A Gargoyles Saga Story

Story Concept by Todd Jensen

Written by Christi Smith Hayden



Previously on Gargoyles....


George: "When are you going to outgrow this pinky promise thing of yours?"

Richard: "Probably not until I'm old and gray, bro."




George: "In war, sacrifices must be made for the greater good. Try to keep that in mind, bro."


 George: "Somebody has to pick up the slack and I don't shirk my responsibilities."


Richard: "My parents want to know what'll happen to George. Has he shown up?"

Elisa: "No sign of him anywhere. A rookie reported seeing someone with his description just before he was knocked out and had his uniform stolen. It's entirely possible he walked right past us, as bold as brass."

Richard: "That's George, all right."


Garlon: "I've tailed the subject to Philadelphia. You'll be pleased, I think. He's clever, creative and resourceful. In short, he's just what the doctor ordered."



* * * * *



Transcripts of Voice Mail

December 17, 1996

"This is Garlon. Followed subject to Miami where he sold motorcycle and bought tickets to Cancun, Mexico. He had reservations at the Hotel Omni under the name of Peter Mason. Must remember to thank subject for picking such a delightful destination to hide out in. I detest Christmas in New York; spending the holidays sitting in the shade of a cabana drinking rum punch and watching subject tan on the beach and pick up women makes for an excellent working vacation."


* * * * *


January 2, 1997

*audible growl, high-pitched aircraft noises in background* "This is Garlon. I don't know how he did it, but the subject got away from me. It will NOT happen again. Subject had become involved with a German tourist, seems he speaks the language fairly well. She had talked him into a moonlight cruise on a touristy old-style clipper ship out to Isla Mujere for a New Year's Party. As there are no airstrips on the island, I did not tail the subject, the fact that I always get seasick on small ships might have also had something to do with it. All I know is they did not return as scheduled in the early hours of January 1 with the rest of the tourists. The German woman returned alone later that evening and ordered the hotel to send his bill to an address in New York. Apparently they rented a room on the island to celebrate the New Year and when she awoke, he was gone, leaving a note with instructions for the hotel. A large fishing boat left about the time of his disappearance and I've traced it to Cozumel, another tourist spot. Two commercial flights left this morning, one to Miami and the other to Dallas. I'm scanning the passenger manifests now. Will report again as soon as I have relocated my quarry."


* * * * *


I. -- Prodigal

January 5, 1997

Hawg Heaven -- South Dallas, Texas

A beer bottle smashed against the wall, amber shards of glass scattering across the nearby booths, barely missing the sole occupant sitting under one of the few lights in the biker bar. He flicked his blue eyes up once, scanning the room. Noting the fight in progress, the man with the sun-bleached hair scratched his scruffy reddish-brown beard and went back to reading his dog-eared paperback book. A worn backpack was under the table and a dusty leather jacket was draped on the opposite bench.

At the bar, a nondescript man nursed his beer as he had for the better part of an hour and studied the solitary reader. He thrust a thumb over his shoulder and asked the bartender, "So what's with the bookworm?"

The silver-haired man with ex-biker written all over him gave a quick glance between the two men. "Mister," he said as he drew two draft beers, "you don't want to mess with him."

"Why's that?"

"A man's got a right to some privacy," the bartender said bluntly and walked down to the other end of the bar to deliver the beers.

The barmaid jiggled up with a drink order. She had the biggest, reddest head of hair of any woman in the place and a strong aroma of AquaNet hinted at her high flammability. She cracked her gum and leaned up next to the stranger.

"Don't mind Bob, honey. He jest don't like gettin' intah othah people's bizness."

The man smiled warmly at her. "Yeah? I just thought it was a little peculiar, reading a book in a bar." He peered at her nametag. "Doralene."

"Oh, honey! We get all sorts in heyah!" She turned around, resting her elbows on the bar and thrusting her rather expressive bosom out at the room. "He's jest as sweet as kin be, he jest don't like ta be bothered while he's reading."

The bartender scowled at her. "Dorrie, you talk too much, girl."

"Ah'm jest bein' friendly!" she protested. "T'ain't no harm in that, is there?"

Unnoticed, the man at the bar slipped away. He nodded once as he crossed the room to the flashing lights of the jukebox and began to study the selections.

A table of young toughs began arguing loudly amongst themselves. Some of the longneck bottles littering their table rolled off on to the floor and broke. One of them picked up a half-empty bottle and deliberately threw it across the room. It hit the wall in an explosion of beer suds, spraying the reader with glass shards and foam.

His eyes flicked up, a hard, cold look aimed at the troublemakers. Very quietly, he placed an envelope in the book and tucked it inside the backpack. He slid out of the booth and began to walk across the room. Chairs hit the floor as the group of young bikers stood up, jeering and jostling each other. The bottle thrower, clearly the drunkest of the lot, sneered at the reader. "What's the matter? Did yer little book get all wet?"

"I think you guys have had way too much to drink so I'm going to be nice about this," the solitary biker said. "Apologize and I won't hurt you. Much."

"Ooooooh!" the bottle-thrower said sarcastically. "I'm so-o-o-o scared." He looked over the reader, sizing him up. It wasn't much of a comparison. The younger man clearly had height, weight and youth on his side. "Bite me, old man. If you want to read, go to the library with the rest of the geeks."

"I like it here," the reader said, lifting his chin. He shifted his weight to his back leg.

"Oh, yeah?" The young tough got in his face and starting poking him roughly in the chest with a grease-stained finger. "Well, we don't like you!"

There was a sharp crack as the reader snapped the bone in the young biker's finger. He kept his grip, drawing him forward as he whip-kicked him in the groin and stomach, driving his knee into the punk's lowered head. He swung the punk around and hurled him in a hip throw. The young biker landed in an unconscious heap by the door.

"Doralene," the bartender drawled out absently. "Go prop the door open. I think he's fixin' to take out the trash."

The bottle thrower's friends threw themselves at the reader. Their technique was pure and simple bar room brawl. His was a lightning mix of fighting disciplines combined with a calm focus on the task at hand. One by one and in various degrees of damage, the troublemakers made contact with the cold, cracked concrete of the sidewalk outside.

The reader wiped a trace of blood off the corner of his mouth. He nodded at the bartender. "Sorry about the mess, Bob."

"S'okay, pal. They weren't from around here." The silver-haired man yelled into the storeroom. "Kelvin! Git out here and mop the floor, boy!"

The nondescript man sauntered over from the jukebox and slipped into the booth with the reader. "Impressive," he said.

"I'm not interested in conversation," the reader replied. He ignored the newcomer and took out his reading material.

"Well, Mr. Harrison," the newcomer said, reaching over the snatch the envelope being used as a bookmark, "you've led me a merry chase since I handed you this at the Quarrymen rally in Central Park." His target received major points for the coolness of his reaction, merely flicking his blue eyes open in an extremely focused stare.

"Uh huh... And you would be...?"

"Cohn, Dave G. Cohn. I head up the Acquisitions Department for Maddox Technologies."

Harrison glanced around the room and asked quietly, "So what do you acquire for them?"

"Oh, whatever Mr. Maddox requires, software, hardware, people..." Dave leaned forward. "Mr. Maddox has a great need for talented people, especially those with your unique experience."

"So I gathered from the note," Harrison said. "It was little vague on the job description."

"Mr. Maddox wishes to go into those details personally." Dave flicked away a shard of glass. "You have an appointment at the head offices in Manhattan one week from today."

"I might be interested," Harrison said, stressing the last word, "if certain conditions of my own were met."

"You'll find the employee's benefits package quite comprehensive and above industry standards."

"Very well." Harrison stood up and put on his leather jacket. "Tell your employer I'll meet with him."

"I'll take you there," Dave said, also standing. "I'm authorized to arrange transportation."

"Don't bother, I'll get there on my own," Harrison said, shrugging on his backpack. "I'd prefer it that way."

"As you wish. I'd tell Mr. Maddox to expect you."

"You do that."


* * * * *


January 7, 1997 -- Manhattan, New York.

The lone pedestrian carried the two bags of groceries awkwardly with one arm as he walked towards the apartment building. The other arm he held gingerly in a sling and winced as he tried to shift it around to get in his jacket pocket. He was swearing under his breath when a voice came out of a nearby alley.

"Do you need some help, Richard?"

The young man looked up at the velvet tones and smiled. "Hi, Angela. Checking up on me again?"

The female gargoyle stepped out of the shadows and took a sack of groceries from him. "I didn't think you'd mind. I thought you were supposed to be taking it easy with that arm."

Richard set the other bag on the ground and dug through his pockets. "A guy's got to eat, you know. Mom stocked the freezer but I ran out of the staples...milk, butter, bread..."

"Mallomars?" Angela looked up, her hand sorting through the bag. "A bag of Cheezy Chips? Picante? Richard! Tsk, tsk, tsk...."

He smiled sheepishly as he fished out his keys. "I'm a junk food junkie, so sue me. After the hospital room and spending the Christmas break with my mother, I needed a fix." Richard waved at the building. "You want to come on up?"

"It might not make a good impression on the neighbors if I walked in," Angela said. "Why don't you open a window and I'll meet you there?"

"Okay, sounds like a plan." He managed to get the door open and went inside.

Richard heaved the groceries up on his kitchen counter, threw his unfolded laundry in the bedroom and looked around the messy room nervously before opening the window. Angela came in with remarkable grace considering how tightly she had to wrap her wings around herself to do it. She looked around the room while Richard put things away in the kitchen.

"It's a very nice place," she said finally, straightening a pile of books on the coffee table. "It's very ....masculine." She tossed a discarded sock under a chair with a flick of her tail.

"You mean it looks like a bear cave," Richard said with a laugh.

"No, bears wouldn't live like this."

"Well, I usually keep it neater. I never know when George might drop by for inspection." He stopped in the act of putting a six-pack of cola in the refrigerator and stood there looking at the red cans. "I wish I knew he was all right."

Angela regarded her friend sympathetically. "Elisa put an A.P.B. out on him. Someone is sure to find him."

"I don't know." Richard sighed and put the soft drinks away. "George is really sneaky when he wants to be. In high school, he took drama and speech classes, and for a while, he thought about becoming an actor. He could fake anybody out."

There was a picture on the wall. Angela studied it carefully. Richard and George were smiling at the camera, wearing nice suits reminiscent of Xanatos's everyday wear. They had the same pleasant blue eyes, George's hair a slightly lighter shade of chestnut brown. Their faces were also similar; the straight nose, the strong jawline, but where Richard radiated a genuine friendliness, George seemed a bit distant. Perhaps it was the lift of an eyebrow, the rigid curve of his lip, Angela shook her head. "Is this a recent photo?" she asked.

Richard looked in her direction. "Yeah, that was our Christmas present to Mom." His eyes saddened for a moment. "When she opened it, she burst into tears. Normally, that's a good thing but with George missing and everything, I felt really bad about it."

"It was the thought that counted," Angela said soothingly. "It's a very handsome portrait. I'm sure once your mother calmed down, she liked it very much."

"Yeah, it's funny but moms really like it when you make an effort for them," Richard said. "You know?"

Angela smiled, thinking back on the clan's recent winter solstice celebration. "Oh, I know exactly what you mean."

He went over in a desk drawer and took out a small picture. "Here's a copy of that photo for you, if you'd like one."

"Why, Richard! Thank you!" She kissed him impulsively on the cheek. "I only wish I had something as grand for you."

Richard colored slightly and grinned sheepishly. "Oh, that'll do nicely."


* * * * *


January 8, 1997 -- Bronx, New York.

The biker with the sun-bleached hair came out of the seedy bar one motorcycle lighter and a few thousand dollars richer. The Harley he'd picked up in Dallas for a song sold for considerably more here in the Big Apple. He wandered into the nearest consignment store to update his wardrobe.

Within the hour, a bespectacled student in a second-hand parka was riding the subway downtown into the business district. His blue jeans, Doc Martens and baggy flannel shirt attracted no more attention than any other rider on the train. He blew a longish strand of sun blonde hair out of his eyes as he scanned the newspaper in his hands. Disembarking at the next station, he folded it up and stuck it under his arm as he drifted into the crowd.


* * * * *


January 9, 1997 -- Downtown Manhattan, New York.

It had taken eighteen straight hours at various computer terminals but he had finally accessed the Maddox Technologies personnel records. As Castaway's assistant, he had learned a few tricks about corporate espionage. He'd impersonated a UPS deliveryman and scouted the territory earlier that morning when he'd lucked into overhearing a conversation between his target and her friend arranging to meet for lunch. As result, he was waiting for her, observing her discreetly in his guise of young businessman going over paperwork at lunch.

"--And then he gave me that killer grin and walked away!" the young brunette gushed. All three women wearing Maddox Technologies badges sat at a nearby table nibbling on salad. The industrious young executive took a sip of his cola while he watched them as he rifled through his papers.

"You get all the luck, Quinn!" one of her companions said. "Working in Maddox's offices. I think sometimes I'll never make it out of the secretarial pool."

"Luck, nothing!" Quinn exclaimed. "I'm exhausted. Maddox is there at all hours. I swear the man never sleeps!"

"Well, you have the weekend off," her other companion said, "and you're going club-hopping with us in the Village. No going home until we've all snagged a man."

Quinn laughed, her dark brown eyes twinkling. "That sounds great!"

"Yeah, Ms. Quinn," George muttered with a small smile, "I think I'll see you there." He lingered over his own lunch while the ladies finished and trailed them back to the Maddox building. Standing in the shadows across the street, he pursed his lips as the threads of an idea began to come together.


* * * * *


January 10, 1997 -- The Rockaway, Greenwich Village, Manhattan.

The bass backbeat was throbbing through the floor and the dancers could feel the music through their feet. Quinn couldn't remember the last time she had really cut loose and let her hair down. She liked being Mr. Maddox's and Ms. O'Connor's executive secretary but sometimes she felt as if she lived at the office.

"Great band, huh?"

Quinn turned around and looked into a pair of eyes made even bluer by a tanned, good-looking face. "Yeah!" she yelled back and started dancing with him. He was a reasonably cute guy, dressed in a black mock turtleneck and jeans. His brown hair was streaked with golden sun-bleached highlights and he had a yummy Patrick Swayze body. He knew how to move too, Quinn noted with delight. Her last boyfriend had two left feet.

The house lights came up while the next band was getting ready. Her dance partner grinned and held out his hand. "I'm Jayce. Jayce Roberts. Can I buy you a drink?"

"Yeah," the short brunette said with an answering grin. "And you can call me Quinn."

They found a relatively quiet corner upstairs in the balcony and made small talk as they sipped rum-and-cokes. Quinn found herself becoming enchanted by Jayce's easy-going manner. He was a sales rep for a telecommunications firm and regaled her with entertaining stories from his recent Caribbean cruise where he got his tan. They were swapping vacation stories when her friends caught up with them.

"...And I was swimming over this sand bar when I looked up to see this HUGE fish," he spread his arms wide, fingers extended, "I swear to God, it must have been six feet if it was an inch, and I'm floating there in the current going 'Hel-LO!'" His eyes widened.

Quinn rested her cheek against her hand, dark eyes twinkling. She hadn't smiled this much in ages. "What was it?"

Jayce leaned in. "A barracuda. Found that out later, but at that moment I was too busy trying to swim backwards." He began making exaggerated swimming motions, leaning dangerously back in his chair and Quinn began to giggle.

"Hey, girlfriend!" A tall, black girl with a cafe au lait complexion and a vivacious redhead walked up to the table. "We've been invited to a party down the street. Wanna go?"

Quinn looked at Jayce and said, "I'll be right back." She hustled her friends to the balcony edge. "So," she said, glancing back at the table, "what do you think of him?"

The redhead leered over Quinn's shoulder. "I saw him earlier. Cu-u-ute!"

"Honestly, girl, I can't take you anywhere." The black girl shook her head, rustling dozens of tiny, shoulder-length braids together. "What's important, Quinn, is what do you think of him?"

