Trust No Future

Written by: Robby Bevard, with contributions by JEB

Story Concept by: JEB

 

Previously on Timedancer...

Puck: "Problem is, the rules say I can't take it from you. I needed you to fork it over."

~ Future Tense ~

* * * * *

"You are the servant of prophecy." The one with golden hair stated emotionlessly.

You will dance to the music of the ages," said the sister with the black hair.

Lastly the white-haired one spoke. "Forever through all time."

Brooklyn nearly screamed in angry frustration because of their words and the fact that he couldn't get loose from his magical bonds.

"What makes you think I'm going to do anything for you?!" He asked incredulously.

"You cannot refuse."

"You have no option."

"Prophecy has chosen you, Timedancer."

~ The Dance ~

* * * * *

Trust No Future

* * * * *

The sphere of fire faded away from around the two gargoyles as the Phoenix Gate deposited its unwilling passengers at their latest stop, ten feet in the air. As the last of the flame flickered away, the two gargoyles landed with a mild thud, not having enough time to prepare for a landing. Sata gasped in pain and doubled over, clutching at her stomach.

Brooklyn, surprised and frightened, almost dropped the Gate from his talons. "Sata? What's wrong?"

Sata breathed heavily for a moment more then straightened herself up. "I just landed roughly. It is nothing, my love."

Her mate cocked an eyebrow. "That didn't look like 'nothing' to me." He paused. "You sure you're all right?"

The green gargoyle smiled at him and sighed. "Your concern is always appreciated, but it is really unnecessary. It was only a brief pain... Nothing to worry about."

Brooklyn still looked worried, but nodded. "All right." He glanced around them. "I wonder where we are?"

Sata, too, took a look about them. It was almost dawn- the sky was a brightening gray-blue, and brighter blue at the horizon. They were in a wide field of sand, dust, and rocks, halfway between a tall wall and a huge building. The wall was composed of a ring of square arches, each enclosing a plate of a transparent plexiglass-like material. The building was smooth and made of a silvery metal, completely round with no sides. Its top was likewise smooth and flat, except for a wide variety of strange devices and monitors.

Including a camera-like mechanism that had just stopped, pointing straight at them.

Before they could react, red lights atop the building and the wall began to flash, while a synthesized alarm blared. Spotlights sprung to life, and focused their beams on the pair. The intense radiance blinded them momentarily.

As their vision cleared, they saw a force of armed and lightly armored guards running towards their location. Brooklyn's eyes glowed a harsh white, and he entered a battle-ready stance, while Sata's glowed scarlet as she drew her katana and crouched to fight.

Brooklyn heard heavy footsteps from other directions around them, as did Sata. Looking around, they saw more guards, heading towards them from all angles. Just as they realized their predicament, they were surrounded.

Sata began to scrutinize the ranks of the guards, who, other than the fact that they had their weapons leveled at the gargoyles' heads, weren't being very threatening.

Her mate leaned over to her and whispered, "What are they waiting for? They've got us." Not once did his eyes turn from the humans around them.

"I do not-" Sata began, then she saw, as did Brooklyn.

The sun was rising.

"Oh boy..." Brooklyn muttered. Looking at a rank of guards, his eyes glowed, and he made a dash move. Caught completely unawares, the guards did not immediately fire as Brooklyn's tail thrashed them to the ground. Sata was acting in a similar manner, swords slashing at nearby weapons and guards, taking advantage of their momentary shock. Despite the numbers being against them, the gargoyles were winning, largely due to the fact they were not being fired upon. While at first they did not fire, the guards soon realized their lives were in danger. Those being attacked tried to hold the gargoyles off with their bare hands, those with a bit more room started firing. A stray shot hit Brooklyn squarely in the tail. He let out a booming roar and his eyes burned, when the first rays of sunlight hit. His jaw dropped, it was over. As stone sleep overtook him and his mate, he could not help but fear for her safety. The guards stopped attacking, but still he fought against the petrification in vain. Darkness claimed them.

* * * * *

They awoke with the roaring yawns typical of their race, and both warriors were immediately on alert for danger.

Brooklyn looked at Sata and breathed quickly with a smile. He hugged her in a loving embrace. "We're alive!"

"Yes Brooklyn-san, we are," Sata noted with a nod.

"I was so worried. Those guards had us and..." The white-maned gargoyle paused and looked around. They were in a large cell, made entirely from metal, with bars to one side. Sparks of blue energy seemed to cross the ceiling occasionally. Brooklyn gritted his teeth, remembering briefly a similar situation, and prepared for a wincing pain as he touched the bars.

The red gargoyle was all but prepared to say 'ouch' but to his surprise, nothing happened. No electric bars. No alarms. Nothing. He quickly scanned the hallway. No guards either. "Huh."

Sata looked at him. Before she could ask what he saw, he responded. "No security at all. This has to be a first."

"It does not change the fact, Brooklyn-san... We are trapped. A prison is a prison no matter what the..." The jade female was cut off abruptly by a voice from the hall. Footsteps could be heard as two individuals came to them. One was jogging, and the other was stepping normally.

A thin, bearded man with glasses spoke up, out of breath. "Sorry about that, gargoyle, we had meant to be here when you awoke. Neglect on my part. It's been so long since I've come across a gargoyle you see..." Brooklyn eyed the man warily, and the woman beside him.

The man was wearing a lab coat and had a headphone-like device in his ear. "Excuse me," he started, even though he had not yet paused, "How rude of me. Allow me to introduce ourselves. I'm Doctor Isaac Payne. And this is my colleague, Doctor Ilsa Winters."

His female companion was fairly short, about fifty years old, with gray hair drawn up in a tight bun. She also wore a strange, device in her ear. She did not get a chance to speak as the man rambled on. "This is definitely important. You are the Timedancer, are you not?"

The beaked gargoyle was a bit surprised. "Uh... Yeah."

"Excellent! Excellent!" the excitable man practically giggled. "This is the year 2879, and we've been expecting you. We need your help."

Sata mirrored her mate's expression of disbelief. "What for?"

Payne's eyes went wide with relief. "Great! The translators work!" he said, pointing to the earpieces, and then continuing. "I'll explain that in just a moment, dear lady." The bristling man opened the cage, and continued talking at a fast rate. "Come along, come along, so little to do and so much time to do it in!"

"Um, okay..." Brooklyn looked slightly confused, but gladly stepped out of the cell, Sata right behind him. Doctor Winters smiled an icy smile. She managed to speak for the first time, and her voice possessed a clearly Germanic accent.

"It shall be an interesting pleasure working with you, Timedancer."

"Yeah. Sure."

As the four walked along a series of white hallways, Brooklyn noted how clean everything was, and how far fetched the layout of the place was. "Like a kid scrawled with a crayon on the blueprints, and they were followed through," he muttered.

As they walked on, he began to realize that the entire complex was built in seashell design, spiraling inwards to a central point. While he noted the bland decor, Doctor Payne kept on speaking.

