The Labyrinth, April 13th, 2198.
Demona leaned against the brick wall of the war room, sharpening her talons as Samson gave his presentation. Even down here, the denizens of the Labyrinth regarded her with suspicion. She looked past her talons as she took a mental roll call of her… comrades. The one called Delilah made her want to retch… she looked and sounded just like the original abomination Thailog had created. She was younger, of course, but the similarities were too similar for her to be just a descendent. Which meant Elisa Maza's blood was still infecting gargoyles. Perhaps once the Space-Spawn were defeated, and her freedom given to her, she could make sure this new Delilah met with an unfortunate accident.
Likewise, the acting leader of the Labyrinth Clan inspired nearly as much rage within her. She looked and sounded just like Angela, but colored as Thailog was. Her name was Cordelia… the very same name given to the first Angela clone created by Sevarius, whom Demona was fool enough to believe could be the daughter Angela wasn't. Even in death, the geneticist's legacy continued to haunt her.
Her eyes then darted to the human whelp from the Order of the Guardian. She didn't know whether to laugh or weep when she first heard his given name. Nicholas Natsilane Maza. Descended from one of the twin whelps adopted by Elisa Maza and Goliath after she had killed the parents. The Guardian paid her little attention; perhaps he was not yet familiar with the story. But she would not take her eyes off of him either.
Just as Brooklyn would not take his eyes off of her; ever since she was released from her cell, the time she did not spend in her quarters at night was spent with him ever in her shadow. If the Japanese female, Katana, was not with him, this must have been early in his travels through time with the phoenix, when she knew he still held his grudge. Like her, he had been given armor and new weapons, but he still kept his medieval broadsword.
Samson, Delilah, Zafiro, Owen and two LXM robots stood on a dais, as images appeared on a screen behind them.
"Our target is the Pentagon," Samson addressed the small group. "Since the Space-Spawn occupation started, the building has been seized by them and turned into just one of many bases around the planet. Right now, they're allowing Earth's governments a limited autonomy. Think the Vichy government in France, but of course they've taken control of our militaries."
"So what's the plan?" Guardian asked. "We're not going to burn the place to the ground, are we?"
"Of course not, but some damage might be unavoidable," Samson replied. "This is about making a statement, and learning all we can about the Space-Spawn's movements on Earth. I want us to get in and get out in less than twenty minutes. Our faces will be broadcast around the world shortly after, but if all goes well, it will be a small price to pay."
"We will split into two teams," Delilah spoke up. "Samson, Zafiro, Brooklyn, Fu-Dog, and LXM-994 will take the north half of the building, while Guardian, Demona, LXM-1057 and I will take the south half."
Demona sighed under her breath. She was on a team with two Mazas. Perhaps she could get it over with on the mission, kill them both and then disappear into the night. How likely was Samson to honor their agreement and free her once this was all over anyway? Even if he didn't believe they died at the hands of the Space-Spawn or the humans occupying the Pentagon for as much as he might wish to avenge his friends, his sense of duty would make the Space-Spawn his top priority… allowing her time to find a small island or secluded mountain to hide in until either Samson defeated the Space-Spawn or, more likely, they crushed his little resistance. Her lips curved into a smile. Yes, she now had a plan.
~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~
Washington D.C., April 14th, 2198
Samson, Delilah, Zafiro, Guardian, Brooklyn, the two LXM robots, and Demona sat in the trailer of a convoy as it came to a stop inside an alley. They waited a few moments as Owen Burnett opened the doors to the trailer.
"Thank you, Owen," Samson said as they slowly piled out of the van.
"The rendezvous time is three-o-clock," Owen reminded him. "I will wait in the Lexington-Xanatos Corporation's Washington facility." And with that, he stepped out of the alley into a waiting limousine.
"Hey, Samson; Demona's your what?" Guardian asked. "Grandma? Great-Grandma?"
"I'm a child of the clan, but…" Samson suddenly realized what was being asked of him and quickly changed the subject, and turned towards Demona. "It's your show now," he said.
