Reprisals, Part 3

Written by Christine Morgan.
Artwork by Jessica Entis, Crzy Demona, and Alison Wilgus.

Previously, on Gargoyles ...

"So where is it you've been living, Angela?"

She blurted it out without thinking. "Avalon."

Mavis blinked. "Avalon...?"

"Avalon, New Jersey," Dominique added, recovering smoothly.

~ Equality

* * *

Mavis O'Connor (to Maddox): "One thing is for certain. That girl most certainly did not grow up in New Jersey."

~ A Mid-Winter's Tale

* * *

"We've a rather interesting new development," she said, coming around to the back side of the desk and placing the envelope in front of him. She stood silently at his side as he opened the envelope and withdrew the contents, a single glossy color photograph. She waited patiently, the mysterious smile still on her face, as he slowly looked it over. The conference room at Nightstone Unlimited. Dominique Destine, hair the color of fire, sitting at the head of the long polished table. And beside her, a young female gargoyle with lavender skin, clad in a pale tunic, her long dark brown hair drawn back in a ponytail, and her dark purple wings caped around her shoulders.

Maddox frowned and ran a hand thoughtfully over his dark moustache and down his clean-shaven chin. His gray, hawk-like eyes never left the photograph as he said simply, "It seems that finding her will be much easier now after all."

~ Prophets and Angels

* * *

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.

~ Reprisals, Part 2

October 1996

A fire blazed in the brick-lined hearth, doing its best to dispel the pervasive autumn chill that seeped through the castle's thick stone walls.

Rain beat softly against the windowpanes, obscuring the view of the high mountain peak known as the Brocken. In the old days, the days when the castle had first been built, those windowpanes would have been of a clouded murk-yellow, clear glass being beyond the abilities of craftsmen.

The glass had been replaced; nothing could be done for the stone walls except the traditional method of hanging tapestries to help block the draft. The tall shelves of leather-bound books played their part as well, though they looked smug and confidently above it all. As if their only purpose was as depositories of knowledge and literature, and not as one more layer of insulation.

The owner of the castle wasn't thinking about his heating bill. Like the books, he looked smug and confidently above it all. He poured himself a glass of port and offered one to his companion.

"No, thank you," Mavis O'Connor said. "How can you be drinkin' port on such a day as this? It's the day for brandy this is, or mulled cider."

"One of my many charming eccentricities." Nicholas Maddox sat down, minutely adjusting the crease of his slacks. "So, now that you've heard the proposal from our All-Seeing associates, what do you think?"

"Well, it's quite the clever name," she admitted. "A fine double meaning. Quarry -- a place where stone is broken; quarry -- object of the hunt. Very clever indeed. But must they call it 'Operation Quarryman'? It sounds so ... military."

"You know how they are. Operation this and Project that. I imagine that it gives them a sense of power."

Mavis did the impossible: she snorted daintily. "Sure a sense of power's just the thing they need! What is it they've got against gargoyles? I warrant you, it suits our needs, but I thought the Enlightened Ones only bothered with things on the grander scale. Surely they don't believe that a handful of Manhattan gargoyles is a threat to them."

Maddox shrugged and sipped his port. "If I knew why they decided to do it, or indeed why they decide to do anything, then I, rather than the right honorable Mr. Duval, would be heading the Society."

She sniffed disdainfully and rose from her chair to bask in the fire's warmth. "As for this project -- sorry, this 'operation' -- I'm seein' no reason not to go ahead with the deal. Their purpose and our own are along the same road for now, and Maddox Technologies seems in the best position to make the equipment they want." She smiled as if they shared a delicious secret, which they did. "Better than most, now I've had a chance to look over their design specifications."

The phone rang, and Maddox sighed. "What now? I told him we were in a meeting --" He tapped the speakerphone button. "Yes, Garlon?"

Garlon's voice, faintly obscured by static, came through the speakers. "Turn on the news at once. The American East-Coast affiliate."

"I'm not interested in the latest Presidential brouhaha --"

"It's urgent," Garlon cut in. "I wouldn't bother you if it wasn't."

"He wouldn't," Mavis confirmed.

Maddox was already sliding open the drawer of a Louis XIV endtable and pulling out the remote control. One of the tapestries slid obligingly upward, revealing a television screen. He flickered through the channels until he came to a view of a smoking pile of rubble that had once been a Manhattan police station.

"Tape it," he told Mavis. She obliged at once, and both of them watched silently as the broadcast continued.

"This just in at the WVRN newsroom! An explosion rocks downtown Manhattan! More details as we get them!..."

"This is Jonathan Wills for WVRN here at the site of the explosion at the Manhattan 23rd police precinct. This once majestic station, topped by its gothic-style clock tower, is now in ruins...."

"This is Nicole St. John for WVRN. Two people have been arrested in the terrorist attack on the 23rd police precinct. They are listed as Police Detective Jason Conover, alias Jason Canmore, age 32, and his sister Robyn Canmore, age 28. Still at large is their brother Jon, alias WVRN reporter Jon Carter, age 25. Police have yet to determine the role that the mysterious gargoyles played in this tragedy; in fact, they have yet to acknowledge the existence of these creatures.

"This incident strikes close to home for this reporter as we've worked side by side with Jon for some time. Canmore is approximately 5 foot 9 inches tall and approximately 175 pounds with blond hair. He is to be considered armed and dangerous. If you see him..."