"You see, this institute is called Project Chronos. Funding started in the year 2836, and it has taken a full fifty years to get anywhere. "My own team only recently started making a breakthrough when we discovered documents of the Phoenix Gate and the Timedancer, and began working on a teleportation theory using a spherical tachyon matrix, rather than the helical model we'd used up to that point." The technobabble was going over the snow-haired gargoyle's head, but he knew Lexington would love it here.

Shaking thoughts of his rookery brother out of his head, Brooklyn appreciated what he had right now and squeezed Sata's hand, smiling at her. She returned the affection, and the scientist continued speaking, unaware he was being ignored.

"Project Chronos was meant to use time travel as a type of historical research. For beneficial purposes you see," the man spoke while wiping his glasses. "Rediscovering lost advances and medicines and like that. And we were making such progress until it all went horribly, terribly wrong."

"Don't they always?" Brooklyn noted.

"Usually yes. Especially when being performed on dark and stormy nights. Don't even get me started on what happened when that one billionaire awoke that gargoyle robot..." This had the red gargoyle's attention.

"Coldstone?"

"I suppose. Nowadays we think of him as the greatest threat humanity ever suffered, but that is besides the point. What I'm trying to say here is, time itself is in danger."

Brooklyn tried to shake off the mention of the cyborg. Sata had little idea of who Coldstone was, and as such, was more aware of what Isaac Payne was saying.

"In danger? How?"

Doctor Winters answered the question. "A member of our team, Michael Barnes, activated a working prototype." Her slow and icy voice was a stark contrast to Payne's cheerful and fast paced speech. "When he activated the Chronos project, he somehow caused a disruption that damaged the time stream as we know it. As near as we can tell, he is destroying the time line with no regard to what the cost will be."

Brooklyn objected vehemently to the idea. "But history can't be altered! It's impossible! It's a rule! I should know! I've been to who knows..."

Payne broke in. "This machine-" he sighed, in a quieter and slower tone than his usual, as if not fully believing it himself, "can break those rules."

"How?!" Brooklyn demanded.

"Within the time stream, history cannot be altered. But the prototype does not operate entirely within this time stream. One of the key components is a fifth dimensional quantum particle emitter, which is really only designed to pinpoint our location within the timestream as a whole--a way of positioning ourselves from an outside point of view, you could say."

"An... outside point of view?" a dizzy Brooklyn asked, trying to follow along.

"An alternate timeline might be a better way of putting it."

Brooklyn's eyes widened with sudden understanding. "A parallel universe? Like the two Demonas?"

"Hmm, I'm not familiar with that particular case, but it seems that you understand what I mean. To make it short, the particle emitter malfunctioned in a way that was catastrophic, and wholly unanticipated. It significantly weakens the barriers that separate our timestream from those of other universes. Every change Barnes causes a fusion of two separate realities. Every change he makes becomes a permanent one, because an additional reality is merged to this one."

"That sounds bad," Brooklyn noted.

Dr. Payne looked thoughtful. "What a delightfully succinct manner of putting it. I'll have to remember that..."

* * * * *

They were standing in a room, which, like much of the complex, seemed to be plain, with four white walls gently curving to the circle that the entire building formed. Like the other rooms they'd been in, blue streaks of energy flickered across the ceiling.

"So what are we doing here?" Brooklyn asked.

"You will see in just a moment." Payne frowned. With the click of a button on a remote control, the room became dark. A smile crossed the scientist's face, as suddenly, the room flooded with images.

Sata gasped. "What is this?"

"A holographic reproduction of what Barnes is doing," Payne noted with an impish smile. "You see, when he went back in time, he began altering events. Some important, some not. If it weren't for all the damage he was doing it would be quite fascinating."

Brooklyn wasn't paying attention to the man. He was looking intently at the black and white images surrounding him.

Redcoats invading by sea, with two lanterns lit in a far off tower.

A white-haired man named Columbus landing on American shores for the first time.

A writer named Shakesphere putting pen to paper, a friendly fay named Puck hovering behind him, giving him inspiration.

A President being shot.

And then the scenes altered. Brooklyn looked on, mystified as the changes took place.

Redcoats invading by sea, and no lanterns lit at all.

Three ships being destroyed miles before they could ever reach land.

A writer named Shakespeare not writing at all, but instead begging for food.

A President not being shot.

He could not explain it. They were important parts of history as he knew it, but they were changing. But each of these events only held his attention for a moment, as something far more relevant caught Sata's attention, and then his.

"Brooklyn-san... Look..."

"I see it Sata-chan, I see it..." More than a few of the images were of Brooklyn himself. Various dances, he remembered them all. Helping bring Demona and Xanatos together. The slave ship. Fighting pirates along with Sata. He noted with a bit of regret that Sata spied more than one scene that showed him trying to be very friendly with a female. Sata flinched a little at that, and Brooklyn understood why. As the scenes played and warped, things changed.

In many of the scenes, it would show Brooklyn dancing out, only for another ball of Phoenix flame to appear and drop a dark-haired man off. The dark man had a passing resemblance to Matt Bluestone, but with dark raven hair and an unruly lock that fell over his left eye. In every image, Brooklyn saw nothing but trouble.

Thousands of images passed in front of his eyes, flowing, churning, twisting... Events pivotal to him, and things that had never happened to him... Changes that just could not be... Sata did not see what Brooklyn did. She stared transfixed at a scene where she saw Brooklyn die, but she did not draw his attention to it.

And then Booklyn saw Goliath in stone, in the thinking pose he had possessed for a thousand years. And a dark-haired man bringing down a sledgehammer. Brooklyn screamed.

"NOOOOOO!" The images stopped as suddenly as they had started, and Brooklyn was left wide-eyed and nearly gasping for breath. His mate stared at him.

"Brooklyn, what is it?"

"That guy... He's gonna smash the clan! If he does that, everything will go wrong! I'll be dead!" He turned to the man who had shown him all of this. "I'm convinced. What kind of help do you need?"

The doctor's tone was all seriousness. "We need the Phoenix Gate, Timedancer. With it..." He began speeding up again. "We can use our technology to repair the paradox our ex-associate Barnes has created. In fact, once history is repaired, we may even be able to use the stable, controlled Phoenix Gate to send you home!"

Brooklyn was amazed. "Send us... home?"

Winters stepped into the room, and nodded in a cool manner. "Indeed. If we can get this to work, it is the very least we can do. But we need the Gate to save all of history as we know it."

A smile crossed the red gargoyle's beak. "Doc, I have no problem with this." He began reaching into his pouch to pull out the blasted thing that had been tormenting him for so long. Sata grabbed his wrist.

The jade green gargoyle looked into his eyes. "Brooklyn-san, are you sure this is the right thing to do? You have a responsibility as the keeper of the Phoenix Gate. We are both Timedancers and we may not like it, true, but it is our responsibility. Can we truly just turn over the gate to total strangers?"

