Reprisals, Part 2
Written by Christine Morgan.
Previously, on Gargoyles ...
Goliath: (angrily) "Who did this? Who did this to you?"
Lexington: "Nobody did it to me!
It was my choice!" (annoyed) "I'm not a hatchling anymore, you know.
* * *
Garlon: "There seem to be a few problems down in the Special Arms Division?"
Mavis O'Connor: "Thank you, Garlon. I'll see to it as soon as possible."
* * *
Goliath: (scowling) "Well, trickster, what do you say to all of that?"
Owen: (smiling puckishly) "Would you believe me if I told you it was all a fabrication?
~ Reprisals, Part 1
"And so we commit to the earth the body of Charles Canmore. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." The minister closed his Bible and made a subtle signal.
The eldest of the three children, a strikingly handsome dark-haired boy in his teens, stepped forward and crumbled a handful of soil over the coffin as it was lowered into the grave.
The girl burst into tears. A kindly woman next to her offered her a handkerchief, which she accepted, and a comforting hug, which she twisted away from.
"Dad, no," the youngest, a fair-haired boy, said in a broken half-sob. "No, please, Dad, please, no, come back!"
The girl put aside her own grief, not without a wrenchingly visible effort, and went to him. "Shh, Jon. It's all right."
"It's not all right! Dad's gone forever!"
The rest of the mourners, friends and acquaintances, observed this scene uncomfortably, and many of them drifted away without a word to the three children.
"Be strong, Jon," the elder boy said. "Dad would have wanted it that way."
"Och, Jason." The girl's voice shook. "What will become of us now?"
"They'll put us in an orphanage!" Jon began to cry.
Jason took him by the shoulders. "No, they won't. D'ye hear me, Jonny? I won't let that happen. We'll always be together. You, and me, and Robyn. Always."
"How?" the girl, Robyn, asked. "You're not old enough to have custody of us."
"Then we'll run away," Jason said firmly.
"Excuse me, I don't mean to intrude ..." The speaker was a tall, dark-haired man of indeterminate age, carrying a hawk-headed walking cane. A woman with black hair in a French braid stood beside him.
The three of them looked up with sudden fear, as though they thought this couple was here to cart them away to an orphanage before the dirt was even shoveled back into the grave.
"I only wanted to offer my deepest condolences on your loss," the man finished, his gray eyes gentle.
"We both did," the woman at his side said, bestowing a lovely, sympathetic smile on the children. "It's a wonderful man your father was, a good man, and it's sore we'll miss him."
"Did you know our father?" Jason asked.
"By reputation. Forgive me, my manners. I am Nicholas Maddox. My associate, Mavis O'Connor."
"I only wish we were meeting under happier circumstances," Mavis said. "Pardon me asking, but was your father ill for a very long time?"
"Ill?" Jason echoed, and now pain and anguish shattered the stoic mask he'd worn all through the service. "He was murdered!"
"Jason! Hush!" Robyn gasped. "We're not supposed to --"
The two adults exchanged a glance.
"So he did tell them, then," Mavis said softly.
"I hoped as much."
"You know about it?" Jason asked sharply.
"Not enough and not soon enough, I fear," Maddox said heavily. "We knew your father by reputation, as I said...and I have never been a man to take accounts of strange happenings lightly." He paused, and said gently, "It was the demon, was it not?"
There was a frozen pause, and then Jason, reluctantly, nodded. "It was."
"She killed him," Jon sniffled.
"You poor children," Mavis murmured, shaking her head. "What a horrible thing."
"Indeed," Maddox said. "And no one else will even attempt to stop this creature. The authorities, I'm sure, wouldn't even admit she existed."
"They thought we were crazy," Robyn burst out, and began a fresh storm of bitter weeping. "They didn't say it, but I could tell. They didn't believe us."
When Mavis touched her gently on the arm, the girl did not turn away as she had with the other woman, but let herself be held.
"It is a shame," Maddox said quietly, folding his hands behind his back. "Your father died for humanity's sake, trying to rid the world of this demon. What a noble effort. And what a tragic waste that most of them will never even know of his heroism."
"I'd kill that demon myself, if I had the chance!" Jason declared.