Mavis O'Connor glanced at her partner. Maddox pressed his fingertips together in a steeple and tapped them against his closed lips, his eyes fixed on the screen.

"Thanks, Travis. This is Nicole St. John in front of City Hall. We are waiting for Jose Hablar, New York City Chief of Staff. After a rather profound silence, City Hall is finally making a statement about the 23rd Precinct station bombing, the attack on the St. Damian Cathedral, and the long awaited confirmation about the gargoyles. Long believed to be just another urban myth, the fact that these monsters are real has the usually unflappable New York citizens scared.

"Over the past year, stories of gargoyle attacks have been reported and become more frequent in the past months, but much like the 'alligator in the sewers', have largely been ignored by the police. City officials have been promising an official statement since this horror began, but have not yet re--"

The television made a soft click as Maddox pressed the "mute" button on his remote and lay it softly back down on the endtable.

"Well, this does change things." Maddox picked up the phone again and began dialing. "These gargoyles have revealed themselves to the public. Everything now hinges on our observing this clan, and neutralizing it, if necessary."

"Everything?" Mavis repeated warily.

He paused, one hand poised over the telephone keypad. "Remember the prophecy, Mavis. If we fail here, we may fail altogether."

* * * * *


With the small part of his mind that wasn't still reeling from the realization that he'd been suckered once again, Lex was thankful for his warrior instincts. They were the only thing that kept him from standing there like a mannequin and getting skewered by Hyena's razor claws.

He retreated, found his back against the door leading from Maddox's private inner sanctum, and bent one arm behind him to get it open.

"Lobo and Bull are going to be sorry they missed this!" Hyena said, with a laugh that could have nearly shattered crystal.

"We could save a piece for them and Coyote," Wolf suggested, baring his teeth. "But let's not!"

The door swung open, spilling Lex into the antechamber. It was as cool and imposing as Maddox himself, with lots of polished grey marble exactly the same shade as Maddox's eyes -- funny how Lex had never noticed that before, funny the things the mind came up with when under stress. The antechamber was round, with a domed skylight overhead and a fountain in the middle.

"Don't run away, little gargoyle," Hyena called. "Stay and play a while!"

"A short while," her brother Jackal added.

"Cut the foreplay and get him!" Wolf barked.

Lexington was still holding the hated hammer, holding it in front of himself defensively. He could see Maddox leaning in the open doorway of his office, still looking like death warmed over, watching the beginning overtures of the chase as the Ultra-Pack fanned out and he tried to keep an eye on all of them at once.

"How could I have been so stupid?" Lex moaned aloud.

Hyena cackled. "Natural instinct?" she suggested, raising a taloned hand. Lex jumped over one slash, but the next nicked his shoulder. "Gotcha!" she crowed.

Lex socked her in the mouth with the handle of the hammer. "Gotcha back!"

"Why you little --!" She morphed into something that looked like a gold-plated lawnmower and roared straight for him, chewing up the royal-blue carpet as she did so.

Lex sidestepped and backpedaled, and ducked just as Wolf's fist tried to take the top of his head off.

Jackal fired off a series of barbed projectiles, forcing Lexington into an incredible display of acrobatics. The projectiles thudded into the walls, and an interested observer could have played connect-the-dots to follow Lex's progress.

He vaulted from a low blue sofa to the top of a curved table which held several lovely alabaster sculptures. The table was that same cool grey marble as the rim of the fountain, and slippery as freshly-waxed linoleum.

Lex's feet shot out from under him. The head of the hammer thumped him in the sternum but didn't fry him -- he'd figured out that the handle had a setup like that of a pump-action shotgun.

He landed on his tail and skated into one sculpture after another. They exploded on the floor, and the two that he missed got taken out by Jackal's barbs.

The end of the table was coming up fast. Lex pistoned the hammer beneath him and vaulted, landing neatly on the backs of two couches that had been pushed together. It was a relatively stable perch, reasonably high ground.

Giving up on the lawnmower approach, Hyena turned herself into a plated pillbug cannonball. As she streaked toward him, she extended her front half into a grinning porcupine, all frenzied eyes and spiky claws.

Lex dropped the hammer onto the cushions, caught her wrists just above the bristle of sharp spikes, and pivoted like an ice skater. Hyena's momentum spun them in a tight circle, and then he let go. His arms were sliced and bleeding, but he didn't even notice the pain in the pleasure of seeing Hyena rapidly receding from him, her eyes now widening in alarm.

She plowed backwards into Wolf, driving him back a step. Unfortunately for Wolf, he didn't have a step back to take. The rim of the fountain caught him at knee-level. He and Hyena both went in, sending up a gout of water and goldfish.

Lex jumped down onto the cushions, causing the hammer to bounce up into his grip. He thrust it up and down, and as the head started to spark, he chucked it into the fountain.

"Catch!" he shouted.


He turned away from the incandescent lightshow and saw Jackal coming at him fast. Lex hurled a cushion at him, only expecting him to bat it away, but luck was with one little green gargoyle tonight and the cushion impaled itself on part of Jackal's facial superstructure.

While Jackal was dealing with that, Lex jumped from the couches to the wall and punched his talons in, climbing. His goal was the glass dome above, but as he got closer, his enhanced eyes suddenly caught a glimpse of something outside the normal visual range. It was some sort of energy grid covering the entire dome.