Brooklyn smiled at her wisdom as her hand clasped down on his shoulder affectionately.

"Actually, Doc, we have had a fairly long night. I think my mate and I would do well to have a few hours alone before sunrise."

"Of course. We have some time before the equipment will be operational. Despite the threat posed to time itself, we can wait a little while. I'll have a few guards escort you to the room we prepared for your arrival at once to allow you to consider the severity of the situation for a while. Have a pleasant evening, my friends."

* * * * *

The red gargoyle gasped when he saw the room that had been prepared for them.

"It's just like back at Castle Wyvern!" Sata had never seen Brooklyn's ancestral home, but she had to nod in agreement. This room was different from every other room in the building. It had blocks of stone covering the walls and ceiling. Its height was equal to that of a passage in Wyvern, and the furniture was almost an exact replica of what had been there before Brooklyn began his time dancing.

"I swear, Sata, this is exactly the setup Xanatos arranged for us back home..." He let a talon cross a piece of furniture. "Right down to the fabric in the couch! I wonder how they pulled this off?"

"We can ask them later, Brooklyn-san."

"I suppose so..." Brooklyn was wide eyed and somewhat out of breath from the sudden sense of familiarity. He shook himself out of his sudden bout of homesickness and looked at Sata.

"So what did you want to talk about that we couldn't say in front of them?"

"I don't trust them, my love. Something doesn't seem right about all of this. How did they know we would be coming? How did they know enough about you to recreate your room?"

"They can study the past with that thing they have," Brooklyn shrugged. "But you're right, I just don't trust any of this. It's all kind of creepy, like something out of a bad science fiction movie."

"Science... fiction?" the jade gargoyle asked warily, not sure she wanted to know.

"Um..." Brooklyn turned a slightly darker shade of red, having temporarily forgotten once again his mate wasn't fully versed with the late 1990's. "Remember when I told you about television?"

"The pictures that move and speak on their own. Yes. I recall it from our other dances."

"Well, there's a really bad period of television where everything they made was fake or overly hokey. A bad science fiction film had a lot of the stuff we're seeing here. A scientist, a strange assistant, and a giant device. Heck, this one has its own personal lightning storm."

Sata nodded in agreement, not fully understanding.

"The only thing we're missing is a hunchback named Igor." Again she nodded, not wanting to disagree, and not caring to be further confused. She merely accepted it as more of Brooklyn's strange humor.

"But the fact is, we're here now. If they're telling the truth, we have a very important business to do here. And we might have a chance to get home," Brooklyn sighed wistfully. It had been so long, he had nearly forgotten what home was like, until coming into this room.

"Still, you have to wonder about their motives," the jade gargoyle commented. "It is a little convenient that they were expecting you to the point of setting this up, when they could have better spent that time trying to solve their own problems..."

"Yeah. And didn't Payne mention something about having known a gargoyle once?"

"I believe he did. When he first came to us after waking up." Sata sighed and moved over to the available couch and sat down. "I must wonder though, if they are lying to us, what is their purpose?"

The beaked gargoyle followed her and sat down by her side, casually placing an arm around her waist. "I don't know. But if they are telling the truth, we can't deny them. And besides, if there's a chance we can be sent home, we've got to go for it."

Brooklyn sighed and paused, then looked at her. "Whatever the case, my love, we'll know soon enough. I just know it doesn't matter quite so much, as long as I am with you."

"Nor I with you," Sata smiled appreciatively as she petted her husband's beak, followed by a brief kiss. They spent the rest of the night enjoying one another's company, and they argued no more.

* * * * *

They awoke from their stone sleep without incident, and saw Payne looking on with impatience. Brooklyn looked at Sata to confirm she still agreed with what they had decided the previous night. With a look that spoke volumes to him, he knew that she did. When Brooklyn finally turned to face him, the doctor felt ready to explode.

"All right, doc, we'll let you use the Gate. If what you've shown us is true, we have no choice in the matter." Brooklyn felt the object that had whisked him away so long ago. It was completely cold; it wasn't going anywhere for a while.

"Splendid, splendid!" The doctor eagerly took the ancient talisman, and fingered it once he had it. "It's a little worn out, but it should serve splendidly! This is perfect!" The bearded man practically leapt for joy. "Follow me, follow me! I need to show you the room!"

"What do you need us for?"

"Well, Timedancer, from what I've observed of you throughout your travels, you have a limited amount of control over where the Phoenix gate takes you. We shall need your help to ensure the Gate does what I want."

Brooklyn looked a little sheepish. "Well, I can't exactly tell it where to go..." He thought momentarily of Barnes smashing Goliath. A look of deadly determination settled over his beaky visage. "But I'll do my best to help."

"Yes, yes, splendid, splendid. Come along then, time is of the essence, Timedancer!"

"But just last night it wasn't..." he muttered. The group left the room, and as they walked, Brooklyn thought to ask a favor. "Um, could you stop calling me that?"

"Of course, Timedancer, what would you prefer to be called?"

"Brooklyn, please."

"Very well, Brooklyn-please, if that is what you want." The beaked gargoyle raised a talon to point out that wasn't his name, but Payne continued. "I know, Brooklyn, I am only kidding around. A little bit of bad scientific humor if you will. Does your female companion have a name as well?"

"Sata," she noted helpfully.

"Very good then, Sata. Brooklyn." They continued walking while the doctor spoke at an insane rate. They passed a few guards along the way, who seemed friendly enough now that the gargoyles were no longer intruders. And then the man in the white lab coat with a large device in his ear spoke up. "We've arrived." The bearded man smiled as he opened a door with a fingerprint and eye scan. As the door parted like something from a television show, a room full of gadgetry revealed itself.

With just a glance, Brooklyn again thought of the rookery brother he had left behind, and how much Lexington would have loved this place.

The room was filled wall to wall with machines and flashing lights and buttons. Brooklyn could not even begin to guess what they were all for, nor could he understand if he was told. As such, Isaac Payne was merely wasting his breath.

"That's a gene splicer right there, that lovely piece over there is a laser with microsurgery accuracy, and that is the world's largest calculator to your left. I call it Ziggy." Brooklyn noted with some dismay, the doctor was not merely joking. There actually was an eight-foot calculator on the wall, with buttons the size of his beak. He tried to ignore the other eccentricities of the place. Among them were a gold thing with a face, a red gumball machine, and a six-foot prune. Brooklyn did his best to pay attention to the lecture.

Sata, for her part, was completely amazed; she had not yet spent much time in the late part of the twentieth century, and was not accustomed to any machines. Technology from the twenty-ninth was completely boggling to her. She stayed in step with her mate, holding his hand appropriately, and came to a stop along with him when the good doctor froze in front of a door.

"And this..." he started, giving this door a retina scan, thumb print, and voice activation along with a keyed in password so that it would open, "is the glory of the complex." He beamed, hands outstretched and showing off a very large machine. "Project Chronos itself!"