Jon paled. "Jason, you wouldn't!"
"I would! I'd make her pay for what she did to Dad!"
"A brave notion, young man, but a dangerous one." Maddox reached into his jacket. "Still, if you mean what you say, you might need this."
Jason took the proffered card. "Maddox Technologies?"
"I believed in your father's cause. It was...perhaps my own fault that he was not adequately armed and prepared. It was not quite a week ago that I first contacted him to offer my services, and...." He spread his hands. "He said he would be in touch. And that was the last I heard from him. I cannot help but feel somewhat...responsible. If we had been able to supply him, to better arm him...." The man sighed.
"You make weapons? Weapons that could kill the demon?" Jason looked up hopefully.
Maddox laughed, somehow managing to make it sound appropriately somber, given the occasion. "We make nearly anything you could think of. Airships, insulated combat suits, robotic falcons ... whatever you might require. And out of respect for your father, at no charge to you."
"Jason, what are you doing?" Robyn raised her tear-streaked face. "You can't mean to go through with this! Do you want to wind up like Dad?" She flung one arm toward the grave. "What will happen to me and Jonny then?"
"Perhaps three might succeed where one failed," Mavis suggested to Maddox. She cast an eye over the trio, reached out and gently touched Robyn's shoulder and Jon's upturned chin. "Three such brave souls very well might."
"We are all in this together, Robyn," Jason said. "I'll need you with me. For Dad's sake."
"For Dad," Jon agreed stoutly.
She hesitated, then sighed. "For Dad."
"Mr. Maddox, the car is ready." A uniformed chauffeur stood at a discreet distance.
Maddox held out his hand, and Jason shook it. "I hope to hear from you."
"Thank you," Jason said. "You will."
They said their goodbyes, and then Maddox and Mavis headed toward their waiting limousine while an older couple, neighbors, herded the children away.
"That went well," Mavis commented.
"You expected otherwise? I thought it went exactly as I intended."
* * * * *
"You get to tell them," Matt Bluestone said as they approached.
"Thanks a lot, partner." Elisa stuffed her hands in her pockets and walked up to the clan, noting that they already looked glum and her news was only going to make it worse. "Hi, everybody."
"Elisa!" Goliath was on his feet in a flash, and embraced her as though he hadn't seen her in months. This uncharacteristically open display startled her, and that, combined with the fact that her hands were in her pockets, left her unable to return it.
"Wow, what was that for?" She tried to pass it off with a chuckle.
"It's just so good to see you." He stepped back, becoming aware of the others watching, and nodded to Matt. "Hello, Bluestone."
"Why's everyone so down in the dumps?" Elisa asked.
No one seemed in a hurry to speak, until little Ariana piped up. "Uncle Goliath and Uncle Lex had a fight."
Goliath nodded. "It's true." He proceeded to tell them the entire story -- how they'd learned of Lex's implants, the subsequent argument, Lex's sudden angry departure, the unsatisfactory confrontation with Owen, and his vision.
Elisa rested a hand on his arm. "I wish you'd told me about all that before. I think Angela's right; it was all a trick. And I bet Lex will be back before dawn."
"I hope you're right." He covered her hand with his own and smiled down at her. "You usually are."
"Hey, that's why they pay me the big bucks."
"Speaking of which," Matt prompted.
"Yeah." Elisa blew a strand of hair out of her face. "We've got some bad news. Well, weird news. It has to do with the Quarrymen's hammers."
"Ye've figured out how they work, then?" Hudson asked.
"No. That's the weird part. We've had people going over every millimeter of those things, and they can't figure out where the power comes from. The best guess, and this is from a college-educated techie, mind you, is that it's magic."
"Everybody else laughed," Matt added.
"Magic!" Broadway said. "Whose? Demona?"
"Never!" Angela said. Her hand went to the locket around her neck in a swift gesture. "She would never have worked with the Quarrymen. They hated all of us!"
"Oberon's Children, then?" Broadway wondered.
"Yeah, I thought of that," Elisa said, "but the hammerheads are solid iron."
"Well, who's making them?" Brooklyn asked. "Maybe we can trace the wizard through the factory's personnel files."