Lex kept climbing anyway. He hopped onto one of the thin wooden latticework struts that crisscrossed below the dome -- wood, not iron, he should have been tipped off by that!

"Hey, Jackal!"

He'd gotten rid of the cushion by now, and looked up. Lex made an incredibly rude gesture involving both hands and his tail.

Jackal did exactly what Lex hoped he'd do. One arm shot out, telescoping in a silvery blur. The fist at the end widened into a hammerhead that made the Quarrymen's look like toys in comparison.

Lex dropped, catching the strut he'd been standing on with both hands.

Jackal's fist passed through the spot where he'd been and crashed through the glass. Bruise-purple light coursed down his arm like a swarm of vipers and sent him into a jittering dance.

Fragments of glass rained down on Lex. When he dared raise his head, the energy grid was gone and there was a nice big hole in the dome. He swung himself onto the strut again, and was out and away without looking back.

* * * * *

"We've secured the --" Mavis broke off as Hyena rose from the fountain like a twisted sci-fi version of Botticelli's Venus, her features contorted in mask of rage.

"I'm gonna rip that little goblin a new --"

"Shut up," Wolf grunted, heaving himself out of the water and flopping on the carpet.

Mavis' gaze flicked over them to Jackal, lying contorted in the wreckage of several very expensive statuettes. From there, she looked up at the dome, then down again, to Maddox leaning against the doorjamb.

Mavis flinched back at the sight of her partner. He made a grotesque effort to straighten into his former regal bearing, returning her gaze from the sunken hollows of his face, his grey hair hanging lank, his shoulders slumped, one hand withered into an arthritic claw.

"And what's happened to you?" she asked.

"I don't want to talk about it," he snapped in a sharp old man's voice.

She stared at him a moment longer, then composed herself. "We've secured the gargoyles safely, and can proceed whenever you're ready."

"Good." Maddox made his slow and careful way to one of the undamaged couches and sat down. "Just give me a moment." He glanced at the Ultra-Pack. "Get that hammer out of here! I never want to see it again."

Jackal groaned and sat up, retracting his arm. "We're mercenaries, you know, not room service."

"It wasn't a request!"

"I'm not touching that thing," Wolf argued, kicking at a dead goldfish. "It nearly made fried calamari out of us."

"Sissy!" Hyena sneered. She turned her thumb and forefinger into pincers, and retrieved the hammer.

"All of you, out of my sight!" Maddox ordered.

The Ultra-Pack obeyed. Mavis, knowing the order didn't apply to her, sat down and tucked her skirt primly over her knees. With a businesslike air, she took his injured hand between her own and studied it coolly. "Like some help with this?"

He shook his head, wincing. "It'll be fine in a moment," he rasped.

She released his hand with a nod, and he leaned back and closed his eyes. Gradually, his features began to fill out. His hair went dark again. His skin smoothed. At last, he had regained his semblance of youth.

"He knows about us," he said.

"I guessed as much, but it doesn't matter now, does it? We've the rest of them."

"Yes." Maddox smiled. "We have the one we need."

* * * * *

"We could wait inside, you know," Matt suggested, shifting his position on the hard stone bench.

Neither Elisa nor Hudson replied. Both of them, and Bronx and Nudnik too, kept staring in the direction the rest of the clan had gone.

"It's just through that door and down a flight of stairs," he tried again, though he knew it was a lost cause. There they stood, and there they'd stand until daybreak or the sight of silhouettes against the sky, whichever came first.

"Okay, fine," Matt sighed, and leaned his head back to peer up at the stars. And so it was that he was the first one to see the winged shape fluttering down like an autumn leaf. "Hey! Isn't that Lexington?"

It was indeed, and he wasn't so much coming in for a landing as he was falling. Hudson leaped to catch him, and set him carefully down.

He was covered in blood from a couple dozen cuts, some on his arms and some on his shoulders and the back of his head. Small shards of glass were embedded in many of them.

"Lex!" Elisa knelt beside him and felt for a pulse. "Lex, can you hear me?"

"Hammers --" he croaked.

"What about hammers?" Hudson asked sharply.

"Hammers! Nichol -- Mr. Maddox! He's making the hammers. Hates us. The Ultra-Pack, they work for him. Tried to kill me. They're making them in the basement...little men, not human, making hammers in the basement...she keeps them chained."

"He's delirious," Matt said.

"No!" Lex sat up, resisting Elisa's efforts to make him lie still. "They've got a workshop in the basement! I had one of the hammers, used it to zap Wolf and Hyena!" His face darkened into something between a scowl and a tearful grimace. "Maddox -- he's one of them!"

"One of the Ultra-Pack?" Hudson frowned.

"Like Oberon! I touched him with iron and he got old! Goliath, we've got to do someth -- Goliath?" Lex looked frantically around. "Where's Goliath? Where's everybody?"

"He took the others to look for you," Elisa explained. "You don't think ...?"

Lex paled yellow. "Oh, no. No. He'll get them!"

"Calm down," Elisa said, but Matt could hear the dread in her voice as she grabbed for her radio. "Goliath?"

The only response was a faint crackling of static.

"Goliath, do you hear me? Goliath!?"

"This is all my fault!" Lex groaned, sinking his head into his hands. "I set him up for a trap again! Just like with the Pack!"

