had overcome her strength of will, having been aggravated by the most inane of sources, the reporter. "...damn..." She felt movement to her side, a weighted lump of flesh on her opposite flank shifting. She moved her left hand into a field of fire silk colored bright red, a familiar texture and length. Her eyes beamed when discovering she was drifting her fingers through her son's hair, the child resting comfortably against his mother's side atop the hospital sheets. "...alex..."

"My genes could not be more proud of what they procreated." Xanatos whispered, crossing his eyes to a small boy exhausted, and drifting in and out of slumber. "Our son saved the world, no less than what I would have expected from a Xanatos just short of his sixth birthday." His hand reached over the immobile form of his wife, and as soon as he made contact, Alexander awoke and flinched, quickly pulling away.

The child knew, if not only possessing a rather acute sense of his father's extramural affairs. He knew the castle's energy patterns had become more erratic since a few hours ago, owing to an anomalous presence that now spiked the once free-flowing tide having returned to some semblance of normal. He curled as close to his mother as possible, his eyes never leaving his father's, and the blame inherent let off like fire, and accordingly, Xanatos dropped his hand away.

From another bunk, Lexington sat up, having watched the entire exchange between father and son. "Maybe he senses something we don't, Xanatos." he quipped, bringing the entire infirmary to a muted whisper. Shadow turned from where Delilah was tending to his injuries, and Hudson and Maria, Othello and Desdemona, all were watching, and waiting. "Maybe it's the fact there were Guild helicopters in one of your warehouses. Or how the defensive shield was suddenly disarmed!" His eyes disappeared under a lowered brow, seeping light from his electronic pupils. "Or that you abandoned us in the middle of the battle!!"

As composed as ever, Xanatos simply straightened his suit jacket, maintaining the icy facade under Lexington's scrutiny, even the web-wing's stare enough to goad a thin sheen of sweat against any other's brow. "Why there were intruders in one of my thousands of warehouses across the planet is still a mystery I intend to solve. And the defensive shield must have malfunctioned when under the command of Mother's overburdened programming. As for my sudden withdrawal from the battle..." His eyes settled back on his son and wife, one angered, and one confused. "I had interests to protect."

"Interests more important than our lives?!"

Xanatos narrowed steeled eyes of iron gray, knowing all concerned were waiting for such an answer. "You have no idea."

A prevarication he perhaps expected, Lexington hopped from the bed, only to be halted in place by Brooklyn's hand on his shoulder.

"Lex, no." he commanded quickly, unwilling to escalate this beyond what he could control. "Expend your energy to where it's needed. Like finding out what the hell that thing is out there on the courtyard."

"But..."

Brooklyn's hand tightened on his brother's shoulder, a plea perhaps to allow him to handle this. "Go, I'll join you shortly." Lexington sulked off and out of the infirmary, allowing his brother to step up and match against Xanatos. "Until I can prove without a doubt the failure of the shield and the Guild holing up in one of your warehouses were exactly as you say, you're off the hook. But if I find that you have indeed betrayed us, Xanatos," he leaned in, face to face with the billionaire and breaths merged into one heated wind, "you'll wish you never found castle Wyvern crumbling and covered in Scottish vine, and instead spent your money on something more befitting a decadent socialite such as yourself."

"Far be it for me to continually remind your clan of what they owe to my curiosity of an old urban legend," Xanatos spit back, "but every single one of you would still be either decaying statues or restless spirits if not for my 'decadence'. As would Goliath, even if his eventual resurrection would lead to his obliteration by that blast..."

"Goliath isn't dead!!" Brooklyn growled, choosing to believe against the common thought and rumor that the computer room explosion did indeed kill the Maza family. "Nor are Elisa and Trinity! The three of them are out there somewhere, wherever the gate decided to take them!"

"Four." Alexander whispered, quickly garnering the clan's attention to amend Brooklyn's statement. "Elisa has a baby in her."