"Oh.... so he doesn't have movie star looks but he's so easy to talk to and he's funny and he's got a great laugh and...."

"Sounds to me like you've bagged your limit tonight," her friend said with a laugh. "See you at work Monday." She and the redhead started downstairs.

"Have fun!" the redhead called. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!"

"And just what wouldn't you do?" the black girl asked with a snort.

"Not much!" A bubbling laugh echoed up the stairwell.

Quinn stood there with arms crossed, quietly giggling as she watched them leave. Jayce came up behind her. "Hey, I hope I didn't run off your friends."

"No," Quinn said, looking up at him. "They're off to a party."

"Well, if you want to go," he said with a wistful puppy dog expression, "there's no reason to stay here on my account."

A slow ballad began to play over the club's sound system. Quinn threaded her arms through his and linked her hands behind his back. She smiled and said in a low voice, "I like it here."

Jayce chuckled and put his arms around her. "Then I guess we'll just have to make our own party." He tilted his head down and brushed his lips against hers, softly at first and then with gradually firmer pressure.

Quinn sighed and closed her eyes. She felt his kiss all the way down to her knees. This was turning out to be a memorable weekend.


* * * * *

January 12, 1997 -- Maddox Technologies, Manhattan.

At precisely nine o'clock, Nicholas Maddox and his partner Mavis O'Connor stepped out of the private elevator onto the floor housing the executive offices of Maddox Technologies. With their dark hair and gray eyes, they were a perfectly matched set although it was clear to anyone within a few minutes, that they were strictly business. Their chief expediter and head of Acquisitions met them at the elevator door.

"Well, Garlon?" Maddox asked as he gazed mildly around at his employees swarming around the office like bees. "Has our acquisition arrived?"

The unremarkable man with mouse-brown hair frowned. "Not yet."

"I don't see why ye didn't be more forceful in Dallas," Mavis said, chameleon gray eyes taking on a greenish cast. "It's not like the man had many other prospects."

"No, Garlon acted correctly," Maddox said quietly. "I'll explain later but for maximum efficiency, it must be a voluntary act."

They strolled into the executive suite. The secretary's desk was vacant and the door to Maddox's office was ajar. Garlon instantly stepped in front of his employers and pushed the door open cautiously, one hand inside his coat.

A well-dressed man with sun-bleached brown hair and blue eyes stood in front of the polished teak desk, a leatherbound binder in his hand. He smiled and nodded at Garlon.

"Your letter did say the appointment was for nine a.m sharp."

Garlon held the door open for his employers. "Ms. O'Connor, Mr. Maddox, may I present George C. Harrison, formerly head of Marketing and Public Relations at Castaway Industries?"

Nicholas Maddox regarded George with dry amusement as he greeted him. He sat down behind the desk and watched Mavis at work.

"Mr. Harrison, I'd be wonderin' how ye got in here? Security is under orders to notify us when visitors enter the building." She sat down in the throne-like chair Garlon provided for her.

George took a relaxed military stance, facing her. "Well, Ms. O'Connor, at this moment I imagine a certain Ms. Quinn Ramsey is waking up right now in her apartment, wondering where the handsome stranger she met over the weekend has gone. After she wakes up a little more, she'll probably be wondering where her security pass has gone." He reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a magnetic passkey and a laminated employee tag. He tossed it on the desk. "She's a lovely and talented young lady but quite a security risk."

"I see I'll be havin' a little chat with personnel later," Mavis commented.

"While you're making out her severance check, include one for the security guard downstairs," George said with a little smile. "He didn't even blink when I passed through his checkpoint and this is not one of my better ID forgeries."

Garlon nodded at Mavis and Maddox. "I'll handle it."

"It's clear to me," Maddox said firmly, "that our security procedures are incredibly lax. I believe I'd like both of you to look into this matter while I conduct the interview with our industrious Mr. Harrison here."

Mavis met his gaze with an amused one of her own. The corners of her mouth turned up in a small, quirky smile as she left the room. Garlon returned her chair to its place in the corner of the room behind the desk before following her out and shutting the door.

The darkly handsome executive gestured to the upholstered chairs in front of his desk. "Please, Mr. Harrison, sit. Be comfortable."

"Thank you, sir." The tanned younger man sat down in a relaxed yet attentive manner.

"Tell me about yourself." It wasn't so much a question as it was a command.

"Well, sir," George began, "my name is George Clarence Harrison. I'm twenty-six years old and I have a degree in Political Science from New York University. I was in R.O.T.C. throughout my school years and I served in the United States Air Force for two years before taking employment at Castaway Industries."

Nicholas Maddox leaned back in his high-backed office chair and steepled his fingers together as he regarded George Harrison thoughtfully. "So, Mr. Harrison, besides it being an impressive display of ingenuity, exactly why did you decide to circumvent my security systems?"

"Well, sir, I'm afraid I'm a persona non grata in the state of New York, with a warrant out for my arrest. There was the outside chance that there might a few of New York's finest waiting here in your office to greet me. A number of ranking Quarrymen implicated me when they plea-bargained for lesser sentences."

"Loyalty is a rare and high-priced commodity," Maddox said. "I was deeply saddened by Castaway's downfall. He had true vision when all around him were blind to the truth."

"Exactly." George leaned forward, his attention sharp and focused. "He had such insight into the dark side of those creatures. He wasn't fooled for a minute by that 'we want to live in peace with humanity line' they fed the media." He shook his head and sighed. "I've heard that he's had a complete nervous breakdown. To be betrayed from within like that," he set his jaw and lowered his voice, "and by my own brother yet, I can't help thinking that I could have done more."

Maddox nodded. "Perhaps I can help you," he said.

"How so?" George asked. "The Quarrymen have been disbanded, the police are a joke and those creatures are still loose in the city. What kind of a chance could an ordinary man have against them?"

"True, the Quarrymen are no more," Maddox said shrewdly, "but there are those who worked behind the scenes, keeping them supplied with weapons and technology." He lifted a regal eyebrow. "Maddox Technologies developed the Quarryman hammer."

"Really?" George said curiously. "I never knew that. Castaway always handled weapons acquisitions himself."

"You realize I couldn't support him openly," Maddox explained. "Unfortunately, I'd have risked getting my factory shut down by those 'bleeding heart liberals' who run this city, since they think that the Quarrymen are terrorists, rather than the last defense against the terrors of the night."

"You sound as if you know the subject well," George ventured cautiously.

"I lived in Europe for many years. The people there have known of the existence of gargoyles for centuries. The information is available, if you know where to look. I am convinced that these abominable creatures pose a real threat to humanity. That's why I was eager to support Castaway and his family against these demons." His gray eyes grew distant. "Now Castaway's dream will die unless another is willing to take up the cause." He focused his gaze on George. "I think with your skills and the time you spent as Castaway's lieutenant, you could fulfill that dream."

"Hmmm." George's eyes took on an unfocused cast as he considered the idea. "I don't know. The civil authorities will be on the alert for any organized anti-gargoyle movement. The media is already engaged in a major PR push promoting interspecies tolerance."

"I agree," Maddox said. "I find the evening newscasts most distressing. You must find them especially disturbing, what with that film clip of your brother and the female gargoyle that the networks keep showing over and over."

"I don't know what kind of unnatural hold she has on him," George said bitterly, "but I've washed my hands of him." His jaw thrust forward as he frowned and looked away. "After all we've been through together, he let me down."

"You have my sympathy," the dark-haired executive said with a pained sigh. "My brother and I never quite saw eye-to-eye ourselves." A distant ghost passed before his eyes that only Maddox could see and for a few moments, the silence of centuries filled the room. He shook it off and turned his attention back to young Harrison.

"I can help you destroy the gargoyles," he began, "but this time, it will be an entirely covert operation, more subtle with a select number of operatives, every one hand-picked for complete loyalty." Maddox arched a regal eyebrow. "Interested?"

George nodded. "Go on, I'm listening."

"There will be some minor personal risk involved," Maddox commented. "What I'm proposing is a radical new procedure that may seem hazardous but will yield great advantages to its participants."

"Sometimes risk is necessary to affect change," George said with a shrug, "We're never going eliminate the gargoyle threat if we don't take chances."

A small, knowing smile traced Maddox's lips for a second and then vanished. "I recently hired Dr. Anton Sevarius, one of the finest geneticists in the world, to assist me in a few projects for my company. One of them involves bioengineering, introducing new genetic material into an individual's DNA. It would enhance your strength, speed and other natural abilities considerably."

"This would.... change me?" George asked hesitantly. "How? What kind of test results did he get? Is the procedure reversible?"

"Initial results were quite promising. However, I won't lie to you. You would be the first test subject. And the doctor assures me that he can undo his handiwork, if necessary." He noted the shift in the younger man's body language. "I assure you, Mr. Harrison, that this is for the greater good. Sometimes, to battle the darkness, you must gather a little darkness to yourself."

George chewed his lip pensively. "I'd like a little time to think it over."

Maddox nodded. "It's not the sort of decision one should just jump into head-first. Please, take your time but I would like to hear from you in the next day or so." He activated his intercom. "Garlon, a moment of your time, please."

The nondescript man with the mousy brown hair entered the office. "Graywolf and I have started revamping the security measures, Mr. Maddox. He's downstairs reviewing the staff problems personally."

The executive raised an eyebrow. "Excellent work." He gestured towards George. "Mr. Harrison wishes to consider his options before making his decision. Will you please issue him a visitor's pass to be left at the lobby desk?" He gave a worldly smile. "As unwise as Ms. Ramsey seems to have been in her romantic affairs, she was a most capable executive assistant. I would much rather you return through the front door next time as opposed to seducing the remaining secretarial staff."

"Very well, sir." George stood, shook hands with Maddox and left with Garlon. Maddox took a remote control from his desk drawer and pointed it at a section of wall. Previously undetectable panels retracted, revealing a bank of video monitors and computer equipment. The screens showed various areas of Maddox Technologies, the offices, the R&D labs, the gymnasium and the lobby. Maddox concentrated on that last image, watching as Garlon escorted young Harrison to the doors. He was deep in thought when Mavis put her hand on his shoulder.

"What? The lad's leavin?' Not the sort you'd thought he'd be, is he?" she asked in her Irish lilt.

"Don't write our Mr. Harrison off yet. Quite a bit more sensitive than I first imagined, true, but he's cunning and quick of thought. I'd take those qualities over brute strength any day."

"Aye, he's a clever one, and bold as brass, too," Mavis commented. "I had a word with Quinn. She's been too good a secretary to just let go on short notice so I've had her transferred to one of our other offices that'll be having unexpected layoffs in a few weeks. T'would be awkward if those two ran into each other here in any case."

"Agreed." Maddox smiled coldly. "That stunt was rather inconvenient but nicely ruthless. He's more like one of us than he thinks."


* * * * *


Mid-Afternoon, Upper West Side Manhattan.

Schlatter's Drugstore was busier than usual for a Monday. Richard had been called in early to help in the storeroom and he was hustling around stocking shelves while Mrs. Schlatter took care of customers and Mr. Schlatter filled prescriptions in the pharmacy. He noted the people in the store but his mind was on his work, and he didn't think any more about them. It wasn't until he was wheeling a case of toilet paper past the small children's section that he noticed it.

At first, it was just the flash of color, one solid block of yellow seen in a blur from the corner of his eye. The strangeness of it stopped him a few steps away and Richard turned back to stare. Someone had taken every 'Curious George' book with their bright yellow covers and lined them up along the front of the book rack. His mouth fell open and he took a look around the store. The only people present were a mother with two small boys and an elderly man at the pharmacy window.

Richard raced to the front door and ran outside. "George?" He ignored the two old ladies sitting there when he stood on the back of a bench, holding onto a lamp post for balance. "George! GEORGE!?!"

Some of the afternoon pedestrians turned to look at him but the one face Richard most wanted to see wasn't there. He cupped his hand to his mouth and yelled again, "GEOOOOOORGE!!!!"


* * * * *


In the restaurant across the street, George Harrison felt his face grow hot and schooled his expression into a rigid mask to hide his true feelings as he watched his little brother looking for him. Richard was naive in a lot of things but he wasn't stupid. He'd noticed the subtle message George had left behind during the few minutes Richard had been occupied in the storeroom. The Schlatters had never met him so to them, George appeared to be a browsing customer and nothing more.

Richard finally hopped down from the bench, still looking around, growing disappointment and anxiety growing on his face. He mouthed the word, "George," one last time before frowning and returning to work. George let out the deep breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He was still angry at Richard, deeply, terribly upset at his betrayal but looking at the lost look on Richard's face, it was all George could do to stay seated. Despite what he might have said to Maddox earlier, he never could stand to see his little brother unhappy like that.

He remembered what it had been like when they were kids and their father had left. Mom had been an emotional wreck and it had fallen to him to take care of Rich. When he needed help at school, George would put his own homework aside to work with him. The neighborhood bullies soon learned that picking on Richard meant a rather unpleasant encounter with George later. He'd made sure that Richard's childhood innocence hadn't been stripped away as his had been, and they had been closer than mere brothers. They'd been each other's best friend up until the Air Force and even then, he'd never felt as faraway from Rich as he did right now.

Pulling out his wallet to pay for the coffee he hadn't touched, the rough edge of a piece of slick paper brushed against his fingers. George took it out and carefully unfolded it. He had torn it from a magazine he'd seen at a newsstand in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. It was a shot from the last Quarryman rally, a bit grainy from being enlarged, of Richard and that lavender female holding hands. There was a story there, George was sure of it. They were smiling but Rich's eyes were sad, resigned and it was that look that made him want to hear Richard's side of it -- before he killed the gargoyle that turned his brother away from him.

He crumpled the magazine clipping in his fingers.

And if they were lovers, he'd kill them both.


* * * * *


Early Evening.

Richard paced nervously on the roof of his apartment building, watching his breath steam in the frigid air. A movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention and he cast his eyes skywards. "Angela!" he called as he waved her in. He took a step back to look at the others with her, two gargoyle kids and a gargoyle pup about the size of a Labrador retriever. The green-skinned beaked boy gargoyle set the little beast down and it promptly barreled into Richard, woofing and wagging its stubby tail as it knocked him down.

"Oh, you're ferocious, you are!" Richard told the drooling creature as it washed his face. "You must lick people to death."

"Uh, sorry," the young male said, lifting the heavy gargoyle pup easily. "Nudnik gets a little excited when we take him along."

"I can see that," Richard replied as Angela helped him up. He smiled at the younger gargoyles. "Taking the rookies out for a spin?"

"Something like that," Angela agreed. "This is Ariana, Graeme and you've met Nudnik." The immature gargoyle beast wagged his stub of a tail like a propeller.

"Sorry, pup...I don't have any food on me, just chewing gum."

"Oh, he loves chewing gum," Graeme said cheerfully. "Strawberry-Banana-Rama is his favorite flavor." Nudnik whined and wiggled in his master's arms.

Richard laughed and unwrapped a stick of gum for the beast, who nibbled at it delicately. "If you teach him to blow bubbles, I'm calling that talk show with the dumb pet tricks."

The red-skinned young female shook her mane of long, black hair, tiny beads clinking together. "Oh, pul-leeeeze!" Ariana whined in sisterly annoyance. "He'll just drool all night now."

"What are you complaining about?" Graeme retorted, roguish glint in his eye. "I'm the one carrying him. If you get caught in the spray, it's not MY fault, is it?"


"Well, I thought they were brother and sister from the noses, but this clinches it," Richard said to Angela. He sighed and led her away from the bickering twins. "Speaking of sibling rivalry, George is back in town."

Angela put her hand on his arm. "You've spoke to him?"

"No, but he was at the drugstore I work at this afternoon." He turned away and looked out at the street. "Whenever George was angry at me, he'd never raise his hand to me. Dad used to hit him and he swore he'd never, ever treat me that way. Instead, George would give me the silent treatment. If he had to communicate with me, he'd do it without speaking, like a twisted game."

"What did he do?"