Owen pushed between Elisa and Hudson, startling everyone with his sudden appearance. He had a first-aid kit and was already opening it. Xanatos and Fox were behind him, and from their expressions, Matt knew they'd heard most if not all of Lex's story.

"You are certain Mr. Maddox is of the Third Race?" Owen's voice was calm, but as he began painting Lex's wounds with a coagulant and analgesic, his good hand trembled just the tiniest bit.

"Certain," Lex said, relaxing a little as the painkiller took hold. "He said so. One of Oberon's race, but not one of his Children. He was real emphatic about that."

"Owen?" Xanatos inquired. "You never did explain your reservations about that contract with Maddox Tech. Did you know --"

"I'm sorry, sir," Owen said, snapping the kit closed. "There is no time. If we're to stop Maddox, we must move now."

"The clan's in danger," Elisa said. She looked to Matt, Hudson and Lex. "Come on, guys, let's get this rescue underway."

"Wait!" Fox stepped forward. "We're coming with you."

"That's right," Xanatos said.

Elisa drew in breath as if about to argue, then let herself deflate. "I guess there's no way I could stop you, huh?"

"Sorry, no," Xanatos said with a charmingly apologetic smile. "If Owen is right, and I have no reason to doubt him, you'll need all the help you can get. I've dealt with Oberon too."

"Fine. Whatever." Elisa was about to say more, but Bronx and Nudnik butted her legs and almost knocked her down.

"We may need them," Hudson said, but whether he meant Xanatos and Fox or the watchdogs, Matt wasn't sure.

"Can you carry both of them?" Elisa meant the watchdogs, clearly.

Hudson and Lex shook their heads.

"Looks like this one rides with us, partner," Matt said. Attempting to lighten the mood, he squatted and addressed Nudnik. "Now, listen here. I get shotgun. You stay in the back. Understand?"

By way of reply, he got an enthusiastic face-licking.

* * * * *

"I've taken the liberty of preparing a line of defense, Mr. Xanatos," Owen said as Xanatos closed the fastenings on the last piece of exoframe armor.

"Have you? Tell me, Owen, how long have you suspected something was going on?"

"I've been aware of the possibility of the Unseelie Court's return for quite a while now. I hoped it would come to nothing, but just in case, I arranged for the construction of more of the iron-clad Steel Clan robots, identical to the ones we used in that unfortunate incident with Lord Oberon."

"The what Court?"

"Unseelie." Owen took a breath, then let it out, shaking his head. "It would take far too long to explain. Suffice to say, they are a very dangerous faction of my people. Dangerous, but still vulnerable to iron."

"I gather you won't be joining us."

"My first duty is to protect Alexander. I doubt you'd want it any other way."

Xanatos gave a single, unsmiling nod. "Exactly."

Fox came clanking in, armored in an exo-suit of her own, and posed in the doorway. "How do I look, darling?"

"Blue always was your color." He offered her his arm, as if they were headed out for a night on the town. "Shall we?"

* * * * *

"This'll hold you," the one Mavis had addressed as Garlon said, closing the final clamp around her ankle and tugging on the wide band that ran across her chest, drawing it taut.

Angela gasped as the breath was driven from her lungs. Her eyes lit the room with red fury as she fought to free herself, all to no avail. None of the restraints gave so much as a fraction of an inch.

Exhausted, she still found the strength to glare at the two men. The silent one with the mouse-brown hair was unremarkable, but the other she remembered all too well from the chaos he'd caused on Valentine's Day. An eerie light danced behind George Harrison's eyes. He seized her hair, twisting it painfully.

"We'll see how many people's brothers you corrupt now," he growled.

"Don't blame Richard for your own problems," Angela retorted quietly. "You know your brother better than that."

His fingers tightened and he drew back his other fist, forming an energy blade around it. "Don't lie to me, monster. The only truth that counts is the one I make for myself." His arm started to come down.

"Don't." The word was quiet yet quite firm. Angela watched as Garlon simply looked at him, and George subsided into muttering threats under his breath.

Her anger diminished a bit, and fear began to take its place. She was strapped securely into a mammoth chair that fit itself so well to her body it might have been made to measure. The rest of the room was a plain grey box, the floor and walls and ceiling lined with acoustic tile. To absorb screams, she realized, and shuddered. The only other things in sight were a large television monitor behind a pane of two-inch-thick plexiglass, and a camera mounted in the corner.

The door slid open with a hiss, and Nicholas Maddox entered the room, looking as urbane and handsome as ever. Mavis O'Connor was with him, her smile as smug as the proverbial cat that had just swallowed the proverbial canary. A third man, whose attractiveness would better be called beauty due to the almost feminine cast of his features and his silken hair, came in behind them.

Maddox smiled. "Ah, Miss Destine. How kind of you to honor us with your presence."

Angela twitched in shock, and Maddox and Mavis both laughed.

"Oh, don't look so surprised," he went on. "We've known your true identity and ... shall we say, nature ... for quite some time."

"What is all this?" Angela cried. "We've done nothing to you!"

"Technically, you are trespassing," Maddox pointed out. "But that doesn't really matter. We've nothing personal against you or your clan. In fact, we expect you to be quite useful to us."

"What are you talking about?" Angela's eyes narrowed.