It seemed to work. Along with the entire room, a surprise expressed in muted gasps and melancholy smiles, Dr. Pierce succumbed as well, nearly jabbing the needle far too deeply into Othello's skin. The huntsman winced and growled in pain, with the doctor grimacing and pulling tenderly the needle from its embedding into the thick, leathery flesh before he suffer a comparable fate.

"What?!" Brooklyn shoved past Xanatos and ignoring the pain from his torso, rushed to Alexander's side, leaning over him. "Squirt, are you absolutely sure?" he asked, his tone necessitating of a definite reply as he brushed away the boy's hair to better link their equally powerful gaze. "Is Elisa pregnant?"

Intimidated by Brooklyn's brisk approach and stance, he nodded, clutching tighter to his mother's frame. "Uh huh."

As the leader moved back, the joyous news received by a subdued terror, his mate behind him whisked a hand across her ridges, sweeping loose tendrils of silk away from a knitted brow. "Oh shit."

Dr. Pierce wrinkled his eyebrows beneath the long falling strands, and like the others who had not danced through time, could not fathom the disastrous result of magical energy consuming a fetal lifeform so unprepared to defend itself. "Pardon me for acting the idiot here," he interjected, "but considering she just beat the odds at an almost inconceivable conception again, why is her pregnancy considered ominous?"

Sata shook her head and crossed her arms beneath her chest. Her eyes when lifted were wild, and intense, a consuming black wavering. "You don't understand, if this Phoenix gate is like the other, and if Elisa is exposed to its magic for too long...her baby will die...and so will she..."

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

They unloaded, and those gathered around them, their brethren, expecting a triumphant contingent instead found remnants of the best their ranks had to offer, two thirds of the Guild force limping from the cargo helicopters on the shoulders of their friends, some on stretchers, and a few even close to death. It was a scene obscenely converse to their hopes of victory, of an assured safety for their families and friends dashed by the monsters having torn their chosen champions apart. Though the gargoyles had only defended themselves for their very right to exist, the humans in this hangar did not see it that way.

Black skipped from the corpulent belly of the last helicopter to land within the Guild's vast hangar staging area, their base a massive, sprawling bunker hidden from every conceivable enforcement agency by way of their benefactor.

"We got several fractures and multiple lacerations!! Prep for immediate surgery!"

He waded through the crowd of medical personnel, watching each wounded soldier loaded onto stretchers and carted off towards the infirmary, and the doctors shout orders to their swarm of underlings.

"Keep his neck immobile! The last thing we want is a quadriplegic on our hands!"

Moaning and blood, a noise and scent fused into a memory come back to haunt him like so many others tonight, so much so he desired to escape. From the yearning eyes of his home-based legion, questioning silently what went so wrong in a time of assured conquest. Of his soldiers having survived the battle and made it back home, and his command to retreat, not for the damaged timeline wreaking havoc through their ranks, but for one, young man that threatened the sincerity of his entire past and that pain which built and forged an empire, risen from the ashes of a failed experiment.

"Subdural hematoma and he's bleeding into his stomach! Move, move!!"

He escaped. He pushed his way through the expectant crowd, the administrative staff wanting orders for such insignificant things as weapon replenishment and personnel relocation to fill the gaps left by the dead. He waved them off, slapping a young woman's clipboard to the cold cement, scaring her with such a brutal act. "Just ensure those men and woman survive." he growled, and they halted their chase, allowing Black to leave unburdened through a far door.

White followed, unimpressed by his leader's pretense. Through the winding halls of the near-subterranean command center, where the workforce parted to allow the two most influential men to pass unimpeded and unbothered, he pursued. Even through the guarded door leading into Black's private chamber, a womb of monitors and computers, and a literal heart from where to control every aspect of the Guild.

"What the hell is wrong with you?!" he accused first, slamming the door behind him as Black slumped both hands onto his desk. "Our first attack, and what should have been by all rights our last, was jeopardized by your single order otherwise!!"

The Guild leader seemed unaffected. "There will be other opportunities. Plenty of time to kill the monsters."

"We lost over a hundred men and women and two attack helicopters in a useless exercise that ultimately failed! We should have blown that goddamned castle from its moorings from a comfortable distance in the first place!"