Demona nodded and produced an ancient piece of parchment. "This spell will conceal us from all prying eyes."
"Even cameras?" Delilah asked.
"Unlike the movies," Demona said curtly, "even electronic eyes aren't immune to sorcery."
Brooklyn chuckled ironically. "She's telling the truth. Ask her about the time she broke into the airwaves and used a magic spell to turn everyone in Manhattan to stone."
"Now is not the time, Brooklyn," Samson said before an argument could start. He turned back towards Demona and asked, "Does the spell have any limits?"
"If you come into physical contact with another living being, the spell will be undone," she answered. "One cannot remain concealed once others are aware of your presence."
"No offense," Brooklyn cut in, "but this sounds like a pretty crappy spell."
Demona glared back at Brooklyn. "Ask Samson about that. The Manhattan Clan confiscated my spell books long ago."
"Now why would we ever go and do something like that?" Brooklyn's response dripped with sarcasm.
"That's enough," Samson interrupted, sounding even more like Goliath than usual. "Conceal us, Demona."
Needing no further prompting, she held the parchment in her right hand as she began gesturing with her left and started chanting. "Occulto nos ex totus oculi!" Green mist emanated around her left hand and then started shrouding them from all eyes, even their own.
"Be careful," Samson ordered. "Don't stray too far from one another, and remember the mission."
~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~
Even invisible, Demona and her reluctant companions managed to stay close. It was child's play to make it past the human soldiers guarding the building, just as it was child's play to get inside the building.
"I've seen this place on TV and in movies," said Guardian, "but I was not prepared for the real thing. This place is huge."
"Silence," Demona whispered sharply.
"This way," Delilah ordered before making her way down the corridor. Demona and Guardian followed the sound of her movements before they came upon the entrance to the Pentagon's war room.
"If we open this door now, invisible or not, whoever is inside is going to notice," Guardian whispered.
"We might not have to wait long," Delilah said as the sound of footsteps could be heard walking down the hall.
Demona turned her attention towards the footsteps and had to hold herself back from snarling. A young, dark-skinned human female was walking down the hall. Her hair was now dyed several different colors, and her fashion might have changed, but she still dressed counter-culture. There was no mistaking it; this was the Illuminatus that once served as Thailog's handler.
The human walked right past them, into the war room. Still invisible, Demona, and her companions quickly entered behind her. The room was dark, but not so dark as to miss her stopping in the middle of the room and delivering a polite bow to the other occupants.
Demona held back a gasp. In her many centuries of life, she had seen a lot. But she had never seen anything like this. They were large; larger than Goliath had ever been. They stood bipedal, almost ten feet tall, and didn't so much as wear armor as seemed to be merged with it, and yet they did not seem to be cybernetic implants. What was visibly organic differed in color from individual to individual; these had to be the Space-Spawn.
"I come with greetings from the upper echelons," she spoke as she approached a Space-Spawn who wore more ornate armor than the rest. "My name is Shari. I was told you wanted to know everything there was to know about human history and human culture."
The skin of the Space-Spawn began to glow. The glow faded only to appear again in short or long sequences, the colors changing moment to moment. From the armor verbal speech emanated in English as one of them spoke. "We are honored to have you as our guest."
"First things first, General," Shari said. "I was asked to convey a message. Number One says the Illuminati has cooperated with you so far. He wants to know when you will release the prisoners he has vouched for."
"The Illuminati's cooperation is most appreciated," the general said. "But the decision is not up to me; it is up to the circle. Once they are satisfied Earth will cooperate with us long term then they will consider your request."
"We understand," Shari said. "Every single one of our members is working to enforce our will, which as far as we are concerned is now your will."
"We hope so," the general said. "We bear your planet no ill will. Once we assess that your planet's cooperation is truly genuine, we will share our gifts with your people."
"Should the slightest trace of resistance be detected we will infiltrate, sabotage and expose it. You have his word." As she spoke she looked like she was swallowing a bitter pill. "You have my word."