It spanned more than forty feet of circular wall space. The large machine touched the ceiling in places, with large box shapes of hardware jutting out whenever appropriate, or in some cases, where it did not seem appropriate. Sparks of energy seemed to radiate from the top in a circle that spread past the wall into other parts of the building.

"So that explains the electrified ceiling," Brooklyn noted to himself.

"Eh? Oh yes, the energy emissions. The Chronos Project generates so much power that it can't be contained in one place you see, so we disperse the energy throughout the complex. Not only does it keep the machinery from overloading, but it provides secondary power to everything else here as well. Rather convenient actually." Payne then pointed to a spherical gap in the machine.

"That is where, in theory, a time portal will be created when we are successful. And that," he pointed to a small display area near it, "is where the Phoenix Gate will go to power Project Chronos. It will take a few days to adjust everything. Test the gate, get it hooked up, like that.

"Despite what our research showed us about you, Timedancer... er... Brooklyn... There was no way we could account for everything. We knew at one point that our time experiments, or more recently, Barnes' corruption of the time stream would lead you to here. And now, we can succeed in fixing all the problems Barnes has created!"

Winters seemed to come from out of nowhere, and the temperature seemed to drop a few degrees around the middle-aged woman. "Indeed. If we are successful, not only will history be saved, but this could be a most profitable endeavor as well."

"Hmm." Brooklyn's eyes narrowed. He wasn't sure he liked the woman. There was something wrong about her, something that did not seem to jibe with a person determined to save all history. He shrugged it off, and continued listening as the head scientist continued.

"Now, if you will please give me the Gate, we can get started immediately!"

"I ah..." Brooklyn held an odd pose for a moment, finger poised. "Already gave it to you."

"Oh, so you did! Silly me!" The funny man slapped his forehead, and pulled the object in question out of his pocket. "Well, thanks very much, Brooklyn. This is most appreciated indeed! We now stand a much better chance of fixing what we have put to wrong! You can stay and help if you want, or you can explore the complex some."

"Well, uh... I'm not exactly a techno-whiz, I don't know how much help I'd be here. But I probably should stay around the Gate just in case..."

Sata looked at him. "My love, on how many of our dances do we get a chance to relax? Perhaps we should spend as much time as possible enjoying ourselves."

"When did you become so well versed is this sort of thing?" Brooklyn asked almost rhetorically.

"Since I fell in love with you." The red gargoyle blushed slightly, and knew she was right. There was nothing he could do here, he might as well enjoy the quiet time he had with her, who knew when they would have another chance to have fun? After pardoning themselves, the two gargoyles walked out of the room, followed by the icy woman.

"Understand... Doctor Payne is a brilliant man, but he does get a little... overworked at times. Your appearance has excited him. Any oddities he may be exhibiting are just a side effect of his genius."

"Uh huh..." Brooklyn nodded as he and Sata walked off. Near the Chronos Project, Doctor Payne was a very happy man. Perhaps too happy. His cohort, Doctor Ilsa Winters smiled a tight-lipped smile to no one at all, saying she knew something someone else did not.

* * * * *

It was not long before the pair had a friendly guard showing them around various parts of the building. She was a young lady in her early twenties, with brown hair and a winning smile. And some interesting stories.

"And you actually avoided being shot because you tripped over your own feet?" Brooklyn asked in a bit of amazement.

The brown-haired security guard nodded. "Yeah. Would ya believe it?" The woman smiled a celebrity's smile.

"It would seem you have several spirits of good luck on your side, Minnie," Sata commented.

"Maybe. But just watch, before you two leave, something's going to go wrong, I'm gonna get blamed, and I'm gonna get fired. Again."

Sata raised a quizzical eyebrow. "Again?"

"Yeah. Would ya believe it? I kinda get fired from everything I do. String of bad luck, I guess."

Sata looked to Brooklyn, and he looked back. "You got a job here, didn't you?"

"Oh yeah, Mr. P. has been real nice about the whole 'previous work experience' bit, ya know? But already I'm probably going to get in trouble for the rats."

"Rats?" the mated gargoyles asked at the same time.

"Oh yeah. Little fellas came into my room one night, and they were hungry, so I fed 'em, you know? And then they came back with a few of their little friends, and I fed them too." The young brown-haired woman sighed. "Now my room's like, full of them, would ya believe it?"

The white-haired gargoyle smiled a bit. "Whatever the year, rats are always a problem. Anything we can do to help?"

"Not really, none of the traps are working, and I've been trying to get the little guys for weeks."

Brooklyn held out a taloned hand and grinned. "Hey, we have some skills for this sorta of thing."

The female gargoyle pulled out her katana and held it deftly. "It shall be an honor to help you out."

Minnie looked at Brooklyn's claws, and then at the sword. "Woah woah woah... Wait a minute. I don't want to hurt them any. They're nice little guys."

"I see." Sata nodded and replaced her katana.

"But we do have weapons for this kind of thing. Just nobody uses them, ya know?"

"Hey, we said we'd help, we'll help."

"Really? Thanks, this means a lot to me."

Though the weapons locker was only a few meters from the residential wing, the timedancing gargoyles counted it among their longest and most hazardous of journeys as Minnie tripped over her own feet, stumbled into an automatic processing unit and nearly ran over an elderly and myopic scientist who had paused at a hallway drinking fountain.

It was not long before they reached the weapons storeroom, and Brooklyn was amazed. It was covered wall to wall with weapons of all shapes and sizes.

"What kind of research facility is this? What's with all the weapons?"

"Protection, ya know? The big project is just part of it, this place has a lot of really cool stuff. Like places for people to sleep and goof off when they aren't working. Even has a motorcycle room, would ya believe it?"

The chalky-haired gargoyle's eyes widened at that. He made a mental note to do some exploring later, after the problem with the rats was done with. Sata eyed him warily; she recognized that look on his face, but before she could comment, he saw a weapon he liked.

"Now that is a gun." In front of him was a weapon of destruction almost his size, with a barrel the size of a trash can. It seemed a little old and beat up, but it looked like something that could level the complex.

"That one is mine," the patrolwoman noted with a bit of pride. Brooklyn stared at her, suddenly very frightened at the thought of this clumsy girl wielding such a weapon, that she could probably barely carry. The brown-haired girl smiled in a polite way and answered questions before they could be asked. "Family heirloom. And I don't suggest using it against the rats... It's just a pie launcher." An odd look crossed Brooklyn's face as he put it back, deciding that was already more than he needed to know.

He finally decided on not using any weapons at all, since the only tranquilizers available were too large for rats, and anything else was too high caliber and would decimate the rodents, along with the building. The gargoyle sighed. It was going to have to be the old-fashioned way after all. Minnie shrugged and led them out towards her room.

Upon arriving, Brooklyn and Sata both went into shock. The room was a total mess. Things lay on the floor, drawers were opened with clothes hanging out, food was all over the place. Brooklyn could not take a step without getting into something.