"And thus, we would celebrate by sipping Château Loudenne as the entire Eyrie building collapsed and pulverized an entire city block and beyond in a rain of fire, steel and stone. How gallant of humanity's last resort." Block scoffed at White's recklessness, suckling a fresh breath of re-circulated air into his lungs. "I think this city has suffered enough tonight, don't you think?" He pulled tautly the edges of his gloves, ensuring the black leather was stretched form-fittingly to his hands, and powered up a few more of the screens making the entirety of this chamber, every channel a different news report on the rescue efforts. "Our benefactor will re-supply our lost equipment, and the population of New York will produce more willing to take the place of those who died for our cause. Even more so with the attack by those things." He turned, the dimmed screens of the chamber reflecting a glassy fire against the white of his eyes, vengeful and angry at his commands being counteracted with such destructive apathy. He brushed aside the thought of White trying to wrest control of his dominion, deciding to better award his second in command's intelligence in not actually daring to try. "You on the other hand, agent White, went against my explicit orders. You could have killed innocents out there in your insular methods!"

White stepped forward, standing against the force that was the enigmatic Mr. Black. "The Eyrie building is a proven nest! And since when have you placed safety of a few over the safety of an entire race?!"

"We protect the innocent! We don't endanger them, we don't let our war with these creatures affect their normal lives in any way!" He lifted from the desk, and pointed a gloved finger towards the slimmer man, ensuring his point to be absolutely patent. "One more infraction and I'll be looking to rearrange the command structure of this organization. Is that clear?!"

He sneered, the expression lost in the weak light. "Perfectly, sir." His eyes though thinned. "Why'd you pull us out? It wasn't just those flashes, it was something else..."

Exhausted features suddenly fell, toppled by a past brought back in a tidal wave of crippling, weakening emotion. "HE was there, inside that suit of armor we met near the infirmary." Black explained, the boy's face a new version alongside the old. "I couldn't kill him...even if he has allied himself with the creatures, I just couldn't kill him..."

"Who?"

Black smiled wistfully. "He has his mother's will...he's so young...barely over twenty and he's already a soldier..."

White could not readily believe it, that his leader had tried to halt their victory over the most craven of excuses. A weakness in the once-thought impenetrable steel skin, a crack opened by something he would never have expected. "You retreated from our most decisive battle because of some goddamned boy?!"

Black immediately rushed him, grabbing the other man by the collar of his suit and ramming him against the opposite wall with enough pressure against his neck to fracture bone. "That boy...!!" His eyes held an explosion, of a progeny almost lost, and now within his grasp. "...is my son."

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

Breaching the great distance now between father and son, they shared a personal tragedy each contained within a family, uncovered from the dust of the past long left behind them in a quest for a new future. Todd watched from a darkened corner a prone form lay peacefully under the Eyrie hospital sheets, bandaged and healed, the hole in her belly successfully stitched up in the midst of war. Out of surgery, Rose rested in a once-fitful slumber, the sedatives having calmed feverish dreams wracked by the pain of her ailing body. Every weakened breath he could hear, every gulp for fresh oxygen to feed her lungs was a struggle, and damned if he did not feel sorry for her, the woman who abandoned him.

He noticed MacBeth to her side, holding a vigil for reasons only assumed by the young man but in truth unknown, the ancient king slumped into a large chair along the hospital stretcher and buried comfortably in the black folds of his duster. He nursed his prize from battle, his only solicited recompense for chancing his mortality a steaming cup of coffee freshly brewed and flavored with amaretto. And Todd only allowed him here in the fact he had indeed risked his life for the clan, and his claimed family. The young man descended back into his thoughts, using the shadows of the darkened infirmary as a blanket, of either warmth or isolation, it suited his mood.

Beside him, movement, as a figure shifted her weight and roused his attention. Todd looked over to Annika, sprawled beside him on the hospital bench seat and leaning on his side, her legs tucked up underneath her, her wings drooped lazily over her shoulders and her tail drifting back and forth, the tip a pendulum against the infirmary linoleum. She was tired, and fading in and out of a blurred sleep even less than an hour before the coming dawn, exhausted from hours of surgery and facing off against a relentless Guild member out for her blood. She had performed beyond any expectation, and Todd was thankful for the capable, resilient creature that was his wife.