"In due time, your obedience will be rewarded." The general paused, as another Space-Spawn approached him and glowed in its own pattern of light and colors, but no speech emanated from his armor. The general responded in kind before a large monitor turned on. "But in the interests of full disclosure between us and the Illuminati, I must warn you. Disobedience will be severely punished."
"You need not worry, general." Shari now stood at an almost military-style attention.
"We are not worried, but tell your human superior this."
An image of the Earth appeared on the screen. The image zoomed out to reveal an immense starship between the Earth and the Moon. On the screen, the starship fired a single concentrated blast at the planet and the Earth exploded. "Should your planet become more trouble than it is worth, we will evacuate and annihilate it. We hope it does not come to this, but there are others out there who would use your planet's resources to endanger the galaxy."
"I understand," Shari said solemnly.
Demona's eyes burst wide. Samson's resistance was indeed a futile gesture. Best to follow through with her plan now. She slowly waved her tail until it came into contact with Guardian. Once the human realized he was visible, the shock of it caused him to jump to his feet with fear, brushing against Demona who had just become visible, and his momentum pushing her against Delilah and LXM-1057.
The Space-Spawn immediately spotted them, and their glowing patterns changed again as an alarm sounded. Shari looked mortified at their very presence.
"You fools!" Demona screamed at her companions. She turned and ran, but they followed… much to her disgust. "I told you not to make physical contact!"
"Hey, that was an accident!" Guardian shouted.
"We have to get out," Delilah said as they heard the sound of a small army of footsteps running towards their position. "Follow me!"
Demona's eyes blazed red. "You are not fit to order me!" she shouted as several soldiers rounded the corner and began firing. She and her companions quickly ducked into a nearby office.
"Out the window." Delilah cried. Guardian was the first to jump followed by LXM-1057. The clone narrowed her eyes and glared at Demona. "After you." Her tone was as cold as ice.
Demona growled and leapt after the human and robot before being followed by the clone. As they landed in front of the building, the sound of a large explosion was heard from the north end of the building as the dark sky lit up.
"Come!" Delilah shouted as they kept running. "That should keep them busy so we can get out of here." As they ran, Delilah tapped her ear piece. "Let's get to the rendezvous point."
Demona sighed as she ran. This was not her night.
~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~
As far as building subbasements went, this was adequate. Guardian opened the door ahead of her, as they piled into the subfloors of the Lexington-Xanatos Corporation's D.C. facility. Owen Burnett sat behind a desk waiting for them.
"Where's Samson?" Delilah asked failing to suppress her worry.
"He and his party have yet to return…" Owen replied dryly.
Delilah cut him off. "Then we're going back and getting them."
Owen cleared his throat. "He and his party have yet to return from sublevel two. They returned with a guest." Delilah bolted towards the elevator, followed by Guardian and the LXM. Owen raised an eyebrow at Demona, who paused before following.
When they arrived below, they were stunned. Lying barely conscious on an examining table was a being unlike any they had seen before. A being not of this Earth, and yet, not one of the Space-Spawn they laid eyes on earlier.
"He was being held prisoner inside the Pentagon," Samson said as he took Delilah's hand in his own. "After we planted our explosives, Brooklyn found him."
"Yeah, and it looks like the Space-Spawn really worked him over," Brooklyn cut in. "If this is who I think it is."
"Another alien!" Demona yelled. "Kill it before it can betray us to its comrades."
"Before I was so rudely interrupted," Brooklyn glared at Demona as Fu-Dog growled at her. "I think this might be Nokkar. An alien sentinel stationed on Easter Island. I know this sounds hard to believe, but Goliath and Elisa told me about him."
Nokkar started coughing and slowly sat up. "What he says is true." His speech was slurred but he was managing. "I spent centuries standing vigil on Rapa Nui. But the same night your leaders were taken, they captured me."
"Just take it easy," Brooklyn said as he motioned for Nokkar to lie back down. "His story is legit, guys. I trust him."
"That does not inspire me with confidence," Demona said.