"His favorite children's book was 'Curious George' and somebody came in, pulled every one of those books out and put them on the front of the book racks, every row." He hung his head. "It's George's way of telling me he's back in town and that he's really mad at me."

"Richard, maybe it isn't your brother, maybe it's just a prank."

"No, Mrs. Schlatter said that there was a man in the store just before it happened that reminded her a bit of me. Her eyesight's not the greatest but it's too much of a coincidence."

"Well, I'll pass the word and we'll keep an eye out." Angela reached out and patted Richard's good shoulder. "He'll forgive you eventually. It's what family's all about."

He put his hand on top of hers. "I hope so. I'd give anything to talk to him right now." A high-pitched squeal from Ariana drew their attention and they both watched the twins laughing and hurling snow at each other, Nudnik running between them, barking excitedly. Richard laughed. "Hey, if those two can patch it up, there's got to hope for me and George, huh?"

Angela was laughing too much at the twins' antics to do more than smile and nod in agreement.


* * * * *


His fingers tightened on the night vision binoculars as George watched Richard and the gargoyle laughing together on the rooftop. They seemed too comfortable with each other, too friendly for his taste. He could imagine them doing other things as well. The bile rose in his throat.

George stuffed the binoculars savagely into his backpack and stalked through the empty apartment. He'd picked a tall building a few streets over from Rich's place to do his surveillance and had broken into a corner penthouse which belonged to a couple named Yale according the mail laying out on the table. He jerked the refrigerator open and looked for the familiar white-striped red cans of his favorite brand of cola but found only bottled spring water, deli boxes of leftover pasta salad, and caviar. He slammed the door shut in disgust. Maybe he was a little jaded, hanging out with bikers for the last few weeks, but he considered cola a dietary staple. What kind of preppie freaks were these people anyway?

He spied the phone and pulled a business card out of his pocket. He was a little surprised at how quickly his call was answered.

"Nicholas Maddox here," said the voice on the other end of the line.

"Mr. Maddox," George said, slightly taken back. "I'm sorry to be calling so late. I thought I'd get your voice mail."

"Think nothing of it, Mr. Harrison. I keep my own hours. How can I help you?"

"I've make my decision." He took a deep breath and let it out. "I'm ready. I'll do it. When do you want to start this procedure of yours?"

"Very, very good, Mr. Harrison. I'm delighted to have you," Maddox said with conservative enthusiasm. "Be at my office around nine o'clock tomorrow morning."

"I'll be looking forward to it." George hung up the phone and glared out the window. The roof of Richard's building was bare. He stared out at the night while a soft snow filtered down to erase all evidence of the gargoyles' passing.


* * * * *


II. -- Catharsis

January 13, 1997 -- Maddox Technologies, Research & Development Labs.

"And these are our R&D laboratories," Mavis O'Connor was saying as the elevator doors opened and she stepped out with Nicholas Maddox and George Harrison in tow. "It's here that we've been conductin' research into cybernetics, nanotechnology, computer wetware, and of course, genetic research." She indicated a door at the end of the hall. "Right this way."

An aristocratic-looking man with graying brown hair in a white lab coat greeted them effusively. "Mr. Maddox! Ms. O'Connor! How delightful to see you again!" He turned his oily charms on George. "And is this our volunteer?"

Mavis stayed a few steps out of range. "This is George Harrison." She rested her long fingers on George's shoulder. "This is Dr. Anton Sevarius, the geneticist in charge of our bioengineering project."

"Welcome aboard, my dear boy!" Sevarius exclaimed as he shook George's hand. He kept his grip, checking George's pulse and feeling his biceps under his jacket. "Yes, yes! We'll have to run a full physical but he's an excellent specimen. I can do a bang-up job with this!"

George retrieved his hand, wiping it against his pants leg and serendipitously turned his back to the wall. Mavis noted his actions and smiled wryly. She leaned towards him and said in a low voice, "Don't let his personality bother you. It might seem as if the good doctor's been through one too many showings of 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' but I've never caught him prancin' around the lab in a corset yet."

Sevarius looked up sharply and George choked back a laugh with a snort. Another doctor led George away to do a full physical work-up and to prep him for the procedure. Maddox leisurely strolled over to a Plexiglas case.

"Is this the formula?" he asked casually.

"Yes," Sevarius answered. "That's the catalyst." He laughed harshly. "One of my assistants has dubbed it 'The Changling Factor.' A bit fanciful, perhaps, but aptly named."

A technician stepped into the lab. "Doctor, the tank's up and fully charged."

"Ah, if you'll excuse me," Sevarius said as he started walking to the door, "I want to go over the final checklist. We want this to be perfect, don't we?"

"Yes, we most certainly do." Maddox waved him aside. "Take your time, doctor." When Sevarius had left the room, both Maddox and Mavis became alert and wary. Maddox opened the case and took out the vial of pink-tinted liquid. His sharp gray eyes focused on the substance in the tube, as if his intense stare was dissecting it on a molecular level. He chanted something, low under his breath, in Latin. A pinpoint of neon pink light appeared in the center of the vial, irradiating the fluid, making it glow for a few seconds, leaving a spreading pink halo effect before fading.

Maddox turned the vial, examining it briefly before returning it to the case. He turned back to Mavis, a faint smile curving his lips.

"Well?" she asked anxiously, eagerness lighting her eyes, turning them a brilliant green. "Did it work?"

Maddox nodded. "We shall see."


George eyed the peculiar one-piece bodysuit they had insisted that he wear as he reclined on the examining table. It was composed of a large, open, mesh-like material with openings for sensors that the doctor and his assistant were applying at various pressure points. "What exactly is going to happen here?" he asked finally.

"Well, my dear boy," Sevarius said with oily charm, "you're wearing the latest in medical technology, a sensory web that will pick up the most minute impulses from your nerve synapses. We're attaching leads to collect E.K.G., brain activity, and other standard information."

"Sounds like you plan on keeping me here a while," George commented, wincing as the assistant slid the IV shunt home. He was beginning to feel nervous.

"Just relax," Sevarius said as he injected something from a hypothermic into the IV. "Think of this as your home away from home."

"What?" George shot a look at Maddox and Mavis. "Just how long am I" His voice faded away as the sedative took effect.

Servarius straightened out the young man's limbs and snapped out, "Let's get him in the tank!" His assistant and two orderlies transferred the limp body to a gurney and took him into the next room.

"I'm curious," Maddox said smoothly, "why did you bother to tranquilize him? He was willing to cooperate."

The scientist snorted. "Oh, they always SAY that but the minute things start to get interesting, they panic and then you've got a ransacked lab, test subjects loose in the building, interfering busybodies on rescue missions -- trust me, it's MUCH easier this way." He collected the vial from the Plexiglas case and gestured extravagantly. "Shall we?"

The orderlies were lowering George's unconscious body into a cylindrical tank half-filled with a viscous fluid. A headpiece including visor, earphones and air mask had been fitted over his face, its purpose clear as the tank continued filling until he was totally immersed. Sevarius fitted the vial into the base of the tank and they watched as the pinkish fluid filled the IV.

"That's it for now," the geneticist announced. "The Fluorosol-DA emulsion has been oxygenated, the sensory net is registering properly, all the tubes and wires are in place and the subliminal learning software is ready to go." He looked up at George, floating in the chemical solution. "If he survives the conversion, this will have been a VERY interesting experiment indeed."

Maddox and Mavis exchanged an enigmatic look and left the lab.


* * * * *


January 17, 1997 -- Excerpts from lab notes, Dr. Anton B. Sevarius, recording.

"Test subject entering fourth day after being inoculated with the 'Changling Factor.' The as-of-yet-to-be-determined genetic material has begun bonding to the test subject's DNA strands and the projected mutations have begun. Even now, the internal organs have become more efficient. The cardiovascular system is transferring oxygen at a much higher rate than human norm. His immune system, in particular, has become hyperactive. Could this technique be considered as a possible AIDS cure? Must make a note of that as a possible money-making venture.

"In the past few hours, the test subject's bio-electrical field has been spiking. This has led to around-the-clock monitoring so that the resulting power surges do not burn out the equipment. Brain activity has also increased, indicating that although subject is in a drug-induced coma, something is definitely going on in there."


* * * * *



The world was filled with rivers of light. George watched them flowing all around him and wondered how he'd missed seeing them before. They were everywhere, ribbons of energy passing through land, sky and water. He felt drawn to their electric beauty. As he grew closer, he could see universes dying and being reborn in an endless cycle. He reached out and touched it.







The energy surged through his body, numbing and stimulating at the same time. It was like the most intense pleasure he'd ever had times a hundred. His neural synapses were firing, his very molecules vibrating faster and faster until the entity known as George Harrison flew apart and became one with the light.

Past, present and future versions of himself collided, minute atoms crashing together and building to higher levels of energy. It became a solid thing in his hands, a malleable substance to use according to his own desires. As he poured brilliant streamers of energy from hand to hand, George realized that as of this moment, the world truly could be exactly what he made of it.


* * * * *


January 23, 1997 -- Maddox Technologies, R&D Labs.

Nicholas Maddox leaned against his silver-headed cane as he stared into the cylindrical chamber as he did every day at this time. He stood so still, head slightly cocked, unblinking, scarcely breathing, that Sevarius wondered what precisely his employer was looking at. The test subject was at rest presently and hardly doing anything worth noticing. The anomalies with his bio-electric field had gradually leveled out, although the initial power surges had been spectacular.

"Doctor?" Maddox asked quietly. "Have you begun the subliminal conditioning yet?"

Sevarius checked his computer screen. "My assistant started the tapes thirty-six hours ago. EKG activity has been fairly high but at the moment he's in alpha rhythms."

"Alpha rhythms?" The hawk-faced man still had not turned to speak to the scientist directly. His eerie focus was unsettling.

"He's sleeping," Sevarius answered. "Or to be more precise, he's dreaming. Ideal condition for implanting the subliminal information."

Maddox nodded and allowed himself a small smile. "Good."


* * * * *



"Fulmenos venite!"

George wrinkled his forehead. Latin? He didn't know Latin from Greek and yet in his mind's eye, he could see lightning flashing and smell the discharge of ozone in the air. His hands tingled and raw power crackled as it arced over his head. He saw the gargoyles flying overhead and as he sent the lightning shooting skywards, the release of energy surged through him in an orgasmic rush.

George laughed.


* * * * *


"Omnes conspecti, Omnes auditi
In nocte usque ad saxum commutate
Dum caelum ardeat!"

His limbs became stiff and heavy. George looked down to see his skin becoming gray and mottled, like finely grained granite, like.... his blood ran cold with the realization.... like a gargoyle. He began to lose sensation as more and more of his body became entombed in stone.

George screamed.


* * * * *

"Vocate venti fortunate
ex ripae Oberonis
et hic navis fluctum regate
ad orae Avalonis."

Water lapped against the sides of the small wooden boat. George found himself with a long pole, propelling his craft through thick mists, to where, he had no idea. Land was somewhere near. He could smell wet pine needles and wildflowers blending in with the salt of the ocean and the musty smell of the boat.

A breeze lifted the foggy veil for a few seconds and he caught his breath in astonishment. George had never seen the island that lay before him in his life and yet he felt such deep heartsick longing for it. The rolling green hills, the lush forests, everything about the land laying in front of him seemed familiar. He pushed down on the pole and propelled the skiff forward towards the harbor, a blazing caldron high atop a cliff to guide wayward travelers safely home.

The hairs on his forearms stood on end and his skin prickled as the energy lines all around flared to life, so many that the iridescent shimmers blotted out the surroundings in blinding white light. Three women appeared, suspended in their own ethereal glow, barring his way.


The dark-haired one in the center spoke.

"Know this, mortal man, and know it well,
Never on our fair isle may you dwell."


The blonde picked up the refrain seamlessly.

"No more son of Adam as you were from your birth,
Your soul now suspended twixt heaven and earth."


The last with hair of silver moonbeams spoke.

"Choose well your allies o'er the coming storm,
Or abandon forever your rightful form."


All three women lifted their arms as the wind rose with a howl. George fell to his hands and knees in the bottom of the boat as he was tossed on the violent waves, back into the mists. He looked back and caught a glimpse of the island before it faded from view. Without explanation or reason, his heart broke into a million pieces and an overwhelming sense of despair swept over him.

George wept.


* * * * *


III. -- Transformation

January 29, 1997 -- Maddox Technologies, Recovery Room.

"He's reached transition!"

"All right," Sevarius' voice said above the background noise. "I want ten c.c.s of adrenaline and a cardiac needle. Let's bring him out of it."

Up in the executive offices, Maddox, Mavis and Garlon watched intently as George was removed dripping from the tube. Sevarius and his staff swarmed over the body as they began to revive him.

Mavis looked over at Maddox. "Do you think it worked?"

He arched an eyebrow. "We will see." He flicked a look at Garlon. "I want him up and running as soon as possible. Use any means necessary."


* * * * *


A nasty, licorice taste was in his mouth and every inhalation brought the sickly sweet smell deeper into his lungs. George coughed and the jerky movement brought on an unavoidable wave of nausea. He fought it back, gritting his teeth.

"Hey, mack. You okay over there?" a low growl of a voice asked.

George cracked an eye open and wished he hadn't. The room was so bright. He tried cover his eyes with his hand but it was like his muscles were made of rubber. He gave up, swallowed and croaked, "Where am I?"

"You're in the Medical Wing. They just uncorked you this morning," the voice answered. "I've been here two days. The name's Wolf."

"Hiya, Wolf." George narrowed his eyes and managed a glimpse of a rather hirsute muscular figure with white hair and beard. He smacked his lips and grimaced.

"Mouth tastes nasty, don't it?"

George nodded.

"It's that clear goop they put in the tubes with us. You can even breathe it but I don't know of anyone that might want to." Wolf snorted. "Nurse'll give you something for the nausea but that taste will be with you for a while. I still get a whiff of it."

"Swell," George groaned.


Dr. Sevarius and the medical staff were in not long after, poking and probing. Even with the room dimmed to the lowest light setting, George's acute photosensitivity persisted. Finally, a pair of sunglasses were appropriated and the smoky lenses seemed to cut the glare. The anti-nausea medicines were administered and he had gained enough strength to move around by the end of the day.

The bathroom was another shock. After a long shower, George started in on the scraggly beard he'd woken up with. He wondered exactly how long he'd been under; the last time he'd had this much hair on his face was when he'd been out camping and his Cancun tan was long gone. Something had bleached his hair a reddish gold with dark auburn roots. He fingered a longish strand and frowned. It was much longer than he preferred to wear it and when he was combing it irritably away from his face, he got another rude surprise. His ears were ... pointed.

George craned his head and examined them carefully. He may have not made many aesthetic appraisals of his ears in the past but he was positive they had been rounded before, not curving up into sharp points. He squinted through the sunglasses at them. That was another weird thing. Sevarius told him that his eyes would gradually re-adjust but it wasn't the room lights that were bothering him. It had to be some sort of optical illusion but there were streamers of blue-white light wherever he looked. They gave off a brilliant radioactive glow. He felt stronger when he came close to one and he felt there was something he was supposed to do with it, but what that might be escaped him.

He dressed in a comfortable old T-shirt and boxers and padded back to his hospital bed. Wolf's bed was empty; he'd been released into the custody of a long-haired Hispanic man with an eyepatch. George tried to get comfortable but sleep did not come easily. His body was aching from his brief activity after weeks of stillness and his head felt like his brains were covered in gray fuzz. As he dozed, the whispering in his mind grew louder, a litany of Latin phrases that made no sense at all. When sleep finally came, it was troubled and fretful.


* * * * *


February 6, 1997 -- Maddox Technologies, Gymnasium.

"I don't know, bro," Hyena said as she watched her brother go through his martial arts routine, out of habit, if nothing else. Since their cybernization, it had seemed a little silly to her to keep up their workouts. "It's a big step."

"What's to worry about, sis?" Jackal said, his eyes on the mirror, following his movements. "It's just an upgrade."