He leaned into the strands of golden silk lying across his shoulder, and for the first time for an hour, altered the scowl he wore into a slight smile. She stirred, and adjusted her makeshift berth against his shoulder, fluttering long lashes swept over ocean sapphire.

A robed figure approached him across the glossy tile, the stains upon a favored lab coat indicative to the owner. Pierce hovered over Todd, daring to intrude on his reverie to bring him news of his mother. "The surgery was successful, Mr. Hawkins," he whispered, careful to keep his voice down in this room where the healing lay dormant, but enough to sufficiently rouse Annika to Todd's side, "I was able to repair all of Sobek's damage to her internal organs. She suffered extensive internal injuries but I'm confident she'll pull through...though she may hurt for a while."

He nodded to the doctor's report, mechanical in his acceptance of the information.

"Your mother is a survivor." the good doctor continued, flipping through her medical status chart and oblivious to the expression that swiftly soured Todd's features. "I'm starting her on an antibiotic morphine drip for pain and any possible infection, and..."

"She's not my mother." Todd cut him off, a growl of anger, of abandonment making the boisterous man a darker creature himself.

Oblivious indeed. "I've compared her blood to your sample on file, Todd," Pierce stressed, "she is your biological mother."

Annika drifted closer to her husband, the resentment he contained so stubbornly sending visible tremors through his hands. "Todd..." she tried, and for naught.

"She's not my mother!!" he screamed back, hauling himself from the bench and facing off against an anxious wife and doctor. "My mother died twenty years ago in that car crash." Growling from deep within his chest, he pointed towards Rose's bed, where MacBeth stood up to better examine just what the commotion was. "The woman in that bed abandoned me in an orphanage, and then when she finally decides to come back, she lies to me my entire goddamned life!" He backed away, sneering, revulsion and pain etched into his features, staring callously towards Rose's sleeping form as he slinked from the hospital. "She's not my mother," his disembodied voice trailed, the last remnant as the young man disappeared into the hall, "and never will be."

As Pierce threw his hands into the air and muttered something unintelligible as he walked away, Annika sighed and rubbed her head to ease the stress of the recent events. "Hell of a family to bring you into," she slid a hand over her stomach, "huh, kiddo?"

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

She emerged from the rubble, lifting nearly a ton of debris away with a single hand. She was dazed, and bewildered beyond the capacity to speak coherently. In the chaos of blaring sirens and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles finally allowed access to the damaged section of Manhattan, it was a blurred, anarchic frenzy of light and noise and rain that prompted her to seek shelter from the seekers themselves. The rescue parties were dark figures against the intensity of their searchlights, strafing their flashlight beams throughout the rain-distorted darkness and endangering her anonymity, and knowing her unclothed and gilded skin would reflect an errant stream of illumination she rabbited.

Guided by instinct alone, and the ancient preservation of any wounded animal facing a predator, she fled, sweeping away the debris of the building that had toppled upon her by using her enhanced strength and the golden steel sheath wrapped around her. Towards the nearest, darkest corner, she stumbled and lurched and dodged into an alleyway and found refuge at last, even from those who were hard-pressed to rescue any and all survivors.

The clever sister huddled with folded wings around her naked body in the dampened corridor, a coursing breath running fast and hard through her lungs as the searching cries of rescue workers exploded from the light-filled chasm and eventually faded into the distance. She trailed backwards, guided by her hand against the brick wall enclosing this narrow dead-end, a place of refuse and abandonment, and unbeknownst to the clever sister, a home.

A muffled gasp turned her attention around, to onlookers emerging from the debris and dismemberment of this forsaken alleyway. Her eyes blinked, having stumbled upon a crowd of humans cowering near the other end, gathering what remnants of their makeshift home that were not pulverized by either the gods' rampage or the storm's fury.