"Gee, I wonder why rats would come here of all places," the gargoyle let out in an overly sarcastic tone.

"I dunno," the young woman agreed, clearly not aware that the mess which was her room was a rat magnet.

"I do not see any..." Sata began, until she saw something under all the trash move. "Never mind."

There were at least a dozen rats visible, and no doubt a whole lot more where they came from.

"Minnie, I doubt we're going to be able to catch these little guys without cleaning up your room first."

"Why would you need to do that?" Brooklyn glanced at her briefly as he reached down and grabbed a rat. It was a little fat, but small.

"Never mind. This shouldn't be too bad. I'm surprised these suckers aren't giant mutants. That would fit right in with the rest of the place." As he spoke he darted to the floor and grabbed two more. They squirmed in his hand, but did not get loose.

"Hey, we need a place to put these things as we catch them." The young woman nodded, grabbed a nearby box full of clothing, and dumped it out. It was probably a box she had used to move in, and had never thrown out.

"Will this work?"

Before Brooklyn could let out an aggravated noise at the mess that was Minnie's room, Sata answered calmly. "It will do just fine."

Brooklyn threw the three rats he had into the box, and proceeded to hunt for more. Sata joined him, and on one or two occasions, Minnie would grab one and toss it in.

The process took well over an hour, and they started passing the time by counting rats. They stopped keeping count around forty-two, and just talked as they worked.

"Ah! Little sucker bit me!" Brooklyn's eyes burned white as he threw the small gray rat with quite a bit of force into the box, which was filling up quickly.

After a lot of running, catching, and rats getting away, the event seemed done, and all three players were exhausted. The rats were left in the box temporarily, while Minnie ran off to get a cage. She returned with a very large cage, suitable to house four dozen rats.

"You don't plan to keep these things as pets do you?"

"Um, for a little while anyway. I think they're cute. Ya know?"

* * * * *

Brooklyn was practically drooling when they reached the motorcycle storeroom. When Minnie had a fellow guard unlock the door, and Brooklyn hurried to be the first to look in, he froze. From wall to wall, the storeroom was filled with bikes. A surprising number of them looked similar to the ones from the mid-1990s. Brooklyn thought it was strange for a moment given the current year, and then he rationalized. There was nothing like riding a motorcycle. No doubt, they had been preserved in their current form because that was the only way to ride. Then the beaked gargoyle took a closer look, and noticed more than a few were hover bikes. This was beyond a dream come true, it was beyond belief.

"Explain to me again why you guys have one of these?" Brooklyn asked in amazement.

Minnie smiled innocently. "Part of it is for entertainment, ya know? But some of them have really been worked on for testing and stuff. They go like four hundred kilometers per hour. Would ya believe it?"

Brooklyn's eyes were glazed over like a child in a candy store. Sata faked interest, but did not share his passion for the vehicles. "Brooklyn-san," she started.

"Yes, my love?" he responded without taking his eyes off the motorcycles.

"Have fun," she sighed. The snow-haired gargoyle proceeded to look over the transports until he spotted one he really liked. It looked like a souped up motorcycle, but it was one of the hovering variety. He hopped on and gripped the handle.

"Oh yeah, I like this one. How do I start it?" Minnie looked at the bike wistfully, and did not answer his question. The beaked gargoyle showed a bit of concern. "Minnie? You okay?"

"Yeah, I just wish I could ride too." Brooklyn's eyes widened a bit. "You mean you don't have clearance for this? Look, I don't want to get you in trouble Minnie..."

The brown-haired girl laughed a bit. "Oh no! Don't worry about that! That's not the problem at all, ya know?"

Sata questioned the young guard. "Then what is it?"

"Um, I can't ride. Can't even ride a horse, would ya believe it? A motorcycle or hoverbike... Um..." Minnie made an elaborate gesture of her hands coming together. "Crash, ya know?"

Brooklyn nodded, and a smile came to his beak. "Minnie, when I was younger, I couldn't ride a horse either. Hated them. Still do to this day, but I learned to ride them and became a master. It just takes a bit of practice and determination. And bikes are easier to learn to ride than horses." He neglected to mention that the first two motorcycles ridden by the Wyvern Clan had been blown up.

"Ya don't seem to understand. I can't ride! Goes way back in my family..." Minnie started, referring to one of the very instances Brooklyn was neglecting to mention.

Sata interrupted. "Brooklyn-san shall teach you to ride. Of that, I am sure."

Minnie looked back and forth between them. "Do ya mean it?" Brooklyn nodded. An excited look came to Minnie's face, and she ran off to use a bit of authority she didn't have to get access to a pair of bikes.

Once she was out of earshot, Sata looked at her mate. "You know how to ride a horse?"

"Yeah," he acknowledged. "Used to anyhow. If the opportunity ever comes up, I may ride one again. For a change of pace over fun riding machines like this," he smiled, patting the hoverbike he had picked out. "You know Sata-chan, if I'm going to teach Minnie to ride, I can teach you how to ride at the same time."

"No thank you Brooklyn-san. But if you ever do ride a horse again, allow me to join you and I'll teach you a thing or two about riding." Sata smirked.

Brooklyn looked at her with a bit of disbelief. "You know how to ride a horse? I learn more about you every night..."

"As I do about you my love." Sata kissed him briefly on the cheek, and was interrupted as Minnie came running back. She did not dodge the objects in her way, but stumbled over them, despite her best efforts to miss them. When she dodged a bike in her way, she slipped on the floor, and was barely caught by Brooklyn.

"Sorry about that. Happens to me all the time, would ya believe it?"

The beaked gargoyle barely restrained a 'yes' as he looked at Minnie, who clutched two papers in her hand. "Here's the passwords for two bikes. The one you want, and the one I get to use!" she beamed happily. Brooklyn keyed in the password typed on the paper, and his vehicle started up immediately. Minnie needed fourteen tries on eight different hoverbikes before she got one to start. Once she got it to work however, Brooklyn had already mastered his and showed her how to rev the engine. Then he took off like a shot.

"Hey!" the human girl shouted, as she tried to follow. Sata watched in amusement as her mate zipped circles around Minnie and showed off, while trying to teach her the basics. The beaked gargoyle's bike did spins and sharp curves, darted past long straight areas and leapt into the air, with a momentum that was held as his wings unfurled. He raced the wind around the complex and pushed himself to have fun. Brooklyn was a consummate stuntman, letting his thrillseeker's heart fulfill itself. He had not ridden a bike in far too long, and his delight showed. Minnie, for her part, did not get killed. Sata sat back and relaxed as her husband made a fool of himself for time beyond measure, until it was nearly time for sunrise.

In the end, Minnie looked a bit sick and her complexion matched Sata's. Apparently bike riding did not suit her. Brooklyn on the other hand was bursting with excitement.

"That rocked!" he spread his arms out enthused. "It's just a shame I had to stop so soon."

"Perhaps we can get you one when our time dancing has ended," Sata smirked.