"Get this -- we can't track those hammers back to any source," Matt said. "No factory in Manhattan, or outside of Manhattan either. We don't have clue one as to how the Quarrymen get them, or where they come from."
* * * * *
"Oops, that's me!" Sherry checked her pager. "I'd better make a quick call. Would you mind waiting?"
"No problem," Lexington said, privately glad to be rid of her for a few minutes. She was cute enough, for a human, but gave new meaning to the word 'ditzy'. He wondered what function she could possibly fulfill for Nicholas Maddox, came up with only one likely one, and dismissed that because she sure didn't seem like Nicholas' type.
So she bounced off to make her call, and Lex wandered over to examine an "in case of fire" evacuation floorplan. Just for fun, he scanned the layout into his memory bank.
"... behind schedule again!"
Lex recognized that voice. Mavis O'Connor. Every time he'd met her, it left him with a creepy feeling, like spiders were crawling over the inside of his skull.
He was none too eager to see her again, especially without Maddox around. He faded into the shadow of a water cooler and watched through the upended glass bottle as she came into view, blue and swimmy and distorted by the water but still clearly her.
There was a man with her, a guy that Lex thought he'd seen before but he couldn't quite put a finger on when or where. He had one of those instantly forgettable faces, average in every sense of the word. Not even his clothes stood out, which in itself was almost unusual in a building full of snappy dressers.
"And what is it this time, then?" Mavis continued peevishly. "Too high a workload? Long hours? What is it they're whinin' about now?"
The man shrugged. "This and that."
"I've had enough of the delays on this project. We'll be examining every aspect of it carefully, and allow for no further malingering!"
They turned a corner, and Lex slipped out from behind the water cooler. He glanced the way Sherry had gone, but there was still no sign of her.
"I'll just see where they're going," he whispered to himself. "I'll be back before she knows I'm gone."
He tailed them at a discreet distance, following mostly by the sharp click of Mavis's heels on the tile and their voices, though he couldn't make out any more words. Remembering the floorplan, he realized that there was a very long, very straight corridor up ahead, one that bisected the building and didn't have many doors. He'd have to risk being seen, because if he didn't stay close, they would lose him on the other end.
He hurried to catch up, seeing a bit of green that was Mavis' skirt just as they rounded the bend into the long hall. He crept up to the corner and poked his head around.
And saw nobody.
There were no doors close enough for them to have used, and if they'd broken into a run, he would have heard. It was as if they had just poof! vanished.
He consulted his mental map again, wondering if he'd somehow missed a turn.
Frowning to himself, Lex started carefully looking around.
* * * * *
"It's getting late," Angela said. "I thought he'd be back by now."
Broadway's face took on the look of someone who's just had a really bad thought. "You don't think he's having more ... done to him?"
Angela winced as Broadway's words hit Goliath like a physical blow. Without a word, the clan leader rose and headed for the battlements.
"And where do ye think ye're going?" Hudson asked.
"Three guesses." Brooklyn followed Goliath, with his mate at his side and his children bringing up the rear.
"Please, Dad, can we come too?" Ariana begged, clinging to his tail.
"It's our fault," Graeme said. "We're the ones that blabbed."
"Me and my big mouth," Broadway grumbled, getting up.
"Wait a minute!" Matt protested. "You're all going to just zip over to Maddox Technologies and start tearing the place up looking for Lex?"
Goliath turned and stared down at Matt until the detective backed off. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"We canna all go," Hudson pointed out. "That would leave our home unprotected."
"You shall stay behind to guard the castle," Goliath decided. "And keep those two under control." Bronx and Nudnik grinned doggy grins, their tongues lolling out. "Elisa, you and Matt are police officers. I cannot ask you to take part in this. Wait here. And as for you ..." He looked down at the children.
Ariana turned on the charm. "Pleeeeeeeease?"
"They have learned their training well," Sata pointed out, with a note of pride.
"And so far, we don't know this Maddox guy is a threat," Brooklyn pointed out. "He might just be a friend, like Lex said."
Goliath glowered at Brooklyn's implication that he was wrong. Forty years of trials and hardship had molded his second-in-command into a strong and sure warrior, used to relying on his own judgement. If Brooklyn felt confident enough about this to risk his own children ...