"Point is, it's THE upgrade. Don't-pass-Go, the point of no return." She crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. "I've always known I'd never be another suburban housewife, but when we go under the knife this time, it's forever."

Jackal stopped and looked at his sister, his normal mocking expression softening. "We'll be unstoppable. No one will ever hurt us again." His eyes focused inward. "We'll be immortal."

"But will we still be human?" Hyena watched Wolf working out on the weigh equipment, growling ferally with his exertions. She let her gaze wander to the lone figure at the far end of the gym. The leanly muscled man was going through his own katas, a blend of tai chi, karate, tae kwon do, and number of others that looked familiar but Hyena couldn't find a name for. He bent over for a stretch and she yelled, "Hey, nice butt!!"

Jackal smirked. "What a wuss! You know what his name is? George." He laughed mockingly. "'Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie!'"

"Ha, ha!" Hyena called out, "Betcha if you'd kiss this girl, I'd make YOU cry!"

The target of their jibes ignored them and that just infuriated them more.


* * * * *


Garlon found Graywolf in the darkened security room, watching the activity in the gymnasium. George was still going through his katas, ignoring the Pack heckling from the other side of the gym. Garlon gestured at the screen. "What do you think of him?"

"He's got to be ex-military," Lobo said, not taking his eyes from the screen. "He's got that blend of disciplines technique that they like to use. If he's not black belt, he's close enough."

"Air Force. He was hand-picked to go into their intelligence corp."

"It shows." Lobo pointed at the Pack. "They've been giving him a hard time but he just ignores them and lets it roll off his back."

The non-descript man nodded and continued to watch the monitors. George had moved on to some of the equipment. According to the dossier Garlon had gathered on George Harrison, he had been a moderately good gymnast in high school and it showed as he worked out on the pommel horse and the parallel bars. He seemed to have regained his strength and agility well enough.

Maddox had been watching George's daily progress from his office monitors and was getting impatient. Realistically, the executive accepted Sevarius's assurances that the catalyst had bonded successfully to the human DNA strands and that the test results so far analyzed had been positive. Young Harrison had recovered fairly quickly and had been a regular visitor to the company gymnasium, exercising gently at first, regaining flexibility and coordination before moving on to more complex martial arts routines and weight training. Outside of a startling show of strength, there had been no outward sign of any other changes. George kept any revelations to himself, he spent his days quiet and introspective.

Long fingers tapped against crossed arms. "How do you think he'd fare against your team?" Garlon asked thoughtfully.

"No contest," Lobo said confidently. "They'd cream him."

"Let's find out."


* * * * *


"C'mon, bud," Wolf called out. "Three more reps and you're done with this set."

George set his jaw and lifted the weights overhead. The truth was, he was barely straining and he was at least a hundred pounds over his personal best. He saw the security chief and Maddox's assistant come in and frowned. Something was making the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

"Uh, oh, the boss is here," Wolf commented. "Hope you're done 'cause I've got to go."

"No problem, thanks for spotting me." George sat up on the bench and watched the odd group meeting at the end of the gym. Wolf had talked about his partners, Jackal and Hyena. The thought of someone willingly mutilating their bodies in order to gain cybernetic abilities turned George's stomach. He fingered the pointed tips of his ears. At least his procedure had left him his humanity, with only minor cosmetic changes. He picked up his towel and started to walk to the showers.

"Going somewhere, Georgie-porgie?" Jackal asked mockingly. The one-eyed cyborg blocked his way.

George ignored him and kept walking. He ran into a hairy wall and was shocked to see Wolf growing more feral and beast-like before his eyes. The werewolf growled out, "Nuthin' personal. Orders is orders." The punch was telegraphed by the contraction of Wolf's chest muscles, but even though George rolled with it, it still packed a wallop. He backflipped out of Wolf's reach but missed the third member of the Pack. She didn't miss him.

"Go get him, sis!" Jackal called.

Her kick caught George under the right arm. He caught a gamine grin of pure malice as Hyena bore down on him. She must have been quite a looker before all the cybernetic bodywork. He looked into her eyes as he blocked her punches. There was something there, a deep longing for ... he had a sudden flash of insight, he couldn't explain why, but in an instant, he knew what he had to do. It was risky but his instincts were telling him what he had to do. He dropped his guard and crossed his fingers.

George hit the mats hard, Hyena landing on top of him. Panting, he stared up at her but strangely enough, his eyes began to gleam eagerly and he smiled wickedly. "That's right," he said in a hoarse voice. "Hurt me again. Ple-e-ease." George licked his bleeding lip with the tip of his tongue. "Mistress." The word came out in a seductive whisper.

Hyena actually backed off for a minute or two, her mouth open in gleeful astonishment. "All right! Finally a guy that's kinkier than me!" She pinned his arms down and kissed George deeply. Licking his blood off her mouth, she said, "Mmmm, and tasty too."

"What's going on here?" Wolf asked, pointing. "Did I miss something?"

Jackal ran his hand down his face and sighed in exasperation. "Sis, quit playing around and take him out."

George gave her his most winning grin. "Sounds like a plan. Wanna go out, brown eyes?" He began humming Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" under his breath. "We'll do anything you want."

"Yeah," Hyena said. She stood up and pulled George to his feet. "One last fling before I do it." She turned around and glared at her brother and Wolf. "You got a problem with that?"

"Fine, whatever," Jackal said, rolling his eyes. "Have fun with your little boy toy while he lasts."

Garlon and Lobo watched the exchange with amused interest. Lobo turned to the man next to him and commented, "Now either that hombre has major cujones or else he's muy loco."

"Tell me about it," Garlon said. He followed George into the locker room and found him peering into a mirror dabbing at the cut on his lip with a wet towel. Garlon leaned up against the wall. "That was very risky out there," he said brusquely. "She could have killed you."

"Impossible," George said. "I was calling the shots."

"Excuse me?" Garlon raised his eyebrow. "That's not what it looked like from where I was sitting."

"In any dominant/submissive situation, it's always the submissive that calls the shots." George pulled his gray T-shirt off stiffly and examined the bruises under his right arm. "The minute I gave her the option of hurting me, she chose not to and let me take over. I told her what to do and it saved me some broken ribs."

The man with mousy brown hair thought it over. "Man, you are majorly twisted."

George flung his shirt over his shoulder and smirked. "Adapt, improvise, survive."


* * * * *


"He did WHAT?" Although Maddox seldom raised his voice, the stress he placed on his words spoke volumes.

"He went on a date," Garlon said levelly. "With Hyena."

"That harridan?" Mavis asked, aghast. "I'd be thinkin' he'd have better taste."

Garlon shrugged. "It seems he's got some kinks we didn't know about."

"And he showed no sign of using his power?" Maddox asked. The only visible sign of his anger was the measured flaring of his nostrils.

"There was a moment there when I felt something," Garlon admitted. "But it was very fleeting, almost a ghost touch. He used his wits and nothing else."

"I'm going to say this only once and I'm going to make this very clear." Maddox's gray eyes blazed with cold fire. "I want results and I don't care if you kill him getting them."

"I understand." Garlon turned and left the room.


* * * * *


February 7, 1997 -- The Stardust Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

"Woo hoo!" Hyena crowed as they came back to their suite above the casino. She had donned a plastiskin body glove to conceal her cybernetics and almost seemed like a normal girl, most of the time. Her high-pitched laugh had stopped dealers and players in their tracks, however, and the comedians at the comedy club were probably still cringing. "What a great time I'm having!" She looked at George hungrily. "And the night's not over yet, snake hips."

A moment of panic passed as George pasted a seductive grin on his face. He'd been dreading this moment ever since he'd used Hyena and her security clearance to get him away from the Maddox building and the hidden cameras that he was sure followed him everywhere. He cleared his mind of such anxieties and took her hand. "I ask only one thing, before you do what you will with me." His voice was low and suggestive, his blue eyes wide and trusting.

Hyena squirmed and grinned eagerly. She liked this game. "What is it, boy toy?"

George smiled and led her to the bed. "All I want in the world," he said slowly, "is to look in those big beautiful brown eyes of yours and tell you how beautiful you are and how much I want to pleasure you." Listen to the words behind my words, he whispered in his mind as he held her vapid gaze unblinkingly. Believe only what I tell you and Obey only me.... He spiraled into her mind, images of Hyena's life, as cybernetic mercenary, as acrobatic media superstar, and beyond ... to a vulnerable, young girl lost, alone, and long forgotten.

Hyena stared blankly into space, her breath shallow, mouth slightly open. George let out a long drawn out breath and smirked. He'd toyed around with hypnotism before but he'd never had a reaction like this. A gut feeling had told him to try and it had worked. There had been impulses he'd been fighting for days, things that his brain said were impossible but his instincts were screaming to try. He looked into Hyena's blank stare and smiled coldly.

"You're getting very sleepy, Hyena," George said calmly. "You're going to lay back in this bed and sleep for the next twenty-four hours. All you will remember is I gave you the wildest and most fulfilling weekend of your life. It'll be wonderful. And when I give you the following code words, you will instantly do whatever I say." He leaned forward and whispered in her ear. He leaned back and asked. "Do you understand?

"Yes." The word was flat and unemotional.

"Good." George pushed her down on the bed like a mannequin. "Go to sleep."

Hyena obediently closed her eyes. George collected his things and left, locking her in the room without a second glance.


* * * * *


The night air was cold and bit into his lungs as George walked the mostly abandoned boardwalk, the signs on the buildings casting garish neon shadows to echo the bright streamers of light all around him. He'd finally gotten used to them, at night anyway; he still replied on sunglasses to cut the glare during the day. One wide beam of blue-white energy ran parallel to the beach. George shuffled through the sand towards it.

He looked around carefully. It had become clear to him days ago that only he could see these things. People walked through them all the time and it took a conscious effort not to flinch when they did it. However, when George touched them, he got a sharp static charge followed by an incredible surge of energy. There was something he'd been meaning to try and the abandoned winter beach seemed the ideal place.

Feet tingling through the soles of his boots, George felt the power surging though him as he stepped on the ground-bound ribbon of energy. It felt slippery beneath his feet and as a whim, he pushed off as if he were skating. The first stride took him halfway up the beach, the second farther still. He grinned, shifted his leather overnight bag so it was slung across his back and began traveling back along the stream of energy, speed building as he focused on his destination.

The scenery blurred around him in multicolored horizontal streaks. He stopped his footwork, the increasing velocity of his glide propelling him on. It was like riding down an empty highway in the dead of night, throttle full open, feeling the vibration from the engine in your teeth. George whooped as the lights of New York City loomed on the horizon. He grinned as the world zoomed by. What a rush!

He sailed over the Hudson River in a rainbow arc, gradually slowing as he peaked over the water. Jumping off as he reached the other side, George found himself in a seedy neighborhood just outside of Chinatown. A snap of his fingers let loose a shower of sparks and he regarded the shimmering of energy beneath his skin. There had been a number of things he'd daydreamed of doing with this kind of power. This might be the ideal time for a little private experimentation, away from prying eyes. He grinned, shouldered his bag and went looking for trouble.


* * * * *


February 9, 1997 -- Maddox Technologies.

The neatly groomed executive watched George entering the building on the monitor bank. A vein pulsed in his forehead as Maddox carefully and deliberately spoke. "You say, he eluded you again?"

"Yes, sir." Garlon flipped a leatherbound notepad open. "He and Hyena were all over Atlantic City but when I checked on them, only Hyena was in their suite at the Stardust Casino. Hotel employees didn't notice him after Friday night."

"This is intolerable," Maddox fumed. He looked at Mavis. "Is Sevarius ready?"

"Aye, and we've got two more volunteers." She glanced at the screen. "What about young Harrison?"

"Dispose of him," Maddox said bluntly.

Garlon nodded and left the room.


* * * * *


Wolf leaned forward and looked across the breakfast table at the picture on the cover of 'The Daily Tattler' that Jackal was reading. "'Asian youth gang wiped out by mysterious assailant. Coroner's office baffled.'" He straightened up and frowned. "What's it mean?"

Jackal snorted. "There's a loose cannon in town." He shook out the paper. "Says here that some kind of charged weapon was used. According to the coroner's report, the wounds were cauterized on impact. Maybe somebody modified some of the Quarryman hammers."

A maniacal laugh from the doorway caught their attention. Hyena sauntered in lazily, a satiated grin on her face. She flopped down, legs dangling over the arm of the couch. "Hiya, boys," she said cheerfully, stretching her arms over her head. "Wunnerful day, isn't it?"

Wolf raised a bushy eyebrow. "Somebody got hammered around here anyway," he commented, shaking his head.

"So, sis," Jackal began as he folded up the paper. "How was the weekend? Boy toy survived the experience?"

"Hmmm-MMM!" Hyena smiled and ran her hands down her body. "I had the BEST time. George was incredible." She sighed. "He likes me just the way I am. I'm not going through with it."

"It's IN your contract," Jackal reminded her testily.

"I don't care," Hyena answered. "Maddox can have my signing bonus back."

Her brother rolled his eye and sighed. "Sis, why is your biological clock ticking NOW? You know what's at stake."

Hyena sat up, glaring at him through her shaggy brown hair. "I know what it'll cost me. Maybe you want to be immortal, Mr. Fifteen-minutes-as-a-god, but I want live and feel and be me right now. You go your way and I'll go mine."

The cybernized twins were still staring each other down when Lobo came into the room. He gave them a hard look and glanced at Wolf. The bearded man merely shrugged and concentrated on shoveling in the rest of his breakfast.

"Okay, team," Lobo said briskly. "Maddox wants us to take care of a little problem. Let's go."


* * * * *


Something was up. The prickling on the back of George's neck was spreading down his spine. The mousy-haired man that served as Maddox's assistant had come into the gym without a word and was leaning against the wall watching him. George tucked his sunglasses into one of his shoes and began one of his t'ai chi routines. Since he'd learned to channel the energy around him, the glare was getting almost bearable. He took a deep cleansing breath and moved into the first forms, to all appearances a model of concentration but behind the mask, his curiosity was growing.

Angry voices were coming closer. Hyena, George cringed inwardly, was the loudest, her raw-edged tones rising above the others.

"No! I don't believe it!" Hyena came bursting through the gym doors.

Lobo simply looked at her. "It's an order," he said bluntly. "Carry it out."

In a fraction of a heartbeat, several things fell into place in George's mind. The sudden alertness in Garlon's slumped pose against the wall, the rabid eagerness in Jackal's step, and the outraged concern in Hyena's voice. All his internal alarms and buzzers went off. George centered himself, eased into the next set of postures and scanned the room. Several light lines intersected the room. It was funny but coming back from his weekend out, he'd noticed that Maddox Technologies was positioned at one of the central points for the strange beams of energy in the city. He began to travel with his t'ai chi movements, edging towards the nearest ribbon of light.

"Baby," Hyena said, walking across the room. "It's not true, is it?"

He gave her the barest of looks. "Baby? Who ARE you talking to?"

She stopped, her mouth opening and shutting. "B-but this weekend, you and me, we --"

"Sorry, sweetheart," George said with a smirk. "But I'm just not interested in a woman whose idea of body lotion is motor oil." He deliberately turned his back on her and started walking away.

A high-pitched, wordless, emotional screech conveyed all of Hyena's anger and indignation as she unsheathed her finger blades at once. Jackal chuckled and said to Wolf and Lobo, "The romance is gone. He's hamburger."

Hyena lunged at him. George put one bare foot in the power stream and let it surge over him. Hyena bounced off like she was hitting a brick wall.

Garlon's mouth dropped open and he shot a startled glance at the room's hidden security cameras.

"What the--" Hyena touched her face gingerly and stared at the blood on her fingers. "You little two-faced jerk! You broke my nose!" A weapon popped out of her forearm casing and she fired at him point blank.

Eyes glowing, hair standing eerily on end, George grinned at her through the resulting smoke. "Naughty, naughty. Daddy spank!" He aimed at open-handed slap at her, with a resulting blue-white wave of energy that caught her and hurled her head over heels across the room.