Maddox folded his hands behind his back and paced in front of her. "It's something you mentioned to my associate here, Mavis. At a restaurant, with your dear mother. You are from Avalon, correct?" Before she could answer, he whipped around and fixed her with his cold grey gaze. "To us, there is only one Avalon. That island from which Oberon banished us, more than ten thousand years ago!"

All she could do was gape at him.

"Do you think I'm the sort of man to take lightly being banished from my home? Denied the throne that should have been mine? Oberon's time is at an end. He has warmed that throne for too long, and I mean to hurl him from it." He leaned close and caught Angela's chin in his hand. "And that is where you come in. You've been on Avalon much more recently than any of my folk. You will describe for me its defenses. In detail."

"I won't tell you a thing!"

"Why on earth not?" He sounded honestly surprised. "What possible loyalty could you owe to Oberon, that would come before the safety of your clan?"

"I won't help you take the war there! Avalon is peaceful, we have no weapons --" She stopped abruptly and pressed her lips together.

Maddox sighed exaggeratedly. "So untrusting. Oberon alone is my target. I no more desire a prolonged battle than do you."

"Why should I believe anything you say, after what you've done to Lexington?" She jutted her jaw at him defiantly.

He turned to Mavis with a look of great disappointment. "Gargoyles are such stubborn creatures."

Mavis shrugged and smiled. "I can be something of a stubborn creature meself." She fingered an antique long-bladed knife, its hilt a fortune of gold and jewels, its blade flickering under the fluorescents so that it seemed to be glowing with its own power. "Give me a few hours and it's little trouble we'll have of this one."

Maddox shook his head. "That would hardly be comporting ourselves fairly. Miss Destine is the daughter of a fellow CEO. We must maintain at least a semblance of professional courtesy. Offering physical violence to her would be a violation of business etiquette."

"True for you," Mavis agreed reluctantly, and slid the knife into a wrist-sheath up her sleeve.

"In any case," he continued, "we do have other resources at our ... disposal." He motioned to Garlon, who turned on the monitor.

Angela strained against her bonds as she saw her clan, chained to a wall. None of them had awakened yet. They hung limply from manacles and waist clamps.

"We'll have what we want to know from you," Maddox said. "Or we'll execute them, one by one. It is your decision, Miss Destine. I've promised no harm to you. I make no similar offers for these ones, unless you comply with my wishes."

She wrenched her gaze away from the monitor and shut her eyes.

* * * * *

"It's yellow," Matt said.

Elisa stomped on the accelerator.

"It's red!"

She cursed and braked sharply, which sent Nudnik tumbling off Matt's lap. Nudnik evidently thought that was fun, and decided to thank Matt for it by jumping back up, one hindpaw nailing him right where dogs of any variety always seemed to do.

"Come on, get back in the back," Matt begged, trying to wrestle the rambunctious creature down. "I swear, there's nothing worse than a two-hundred-pound puppy!"

Elisa ignored him. In between glaring impatiently at the light, she fished out her cellular phone and dialed. "Backup," she said in response to his questioning look.

He would have asked more, but at that moment, Nudnik's paw hit the handle that rolled down the window, lowering it by a couple of inches. At once, a snuffling nose was wedged into the gap.

"Get out of there!" Matt tried to roll the window up, went the wrong way, and now Nudnik's whole head was poking out, tongue lolling.

Out of the corner of his eye, Matt saw a Mercedes pull up in the next lane. The man in the driver's seat and a woman, none other than their old friend Margot the Assistant DA, stared at them in astonishment.

Matt looked back at them, shrugged the best he could with Nudnik in the way. "What?"

* * * * *

"The Interrogation" by Alison Wilgus

"I'm waiting," Maddox said.

Angela blinked away tears of terror and shame at her helplessness. She couldn't subject her rookery siblings to the dangers of an invasion, but she couldn't just sit here and watch her clan die! Especially not her father and her future mate!

She surged against the restraints with all her strength.

"When will you realize that your efforts are useless?" Maddox asked. "That chair was built specifically to hold you. You'll not be able to break free from it by struggling."

"You monster!"

"Yes, yes," he replied, sounding bored. "I'm the monster, I'm evil, could we please get on with it?" When she still didn't answer, he glanced at Mavis. "Perhaps we should give her something to think about, a little gesture to show her that we mean what we say. Bring me the ear of their leader --"

"NO!" screamed Angela.

Maddox looked at her and opened his mouth to reply, and stopped as an urgent warble came from a speaker in the wall. "Leifson here."

"Not now, Leifson, I'm busy," Maddox snapped.

"Too busy to care that we're under attack?"

The monitor flashed, and now the view was of Steel Clan robots demolishing the upper floors of the building. It changed again, and Angela suppressed a cheer as she recognized Elisa, Hudson, Matt, even Fox and Xanatos fighting their way through the corridors.

"Perfect," Maddox said, in a disgusted tone of voice. "Mavis, you deal with her. I'll see to these uninvited guests." He started for the door, then paused, looking at the silken-haired man.

Angela looked at him too. Since he had said nothing, she hadn't paid him any more attention until now. She noticed that he was the only one of her captors who wasn't relishing her plight. He looked ... he looked sorry for her.

"Umbriel!" Maddox said sharply. "You're with me. Garlon, George, you too."

The door closed behind them, and Mavis turned to Angela with a feral smile.

"Looks like it's just us girls, then," she crooned sweetly.