"Very well," he said. "But you stay close to your parents, and no foolishness!"
"Yes, Goliath," they chorused solemnly, then grinned gleefully at each other.
* * * * *
"Everything seems to be in order," David Xanatos said, giving the documents one last going-over before affixing his John Hancock to the appropriate line.
"Just a moment, Mr. Xanatos." Owen slipped the paper out from under him just as the point of his pen touched it. He scrutinized the other signatures already on the document with the care of a banker suspecting a forgery.
"Is something the matter?" the third man asked. He had the fresh-faced, clean-cut look of the typical junior executive, and carried his briefcase as proudly as if it were a royal scepter.
"Is something the matter, Owen?" Xanatos looked where Owen was looking, and only read what he'd read there before.
Two signatures. Nicholas Maddox, a spiky aggressive script not unlike Xanatos' own, and Mavis O'Connor, a more flowing handwriting that a skilled graphologist would note had an undercurrent of firmness.
Owen's voice was pitched low, so that it carried only to Xanatos' ears and no further. "Sir, it might be wisest not to enter into any agreements with Maddox Technologies just yet."
Xanatos' eyebrows went up a fraction. "Oh?" When Owen didn't show any signs of elaborating on his cryptic message, he shrugged and returned his attention to the glorified courier. "Thank you for coming over outside of regular business hours, Mr. Strijken. I'd like a little longer to think over your employers' proposal before I sign any contracts. Do give them my regards."
"Mr. Maddox requested specifically that I have the signed documents on his desk first thing in the morning."
"Mr. Maddox is a businessman, and I'm sure he'll understand my caution." Xanatos chuckled disarmingly. "We are talking about a substantial deal here, and contrary to what the papers might say, I'm not made of money."
"I'll show you to the door," Owen said coolly.
* * * * *
"Where could they have gone?" Lex wondered in a whisper.
As if in answer, he heard a strange sound coming from one of the walls. Coming from behind one of the walls. A dark line appeared, and Lex realized that he was witnessing a secret door opening.
On the heels of that thought came the realization that he was standing smack in the middle of an otherwise empty corridor. He looked both ways, then looked up.
As the door finished sliding open on silent casters, the cork-tiled ceiling panel eased back into place. Lex crouched in the dusty shadows above, willing himself not to sneeze, and squinted down through a crack.
Mavis O'Connor and the disturbingly ordinary-looking man emerged from a passage behind the wall. One look at her normally fair face told Lex she was in an even fouler mood than before.
"It's unionizing they'll be doing next," she said sourly. "And it's thinking I am that some people might be due for a reminder on the importance of keeping one's place!"
The man nodded, and the two of them proceeded around the corner and out of Lex's sight.
When he was sure they were gone, he dropped silently to the floor again and approached the section of wall.
There has to be a quick, easy way to open it, he thought. She hadn't spent any time fiddling around before. He skimmed his palms across the wall, and found an almost imperceptible seam. At the top was a button that looked like a simple flaw in the paint job. He pressed it, and the wall opened onto a cramped wooden stairwell.
The wall closed behind him, but his enhanced eye let him see even better than the gargoyle norm. He descended at a pace balanced between quickness and caution, aware that Sherry would soon be noticing him missing, if she hadn't already.
"But Nicholas isn't likely to be mad at me," he muttered. "It sounds like it's his partner who's up to something.
The stairs kept going until below street level. He could now hear a rhythmic atonal clanging, and a hissing sound. His first thought was that he'd just found the back way to the boiler room. But the flickering orange glow did not come from a boiler; it came from a forge.
Heat shimmers hung lazily above beds of coals. The clanging sound came from a row of anvils, where small hunched shapes pounded on metal. The hissing came when they dunked their products into barrels of water, sending up clouds of steam. Here and there, arcs of electricity leaped through the gloom, leaving a crackling trail of ozone.
The smithy workers weren't human.
Lex's mouth fell open as he stared.
They were shorter even than him, but built like fireplugs. Their faces were bearded, stained with soot and sweat and grime. Each and every one of them had a manacle around his ankle, and a chain connecting him to a ring in the floor.