"Yeah, well I suppose you would know all about playing people for suckers," Brooklyn shot back at her.
"What did you find?" Samson asked Delilah before Demona and Brooklyn could continue their bickering.
"It's worse than we thought, Samson. Far worse." Delilah then proceeded to explain their discovery of the Space-Spawn general and his devil's agreement with the Illuminati. But everyone almost seemed resigned when she told them all about the planet destroying ship orbiting the planet. Following her explanation, LXM-1057 projected a holographic recording of the Space-Spawn's conversation with the Illuminatus.
"Great," Brooklyn sighed. "The Space-Spawn have a Death Star."
"Did you notice their shifting colors?" Zafiro observed. "They communicate with each other in some form of bioluminescence, like fireflies. Those suits they wear are translating it into verbal speech."
"They are native to the cold vacuum of space," Nokkar explained. "They have no home planet as we do. I have equipment to translate what they are not saying to her aboard my ship. Unfortunately, it was captured by the enemy."
"Perhaps the LXM robots can translate them," Samson suggested.
"The Space-Spawn themselves supplied us with a Rosetta Stone," Owen observed. "It will take time, but I believe it can be done."
"Look!" Guardian interrupted. "Our little party at the Pentagon just made the news." He ran over and unmuted the TV.
"And the Pentagon just released a statement telling us all not to panic," said the reporter. "The Space-Spawn were upgrading the building's equipment to make it more suitable for our national and planetary defense when there was a hardware accident. The Space-Spawn have sent their apologies to the families of those hurt and killed in the blast and are offering significant compensation. This reporter would like to tell you more, and hopes we have more information as the situation develops. Reporting from Washington, this is Lisa Marshall."
"An accident!" Guardian cried. "Unbelievable."
"They want control of the narrative," Zafiro mused. "If they reveal us, it will be on their terms and not ours. Goebbels himself couldn't have done better."
"Then we accomplished nothing!" Demona yelled.
"We acquired a new ally and a new source of information." Samson indicated Nokkar. "I call this a victory."
"I swore to protect your world and failed in my mission," Nokkar said as he slowly stood up. "With your permission, I would join your resistance. Atone for my failure."
"We need all the help we can get," Samson said as he shook Nokkar's hand. "Welcome aboard."
Demona shook her head in disgust and headed back towards the elevator. Just before the door could close, Brooklyn and Fu-Dog slipped in with her as the elevator began heading back up to the first subbasement.
"So Guardian just accidently messed up back at the Pentagon, didn't he?" Brooklyn wasn't asking her a question.
"You heard what he and Delilah said." Demona kept on her best poker face. "It was their foolish accident."
"Uh huh," Brooklyn nodded. "See, I have this theory that you were going to cut and run. And maybe get a little bit of posthumous payback on Elisa."
"That is an interesting theory, Brooklyn," Demona said as she looked at the sharp tips of her talons. "I see paranoia is unbecoming of you no matter what century you are in."
Brooklyn angrily grabbed her arm, and got into her face as his Fu-Dog growled at her. "There is too much at stake here, Demona. They don't know you like I do. If I see you make just one move I find the least bit suspicious, the Space-Spawn blowing up the world will be the least of your worries."
The elevator came to a stop, and Brooklyn motioned towards the opening door. "I'm heading back down towards more pleasant company anyway." He narrowed his eyes. "Good-night, Demona."
Demona stepped out of the elevator and took a seat on a bench before picking up a remote control and turning on the TV to see an interview being conducted with the spokesman for the Quarrymen, Marcus Castaway. "I do not know how much longer I will be permitted to speak before I am silenced," Castaway spoke. "But it is clear to me that the gargoyles collaborated and conspired with the Space-Spawn. Most of our leaders were abducted while attending the gargoyle hatching. They say they bring us gifts, but the Space-Spawn seek to dominate us. Of course we can thank their gargoyle allies for this."
"And these are the people Samson seeks to liberate," Demona spoke to herself as her eyes burned red. "He is just like Goliath; an idealistic fool!"