"Sis!" Jackal fired a salvo of missiles before bolting for Hyena. They impacted harmlessly off the now visible energy surge surrounding George.

"Wolf!" Lobo shouted as he ran forward. "High-low, let's do it!"

George thrust both hands forward and sent a sparkling blast of concussive force at the Pack leader. Lobo hit the wall only inches from Garlon. The nondescript man tucked his celphone under his chin while he checked the stunned man. "Are you watching this?" Garlon asked into the phone as he glanced up at the action.


* * * * *


"Aye, that we are," Mavis answered absently as she and Maddox stood transfixed in front of the video monitors in the executive office. They watched as Wolf shifted into a more feral form, dodging the force blasts George was firing at him. The enhanced ex-Quarryman did the impossible -- he started skating away only inches from the floor, gaining in speed while Wolf chased him. He jumped from the floor to a point on the wall just before he collided, continuing his run horizontal to the floor, as incongruous as that appeared.

"He's learned how to use the ley lines," Mavis said to her partner in a hushed voice. "I haven't seen anyone do this since, since..."

"My brother's aide-de-camp," Maddox agreed. His eager smile grew as George back-flipped off the wall and attacked Wolf, his body still guarded in an energy field. "It seems we may have our own trickster in our midst."

"Ye might want t'be gettin' down there before he kills the lot of them," Mavis pointed out. "We haven't gotten our money's worth out of the Pack yet."

"I'll take care of it," Maddox said as he headed for the door, picking up his falcon-headed cane on the way.


* * * * *


"C'mon, Wolf," George grunted as he slammed the mutated mercenary with a high round kick, "Give it up, dummy." He blocked his opponent's advances as they became more savage and animalistic. Foam was dripping from Wolf's mouth and any sounds he made were far removed from any human language. George saw Hyena push her brother aside and start his way with blood in her eye. He smiled wickedly.

"Georgie, porgie, puddin' and pie," George sang out, eyes blazing blue fire, "I kissed ya, girl--" he hurled Wolf in a shoulder throw, "--Now make him die!"

Hyena's right arm raised and fired. She stared at her weapon, her face a mask of confusion and shock as the smell of burnt hair filled the air. "What the--" she muttered. She looked up to see the arch smirk on George's face. "What did you do to me?"

Jackal tackled George from behind, sending him sprawling. The cyborg was on top of the transformed man, the impact of his blows dulled by George's force field but somehow connecting. "Answer her!" Jackal demanded. "What did you do to my sister?"

George looked up at his opponent coldly. "Hyena, girl," he said in an even, calm voice, "Kill. Him."

Jackal glanced up at his sister. Her arm was shaking as she fought her body's response to the post-hypnotic command. Her brown eyes were wide with horrified realization as her voice trembled, "Bro...I can't....stop....!" She screamed in frustration as her weapon began to charge.

"Sorry about this, Sis," Jackal muttered as he fired a taser from his chest, its full charge over-loading his cybernetic sibling's circuitry and knocking her unconscious. The force of the taser blast shifted his weight and George used that minute leverage to turn the tables.

An unholy glee lit George's face and his eyes glowed incandescently. "Who's on the cutting edge now, Tin Man?" he asked Jackal softly. He raised up his fist and a blade of pure energy formed around it. "You're obsolete. Prepare to be recycled." The energy knife began to come down, aimed straight at Jackal's head.


George jerked his head up in the direction of the new voice. Maddox was standing in the center of the gym floor, Garlon standing back and to the right of him. The aristocratic man rested one hand on a silver falcon-headed cane as he calmly regarded the chaotic war zone that had once been his corporate exercise facility.

"Mr. Harrison." Maddox smiled archly. "Very impressive."

Rising to his feet, George walked over to the executive and his assistant without a second glance. He was only a few feet from Maddox when Jackal charged. A sharp look from the hawk-faced man warned George and he pivoted around to release an energy blast. The invisible shock wave hurled Jackal the length of the gym, leaving a body-shaped impression in the wall.

Maddox and Garlon exchanged an enigmatic look before George turned back.

"Sorry about that," George said, panting slightly and glistening with a light sheen of sweat. "I don't like him very much."

Maddox nodded. "In that case, I pity the gargoyles."

"Their days are numbered," George agreed. "I think it's time for some fieldwork."

"Indubitably." Maddox cast a brief glance over his shoulder. "Garlon, see that Mr. Harrison has everything he needs. He's going ... hunting."


* * * * *


IV. -- Massacre

February 14, 1997 -- Castle Wyvern, Central Park South, Manhattan.

"But you and Angela promised!"

"Yeah, but that was before we found out about that special fund raiser at the old opera house. Some of the acts are straight out of the theater district."

Brooklyn and Broadway glared at each other for a few seconds. The red gargoyle took a deep breath and lowered his voice. "Look, Sata and I were really looking forward to a night out, you know, just the two of us." He gave his rookery brother a knowing look, rich with implication. "My mate and I need to be alone sometimes."

"Oh." Broadway flushed crimson. "Hadn't thought of that. Sorry." He sighed. "I don't know, Brooklyn. I've been wanting to ask Angela something really important and this seemed like the perfect occasion."

"Yeah?" Brooklyn backed up to give the big blue gargoyle a sly look. "I thought it was about time for that." He socked his brother playfully in the arm. "Well, Hudson went on patrol with Goliath and Lex and they took Bronx. Owen's still steamed about the mess Nudnik made in the pantry. Sata and I will just have to do something else with the twins."

"I agree, beloved." Both male gargoyles turned and Brooklyn's eyes glowed appreciatively. His mate had brushed out her long hair like an ebon waterfall and had changed into a feminine white kimono with elaborate pale green embroidery. Sata smiled at his reaction. "Angela and I have spoken and she's talking to a friend about it right now."

Brooklyn walked over and brushed his talons across Sata's brow ridges, trailing his fingers down into her silken hair. "So, we're still on?" he asked hopefully.

She kissed the end of his beak. "We will see."


* * * * *


Upper West Side, Manhattan.

"But, Dad...." The young gargoyle's whine trailed off as the family glided through the night sky.

"No buts, Graeme," Brooklyn said firmly. "The last time we left you two alone at the castle, you didn't keep an eye on Nudnik and he made a huge mess."

Ariana glided level to her parents. "Not a babysitter, please, Mother? We're over eighteen human years old."

"But Ari-chan," Sata said patiently, "you and Graeme-kun are only nine in gargoyle age. Not even human parents leave their children alone when they are so young. What sort of parents would your father and I be if we did that?"

Ariana and Graeme exchanged an unhappy look behind their parents' back. Brooklyn and Sata merely smiled as they began to spiral in for a landing near the Columbia University campus.

"Hey!" Graeme yelped. "This is where Auntie's friend Richard lives!"

"Yeah! Angela took us to meet him only a few weeks ago," Ariana added excitedly. "He's a nice human."

Richard was waiting for them when the gargoyle family touched down. "Hey, kids! You're just in time. The theater down the street is having an Anime fest. Wanna go?"

"Anime?" Graeme exclaimed loudly while Nudnik yipped in his arms. "Are you kidding? I love Anime! What's showing?"

"Hmm, lessee..." Richard began ticking off titles on his fingers. "There's 'Domination: Tank Police,' 'Project A-ko,' and 'Ghost in the Shell.' There's a few others but I can't remember the names."

"Oh, too cool!" Ariana threw a big hug around her father's neck. "Can you give Richard a lift to the theater, Dad? Please?" She smiled impishly and batted her eyelashes at him.

Brooklyn laughed. "All right, all right." He rubbed eyebrow ridges with his daughter. "Think you and Graeme can manage to bring him back here after the show?"

"I know we can!" Ariana kissed him on the beak and danced over to hug Sata. "Oh, thankyouthankyouthankyou!"

Richard laughed. "Gee, I don't think I was ever this happy being left with the sitter."

Graeme leaned towards him. "Hey, we usually get left behind. This is a big deal."

Brooklyn came over and took Richard securely under the arms. "Hope you're not scared of heights," he said and jumped off the roof with him. The human's excited yelp echoed off the surrounding buildings.


* * * * *


Sata waited as Brooklyn dropped Richard at the theater and gave the twins last minute instructions. She smiled at his eager expression as her mate soared on an updraft to her. "You seem happy, beloved," she observed.

"Hey, the kids and Angela's friend are hitting it off, it's a beautiful night, and I'm alone with you," Brooklyn said, taking her hand and kissing it. His eyes glowed faintly as he looked his dark-haired mate over again. "This outfit reminds me of your wedding kimono."

"I thought it might." Sata swung under and twined her arms around his neck, their double pair of wings holding them aloft. "It was a glorious night."

"So I remember," Brooklyn answered and tightened his arms around her. Their tails twisted together. "Wanna relive it?"

A smile lit her eyes. "Always, beloved."


* * * * *


Richard watched the two adult gargoyles sailing off. They seemed very affectionate and he laughed. "I guess it must be date night for your folks, huh?" he asked Graeme.

The young green gargoyle bent down to scratch Nudnik's tummy. "Hmm? Oh, them? They're just going off to mate." He picked a piece of wire up, examined it, and stuck it inside his vest.

"Oh-kay." Richard blinked and muttered, "Kids say the darnest things."

"Graeme!" Ariana patted the human's arm. "You'll have to excuse my brother. He forgets that humans and gargoyles don't think alike."

"No, that's all right." He smiled and ran his hand nervously through his chestnut brown hair. He started opening the roof hatch. "C'mon, let's see what's showing."


* * * * *


Perched on a rooftop, George watched his brother and the younger gargoyles disappear into the theater. He shook his head as he put away the night vision binoculars. Richard always could make friends with anything. It didn't matter, he wasn't concerned with the offspring; it was the adults he was after tonight.

A sharp cackle in his ear alerted him to an incoming transmission. "I'm here," George muttered as he tapped the headset. "What's up?"

Garlon's voice reported. "The patrol group is sweeping south of the park. A pair headed to the East Side, looks promising. What do you have?"

George looked at the theater and frowned. "Lost 'em. I'll head over to the East Side and check it out. On my way."

He stood up on the building's edge, clad in dark colors, blending with the night. Scanning for his power sources, 'ley lines' Garlon called them, George spotted two, both too high or too low to safely jump to directly. Fortunately, they ran nearly parallel to each other and there was a faint static field running between them. Reaching out to the ribbons of light with his body's new abilities, he leaped off the building, charcoal gray canvas coat billowing out like wings. It wasn't exactly flying, but rather falling with style, letting the radiant energy dispersed by the ley lines support him.

Landing like a cat, George began skating along the energy pathway, heading east, far above the street.


* * * * *


Dicapo Opera Theater, Upper East Side, Manhattan.

Broadway peered cautiously through the narrowly cracked open door. "C'mon!" he whispered and taking Angela's hand, quickly and with surprising lightness for a gargoyle of his size, dashed across the carpeted hall way into the tiny room with the sign 'Closed for Remodeling' on the door.

"Oh!" Angela exclaimed in a hush. She moved to the edge of the shadows to stare down at the whispering crowd, the orchestra warming up in the pit and the flickers of movement behind the curtain. "We're still early."

"Good." A blare of noise from the brass section neatly covered a sharp popping sound. Broadway smiled as Angela turned back curiously and held out a glass of bubbling champagne to her.

She smiled back, her eyes laughing. "Owen is going to skin you for raiding the wine closet again."

"Heh, I could take him." The blue gargoyle touched his glass to hers with a gentle ring. "Happy Valentine's Day, my love."

"Happy Valentine's Day," Angela answered, leaning forward to kiss him. That lead to another and yet another. The champagne was soon set aside and if it wasn't for the dramatic start of the overture, they might have missed the show all together. Broadway didn't know which was more intoxicating, the champagne or the sight of his music-loving companion staring in rapt fascination at the show below. He didn't care for the singing himself but he loved arranging these little surprises for her. If it made her happy, he could endure anything.

Angela sighed contentedly and nestled back into the curve of his arm. Broadway smiled. The music on stage became less like cats being strangled and more like angels singing.


* * * * *


On patrol, near the Empire State Building.

Hudson squinted at the streets below. " 'Tis a quiet night for a holiday," he observed.

"Humans place a great deal of emphasis on their holidays," Goliath rumbled. "Elisa was most ... unhappy to be working tonight." His taciturn expression suggested that the police detective was not the only one displeased at her work schedule.

"Some gargoyles make a big deal out of it too," Lexington said from high overhead with a bitter sigh. Both of his rookery brothers had taken the night off to be with their female companions and in midst of making their individual plans for the big night out, had completed excluded their sibling. Lex had responded by going off by himself as he often did but Goliath had insisted on doing a patrol sweep tonight.

"I wonder how Bronx is doing?" Lex asked in a deliberate attempt to change the conversation.

"Och, he's probably havin' a grand time chasin' muggers up trees." Hudson laughed. "I'll have to have Graeme bring Nudnik out to the park with us sometime. Might help settle the wee beastie down. He makes Bronx tired with all that energy!"

Lex grinned. "Yeah, and Owen would probably appreciate it too. Remember the awful mess Nudnik made of the laundry room?" He chuckled. "And he still has that shredded pair of Owen's boxer shorts stashed away somewhere."

"Aye, chewed them to bits, he did." Hudson looked thoughtfully towards the park. "Perhaps we should have a bit of a look, just to check on Bronx. What say ye, Goliath?"

"I don't see why not," Goliath said. "I think we should go through the theater district and the park is on the way."

Lexington stifled a gleeful grin. Goliath had wanted Broadway to tell him precisely where he and Angela were going tonight but the big blue gargoyle had stubbornly refused on the grounds that it was a surprise for her. There wasn't a vicious bone in Lex's body but he thought there might be a certain justice in it if they managed to catch Broadway in the act. He canted into the wind and headed north-east with the others.


* * * * *


Upper East Side, Manhattan.

George blew into his cupped hands and let his breath warm his face. By all rights, he should be freezing but with the ley line energy running through his body, he barely noticed the weather at all. He was just southeast of the Central Park Reservoir, perched on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He relaxed, letting his mind drift as his eyes scanned the rooftops.

The wind stirred a crumpled red aluminum can, rattling against the coarse grit on the roof. George glared at it resentfully. One of the major down sides to his new powers was a number of strange allergies. Most of them he could put up with, but anything with caffeine in it gave him violent nausea and seizures. He really missed his daily soft drink fix, that cold, icy sizzle going down his throat. He made a gun out of index finger and thumb and zapped the can, popping it high into the air. He was watching the arc, lining up for another shot when he saw two shadows pass across the face of the moon.


* * * * *


"Oh, I just loved it when they sang that selection from 'The Phantom of the Opera,' didn't you?" Angela asked as she linked arms with Broadway.

"Hey, I was just happy they sang in English!" the big blue gargoyle joked. "But you're right, that was one of my favorites too." He caressed her hand against his biceps. "Sort of put me in the mood for a little romance."

Angela smiled and surprised him by swinging into his embrace. " too," she said with a kiss. She folded her wings up and let him do the flying.

With a delighted grin, Broadway lashed his tail around her waist and stretched his wings to their fullest. This unexpected turn of events worked into his plans delightfully. He sailed towards the park, the shadowy outline of Belvedere Castle in the distance. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. The big gargoyle did a lazy barrel roll as his beloved's kisses fell upon his face like rain.

The night turned a sizzling blue-white. It felt like someone had slammed a telephone pole across his back and Broadway had just enough presence of mind to unwind his tail and push Angela away before going unconscious.

"BROADWAY!!!!!" Angela grabbed him and tried to slow his descent, straining her wings until she thought they'd snap. He still drove a deep furrow into the frozen ground of the Central Park meadow.

Angela landed and rushed to his side. One wing seemed dislocated and the membrane was tattered. His pupils were uneven and dilated. She knew there was no way she could get him airborne alone. A familiar scent caught her attention and she sniffed deeply to confirm it. A relieved smile crossed her face and Angela stood up and whistled. "BRONX!!!" she called. "Here, boy!"