"Do you really think so?" Brooklyn asked wide-eyed; Sata's sarcasm had gone right over his head.

"Or maybe you could just take that one with you when you leave, ya know?" Minnie put forth trying to help, now over any sickness her ride may have caused.

"Hmm, maybe..." Brooklyn started, giving the idea serious thought.

"I hope that when the time comes, our children don't come out like him," Sata noted to no one in particular. The trio continued to walk as they had been. Brooklyn enthused, Sata only slightly bored, and Minnie keeping on both feet. They stopped only when they were in the room temporarily given to the gargoyles.

"Are you going to get in trouble for not doing anything tonight?" Sata worried about their new friend.

"Probably not," Minnie sighed. "I work the day shift."

"You what?" Brooklyn's jaw was slightly agape as dawn's first light hit outdoors, and his stone form overtook him.

* * * * *

Upon awaking for their fourth night, Brooklyn and Sata saw Dr. Payne, now shaved and clean.

"Hello, Timedancer! I'm glad you are finally awake, there's something I've been wanting to test for the last few hours now and the waiting for you has been slightly unbearable up to this point." The scientist was back in hyper mode, and the gargoyles struggled to keep up with his speed of speech as they followed him back to the Chronos Project.

"You see, we are nearly done with modifications. Our task should be finished within the next night or two. But first we need to run a few tests on how your particular thoughts affect the gate." As the man spoke, Brooklyn was reminded of a Japanese cartoon show where the characters spoke at a similar speed, but refrained from commenting on it.

Within minutes of fast talk, the good doctor had several wires with suction cup ends attached to Brooklyn's forehead while he sat down. Sata stood to the side, looking a bit worried, and over at a nearby control panel, Dr. Winters smiled icily.

"Don't worry, this won't hurt a bit." She grinned nastily, and Brooklyn stared at her.

"Why is it whenever people say that, you're always about to get hurt really ba... Arrrg!" Brooklyn shouted as minor jolts of electricity shot into his skull. Instinctively he pulled the wires loose and threw them to the floor.

After he gasped for a moment, he stared at the scientists. "That was not pleasant."

Isaac tried to console him. "I am sorry about that, we had not expected that kind of result. Perhaps it has something to do with your very gargoyle nature. Or perhaps it is connected to the Phoenix Gate itself. This is all very interesting. Ilsa, did you collect any data from it?"

"Yes. Perhaps all that we need."

"Very good, very good. Timedancer, you can leave now."

"Please, call me Brooklyn. And take off that stupid ear thingie... You don't need a translator, the Phoenix Gate takes care of that."

"Oh?" Payne removed his headpiece. "Say something else."

"Like I was saying, doc, the Phoenix Gate automatically translates for me."

"Amazing! Incredible! This means that the object has properties I never even guessed! Why, this could very well hold the entire key to..."

Sata interrupted. "Brooklyn-san... Look." He turned his head in the direction she was pointing. In the center of the machinery, where the man-made gate portal was supposed to be made, was a small ball of blue flame.

It circled and spun upon itself, a tiny copy of the effect the Phoenix Gate had.

"Incredible!" Payne exclaimed.

The beaked gargoyle took a step towards the new piece of wonderment and without warning, it expanded as if trying to catch him. He stepped back and it continued to follow him, growing in all directions in an attempt to touch him.

"Um, doc... Is this supposed to be happening?"

"It must be attracted to you, Timedancer! Other Timedancer," he called at Sata, "step on the other side, you may counter the effect he is having!"

Sata was about to do so when suddenly the flame vanished. Payne shouted. "No! No! Not now! I was so close... So close..." The man fell to the floor and began pounding his fist against it. After a moment, he regained his composure and stood. Rather than his usual hyper self, or the frustrated man just seen, he went into a monotone that reminded Brooklyn of Owen Burnett.

"It seems we shall have to try again later, Timedancer, after we have studied what happened here now and figured out how to make a time portal stable. You can leave now, we'll get you when you are needed again." The man seemed overly frustrated, as if he had tried this before and failed.

Off in the corner, Winters smiled. Everything was going exactly as it should.

* * * * *

With nothing better to do, Brooklyn and Sata paid Minnie's room a visit. Upon opening the door, they saw she was asleep in her bed. She looked as if she had just collapsed onto it. The young woman had not even taken her shoes off.

"Probably tired after staying up with us all night, and working all day," Sata smiled.

"Yeah. She's a sweet girl. Her room's a mess, but she's a sweet girl." Brooklyn heard a squeaking noise, and looked towards the direction of the large rat cage, which was fairly stuffed. The noise he heard had not come from there. He shot down to the floor and grabbed a rat.

"I think we missed a few, Sata-chan."

"Or perhaps more have come since last night?" Whatever the case, the two knew something had to be done. After adding the rat to the cage, they began picking up the room.

They did not organize or put anything away; it would be a moot point given this girl's habits. But they did proceed to pick up all the food and toss it, move her dirty clothes into a pile, and make the room look half-decent. They found a few more rats while they were at it, and added them to the small prison the rodents would now call home.

"Hope she doesn't keep them too long. They've nearly filled the cage up." While looking at the rat zoo, something shiny caught Sata's eye. She moved towards it and picked up the framed photo. Her eyes widened and she let out a small gasp. "My love... Look..."

He moved towards her to see what the problem was, and understood immediately. It was a picture of Minnie, along with a familiar looking dark-haired man.

"It's a picture of Barnes! The guy who's messing with the time stream!" Brooklyn whispered. "Why's Minnie have a picture with him?"

"Because he's my boyfriend, would ya believe it?" Brooklyn spun around to see the young woman had woken. Her hair was a bit disheveled from sleep, but she did not seem to mind.

She smiled one of those 'seriously in love' smiles, and neither Brooklyn nor Sata thought it would be proper to say what they knew about the man.

"He, uh... Looks like a nice guy. Known him long?"

"Oh yeah. We go way back. He's the nicest, sweetest guy I've ever known. Brings me flowers and stuff." Minnie pointed in the direction of a vase, with two roses in it. The flowers, amazingly, were healthy even in this room. Minnie apparently took care of them.

Then the brown-haired girl frowned. "But I haven't seen him in a couple of weeks. I think he's left me or something, ya know?"

Brooklyn completely faked knowing the truth. "I'm sure that's not the case at all. I bet he's just been busy lately."

"Ya think so?"

"Yeah. In fact, I'm almost sure of it." He smiled a Casanova smile in his best attempt to fool her. He did a terrible job, but only Sata seemed to notice. After reassuring the girl for a few moments, Brooklyn and Sata had just begun to leave when Minnie noticed something.

"Hey, what did you two do to my room? Everything's in the wrong place!"

* * * * *

The Timedancers were in the room given to them, discussing everything that had happened in the last few days, and enjoying the chance to simply spend time with each other, when the door slid open. Payne walked in.