* * * * *

"Uncle ..."


Umbriel swallowed, feeling like there was something caught in his throat. His honor, perhaps. "You ... you don't truly mean to slaughter those gargoyles, do you?"

"If she refuses to cooperate, yes," Maddox said flatly.

"But two of them are children!" Umbriel protested.

"Nits make lice," Garlon observed.

Maddox swept Umbriel with a scathing look. "May I remind you that we are at war, nephew?" he said. "There is no room for sentimentality in wartime."

Umbriel lagged behind, brow furrowed in concern. He looked back once at the door, then reluctantly followed.

* * * * *

"Let's be about it, shall we?" Mavis said merrily. "Hmm, where should I begin? Perhaps with your da?"

"Please, stop this!"

"Willin' to talk, then?"


"Make up your mind, child." Then she snapped her fingers. "I see! You're expecting to be rescued! I'll have to show you just how futile a hope that is." She surveyed the monitor, which now showed the captive clan again.

"Any suggestions? Should I start with the wee ones? Sure they're too young to understand, too young to know anything but that they're dying in agony. But I'll be makin' sure they understand it's all your fault."

Angela bit her lip, trying not to look at Graeme and Ariana. What had they been thinking, to bring them along?

"Or maybe I'll start with this slob of a thing, here." She tapped the figure of Broadway.

"Don't you dare!"

"You know, I could probably upholster a whole sofa with the hide he's got wrapped around that belly."

"Leave him alone!" Angela shrieked so loud she thought her throat might split.

Mavis broke off and looked at her, amused. "Well, well! It's that garbage disposal with wings you're after! Takes all kinds, I suppose, but I've no idea what you see in him."

"You wouldn't understand!" Angela spoke without meaning to, and wished she could take the words back. She was letting Mavis get to her, despite all her resolve.

Mavis walked over, and Angela fought her bonds again, still without effect. She grew still again, breathing as heavily from the exertion as the straps would allow, as Mavis stopped and stared at her quietly for a moment. She cringed involuntarily as Mavis's hand suddenly moved toward her.

Mavis smiled. "Isn't this the pretty trinket," she said, lifting up Angela's locket. "Present from your boyfriend?" With a sharp jerk, she snapped the chain and yanked it free from the girl's neck. "We don't need them, you know," she told Angela with dreadful calm. "We need you, because you can help us. But they're no use to us at all, no more than insects -- " she dropped the locket and drove her heel down on it, crushing it -- "underfoot."

"You're not going to get away with this!"

"Who's to stop me? And what's more," Mavis said, leaning close, "if you won't tell me what I want to know, I'm going to slit your rump-fed Romeo wide open and let him bleed to death at your feet."

* * * * *

"I never expected our first meeting to turn out like this," David Xanatos called, hovering on the jets of his battlesuit. "I had more of a board-room setting in mind."

"You've destroyed my board room," Maddox replied icily.

"Bill me."

As the two of them faced off, Fox confronted Jackal and Hyena. "So, this is the sort of person you're working for now," she taunted. "Your standards have dropped about as fast as your looks."

"We can't all marry billionaires," Hyena came back. "Or live in the beauty parlor!"

"Come on, you bunch of clowns, move it!" Garlon was yelling at a gang of not-quite-right-looking thugs with pointed ears and wall-to-wall eyebrow. They were standing braced for attack but not moving; Hudson, whose sword had already taken out half a dozen of their number, watched the lot of them with a grim smile playing over his face and his sword-point tracing patterns in the air.

"I said --" Garlon started again, then never finished as Bronx bowled him over. Nudnik, thinking this was even better than playing frisbee with Brooklyn, galumphed right over him, driving his head into the ground.

"Good boys," Hudson said approvingly as the two gargoyle beasts took up defensive positions at his side. "Now who's next?" The old warrior lowered his sword blade with a particularly nasty smile.

The gang of transformed humans looked at each other uncertainly. A dark-suited figure pushed his way through to the front. George gave his fellow Halflings a good hard glare. "Listen up, people. You've got the talent, now use it. Watch me!" His eyes began to glow a brilliant blue and energy crackled all around him. "Find your energy source, focus it," he gave an wicked grin, "and let it GO!"

The charged energy pulse that left George's extended hands was deflected by Hudson's sword, but still managed to throw the old gargoyle back several feet. Bronx roared and threw himself in defense of his master. Nudnik gave a yipping howl and charged the Halflings.

Heartened by their squad leader's display, the other transformed humans began to fight back, firing their own energy blasts. George cast about for a convenient ley line and stepped on it. "Take care of these pests," he ordered. "I've got to do some damage control." He sailed off, skating inches off the floor.

* * * * *

A feral growl warned Fox seconds before Wolf struck, giving her the split second she needed to take him out with her arm blaster, the stench of burning hair filling the room. A volley of micro-missiles detonated off her armor as she turned back towards the lethal twins. "Up to your old sneaky tricks, eh, Jackal?" Fox commented. "I'd have thought you'd come with some new ones." She fired back with a salvo of particle beams.

"Why bother when the old ones work so well?" Jackal quipped. "Hit her, Sis!"

Hyena skittered spider-like from the cover of some overturned furniture and pounced onto Fox, sharpened fingers drilling their way into her battle armor. Fox rolled with her former associate's momentum and managed to wedge her feet into Hyena's torso as they fell. The blast from her jet packs did the rest, sending Hyena flying across the room.