"Wrong boy."

Angela pivoted and stared at the human standing there, startled that she had not sensed his approach. His red-gold hair floated eerily about his head even though there was no breeze. He was clad in dark colors, giving his skin an unearthly glow. There was something about him, something familiar. The shape of his face, the straight nose, the blue eyes -- Angela gasped. "Richard?"

His eyes burned with blue fire. "Wrong Harrison brother."

A ball of shimmering energy appeared in his hand and before she could react, he threw it at her. Angela dodged it and gaped at the burning hole it had left in the tree behind her.

"And you're that gargoyle," he spat the word out like venom, "that turned my brother away from me." Hate consumed his whole being like a pitch black aura.

"You're wrong, George," Angela said calmly as her pulse raced. "Richard has been terribly worried about you. He misses you." She sniffed. The scent was growing stronger.

"Shut up," George said brusquely. "I'll deal with him later. Right now, it's just you and me." His coat suddenly billowed around him as if hurricane force winds were coming out of the ground. Angela's skin began to crawl with static electricity. Energy crackling all around him, George raised his hands and aimed --

The underbrush exploded as Bronx broadsided his mistress's attacker, taking the blast meant for her. Angela was up the nearest tree and airborne at the same moment. She didn't want to abandon Broadway and Bronx but she knew when she needed help.


* * * * *


Swearing, George let the gargoyle beast bowl him over, the momentum rolling him to his feet. He let loose a force burst, slamming the animal into a tree. The creature struggled to its feet and let out a weak growl that faded to a whine before it collapsed to the ground. Panting, he almost didn't hear the cackle of his headset in his ear. He glared up at the night sky as he answered.

"I'm here."

"What happened?" Garlon's voice asked. "I saw the flash."

"I've got the bait and the lure's on her way," George answered. He smiled coldly. "Get ready to spring the trap."

"I'll meet you there."

George heaved Bronx over his shoulder and started dragging Broadway by a foot. He stepped on a ground bound ley line and silently slipped away.


* * * * *


The Golden Cup Coffee Shop, Greenwich Village, Manhattan.

Elisa frowned and stared out at the darkened, watching the couples walking by. She glanced up at the sky and let out a deep sigh.

"Sweets for the sweet?"

She looked down at the plate with slivers of chocolate truffle pie, raspberry cheesecake, and pecan pralines. "Bluestone, your teeth are gonna rot right out of your head."

Matt laughed and handed her a cup of coffee. "You're just jealous because Madelaine lets me have a sample of everything."

"Yeah, right." Elisa broke a corner off the chocolate pie and smiled as it melted on her tongue. "She's just got a thing for red-headed cops with big blue eyes."

Her partner winked over his shoulder at the older woman behind the counter, who covered her mouth and giggled like a schoolgirl. "I could do worse," Matt said lightly, "than to marry a woman that knows how to cook."

Elisa started to reply to that when her phone rang in her jacket pocket. She took it out and flipped it open. "Maza here."

"Elisa!" Angela's voice was frantic. "I need help! He's got Broadway and he's hurt and Bronx too and --"

"Whoa, Angela! Calm down and take it from the top." She listened intently while the female gargoyle spoke. Matt looked at his partner intently. "You're sure it's George Harrison?"

"Yes," Angela answered. "Richard gave me a picture of him and his brother. He's changed though. It's not just the hair color, there's something strange about him. He's gained some sort of powers, almost like what we encountered on Avalon, but I don't know how that could be."

"Me neither." Elisa took a deep breath. "I'll contact the others. Matt and I are in the Village but we'll be there as soon as we can."

"Someone needs to find Richard. I tried calling his apartment but he must still be at the movies with the twins. George said he'd be taking care of him later."

"I'll pass the word." Elisa hung up with Angela and starting dialing another number even as she stood up from the table. "C'mon, partner. Time to roll."

Bluestone nodded. "See you later, Madelaine! Duty calls!" he said as he followed Elisa out to her red Ford Fairlane. "I'll drive," he told Elisa, "you call the troops."


* * * * *


Over Rockefeller Center, Manhattan.

"Wait up," Lexington called. He tumbled in mid-air as he adjusted his headset. "Call coming in."

"Who is it?" Goliath asked.

"Elisa? What's up?" the green gargoyle asked. His eyes widened and he shot a startled look at the two older warriors.

"Here, lad," Hudson said gruffly, "What's the matter?"

"Angela's in trouble. Broadway and Bronx are down. Central Park East, near the Met."

Goliath's expression darkened. "Tell Elisa we are on our way."

* * * * *


Downing Stadium, Randalls Island, Manhattan.

The stars in the midnight sky shone clear and bright through the skybox window as Brooklyn gazed at them in sleepy bliss. Sata's kimono lay neatly folded over a seat while his loincloth and armor were scattered across the room. He half-heartedly chuckled. Sata had been very enthusiastic tonight. He kissed the top of his mate's head pillowed on his chest, the silky black strands of her hair cascading over them both.

"Mmm." Sata reached up and stroked his beak. "It's wonderful to be alone like this again."

Brooklyn smiled. "Yeah. We're lucky it's the off-season. This place is really hopping in the summer; track and field, soccer, summer concerts."

"But tonight," Sata rose on her elbow to look at him like a predatory cat, "just us." Her dark eyes glimmered scarlet as she slowly edged closer.

Brooklyn smiled wickedly and reached for her.

An annoying electronic chirp came from one of his gauntlets. The mated pair did their best to ignore it but finally Sata frowned and looked pointedly at the offending mood breaker. The red gargoyle sighed and went to answer it.

"I need an answering service," Brooklyn grumbled as he flipped on his communicator. "Yeah, I'm here."

Elisa's voice came on, broadcasting into the room. "Brooklyn, Angela just called me. She, Broadway and Bronx were attacked by someone who she says is George Harrison."

"Richard's brother?" Sata asked.

"Yeah, but according to Angela, he's not the same guy anymore. He's got some kind of magical powers and he's got a grudge against Angela and Richard."

Sata and Brooklyn exchanged a startled look. "The twins!" the Ishimura gargoyle exclaimed. "We left Graeme and Ariana with him!" She jumped up and started putting on her clothes.

"Look," Elisa said. "Matt and I are heading over to Central Park East to meet up with the rest of the clan. That's where they were attacked. You guys take care of Richard. He might be the next target."

"Will do, Elisa. We're on our way." Brooklyn replaced the gauntlet on his forearm. Sata had collected his things and thrust them at him.

"Hurry, beloved!" Sata said as she tied her obi in place. She took her tanto, a razor-sharp dagger, from her thigh band and tested the edge of the blade on the hem of her kimono. It cut the silk like a whisper. "I wish I'd brought my katana. If this strange human touches a hair on our children's heads..."

"I know, Sata." Brooklyn buckled on his loincloth and checked his armor. "Trust me, there won't be enough pieces left to bury." The grim parents were out the window and flying away from the stadium without a second glance.


* * * * *


The Majestic Theater, Upper West Side, Manhattan.

It wasn't exactly the way he'd thought he'd be spending St. Valentine's Day, Richard mused, but his companions had more than made up for it. Ariana had both elbows planted on the balcony railing, staring raptly at a never-before-seen Sailor Moon episode, fresh from Japan, that the theater was showing between movies. Graeme had rolled his eyes at her and was fiddling with some junk that had been laying here and there on the floor. Even Nudnik was good company. The gargoyle pup had gorged himself on caramel corn and was asleep with his head in Richard's lap.

Graeme had a dozen rubber bands chained together and was fooling with them when Richard became aware of a tiny voice. He glanced at the screen. The cartoon was captioned in English with the dialogue in the original Japanese that both twins seem to understand perfectly. Forehead wrinkled, Richard looked around trying to pinpoint the sound. "What IS that?" he finally asked irritably.

Nudnik raised his head and cocked it. He got up and padded over to Graeme, nudging his way into the young gargoyle's vest.

"Hey! What's with the cold nose?" Graeme dug around inside his vest and came up with a compact communicator designed to fit around an ear.

Richard recognized it. "That's a Quarryman comset."

"Yeah, Uncle Lex let me have it to tinker with," Graeme answered. He fitted it on his own pointed ear and listened. His eyes grew round. "Uh-oh."

Ariana came away from the balcony and knelt by her brother. "What's up?"

He glanced at her. "Somebody attacked Uncle Broadway and Aunt Angela. She got away but he's got Broadway and Bronx."

"What should we do?" Ariana asked. "Should we go help?"

"Your parents left you here with me," Richard said firmly. "They'll expect you to be here when they get back. I know it's not going to be easy, but that what you should do."

"Who's George?" Graeme asked. "They're all talking about some guy named George." He touched the comset with his talon tips, listened intently for a few seconds, and glanced up, startled. "They say he's coming after you next."

"Whoa." Richard sat back stunned. "Where are they? Where did this happen?"

"Somewhere near the Metropolitan Museum of Art," Graeme said. "Goliath has found Angela. She's been tracking them. This George guy has taken Broadway and Bronx somewhere." His eyes narrowed. "Heading towards the East River, Hudson thinks."

"East River, East River ... why does that sound familiar?" Richard snapped his fingers. "Castaway! He used to have a warehouse near the Hell Gate Ferry. It was a drop point for arms deliveries. Tell them they need to go to --"

"Can't," Graeme interrupted. "This thing only receives, Lex was going to give me the spare parts to make it operational but he hasn't gotten around to it yet."

"Then we need to go there." Richard stood up and started towards the roof hatch. "C'mon, kids."

Ariana frowned. "But you said we shouldn't --"

"Yeah, but sometimes you have to know when to break the rules so you can do what's right." He started up the ladder to the roof. "I'm not sure what George is up to but I'm probably the only person he'll listen to. Let's hurry, okay?"


* * * * *


An abandoned warehouse, near the East River.

His first conscious intake of air was mixed with dust and Broadway awoke with a painful spasm of coughing. The screaming pain in his wing was doubled by the awkward way he was chained to some large piece of machinery, its many protruding bits prodding and pressing against his injuries. A familiar whine nearby made him crack an eye open.

"Hey, Bronx." It hurt to get the breath to talk. ""

Intelligence shone in the gargoyle beast's eyes as he shook his head to the best of his ability. He too was tied down with heavy chain to another massive machine. Broadway couldn't begin to guess where they were but the musty feel made him think that wherever they were it hadn't been used in a long time. He sighed and counted his lucky stars that at least Angela was free and hopefully with the others.

Voices started coming closer. Broadway shut his eyes and hoped he still looked like he was passed out.

"She'll be back with the others and then we can pick them off. I know this warehouse inside out. It'll be like shooting fish in a barrel."

"Sounds good but don't get too cocky."

"Don't plan on it ---Sssssssssss! Owch!"

Broadway's eyes flicked open involuntarily at the outburst of pain. Two men were standing near one of the machines, one with unremarkable features and mouse brown hair and the other -- Broadway squinted at him. He wasn't sure but the strange man with the reddish hair holding his hand looked an awful lot like Richard's brother from the picture Angela had shown him weeks ago.

The mousy one looked at the injured hand and clucked. Broadway could see even from his vantage point that the hand was turning an angry red. "Nasty iron burn." He pulled a silk handkerchief from the inside pocket of his jacket and wrapped it around the hand. "Keep your gloves on in here. You're right about this being a great place for a trap but there's too much iron around for comfort."

"Iron?" The injured man stared at his associate in disbelief. "How can cold iron do this?"

"Look, Newton had it right. 'For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.' You wanted power, well, this is the price." Mouse narrowed his eyes and his voice took on an edge. "There's always a price."

"But this can be reversed, right?" Burned Hand asked in a stunned voice. "He said the procedure was reversible."

"Sometimes words are just that, only words." Mouse raised an eyebrow, showing no emotion. "Unfortunately, reversing what was done to you is impossible. You made your choice freely, now live with it." He glanced up sharply. "They'll be here soon. Let's go." The nondescript man melted into the shadows.

An eerie chill went up Broadway's spine. He'd never seen anyone do that before; one minute he was there, the next, gone. He was staring at the blank space when the first blow was struck. Lights danced in front of his eyes and the teeth in his jaw felt a lot looser.

"What are you looking at, monster?" Burnt Hand screamed. He was an average-sized human but he was stronger than he looked. He clocked Broadway with another roundhouse. "This is ALL your fault, do you hear? ALL *pow* YOUR *pow* FAULT!!!" The human's eyes lit up with an unholy fire and his lips curled back in a snarl.

Broadway let himself go limp and endured the blows as best he could. He'd been tied in such a way that freeing himself was impossible. It was like a scene from a detective pulp novel, except it wasn't as entertaining being on the receiving end. Finally, the beating stopped and the blue gargoyle slumped in his chains.


* * * * *


Somewhere over Madison Avenue, Manhattan.

Richard clutched Nudnik to his chest and tried very hard not to look down. The twins had a firm grip on him, Ariana on the right side and Graeme on the left but he could tell they were tiring. He could feel the muscle tremors traveling down their arms to his. Over and over in his head, he alternated in telling himself that this was his idea and what a big dummy he was in suggesting it.

"Graeme?" The gargoyle girl's voice was shaky.

"Yeah, Ari-chan?" Her brother wasn't much better.

"We need take...a little break. I'm getting a cramp in my wing."

"Oh-okay." Graeme started to steer towards the nearest building. A sudden updraft between buildings caught them and Ariana's wing twisted. She shrieked and let go of Richard to tumble away.

"ARI!" Graeme shouted as he quickly shifted his grip. The human's quilted parka slipped in his fingers.

Richard started mumbling a quick, extremely sincere prayer under his breath. He and the young gargoyle dipped dangerously towards the street. He closed his eyes. Nudnik yelped in his ear.

"Hold on there! I got you!" Another set of arms scooped Richard up and he opened his eyes to find himself looking at Brooklyn, the twins' father. Coming towards them was his jade green mate with Ariana in tow. They landed on a nearby building.

"All right, what are you guys doing over here?" Brooklyn demanded. "You're lucky Sata and I were headed your way." He looked at Richard. "Your brother's back."

"I know," Richard answered. "And I know where he's headed. We have to hurry."

Sata looked up from where she was massaging her daughter's wing. "Ari-chan is not badly hurt. Contact the others and we'll meet them there."

"We?" Brooklyn asked, eyebrow ridges raised as he activated the communicator on his gauntlet.

"I want my children where I can protect them." She smiled and cupped her daughter's chin. "And where they can protect me if necessary."


* * * * *


"Goliath?" Lexington called. "Brooklyn's checking in."

The gargoyle leader glanced over. "What does he have to report?"

"They've found Richard and the twins. He says there's a warehouse near the Hell Gate Ferry that the Quarrymen used to use. George might take Broadway and Bronx there."

"Hudson?" Goliath queried.

"Aye," the old tracker agreed. "'Tis only a few miles to the ferry and he's been following the river right enough."

"Let's hurry then, Father," Angela said, eyes full of worry and concern. "Broadway was very badly hurt. There's no telling what George might do to him."

"Very well," Goliath said. He looked at the green gargoyle gliding off his left wing. "Relay the information to Elisa. She and Detective Bluestone can meet us there."

Lexington nodded and swung up to get some altitude. When he came back down, he reported, "Elisa and Matt are coming up First Avenue. Another twenty minutes, if they can beat the traffic." He shook his head. "I've never heard Elisa use such language before. I think Matt's been driving on the sidewalks again."


* * * * *


Richard pointed at a warehouse a couple of blocks from the ferry. "That's it," he told Brooklyn. "You can get in from the roof, the loading bay, front and side doors."

The red gargoyle nodded and glided to a building down the block. He looked sternly at his children. "You two stay here and protect Richard. I'll keep my comlink open and," he reached out to tap the comset on Graeme's ear, "if things get hairy in there, I want you all to get out of here. Don't wait for us, just go."