"Good news, good news! The time portal will be ready and operational tomorrow night! I just thought you should know that. Be ready for it, my time dancing friends! That is all for now!"

Before the gargoyles could react at all to the man's presence, or ask anything more about Michael Barnes, the scientist had left. Brooklyn ran to the door to follow him, and ran into it, beak first.

He fell to the floor, more embarrassed than in pain. "What the? The door didn't open! Up till now it's opened whenever we got near it but..." He waved his hand in front of the exit, and nothing. Brooklyn looked at Sata with a frown of concern, and then he applied his claws to the door and tried to open it.

"Nothing. We're locked in!"

"But they never locked the door before..."

"I know. That bothers me." Brooklyn sighed, and pounded his fist against the door. "I think we've been tricked, Sata."

As Brooklyn noted the current situation, the lights in the room flickered, and went off. In pitch dark, even gargoyle eyesight was useless. The red gargoyle growled angrily and his eyes glowed, casting an eerie light around the room. "This... Could be bad," he understated.

"Not at all," a voice came from a nearby ventilation shaft. A foot kicked it off the wall, and a dark-haired man clad in a blue jeans jacket jumped down from there, holding a small lantern-like device. It radiated a bit of light, but Brooklyn's feelings of mistrust at the moment kept his eyes burning to provide more. Up close, the man bore an even more remarkable resemblance to Matt Bluestone than his pictures had allowed. A wild clump of hair fell over his left eye, giving a look of adventure to an otherwise ordinary looking fellow.

"Michael Barnes," he held his hand out in greeting, "I cut the immediate power to this place, and I'm here to help you, Brooklyn."

"How do you..."

He pulled his hand away; it was clear the gargoyle was not going to shake it, and his puzzled look showed he had a lot to ask. "Save the questions, I'll explain everything." The man cleared his throat and set down the lantern. "Let's see, where to start..."

"Perhaps the beginning?" Sata offered.

"Good idea. For starters, this is not the year twenty-eight something or another. I don't know what the doc told you, but this is 2043. There is no working time machine, or at least there wasn't. "He looked at the gargoyles, expecting them to show skepticism, but they listened intently, the minor light sources flickering shadows across their faces.

"Payne is a madman obsessed with creating a time machine, and he has the money to back up his goal. The government is interested in that after all.

"But his plans are hardly altruistic- he wants to plunder the past, stealing ancient artifacts and exploiting long dead sources of natural resources, all for profit.

"He doesn't care about the repercussions of his actions, he only cares about the here and now. First he tried technology, then dark sorcery, and when neither worked, he tried mixing them. It didn't pan out, and Payne grew even more obsessed and insane."

Brooklyn nodded. "Uh huh. And where do you fit into all of this? Payne told us a similar story about you, complete with convincing visuals."

"I'm sure." Barnes rolled his eyes. "Holograms are pretty good nowadays..." He took in a breath and continued his tale.

"I was just a low level tech. The pay was pretty good, I had a girlfriend, when I got a job at Payne's company. Everything seemed like it was going my way. Then... I was assigned to the Chronos Project.

"One day I learned their true goal, and what they had done to accomplish it. I was disgusted, and I tried to shut the thing down by informing the authorities. I was caught, and they tried to kill me. I escaped and have been hiding out in secret parts of the building since."

Now Brooklyn was skeptical. "Sure. Mind telling me how Payne set all this up?"

"A couple of years ago Payne got a new assistant, Doctor Winters. She told him stuff. About the Phoenix Gate, and the exact time, place, and situation you two would show up. She knew a lot about you. So basically, they set up anything they've said to you to get a hold of the Phoenix Gate at the center of the machine."

"That would explain how they set up this room..." Brooklyn muttered under his breath. The jet black-haired gentleman paused and waited for questions. He received them.

"Do you have any way you can prove that you are telling the truth? Other than Minnie?"

"You know about her?" Barnes seemed surprised for a moment, and then relaxed. "Oh yeah, you would." He smiled, and reached into his pocket to pull out a handheld video screen.

Brooklyn looked at it, and as Barnes hit "play", an image blurred in. It was video footage of Brooklyn. It began speaking, in his exact voice.

"Hi, Brooklyn. Pick a number between one and a hundred, and don't tell me what it is."

"Okay..." he said to his recorded image.

"Got it?"

"Uh-huh..."

"Is it twenty-one?"

"How did you...?"

"How'd I guess that? Because that's what I picked when I was you."

Brooklyn rolled his eyes at the image. "Oh man, this is just like a bad science fiction movie..." The image kept on speaking.

"And just to convince you even further that I am you, let's see... Lexington crashed a motorcycle into a wall when you first woke up in Manhattan, and you swore to never tell Goliath... You despise anchovies on your pizza, though Broadway loves them... You have an overly ticklish neck which is why you keep your hair grown long..."

Sata smiled with a bit of amusement at his side. She would have to test that little tidbit later herself.

"And uh... You met Sata in feudal Japan, around the sixteenth century. That enough? Sure it is, it was enough to convince me after all."

Brooklyn nodded and listened to what he had to say to himself.

"It gets a little complicated, but after I became aware of the problems presented in the dance you're in, I decided to play the old 'send something to your future self' game. I recorded a message, and sent it to Barnes, who received it a few months ago, after he'd decided to try and inform the authorities."

The recorded image paused for a moment as the human explained. "I would have left the facility when I had the chance, except I wasn't sure if I'd be able to help you when you got here, so I stole some supplies and hid in the facility until you two arrived."

Brooklyn looked at Michael. "All right, I'm convinced. How do we stop Payne?"

"I don't know. The message doesn't say."

"What?" Barnes sighed and let the message finish.

The recorded image of Brooklyn continued speaking. "I'm not going to tell you how to do this Brooklyn, can't mess with the past too much you know. Just have fun with it, and you'll do fine. The plan I came up with worked out, so yours will too."

"When this is all over, your next dance will be to a time when you can make a message. Go to a local vid-office, and make this very message. That's really about it, and this message will self-destruct in five seconds."

"What?" The group looked at the screen.

"Just kidding," the recorded Brooklyn smiled.

* * * * *

"What just happened?"

"The power in the main complex went out, though the project is still generating its own energy."

"Why is the emergency power not coming back on, Ilsa?"

"I do not know, Doctor," she lied as she keyed in commands that kept the power off. "I shall go investigate."

The eccentric man showed a look of concern. "But we're so close to an operational time gate! Surely you want to be here for that!"

"You know I do, but something must be done. I shall return shortly."

"Very well, Ilsa, but come back as soon as you can! I need you here!"

Her Germanic accent flowed through as she nodded. "I will, Doctor. I will." She grabbed a flashlight, and as the door slid open to let the middle aged woman leave, she smiled a sinister smile. It was all going to happen soon. The Timedancer was about to pull his foolish stunt, and then everything would be exactly as she needed it to be.