An older man stepped forwards, a broken plank wielded as a weapon, and though useless against the sister's steel skin, she nonetheless heeded his intent to defend his homeless brood. "What are you?!"

She stood silent, centering on the weapon lashing before her, a thousand computations running simultaneously, on disarmament, escape, or even pacification. But in her confusion, and the fact she could not meld these ideas together into a single action caused her hesitation. A hand examined the throbbing pain centered on her brow, trailing across a large concave in her forehead's steel skin, an indentation from the several tons of broken girders collapsing atop her.

"Shush, Holden." came a softer, more yielding voice from the group. They parted, in almost a silent respect to an older, shorter woman draped in tattered rags and a thick woolen shawl, to better protect her from the ills of urban living. "Can't you see she's scared?"

"What if she's one of those things that tore apart the city?!" the man protested once more, and pointed to the makeshift dwelling at the far end of the alley. "And our home?!"

The old woman merely smiled to her impetuous friend and waved him off, daunting the man and forcing his compliance. "This timid thing?" She approached, her step as soft as her demeanor, her voice, and her eyes, like melting crystals gleaming from beneath the lines in her flesh, each denoting a year of hardship. "Nah, she's got good eyes, and she wouldn't be running scared from the search and rescue parties if she had indeed been 'one of those things'."

Holden as he was known scoffed and held himself ready, even as the older woman approached the glimmering creature.

Her hand extended, the ragged woman steadily moved closer, though smart, and cautious. "Who are you?"

She tilted her head, her brain reforming sufficient neural connections to heal a needed speech center. "Query: unknown." she replied, coldly, a mechanical voice to match her evolved exterior. "Cognitive functions damaged, long-term/short-term memory retrieval directives damaged, unable to reply without sufficient data. Identity: unknown." The absence of her memories frightened her, unearthing the soul from beneath the layers of technology inherent in her resurrection. "My identity," she whispered, her voice now her own and not of the cold metal, and frightened, "...is unknown..."

"It's gotta be one of those gargoyle things..." whispered one from the background.

"Gargoyle?" the sister tested the word apprehensively.

The older woman approached in seeing the confusion race through her eyes, and reached out, but held steady when the sister flinched at the contact. She resumed her exploration of the lustrous skin colored a brilliant gold when having gained a modicum of the creature's trust. She rubbed the hollow in the gargoyle's forehead, and scrunched her features as if she could wholly empathize with the female's disorientation and pain. "Whatever you are, you're hurt," she whispered, "and I don't think you should be running around this broken burg stark naked with a dent in your head." Pulling the shawl from around her shoulders, she draped it onto the nude, golden gargoyle, who indeed welcomed the gift if not required for warmth, but comfort in her uncertainty. "Come with me, dearie." the woman prompted, offering a weary smile amongst the folds of age etched into her parched skin. "We'll keep you safe. We'll protect you."

"Protect." she echoed, welcoming the woman's generosity, and scanning the crowd now come to examine closer the newest member to their family. "Yes, protect."

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

"Anomaly appears to be a focal point with a funnel-shaped nexus, breeding immense energies, most of which are beyond my sensors' abilities to fully classify. It contains no substance, but is registering as a solid entity to all methods of scanning technologies available at my present operating capacity."

"So in other words, a massive gash in space and time."

Mother nodded to Brooklyn's urban if not rudimentary generalization. "Yes."

"Alex's fault, probably." Lexington answered, hunched in front of the portal near its orifice, his laptop connected to Mother's scanners, and in turn, led by an umbilical into the cybernetic implant port on his neck. "He told me he wasn't able to fix every 'string' as he called them, and grabbed a hold of all the others and simply tied them together, which in turn created this portal as a substandard mending of the damage caused by Demona's killing of her younger self...or at least a version of her younger self...I think..." He rubbed his brow. "Temporal mechanics is hard to understand even for genius-level intelligence." He looked up, into the swirl of energy nearly eight feet high, a perfect circular shape hovering across the stones on the southern side of the castle's courtyard. Beautiful, and oddly serene in its pulsing rhythm, if not a window into any reality dangerously unknown, and thus, a vulnerability to the castle's security and the occupants' lives. "Anyway, according to the latest theories, it most likely intersects all those broken strings without ends into one massive junction leading into hundreds, maybe thousands of parallel, alternative realities."