Fox rolled to her feet. "That's that," she said satisfactorily. She eyed Jackal. "And now for you--" A brilliant flash of blue light suddenly filled her vision as every circuit in her exo-suit began to short-circuit. The floor rose up and hit her in the face.

"Don't thank me all at once," a voice called mockingly from behind. "I'll say it again, you guys ought to be recycled."

"Stuff it, freak," Jackal shot back. "We softened her up for you."

"You're one to talk," a pair of black boots stepped into her range of vision, "at least I still have all my own original equipment."

"Yeah, Georgie?" Hyena taunted. "Your momma give you those ears, elf-boy?"

With an articulate growl, George started towards her. Unfortunately, he'd forgotten about Fox. She grabbed his ankles and sent a powerful jolt of energy through his body. The Halfling collapsed on the ground.

Fox looked at Hyena. "Please tell me you didn't date this jerk?"

"Too late," Jackal answered. "And too late for you." He leaped at her -- and crashed to the floor as she rolled out of the way.

"Wanna bet?" Fox grinned. She hadn't had this much fun in ages.

* * * * *

"And when I'm finished with him," Mavis said, "I'll -"

The sound of the gunshot was muffled but distinct. The door flew open, its lock shattered.

Elisa Maza leveled her gun at Mavis. "Are we interrupting?"

Mavis backed away, showing fear for the first time. It did Angela's heart good to see that fear. Mavis drew the knife from her sleeve and started to raise it, but Elisa shook her head.

"Don't make me shoot it out of your hand. My aim's good, but not that good. I'd probably blow your fingers off."

"I'm so sorry, Angela!" Lex said as he and Matt undid the clamps and buckles. "This is all my fault!"

She didn't reply. The instant she was free, she hurtled past Elisa and threw herself on Mavis with an eyes-blazing-tail-lashing roar that would have done credit to her mother. Mavis flung her arms over her face, not fast enough. Angela's claws slashed her cheek from temple to jaw, and the knife went skittering across the tile floor.

"Angela! Stop!" Elisa and Matt caught her by the arms, just as she was about to go for Mavis' throat.

Angela fought against the hands that held her. "No, Elisa! Let me go! I'm going to make her pay!"

Mavis twisted out from under her and rolled catlike to her feet. Lex blocked the door.

"You're not getting away!" he cried.

"Think again!" She darted to the wall, and part of it swung away. She was through and had it closed behind her before any of them could reach it.

"No! Not again! Another secret door!" Lex threw himself at the wall, raking the acoustic tile in frustration when he couldn't find the trigger to open it.

Angela shakily passed a hand over her eyes, stopping when she glimpsed the blood on her claws. She stared numbly at the crimson that stained her talons.

"Blood?" she whispered, uncomprehending. She'd never drawn blood before, not like that. Not in a vicious, out-of-control frenzy. That wasn't like her. Not Angela.

"Lex, forget it!" Matt said, pulling him away from the wall. "We'll deal with her later. Come on, let's get Goliath and the others."

"Angela? Angela!"

She looked up from her hands. "Elisa?"

"They'll need our help upstairs."

"...Yes," Angela said. "Of course." She looked down at her hands again.


She felt Elisa's hand touch her shoulder, then shook her head sharply and followed Elisa out of the room.

* * * * *

"Ah, Mavis, there you are," Maddox panted, ducking as one of Xanatos' energy bolts streaked by. "Come to join the party?"

"This is madness!" she exclaimed when she got a look around, still pressing her palm to her bleeding cheek.

"A trifling upset. We've only lost a bit of ground."

"A bit?!"

"Now that you're here, we can easily overpower these mortal annoyances."

"Don't be a fool, Madoc! It's too soon!" She swiped one hand across her face, shook her bloodstained fingers in front of his eyes. "Our powers aren't fully regained! We can still bleed!"

He glanced from her hand to her face and was about to reply when a voice rang from the sky.

"Hey! Somebody call for backup?"

Talon descended with the rest of his clan, mingled mutates and cloned gargoyles, close at his heels.

Maddox, who had been looking only minorly inconvenienced, now looked genuinely alarmed. "We must retreat!"

"What happened to easily overpowering these mortal annoyances?" Mavis demanded mockingly.

He ignored her. "Unseelie, to me!" He raised one hand in an arcane gesture, and lightning crackled around them both.

* * * * *

Lightning flashed, and Maddox and Mavis vanished.

Moments later, most of their forces did the same. Only the Ultra-Pack were left, until Jackal suddenly looked around and realized that the only thing standing between victory and the entire combined army of gargoyles, mutates, robots, and armed humans, was themselves.

"Let's bail, sis! We don't get paid enough for this!"

Hyena was going to protest, and them Matt and Lexington burst onto the scene with a very irritated Goliath and the rest of the clan right behind them.

"Right behind you, brother! I may be bloodthirsty, but I'm not crazy!"

* * * * *

The battle was done, and Maddox Technologies stood mostly empty. Only a few perplexed humans were left, including the janitorial staff and Maddox's receptionist, Sherry.

The painkiller had worn off. It felt like the longest night in history. But Lex couldn't rest yet. He led Elisa and Matt down to the basement.

"They're right here -- they're gone, too. Dang! I wanted you to see them!"