Graeme swallowed and traded a look with his sister. She nodded. They knew that no-nonsense tone of voice. "Okay, Dad," he answered, "We will."

Richard watched the adult gargoyles fly away before heading for the fire escape. Ariana followed him over, eyebrow ridges twisted with concern. "What are you doing?" she asked. "We're supposed to stay here."

"Look, you kids stay here," Richard called up as he kept climbing down the ladder. "That's my brother in there and I'm going to talk some sense into him if it kills me."

The twins watched as their human friend descended to the alley and crossed the street in the shadows. Graeme looked at his sister. "Dad's not gonna like this," he said soberly.

"Yeah," Ariana agreed. "But he also told us to protect Richard."

Graeme scooped up Nudnik. "Well, we certainly can't do that from up here."

"Nope." The little red female spotted a length of pipe laying half-buried in the snow. She tested it for balance with a few parries and thrusts to adjust her hold. "It's not my bo staff but it'll do." She jumped up on the building's edge. "Let's go."

"Right behind you, Ari-chan." The two young warriors and their pet dropped off the roof into the dark alley below.


* * * * *


Goliath looked up as his second-in-command and his mate arrived. "How does it look?" he asked. "Any sign of Broadway?"

Brooklyn nodded. "I didn't go down to sniff around but something big was brought in through the loading bay. The tracks were fresh."

"Yes," Sata added, but with a slight frown, "but I am puzzled. There was only one set of footprints. How could one human drag both Broadway and Bronx?"

"Maybe he used some equipment," Lexington suggested. "A hoist or a loader or something."

"There were no treadmarks or wheel ruts." Brooklyn turned his face into the wind, his cottony mane of hair trailing behind him. "Something about this is setting my teeth on edge. I wish I knew why." Wordlessly, Sata put her hand on his arm and they exchanged an enigmatic look.

Lex tapped his earpiece and looked down the street. "Elisa and Matt are here, Goliath."

"Good." The gargoyle leader jumped up the building's edge. "Tell them to go in from the front."

"The side door at the alley is blocked," Brooklyn interrupted. "There's a couple of dumpsters wedged against it."

Goliath nodded. "Then you, Sata and Lex will go in from the roof while Hudson, Angela and I take the loading bay."

"Agreed." Brooklyn gave Sata a hand up and glanced back. "Let's go kick some tail, Lex."

The web-winged gargoyle cracked his knuckles. "Yeah. Let's go get Broadway."

The clan broke up into two groups and glided swiftly and silently away.


* * * * *


Richard had waded through a mess of rusted-out trash cans and reeking plastic bags to the alley entrance. The door lock was still burnt out like the last time he and George had been here on Quarryman business. Of course, there had been a few more people here to move the dumpsters. He managed to worm his way between the big metal trash bin and the wall and pressing his back on one and bracing his boots on the other, tried to shove the dumpster away.

"UUHNNG!" Sweat poured down his face as Richard strained. It moved a few inches. He tried the door but there was still not enough room to slip inside. He took a couple of deep breaths and pushed. His knees popped with the strain but the darned thing refused to budge.

Dimly, he heard rustling in the trash bags. "Oh, great," Richard muttered to himself. "Rats." The next second, the bespectacled human landed hard on his rear as the dumpster suddenly lurched towards the alley. Nudnik clawed his way past the trash and planted his smelly paws on Richard's chest, snuffling and whining anxiously.

"Eeeeuw." Ariana leaped from the top of the dumpster to imbed her talons into the wall, clinging to the bricks. She pinched her nostrils shut delicately, metal pole tucked under her arm. "Icky poo. I wouldn't sit there too long, Richard. You're gonna reek."

Graeme climbed over and dropped down by Richard to help him up. "Yeah, yeah, we know, we're not supposed to be here." The dark green gargoyle shrugged. "Ari and I figured if we're gonna be in trouble, we might as well go all the way."

Richard took a hard look at the gargoyle twins and the little beast sniffing at the bottom of the door. "Kids....." He thought about it for a minute. The twins might only be children but they were still faster and stronger than he was. "Okay," he said finally, "but we're all going to be very careful, all right? You let me take care of my brother and you guys can look for Broadway."

"Deal." Graeme gently gripped the door and quietly jerked it out of the door frame. "Ladies first," he said pertly to his sister. She shook her head and neatly swung inside.

"Is that wise?" Richard whispered. "What if she runs into trouble?"

Graeme snorted. "Are you kidding? She LOVES to hit things!"


* * * * *


White blisters were forming on the angry red burn on the back of George's hand. Over and over in his head, he kept asking: What have they done? Why? Was he something else? Not gargoyle, he was sure of that, but what? Gingerly, he re-wrapped the silk handkerchief around his hand and awkwardly replaced it inside his leather gloves. That was another weird thing. Cold air on the burn just fanned it into more intense levels of pain but the spider-web kiss of the silk quenched the burning. That was insane.

George caught a brief glimpse of his face in a dusty pane of broken glass and stared. He almost didn't recognize himself. His face had changed subtly, a little more angular, cheekbones more prominent, the tips of his pointed ears clearly visible while the static charge of the ley line energy stored in his body made his reddish hair stand on end. His breath caught in his throat as the hard cold truth hit. He was no longer human.

A faint beep in his coat pocket distracted him. George pulled out the slim palmtop computer and checked his perimeter sensors. Garlon had let him select his choice of armaments from the weapons development lab and George had prepped the warehouse with the latest security monitoring devices. Something had tripped the sensors on the roof and the alley. He checked the others. The security camera at the front revealed two familiar faces. George smirked and tapped his comset.

"Detectives Maza and Bluestone are about to come in the front door. Think you could entertain them while I take care of business?"

There was a crackle and Garlon answered. "With pleasure. Good hunting." he heard a sharp crack of the bolt on a rifle being pulled back and then the radio was silent.

A tremendous roar, accompanied by screeching sound of metal tearing, snapped George's head around. Nimbly, he ran along the catwalk towards the loading bays. The big lavender gargoyle, Goliath, was standing in the doorway, the crumpled door still in his hands. George's mouth twisted into a smug sneer and he thrust both hands forward in a grabbing motion, casting force waves away from him. The invisible blast of energy caught the big gargoyle unawares and drove him into the alley. The ruined door suddenly folded around Goliath as George drew his hands together and squeezed. The roar of pain that followed was music to his ears.


George watched as Angela and some old gargoyle tried to free Goliath. The desperate expression on her face pleased him perversely and he jumped off the catwalk to put things on a more ...personal level.


* * * * *


Matt saw the flash just before the bullet careened off the light pole next to them. He grabbed Elisa and threw them both behind a parked car. "Sniper!" he barked out. "Top floor window, upper left."

Elisa edged around for a look. "You sure? I don't see a shooter."

"Caught the flash." Matt double-checked his gun. "You want to call for back-up?"

His partner frowned. "I don't know. We're hardly on official police business."

Another bullet struck the sidewalk nearby, raising sparks. "Call me cynical, Elisa, but I think shooting at us makes it official, don't you?"

"Let's see if we can take care of this without going through channels, okay, Matt?" Elisa clipped on her lapel mike. "Brooklyn? You there?"


* * * * *


The red gargoyle raised his gauntlet and answered softly, "Yeah, Elisa. We're in." He, Sata and Lex were inside the stairwell. "Something's going on downstairs. Did you hear Goliath?"

"No." There was a troubled pause during which two clear zings of ricocheting gunshots were heard.

Brooklyn raised his brow ridges. "Who's shooting?"

"We got a sniper. He's on the top floor, upper left. Matt and I are pinned down."

Brooklyn nodded. "We'll take care of it. Hold on."

"What about Goliath?" Lex hissed. "I didn't like the sound of that roar."

"Angela and Hudson can handle it. Let's take this sniper out hard and fast." Brooklyn opened the door quietly and scanned the darkened hallway cautiously. He exchanged a glance with Lex and the smaller green gargoyle nodded as he took the point, creeping silently forward on all fours.


* * * * *


"C'mon, kids," Richard whispered as he ducked under a fallen door. "This way." Nudnik stayed at his heels, snuffling and whining while the twins traveled along the upper walls, avoiding the debris strewn hallway.

"What did they do in this place, Richard?" Graeme asked quietly as he peered in vacant doorways curiously.

"Oh, they re-tooled machinery mostly," the ex-Quarryman answered. "We used to store weapons shipments here. I don't know who actually owns it."

"Shhh!" Ariana dropped to the floor a few yards ahead. She beckoned to them. "There's someone up ahead," she said. "I can hear them."

Nudnik raised his head, sniffed and bolted past them all, wuffing and whining excitedly. Both twins tried catching the little garg beast to no avail.

"There goes the element of surprise," Graeme said disgustedly. "He's such a little nudnik sometimes."

They peeped out into the main workroom. Nudnik was butting Bronx under the chin and crooning pitifully even as his stubby tail swirled like a propeller. Ariana and Graeme carefully scanned the room for hostiles, top, bottom, sides, before heading into the room with Richard. The red-skinned gargoyle girl was almost to Bronx when her eyes widened and her beak gaped open.

"Oh, no! Uncle!"

Graeme and Richard ran around the piece of heavy machinery. The rotund blue gargoyle hung limply in the heavy chains, his ape-like face bruised and cut, dried and fresh blood staining his skin. One of his wings was terribly ripped and heavy scrapes covered him from head to toe.

Richard swallowed and reached out to peel back one of the gargoyle's swollen eyelids. "Pupils are still responsive," he said thoughtfully. "Pulse is good."

"J-just don't ask me to do the macarena," Broadway mumbled. He blinked his eyes slowly and peered owlishly at them. "Rich...get the kids outta here. Too... too dangerous."

The twins traded a look and went into action simultaneously. Ariana climbed up the wall and took her post as lookout. Graeme pulled a piece of wire out of his vest, snapped it in two and bent them both into L-shapes. "Now let's see if I remember exactly how Uncle Matt showed me how to do this," he muttered. The dark green gargoyle boy stuck his tongue in the corner of his mouth and bent to twiddle the lock binding the chains together, all the while absently singing under his breath, "'You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out, put your right foot in and you shake it all about...."

Broadway managed a half-smile. "Kid, that wasn't Matt, that was a rerun of 'Moonlighting.'"

"Whatever." Graeme snapped the lock open. "It worked." He went over to set Bronx free while Richard pulled the chains off of Broadway.

The big gargoyle put a shaky hand on Richard's shoulder. "Your-your brother.... something's different about him. He's changed."

Richard frowned. "What do you mean?"

"It's not so much the way he looks but the way he is, the strange things he can do." Broadway shook his head. "I know it doesn't make any sense but he touched some iron and it burned him."

"Iron?" Graeme scraped a hand through the debris under the machine press Bronx had been tethered to. He came up with a mix of rat droppings, dead roaches, dust, and twisted metal shavings. Pursing his lips and narrowing his eyes, the young gargoyle began filling his pockets.

"Guys?" Ariana's voice called from the catwalk, her dark skin tone blending into the shadows. "I think...we'd better get Uncle Broadway moving. We're about to have company."


* * * * *


"Father!" Desperately, Angela tried to reach him but some invisible force separated them. Goliath's eyes rolled up in his head and blood bubbled from his mouth. "Father!!"

Hudson growled and glared past her into the gloom of the warehouse. "You!" he shouted. "This is your doing, is it, laddie? NO MORE!!!" The old gargoyle drew his sword and charged.

Angela turned her head and caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure approaching. With sickening recognition, she cried out, "HUDSON! No! Keep away from him!"

A blue-white fireball rocketed out and spun the old warrior around. Hudson slammed into some crates and lay still. His attacker stepped out of the shadows.

"Hello there, pretty." George smiled coldly at her. "Daddy and Grandpa can't help you rescue that fat slob now."

Her eyes blazed scarlet. "Don't you DARE call him that!"

"I think I can call him anything I want," George said cattily. "When dawn comes, I'm going to call him gravel."

"No. I won't let you."

"You?" He tightened his jaw and gestured. Angela found herself being clutched in an immense invisible hand, the air slowly being forced from her lungs. "Only thing you'll be doing is watching." He pulled her closer. "You see, I'm not going to smash him all at once. I think I'll break him up a little bit at a time, a finger here, a foot, an arm, a leg. I wonder just how long you'll be able to stand it, watching him disappear piece by piece."

Angela stared into the madness glowing in his eyes and shuddered.


* * * * *


Sata knelt in the dust, eyes intent on the floor. She held one hand up, beckoning her mate and his rookery brother over. Silently, the Ishimura gargoyle traced the barely visible trail of footsteps leading through the dust. Brooklyn leaned in and whispered into Lex's ear. The web-winged gargoyle went into a room across the hall and slipped through the window.

Brooklyn preceded his mate down the hallway, moving stealthily and without sound as only a gargoyle could. The door was ajar and they could both see a hooded figure by the window, rifle held at the ready. The sniper lifted the weapon, sighting on his target. Locking his eyes with Sata, Brooklyn lowered his shoulder and leaned back for a little momentum.

The door splintered under Brooklyn's charge. The sniper started to fire at the red gargoyle but Lexington swung in through the open window and wrenched the gun away. The hooded human backhanded the green gargoyle but Brooklyn flattened him against the floor with a bone-crushing tackle. A pile of cardboard boxes toppled over on top of them. Lex jumped in to help, tossing the boxes aside but found only Brooklyn, rubbing his jaw and glancing around sharply.

"Where the devil did he go?" Brooklyn demanded.

Sata's gasp by the doorway drew the males' attention. The sniper had somehow slipped by them and had a thin blade pressed to the jade gargoyle' swan-like neck. Unfortunately, the human could not see the flinty look in Sata's dark eyes as she locked stares with her mate.

"Don't be stupid," Brooklyn said softly. He motioned to Lex to back off.

"That's right, monster," the human said, his voice muffled by the hood. "Back off or the female gets it." He started moving into the hall with Sata.

"Brooklyn......" Lex said, shooting a quick look at his rookery brother.

"Yeah, I know," the red gargoyle muttered. "I hope she doesn't hurt him too much. Elisa and Matt will want to talk to him later."

They trailed after Sata and the sniper, following at a respectful distance. The second there was enough room, Sata struck with cobra-like swiftness. The sniper's knife went flying along with the sniper. The Ishimura gargoyle had a particularly vicious smile at odds with her feminine costume of the evening as she blocked a kick strike, seizing the leg and hurling the man into the wall. Oddly enough, the hooded man rolled with it and dashed past her onto the catwalk. Sata chased him, tanto held ready to either throw or slash.

There was a blur as the man passed a support beam and then somehow, he was behind Sata. Silently, he slammed her with kicks to the abdomen and torso and clocked her with an underhanded double-fisted punch to the jaw, sending her pummeling off the catwalk. She disappeared into the shadows below, a hollow whoomp to mark her body's impact.


Before his roar died down and Brooklyn could take two steps, a red-skinned valkyrie came out of the shadows, swinging a dull metal pole. Ariana's eyes burned crimson as she screamed, "You leave my mother alone!!" Her improvised weapon caught the sniper across the shoulders with the down swing and in the stomach on the way back up.

The hooded man snarled and grabbed the metal pole, jerking the juvenile warrior towards him. Ariana's toes left deep scratches in the metal catwalk.

"I don't think so."

Turning towards the gruff voice, the sniper was given a close-up view of four incoming brick red knuckles before he toppled off the catwalk.

Ariana bit her lip. "Father, I know we're not supposed to..."

"Shhh...later." Brooklyn held out his hand and gave her a little smile. His daughter threw herself into his arms and he gave her a quick hug. "That's my girl. Let's go see about Sata and wrap up that guy to give to Elisa, okay?"


* * * * *


Graeme bolted when Sata's body fell from the catwalk overhead and crashed into a pile of cartons, scattering them. A diamond-shaped green gargoyle coasted down like a kite. Broadway leaned heavily against Richard.