From time to time, one of them would spread his stubby fingers in an arcane gesture, and weird light would leap from his hands to the forge. The rest of them would then pause in their labors to utter words that Lex couldn't make out, only that they sounded more Germanic than Latin.
That was weird enough, but when he got a little closer and saw what they were making, he went numb and cold all over, despite the sweltering heat.
They were making hammers.
* * * * *
"There it is," Brooklyn called above the rushing of the wind. "Maddox Technologies headquarters. Goliath, what's the plan?"
"To retrieve Lexington."
"If we're going to do that, we can't just start bashing our way in. Let's try and find a way to pull this off quietly, okay?"
Goliath only grunted, in what Brooklyn hoped was assent.
* * * * *
Lexington stepped forward into the light of the forge.
One of the strange little men saw him. "A gargoyle!" He staggered back in surprise, tripped over the chain leading from his ankle, and fell on his back. As he went down, his flailing hand tipped a table of scrap metal, sending it clattering and banging to the stone floor.
Now he had the undivided attention of every single one of them. And most of them seized up tools that looked like they would serve just fine as weapons.
"Hey, wait, I'm not here to hurt you!" Lex said, spreading his hands to show them he was harmless, and staying just beyond what he judged was the farthest reach of their chains. "I only wanted to see what was going on down here!"
"Another of Her pets, come to gloat at the slaves!"
"Her? You mean Mavis O'Connor?"
"Who else? She keeps us here, bound like this, making these hammers day and night without stop!"
"And our ancestors thought Thor was a hard taskmaster." Another of the gnomish slaves laughed harshly. "They had but to build the one!"
"She was working with Castaway," Lex whispered. "In secret, all this time -- I've gotta tell Nicholas!" He moaned at the thought. "Oh, man...this'll kill him."
Lex turned for the way he had come in, then stopped and looked back. The gnomes had stopped working, and were still looking at him.
"I can't just leave you like this," he said, louder. "Will you...will you let me try to get you out?"
None of them answered, but the one nearest him put down the tongs it was brandishing and waited. Lex approached him gingerly, reached for the chain that bound the little man's ankle, and tugged at it hard.
The chain didn't budge, and the links were too thick to break. Lex strained at it for another few seconds, then let out a breath of frustration and cast his eye around the room. His gaze fell on a just-completed Quarryhammer.
"I'll get help," he said to the gnome. "I'll get someone who'll help you. Don't worry. I'll come back." And he reached out, grabbed the hammer, and bolted for the stairs.
Behind him the outcry went up: "Wha - " "Stop!" "Put that down!" He ignored it and hurled himself up the stairs, running as if each hammer in the room were a Quarryman in pursuit.
* * * * *
"Well, well," Nicholas Maddox said as the image of several gargoyles appeared on one of his security monitors. He buzzed Mavis' office. "It seems we've company."
"I saw. Don't worry, everything's in order. Where's your little friend wandered off to, then?"
"He's still with Sherry. Probably in the cafeteria getting a look at the espresso machine."
Mavis laughed. "That just tortures poor George, I hope you know!"
"Yes, well, his problems are not my immediate concern. How do you mean to handle these intruders?"
"How do I mean to handle them?" Mavis turned one hand palm up and looked down at it; she took a deep breath, pressed all five fingertips together and then, abruptly, pulled them apart --
And a tiny white fireball danced on her fingertips, sending tiny arcs of energy crackling around her wrist.
She let out a slow shuddering breath, a smile of sublime exultation spreading over her face. "Right now, old friend, I think I could handle...anything. Anything at all."
* * * * *
The reception lounge was tastefully done in beiges and earth tones, with a little emerald green here and there for color.
Goliath paused, looking from one door to the other. He selected one at random, started toward it, and it opened. A woman stepped through.
Angela recognized Mavis O'Connor at once. The woman carefully closed the door behind her, then turned and smiled pleasantly at Goliath. "Sweet dreams!"
Her hand traced an arc in the air as if she were throwing a discus -- but there was nothing in her hand.
Hmmmmmmmmmmm -- followed by a series of thumps as gargoyles tumbled to the ground.
Angela was aware of a painless heat against her chest, and glanced down at the locket her mother had given her. It faded almost at once, leaving her blinking in confusion as she looked around at the sprawled, sleeping bodies of her clan.