"We've seen plenty," Matt said, pointing to the hammers in various stages of production. "Here's all the evidence we need to nail Maddox."

"Yeah, but how are we going to tell Captain Chavez they really were made by magic?" Elisa wondered. "This makes your Illuminati stuff sound tame by comparison."

Matt gave a little, harsh laugh. "Tell me about it. What did you say they looked like, Lexington?"

"Little men," Lex answered. "With beards. Like gnomes, I guess."

"Oompa-Loompas," Matt muttered under his breath, and raked a hand through his hair. "I just realized. It's not gonna stop getting weirder, is it."

* * * * *

A day's stone sleep (and even the non-gargoyle combatants all slept like stones) did everyone a world of good. They awoke in time for the evening news, in which Travis Marshall reported on the top story of Maddox Technologies and the Quarrymen.

"A police investigation is underway," Marshall said. "The FBI is seeking both Nicholas Maddox and his associate, Mavis O'Connor, on charges of collaborating with a terrorist organization."

"Good luck," Lex grumbled.

An uncomfortable silence fell over the clan.

* * * * *

Xanatos turned off the television. "So, Owen, what you're telling me is that these two are getting ready to take on Oberon?"

"Indeed, sir. I doubt they're concerning themselves with human law. As Madoc Morfryn and Queen Maeve, the only force that will concern them is Oberon himself."

"But they tried and failed ten thousand years ago?"

Owen nodded. "Give or take a millennium, yes. Presumably, they feel confident about a re-match."

"And what do you think, Owen?"

His hesitation was answer enough.

Fox and her husband exchanged a grim look, and then she said, "I think I'll start sitting in on Alex's lessons again, if it's all right with you, Owen."

"A wise precaution," he said, looking mildly relieved.

* * * * *

Angela gave Broadway what was meant to be a reassuring smile, but he still looked hurt. How could she explain that she just didn't feel like sitting with the others right now?

She could still feel the tender flesh giving way beneath her claws. Could still feel the thrill of fierce triumph. It burned in her like a flame, but froze her heart at the same time.

"I'm turning into my mother," she murmured to herself.

She glanced quickly around to see if any of them had heard her. Nobody was looking her way. Elisa and Matt hadn't mentioned what had happened in the interrogation room, and Lex was more worried about problems of his own.

So were the others. She noticed the way they kept skittering nervous looks toward Lex, who also sat apart from the group as if shamed.

The door opened, and Xanatos came in. "Lexington?"

Lex sighed heavily. "The doctors' reports came back?"

"Do you want to discuss this privately?"

Lex shook his head. "I'm through keeping secrets from my clan. Whatever the news is, they can hear it too."

"I'm afraid it's not good," Xanatos said. "The implants cannot be removed without causing permanent damage. Blindness, at the very least, since there's no way to restore your eyes."

"You mean...I'm stuck like this? I can't have them removed?"

"I'm sorry." Xanatos laid the medical printouts on the table and left quietly. Lex made a small, anguished sound and covered his face.

"Lexington" by Jessica Entis

"Lex ..." Brooklyn began.

"Just...leave me alone for a while, okay?" he asked in a broken, strengthless whisper.

* * * * *

Elisa put her arms around Goliath, attempting to comfort him. He'd taken the news almost as badly as Lex himself.

"We won the battle," she said. "Be proud of that."

"But at what cost?" he asked bitterly.

"Everything has a cost, Goliath. If Lex had been wounded, crippled, you'd still support him. He'll make whatever adjustments he has to, in time."

He started to ask her how she could possibly know what any of this was like, and then thought of her brother. Talon had come to terms with his change. So had Elisa. He could not ask for a better guide to help him through his anger and sorrow.

"The important thing," she went on, "is that everyone is alive, and safe."

"Yes," he said. "We should not forget that." He held her close, as always amazed that he could draw such strength from such a small and frail form.

She rested her head against his chest. "The worst is over. Things can only get better from here on." She raised her head briefly and met his eyes. "Can't they?"

* * * * *


Behind the old castle, behind the Brocken mountain peaks, the eastern sky was lit up with a livid red streak of dawn.

"We could have taken them!" Leifson stormed. "So there were a few more. They were still only mortals! Why did you order the retreat?"

"Close your blathering mouth, Loki," snapped a female voice.

She was no longer bleeding. She was no longer Mavis O'Connor.

Emerald-streaked black hair flowed loose around hard-edged elfin features. Her skin had darkened several shades, to a toffee-cream tan. A sword hung at her waist, and she wore lightweight armor with a dark-red cape swirling around her. And her accent was sharper, musical and harsh at the same time, the sound of a language whose rough edges had not yet been worn smooth with time.

"Maeve" by CrzyDemona

"The risk was too great," Madoc said, adjusting the sweep of black cloak that fell from his scalloped metal shoulderplates, glancing about at the others who stood by -- Umbriel, Garlon, George Harrison and the other Halflings. "Humans and gargoyles, fighting side by side. Have you forgotten the prophecy?"

"Of course not!"

"We'll have other opportunities. We've waited this long; a small delay shouldn't concern us. We have recovered our powers. Our hour has come round at last."

Maeve drew in an eager breath. "You mean --? Is it truly --?"

"Yes." He turned his head sharply, white hair flying around his regal features. "Send out the call. Gather our followers to us. The Rising has begun!"


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