"So, Wyvern's now an intergalactic crossroad." Brooklyn muttered. "Great. Is this thing open on the other end? Will we expect visitors anytime soon?"

Mother's hologram, just recently restored, looked towards the portal. "Unknown. It depends if such universes that lead into ours have an equally utilizable method of traversing through this portal."

"And can we close it?"

"That might be more dangerous than anything else." Lexington answered, his computer readings beyond any discernable limit. "The energy readings are off the scale. I couldn't even hazard a guess how to close a rift in space and time at all, let alone something this massive. Maybe Alex can take a shot when he's 'recharged'."

"Without the skilled teachings of his missing tutor, Alex could end up making things worse." He rubbed a soothing hand across his forehead, the burden of leadership making a dull, throbbing ache. "If that's even a possibility right now..." He walked forwards, grabbed a small, irregular piece of stone broken off from the battle and lobbed it towards the portal. It fell through the window, and disappeared as the energies consumed it, taking it far beyond their comprehension. "Mother, have this thing cordoned off, and pull some of your defensive drones from the battlements to guard this thing at all times. Even if it burps, let me know." The sentience did not answer, distracted and looking away, scanning several electronic eyes across the damaged courtyard, having been cleaned of the bodies less than an hour ago. "Mother?"

"Yes...?" She whirled around, obviously preoccupied, a rare instance indeed in the fact her very personality is controlled by a sophisticated computer program, usually unallowing for such human frailties as simple distraction. The holographic form blinked her eyes, and steadied herself. "My apologies...with my core programming compromised, I am having...trouble."

Brooklyn wandered off, towards the castle edge. "Aren't we all."

Lexington disengaged himself from the computer equipment, as Mother set into motion her given orders and looked away again, quickly powering off the hologram, and vanishing her presence from the courtyard. Passing the sentience's odd behavior off as another glitch in her damaged computer banks to be fixed shortly, he followed his brother to the outlining parapets, a broken, jagged edge shattered by weaponry and opened near-dangerously into the city. Throwing himself onto embankment, a hunched, vulture-like posture, he stared to where Brooklyn did, the darkened chasm in their city now lit and aflame by massive, roaming searchlights, and a thousand twinkling lights spread out to each denote a rescue worker sifting meticulously through the wreckage. "We won." he whispered, his eyes lifting into the clearing horizon, the coming sunlight slowly breeding a contrast between land and sky. "That has to count for something."

"A hollow victory, against a physical force, something we can punch and shoot and claw." Brooklyn responded, looking tired, and true to his age. "I remember staring into the eyes of the man Annika fought against in the surgical bay, he was the last to die. It was hatred, pure and simple. That kind of abhorrence can't be beaten, Lex. It's seated too deep, it's become part of the evolution of any sentient species. Half will always love, half will always hate." His hands traced the damaged parapet, the foundation scorched and crumbled. "And that latter half becomes more dangerous with every generation, and each new recruit to a same old cause. Protection by extinction, and an assurance of life by another's death."

"Goliath never believed that."

"Goliath isn't here." said Brooklyn hardheartedly. "He's lost, out there somewhere, by an instrument of such pain and war. His wife, and his goddamned baby daughter, all of them floating through every conceivable moment in time."

"They'll make it like you did," Lexington maintained, a slim hope the best they all had for their true leader's return, "they'll come home."

Eyes that saw the very best and worst of past and future settled to his devastated home below, suffering from a wound so very tolling. The first rays of light were leaching across the horizon through the dissolving clouds, a welcome end to a very enduring, and costly night. "It's almost dawn, let's get inside." He pushed away from the edge and turned inside. "We all need rest. With the Guild knowing of our home, and Sobek's disappearance, our lives just got a little more complicated." Lexington strolled past him, collecting his computer equipment and watching as a few iron sentinels relieved themselves from their posts surrounding the castle periphery to take their place around the portal, the Steel Clan guarding the opened hole in time. Brooklyn took one final look to the distant sky, the angular echelon fashioned by the humans' towers flooding against a lavender sky, and a singular point of point expanding slowly outwards to claim its place. "They'll come home," he whispered, echoing Lexington's heartfelt assertion, "they have to."