"Broadway!" She bent to shake him, and that was when the other door slammed open.
Two men rushed in. One was a man was so bland that he blended into the decor. The other was attractive and athletic, with chestnut hair glinting red-gold, and such hatred in his eyes that Angela took an unconscious step back.
George Harrison. Richard's brother.
Mavis O'Connor, staring coldly at Angela, said, "I've no idea how you escaped that, but it saves us the trouble of reviving you for questioning."
"What have you done to them?" Angela lunged at Mavis with her claws at the ready, but before she could even get there, the two men had intercepted her and wrestled her down with unbelievable strength.
"Does it hurt?" George sneered. "Good! You deserve everything that's coming to you!"
Mavis snapped her fingers, and a host of not-quite-right-looking people came in.
"Drag that rubbish away," Mavis ordered, flicking her fingers disdainfully at the gargoyles.
"Don't touch them!" Angela struggled in her captors' grip, but they held her easily, unnatural strength in their hands. "Let me go!"
The newcomers grabbed the unconscious gargoyles and started to haul them away.
"Broadway! Father!" Angela screamed. "Wake up!"
"Oh, whisht now, child," Mavis said. "When I want to be hearing from you, I'll be asking. In fact, there's a number of things I'll be asking. George, Garlon -- bring her."
* * * * *
"Oh, Lexington, there you are! What's that?"
"Hi, Sherry. Bye, Sherry." He sped past her, careful not to joggle the hammer and electrocute himself, and burst into Nicholas' office.
"-- right there, Mavis," he was saying. "Oh, hello, Lexington." He put down the phone receiver and stood.
"Nicholas, I've got to show you something!"
"In a moment, please," Maddox said, coming around the corner of the desk. "I've some business to attend --"
"Look!" Lex thrust the hammer out. "I found it! In the basement! There's a --"
"What were you doing down there?" Maddox cried in alarm. "That room was supposed to be sealed --" He bit the rest off sharply, but too late.
Lexington stared at him. Silence collected and thickened in the room.
The gargoyle's voice was a bare whisper. "...You knew?"
"Let me explain --"
Maddox gave a small, resigned sigh, and said nothing.
Lexington started to speak, stopped, and tried again. "But -- but isn't there anything you could do to stop her? Couldn't you...."
"I never intended for you to be harmed, Lexington, by any of my allies. You must believe that --"
"You never intended --?" Lex stared at him again. "You mean you're the one making these? It was --?" He choked off, and when he spoke again it was in a much quieter voice. "It was you all the time."
Maddox took a swift step forward. "Lexington --"
"You were in league with the Quarrymen." His voice was growing louder again. "You used me. You've been using me all along."
"No," Maddox denied. "It started that way, but now it's more. You are ... like a son to me. I would never have hurt you, Lexington." He reached out to touch the gargoyle's shoulder.
Lex twisted away, his eyes igniting. "You lying son of a --" His eyes blazed as he hefted the hammer overhead and brought it down, with all the strength he possessed, toward Maddox's face.
At the last possible second, he couldn't go through with it, and pulled the blow. But Maddox, his face a sudden rictus of horror, flung up one hand in a defensive gesture and caught the head of the hammer--
And let out a tortured shriek. He reeled back, staggering, clutching his hand. His dark hair paled to ghostly grey, his cheeks sank in, his skin went the sallow hue of old parchment.
Lex lowered the hammer and stared. Electricity hadn't done this. He only knew of one thing that could account for ... he looked from the iron hammer to the aged, ugly Maddox. "You're one of Oberon's Children!"
Maddox straightened up. "One of his race, yes," he rasped, and his aged face was twisted in hatred. "But never...never one of his Children." He reached out a trembling hand and slapped a button on his desk. "Release the hounds!"
The last remark made no sense to Lex, and he thought he'd misheard it in his sheer stunned shock, until the office walls exploded inward and a screeching, maniacal laugh heralded the arrival of Hyena, Jackal and Wolf.
Lexington had a horrible, reeling moment of shock, the edges of his vision blurring.
"Kill him," Maddox ordered.
"About time," Hyena sneered, and began to advance.
TO BE CONCLUDED ...
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