"That's my rookery brother, Lex," the big gargoyle commented. "The calvary's here." He started to weave.

"C'mon, Broadway," Richard said firmly. "Sit down before you fall down."

"You mean before I fall on you and squash you flat."

"Yeah, that too." He had just managed to ease Broadway down, with Nudnik and Bronx both milling about protectively when they both heard a familiar voice cry out.


"Angela!" Broadway tried to struggle to his feet. Richard was already running in the direction of her voice. "Bronx! Nudnik!" the blue gargoyle commanded. "Go with Richard! Help him save Angela!" Bronx growled and galloped after the human, Nudnik at his heels.

His head spun and multi-colored lights passed in front of his eyes as Broadway laid his head on the filthy floor and watched them go.


* * * * *


His heartbeat was the loudest thing in the world at that moment as Richard dashed through the darkened warehouse. The big gargoyle beast passed him but Nudnik hung back and kept pace with him. He rounded the corner and his mouth hung open in shock. Goliath was wrapped in a metal cocoon, Hudson was in a crumpled heap and Angela was being held in mid-air. Her head lolled to the side and she went limp.

Bronx snarled and leaped at the strange man holding his mistress captive. The man's head snapped around and beams of light shot from his eyes, striking the gargoyle beast in mid-leap. Bronx yelped and landed near Hudson. He crept towards the old gargoyle and began licking his face.

"George?" Richard stepped into the long rectangle of moonlight cast by the open loading bay doors. "You're alive." He forced a relieved smile on his face, fighting the cold fear of this stranger with his brother's face, the last flickers of blue-white flames dancing all around him.

The eerie glow lingered in his brother's eyes. "Hello, Rich." His mouth tightened. "Come to rescue your girlfriend, little brother?"

"She's a girl and you're right, she IS my friend," Richard admitted, "but George, she's a gargoyle for cryin' out loud. Can you imagine me bringing her home to Mom?"

George raised an eyebrow and flicked his eyes between Richard and Angela, the glow subsiding and his normal blue eye color returning. "Hmmm."

"Yeah, hmmm! It'd be worse than that time when you brought the iguana home. She had kittens then. I don't even want to think about the hysterics she'd have over a gargoyle."

"Good point." A corner of George's mouth quirked up. "I still miss that iguana."

Richard walked a little closer. "It's good to see you, bro. I was getting worried about you."

"I've been busy." George ran a hand through his hair. "How's Mom?"

"She missed you at Christmas. You should give her a call."

George nodded. "I'm still mad at you."

"Okay." Richard took a good long look at his brother. "This is a new look for you. What's up?" He glanced at the female gargoyle still floating above the floor and frowned. "Besides Angela. Would you please put her down, bro? I don't think she's going anywhere."

Angela dropped roughly to the ground. George took a kick at Nudnik, who yipped and hid behind Richard's legs. "Don't go making friends with these freaks. They're gonna die. They're all gonna die."

Richard sighed and crossed his arms. "Look, let's not have that fight again right here, right now. I want to know what's happened to you. I mean," he looked his brother up and down, "the hair, the ...ears, this crazy voodoo that you do, what's up with that?"

"I think I made a bad deal." George swallowed and looked down. "I don't even know what they did to me. They lied to me, bro." He looked into Richard's eyes. "Look at me! I'm not human any more." His forehead wrinkled and an edge of panic crept into his voice. "And I don't know if they can change me back."

Angela moaned and Nudnik went over to nuzzle her cheek. Richard carefully placed himself between the gargoyles and his brother and kept George talking. "What do you mean, not human?"

"I don't know exactly! Just a feeling I have," George said. "I'm stronger, faster, better in a lot of ways but I keep changing." A worried look came into his eyes. "I'm not sure who I really am anymore."

"You're my brother," Richard said firmly. "And no matter what happens, that's the one thing I'm always sure of." He reached out and hooked his little finger through his brother's. "I love you, George. Nothing will ever change that. I promise."

They stood there silently for many heartbeats. George blinked hard several times and his mouth twitched as he worked up the courage to speak.

"Harrison!" Garlon's voice shouted. "Get in here!"

An unearthly glow lit George's eyes. "This is for your own good, bro," he mumbled and grabbed Richard's wrist, throwing his brother across the room. He turned his back on him and disappeared into the shadows.

"R-richard?" Angela coughed and struggled to her hands and knees. She crawled over to where her human friend lay sprawled inverted against the wall, not far from Hudson. Nudnik was already there, washing Richard's face. "Why did he do that?"

Reaching for his fallen glasses and pushing the eager gargoyle pup away, Richard smiled. "George always did have a hard time saying certain things." He rubbed the back of his neck and winced. "I think this is what they mean by 'tough love.'"


* * * * *


"Uncle Lex?" Graeme asked worriedly, his talons gently stroking his mother's glossy black hair. "She's going to be all right, isn't she?"

Lexington felt quickly along Sata's body. "I think so, Graeme. No broken bones that I can find. She's lucky she landed in this pile of empty boxes."

Elisa and Matt came running in, guns drawn. Matt knelt by Broadway laying on the floor. "Hey, pal," the red-headed cop said. "Looks like they worked you over with the rubber hoses."

"I'll never look at another pulp-fiction detective novel the same way again," Broadway groaned as Matt helped him sit up against a machine press.

"Uh oh," Brooklyn said. He and Ariana were searching through the debris on the warehouse floor. "No body. That sniper's running around loose in here."

"Is he armed?" Elisa called. She turned around slowly, sharp eyes taking in all the nooks and crannies.

"If you're talking about that other guy with George," Broadway said shakily, "we're in trouble. He can vanish like a ghost. Never saw anything like it."

A nasty laugh echoed hollowly in throughout the empty warehouse. "And that's the LAST thing you'll ever see." A bolt of energy shot out of the darkness, narrowly missing Elisa. A second shot deflected off Brooklyn's armor as he was pulling Ariana down to the floor.

Graeme saw the discarded metal rod, sticking out from under the flattened boxes his mother was lying on. His pockets were heavy with iron filings and on his wrist, the chain of rubber bands. Sata stirred and as soon as he spied the torn hem of her kimono, all the pieces fell into place and the young gargoyle knew what he had to do. Tearing a swatch of silk away and ripping it into several squares, he dumped out his pockets and made loose bundles of them.

"Matt!" Elisa shouted. "Do you see him?"

"Negative!" Her partner peeked around the heavy equipment he was using as cover and was rewarded with a shower of sparks as a bullet caromed near his head. "Sniper's back and he's packin'!" The red-headed cop began swearing under his breath.

Energy bolts flew like tracer fire, deadly fireworks in the close quarters of the warehouse. Brooklyn had flattened himself over his daughter's body, their meager cover of a few crates being blasted to splinters in the crossfire around them.

Working quickly, Graeme bent the metal rod into a 'Y' shape and wrapped the doubled up rubber bands around the 'arms' of the Y a few times. He eyed the catwalk while he tucked the ammo bundles into his belt pouch. It creaked and swayed as if someone was up there but even a gargoyle's night vision showed no one there. Graeme cast a look at Broadway. If his uncle was right about the invisible guy, and as for long as Graeme had known him and beyond, Broadway had always told the truth.... the young gargoyle stood and aimed.

His first shot went up and burst against the roof, scattering metal shrapnel in a wide spray across the room. The second went directly to the spot on the catwalk that suddenly lurched crazily as if someone had just flinched.

"Graeme!" Brooklyn bellowed. "Get down!"

A man with Richard's features but without his friendliness stepped into a pool of moonlight and sneered at Graeme. "So you wanna die young," George said bluntly. "Be my guest." Blue-white fire shot from his eyes.

"Bite me," Graeme muttered and fired. A blue-green blur passed beneath his feet and the young gargoyle landed flat on his back, knocking the air from his lungs.

The silk bundle hit the transformed human in the center of his chest. His eyes widened for a second and then George screamed, an insane, unearthly howl, the energy from his eyes engulfing his entire body. When the dancing spots cleared from everyone's vision, only the clan and their human friends were left in the warehouse.

"Kid," Broadway said crossly, body still extended, tail twitching. "That was incredibly dumb."

"Yeah, well," Graeme wheezed, rubbing his chest and coughing. "It worked."

"What was that you shot at him?" Elisa asked.

"Well, Uncle said iron hurt him and there were all these metal bits under the machines," Graeme said, opening one of his bundles to show them. "I just stuffed some of it in my pockets for, well, you know, just in case." He blushed and ducked his head sheepishly.

"You little pack rat!" Ariana crowed.

Sata stood up groggily and held out her arms. "Graeme-kun," she murmured as her son hugged her tightly, "my clever, clever little monkey."

Brooklyn simply reached over and ruffled his son's unruly black hair, exchanging a proud look with his mate. "I say we find Goliath and blow this pop stand."

"An excellent suggestion," a deep voice rumbled behind him. Goliath staggered towards them, supported by Angela and Hudson, Richard following behind with the two gargoyle beasts.

Elisa ran towards him. "Goliath! You're hurt!"

"It will heal," the gargoyle leader said stoically. "But I don't know if any of us will ever recover from this night. Some new evil is at work in our city and it bodes ill for us." He glanced over his shoulder at Richard. "All of us."


* * * * *


February 15, 1997 -- The Maddox Estate, Westchester County, New York.

The hawk-faced man at the head of the table looked up as his business associate came into the morning room, an informal dining room with French doors overlooking the elegant flower gardens and estate ground beyond, now covered with crisp snow. Mavis was dressed warmly in ski overalls and an Aryan cable knit sweater and set her matching ski jacket and boots on a chair.

Maddox raised a leisurely eyebrow. "Going out?" he inquired pleasantly.

"Aye," Mavis answered as she filled her plate from the sumptuous breakfast set out on the sideboard. "I thought I'd be doin' a bit of cross-country skiing this morning." She took her seat and spread her napkin in her lap. "It's been ages since I've had the time and the woods are so lovely after a fresh snow."

"Hmmm." Maddox looked out at the winter landscape. "Yes, it's a picture postcard sort of morning, isn't it?"

The dark-haired woman laughed. "You could always come with me, you know. Do you a world of good, it would."

He sipped his coffee, holding the bone china cup between his fingers. "It's tempting. Pity I left my hawks back in Europe. It would be a good morning for hunting rabbits."

There was a commotion out in the hallway and the dining room doors burst open. George Harrison stalked in, his face an oncoming storm, with Garlon and an extremely disturbed butler in his wake.

"I beg your pardon, sir," the butler said nervously, "but this gentleman insists on seeing you."

"That's quite all right, Edward. You may go now," Maddox said mildly, setting down his cup. He gazed unperturbed at the young man glowering at him. "Good morning, Mr. Harrison. Would you like some breakfast?"

"What I want," George said, squaring his jaw, "is some answers." He opened his coat and tore open the front of his shredded shirt. His chest was an angry red, dotted with dozens of tiny crusted cuts. "A few hours ago, this looked like hamburger. Now it's almost healed."

"And now you wish to thank me." Maddox blinked calmly. "You're welcome."

"No, you don't understand. Humans don't heal like this. They don't have pointy ears and they don't see energy beams." George slammed his hands down on the table, shaking the dishes. "What am I?"

"I should think that would be obvious." A cold fire flickered in his ice-gray eyes. "You're no longer merely human. You're better."

Energy crackled around George's head as his hair stood on end and his eyes blazed. "I want out of this deal! Change me back! Now!"

Maddox let out a long-suffering sigh. "Believe me, Mr. Harrison," he said, "we have larger plans in sight than the extermination of a few gargoyles. You are just the first of many who will help us fulfill those plans. You are one of us now, and you cannot leave us."

The color dropped out of George's face and his lip curled in shocked horror. "You USED me." The corona of now-visible energy surrounding him suddenly surged toward Maddox --- and just as suddenly, reversed and fed back onto George. He screamed as his body alternately stiffened and spasmed, his fingers spread and extended, every hair on his body standing straight out. Fire smoldering in his eyes, the young man fell to the ground, curling up in a fetal ball.

Maddox leaned back against the armrest of his chair. "I knew that the geas would come in handy," he commented, smiling slightly. "His loyalty to us is sealed."

Mavis glanced over the edge of the table at George and then back up at Garlon. "So," she asked, delicately sectioning her grapefruit, "how did he fare last night?"

The mousy-haired man gave a half-smile. "Oh, he's good. He hurt them bad last night. Imagine what damage we could do with an army of them."

"Until then," Maddox rang for his servant, "see that he is tended to. That kind of neural feedback can be quite painful and equally educational, one would hope." He watched as Garlon hung one of George's arms around his shoulder and helped the stunned man stagger from the room. "I believe it was Neitzsche who once said," he commented, "the battler of monsters may all too often risk becoming a monster himself."

Mavis smiled. "It's a grand beginning."

"And this time," Maddox said, raising his coffee cup, "we will win the war."

"To success." She clinked her coffee cup to his and they both smiled. A chill filled the room to match the wintry scene outside. In the distance, storm clouds gathered.


* * * * *


Every nerve in his body was on fire. George could barely move. He'd been dimly aware of being taken upstairs and deposited on the bed in a guest bedroom. It wasn't the physical pain -- that was almost down to bearable levels. It was that split-second that he looked into Maddox's eyes and realized he lived or died at the whim of this cold-eyed man. All his free will drained away at that moment, George knew without a doubt, he would do whatever Maddox said and that there was nothing he could do about it.

It was all the fault of those gargoyles. He cursed them silently, thinking of how he had almost had them, the horrified look that Angela had given him when he'd been taunting her. If Richard hadn't shown up when he did -- his blood froze. Richard. If Maddox ever found out about Richard's involvement and how George had been distracted, it could be very, very bad. If he was ordered to kill his own brother, there would be absolutely nothing he could do to stop himself.

George had always prided himself on his independence, on doing things his way. It was all gone. Everything. His heart sank and he'd never felt so close to tears in his life. He stared at the wall in despair. There had to be some way out of this.

As he stared at the shadows, a dark thought occurred to him.


* * * * *



February 20, 1997 -- Schlatter's Drugstore, Upper West Side, Manhattan.

Quinn chewed on her lip nervously as she compared the two boxes in her hands. She absolutely could not believe this was happening to her. First, she got downsized at Maddox Technologies, shuttled off to an office manager position for a few weeks and just as she was getting settled in, the whole office was laid off. It had taken a bit of networking but she had landed a new job in a law office just off Columbia Circle. To top it all off, when she tried to call Jayce, the number he had given her had been disconnected. No biggie, they'd had their fun but she really would have liked to have seen him again.

In the midst of all the fuss, between new jobs and missing boyfriends, Quinn had become aware of certain biological events that hadn't arrived on schedule. It was probably just stress, she told herself, she'd always been careful about that kind of thing but it couldn't hurt to double check. She finally chose one of the home pregnancy tests and paid the older woman at the counter. A brown-haired guy with glasses opened the door for her as she was leaving.

Quinn gave him a quick smile. "Thanks!"

"Hey, no prob. Have a nice day!" He waved and went inside.


* * * * *


Richard looked after the short brunette leaving and smiled. "Hey, Mrs. Schlatter!" he called cheerfully as he came around the counter. "I'm here!"

"You're early," she said. "Just as well. A package came for you this morning. It's in the office."

"Okay, thanks!" He whistled as he went back. He often had packages sent to him here at the drugstore and the Schlatters didn't mind. It was a medium-sized box wrapped in brown paper with a computer printed label and no return address.

Curious, Richard unwrapped the package and found a hard plastic case. He opened it and gawked at the Beretta nine millimeter handgun inside. It was the exact same type George preferred, he'd gone out to the gun range with him enough times to recognize the model. There was a note tucked beneath the barrel.


"Rich --

If you still love me, if you ever loved me...
The next time you see me,



"Oh, God." Richard sank into the cracked leather of the office chair, and stared at the handwritten note. "Bro, what kind of mess have you got yourself in?" A drop of water splatted onto the paper, followed by another, and yet another while he watched the ink run.


The End.