He strode inside, new leader to his brood, and dreaded what duties now lie ahead.

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

The city was close to light, so close to touch and revel within the warmth of the sun after a night none would ever forget, and to begin the search for those lost in the great chasm in Manhattan under the assuring light of day. From his vantage point, he was lucky enough to behold what others could never imagine, to not just watch the sky alight with fire, of orange and red and orchid, but to stroke the very flames of heaven himself. And he thought to himself, what a bitter indulgence.

Xanatos watched from his great office window the sky lighten towards the perpetual cycle of day, his face hidden behind his joined hands and etched like marble, agonizingly petrified, and no discernible emotion placed forth to even hazard a guess to what he kept inside of him.

"...and still searchers sift through the rubble with the coming light of dawn..." a background murmur heeded any and all attention with a now stale but nonetheless catching headline. "...the clock slowly running out on any survivors who may be trapped beneath the crumbled buildings..."

With the lure of the reporter's voice, he swiveled his chair towards the monitor screen, holding a continuous stream of news reports. Each station boasted a running toll on the rising body count, steadily mounting towards a thousand with so many people caught unawares and unable to be evacuated in time. Millions of dollars in property damage, buildings ruined and reduce to broken piles of composite construction materials, from businesses unrivaled and homes made warm by the presence of families to smoldering ash.

"...One can only guess what these creatures were that trampled entire buildings and killed so many..." one reporter continued, on location in the chasm as it was so named by the news stations, a flurry of activity behind him as rescue workers pulled both survivors and bodies from the rubble. "...but whether a terrorist attack or a just the beginning of a greater threat, our unified spirit shall not be crushed..."

"Human audacity." another voice intruded upon the television score, booming an echo into the spacious office, dripping, and oozing with a malicious streak. "To truly make a species appear larger than it actually is, is the greatest delusion of evolution." Xanatos turned slightly, to see his private door open and allow into his chamber his so-called business partner. Hulking, he emerged into the billionaire's sight, and smiling, in all likelihood enjoying every aspect of this new working relationship. "Well, what an interesting night."

Xanatos lowered his hands to his desk, a rigid facade holding back the hatred of this creature he had allied himself with. "Interesting is not a word I would readily use."

"Your son is powerful." continued the being, strolling through this hub of power for the intercontinental conglomerate of Xanatos Enterprises, basking in the darkened shadows and seeing collected treasures from around the globe proudly displayed under shafts of light projected from the ceiling. "Beyond what I could ever imagine."

"He's a focal point, of two races soon to become three." It seemed more a boast than an explanation, to better ensure this creature fondling his displayed artifacts would know just what his son was capable of. "A convergence no one has ever seen before."

The being moved forwards. "How unfortunate for you then," a face materialized into what dim light existed, the pallid, skeletal features of Sobek, "that I ended up linked to him." He watched the human tense, and scrape his nails over the expensive finish of his oak desk as he balled his hands into fists. "His fay heritage attracted the bonding aspect of the immortality spell like a magnet, binding us together for an eternity."

"It will not be so long, I assure you." the billionaire vowed.

"He'll live forever. Is that not what every father wants for his child, to be spared injury and death?" Sobek inquired, though inscrutably wicked in a jest that modeled his bony facial plates into a smile. "You should be proud, for Alexander is quite potent, and perceptive, he even merged with Goliath to spare himself any damage or pain through our link." He released a steadying breath, his body not fully healed by the merciless beating taken by Goliath imbued with Alexander's power. "I wonder if the boy even knew, that he would die himself if indeed Goliath had utilized his true and full potential to destroy me, the little brat..."

"I make meticulous preparations, I risk my place with the clan to open a window for your arrival, I even have to deal with three hundred armored racists storming the castle battlements, and you venture all of it and waste your time screwing around with Goliath for your trivial game."

"I wanted to play."

"I made this deal to save Fox's life, not to allow you to unleash your magical creatures into Manhattan and rip a massive gorge into my city!"

"A diversion was needed."

Xanatos was even now surprised at just how deeply Sobek's malevolence was seated. "You killed hundreds of people for a damned diversion?!!"

He backed away from the desk, trawling through the office and running his bone-tipped talons across a war-beaten shield from a Greek ancestry. "I've never been one for subtlety." he droned. "It was simple enough to disguise my true reason for coming back to New York as just another psychotic rampage for revenge, instead of the fact I had come mostly to meet with you. What better way to distract then to play single-mindedly into the role most expected of you."

"You almost ruined everything!" Xanatos yelled out, his voice rising like his blood pressure, Sobek's indifference serving to unhinge the always perfectly composed. He stood from his desk, and stared down the mutation daring to travel the length of his office so casually. "You nearly exposed me, and our covenant!"

"Yes, I do apologize for getting carried away, but the battle with Goliath was the most fun I've had in a very long time." Sobek hummed, running a cautious finger across a blade's edge, gilded and bejeweled, a weapon of war now a remnant of a distant campaign. "The fact I will destroy everything Goliath holds dear has simply been altered in its approach. I had hoped I could eat his clan before his very eyes in my retribution of his constant victories, but allowing him to be welcomed home the rigid flesh of his clan decomposing under a full moon will have to suffice." He replaced the blade to its display stand within the shaft of light, and headed back towards Xanatos. "I truly hope he survives his odyssey though...so he may witness my ascension beyond mortal flesh," a long, serpentine tongue licked across his teeth, savoring the flavor of one, certain human, "and the evisceration of his wife."

"You're psychotic."

"Perhaps. Now, to business." His eyes sparked yellow, his tone become gravely serious. "The stones."

Xanatos sighed, under Sobek's heel, and for the first time, the submissive in a business deal that would mean his family's lives. "I'll find them for you."

"Yes, you will." The massive, bone-plated creature rested both hands to the oak desk, garnering a creak from the substantial weight, and leered at the billionaire. "Or your precious wife and child will suffer grievously. Alexander through our link, and Fox...through her sickness." He noticed the human's features pale, Grecian skin a dark tawny brew become a whitened shade of ocher, as Xanatos relented, and fell back into his leather throne, his Achilles heel lethally exploited. "A rare form of Septicemia, an invasion of her bloodstream so virulent, so merciless, even your resident miracle performing doctor cannot cure her. Who could ever imagine a mixture of my own mutated blood would react so...favorably with hers, tainted with that of Avalon magic."

Xanatos slumped deeper into the padded folds and seams of his chair, a true revulsion at being anyone's lapdog, let alone a psychotic who held him entirely at his mercy and whim. His wife and lover, his only parallel, hanging by a delicate thread looped to Sobek's talontip.

"Only I can cure her, only I can ease her suffering." he hissed, his breath much like the desert winds, hot, and vindictive. "And as such, you are my puppet, Mr. Xanatos, I hold your strings and those to every resource of your empire. And if you do anything to jeopardize what I seek, if you leak my presence here to the clan, to anyone, she will most assuredly die."

"I won't let you destroy this clan." he warned, a last card to place. "Even if it means sacrificing Fox's life."

The smile burst, and lay proverbially suspended from ear to ear. "Oh, but I'M not going to destroy the clan, or the rest of humanity, Mr. Xanatos...YOU ARE. Clan Wyvern shall burn through your hands alone." He retreated back into the shadows from whence he came, using the private door leading into a hidden sanctum, known only to a select few, to prepare for the coming of day. "Remember," the fading voice reminded, "I own you."

Left alone and silhouetted by the rising peak of morning sun, the exhaustion, the duplicity, the very sacrifice of his soul at last caught up to him as he buried his face into his hands. And for perhaps the first time in his life, David Xanatos shed a tear.


To be continued?
That of course is entirely up to you...the reader.