* * * * *

"That's your plan? Just storm the room and grab the Gate? What about the security?" Barnes looked amazed at the gargoyle. After having spent several minutes crawling through ventilation ducts, the trio had yet to form a plan. And Brooklyn's seemed pretty full of holes.

"No, not the entire plan. Remember my future self said to have fun," Brooklyn chuckled to himself, and then he switched to a serious demeanor and continued.

"The main power is already out, but near the center the Chronos Project is probably still providing its own. We'll need a diversion to get past the guards. Something unpredictable, something they won't be able to stop, and something that won't get us hurt." He chuckled again.

"We need something that..." Brooklyn froze, and his eyes widened and a sly grinch smile grew on his beak. His conspirators looked at him as if he were insane.

"I have an idea. You two stay here." He began running down the hall when Sata called after him.

"Where are you going?"

"Don't worry about it!" Then, the red one went into his best fake accent appropriate to the scene and called out, "Ah'll be back!"

* * * * *

Brooklyn dashed through the halls, trying to find the familiar corridor. It was difficult. Even though he was getting slightly annoyed and his eyes provided a light source which his night vision enhanced, the complex was very, very dark.

He growled to himself. "Where is it?" He stopped, looked around, and kept running. A few minutes later, a baseball bat clobbered the back of his head, and he fell to the floor. His eyes lost their glow briefly as he fell to the floor.

The girl was kneeling beside him instantly. "Oh Brooklyn, I'm sorry, ya know? All the lights went out and I was just protecting myself and I couldn't see anything and I should have realized it was you but I didn't... Would ya believe it?"

Brooklyn groaned and rubbed the back of his head. "No serious harm done, Minnie. Only cracked my skull in two places. Three tops."

"I'm sorry..."The red-brown gargoyle growled a little at the minor pain and his eyes lit up again.

Minnie's eyes took the shape of golf balls. "Whoa, that's a neat trick..."

* * * * *

Sata was pacing back and forth. After so many danger fraught time dances with her mate, she knew he could take care of himself, but still, she worried, especially since he had not stopped to explain where he was going.

"I swear, sometimes I wish to strangle him... slowly."

Barnes smiled, his face offset by the red glow Sata's eyes were providing. "You two are married, aren't you?"

"Yes, how did you..."

"It shows."

The jade female cracked a smile at that remark.

For the next few minutes they traded conversation, stopping when running footsteps gave away Brooklyn's approach. He was carrying a large rat cage. Behind him, and out of breath, was Minnie, carrying a gun fully her size. Holding up the cage filled with over fifty rodents, Brooklyn grinned, eyes glowing maliciously. "We have our diversion."

The dark-haired man looked at the woman. "Minnie?"

"Michael? Where have ya been?" She ran and embraced her love, doing her best to keep the family heirloom out of the way as a moment later, she kissed him.

"Yeah, I've missed you too..." Barnes blushed. Brooklyn and Sata smiled at the couple; they felt the exact same way about each other and fully understood.

Barnes looked as Minnie struggled with the large weapon, and then looked at the red gargoyle angrily.

"Why didn't you haul the large gun and have her carry the rat cage?"

"She wouldn't let me."

Barnes looked at his girlfriend in a new light and shook his head.

* * * * *

The lights were flickering off and on like a disco for the two guards posted right outside the Chronos Project. Bennet bit his lower lip. He was a security guard, and was a bit worried. The power had gone out half an hour ago, and still had not come back on. The fact he had been posted right outside the door leading to the big project spoke volumes for the fact that he was going places, but the power failure also spoke of garbage duty in his immediate future. He looked at his partner when he spoke up.

"Can this possibly be an easier job? We stand here and do nothin'. For it, we get paid, and that pay just keeps going up!"

"Are you kidding, Frank? We're under attack and you act like this is gonna be a normal shift!" The second security guard was visibly relaxed, and leaned against the wall. "We're not under attack. It's a power failure. And even if something does go wrong, we can't get blamed for anything! "I mean, something would have to get through every other guard leading up to here before we had to deal with it! You're just paranoid, my friend."

"No, you aren't paranoid enough!" Bennet froze and was suddenly alert as he heard a sound. "What was that?"

"Your imagination," Frank replied. Without warning, Bennet shrieked. "Now what?"

"Something is in here... I don't like it..."

"Bennet, you're hopeless." The guard rolled his eyes, and from a momentary spasm of light, he could see something moving on the floor. "It's just a rat." The patrolman bent down to pick the creature up, when he saw another rodent on the floor.

He looked at his partner. Bennet looked panicked. "Must be a hole in a wall some place." When the third rat appeared, he decided the higher ups should know about it. He hit the intercom button on the door.

"Hey boss, we have a minor rat problem out here. What should we do about it?"

An over-eager voice shouted back. "Foolish guard! I am near the completion of the all important experiment that pays for your job, and you dare bother me with something as trivial as a rat? I don't care! Shoot it! But don't bother me again or it shall be something more than your job that you lose! Like your head!"

Bennet shrank back, and Frank let go of the button. He grabbed the second rat, while his partner reluctantly grabbed the third.

"What do we do with these?"

"I dunno. But we better not ask the boss. Take them outside maybe?"

"We can't just abandon our... post..." Bennet's eyes widened, as suddenly, an entire army of rodents ran at him.

"Oh spit..." And suddenly, to make matters worse, the lights went out and stayed out.

Before either knew what was happening, rats were running all around them, causing them to reflexively move around to try and avoid the pests. Down the hall, a pair of white lights flickered for an instant accompanied by a growl. For the moment the white lights flashed, Bennet could have sworn he saw three figures. A sudden glare from a pair of red lights and a panther-like growl revealed there were indeed three figures, and one of them was carrying something very large. But the lights only flashed for an instant, barely long enough to tell what was going on. Then, a woman yelled. "Bad guys! Prepare to get creamed!" The next thing Frank knew, something gooey hit him in the face, and he fell to the floor with the force of it. Just as suddenly, he was covered in rats, and screaming.

Bennet wasn't moving to help; he was paralyzed at the sight of two demons in front of him with glowing eyes. If he had been more rational, he would have recalled the gargoyles he had seen only the night before. But this situation did not call for being rational. The rats did not help the situation. Neither did the chick aiming the very large gun at him.

"I suggest ya open the door. This thing is fully loaded, would ya believe it?" He gulped, and slowly backed up, hands raised in the air. He clicked the intercom button.

"Um, sir?"

"WHAT? I thought I told you not to bother me again!"

"We have a somewhat worse situation on our hands..."

* * * * *

Payne listened, a sneer on his face. He only needed another minute or two! But he heard screams coming from out in the hall... With murder in his eyes, he went to the door, and keyed it open with his retina, palm and voice. The hall was pitch black, and the light from the room he was in only extended so far. Something scurried past his feet. He glanced down and saw the rodent.

Then he looked forward, and saw a gun with a barrel the size of his head pointed straight at him. The scientist raised his hands into the air. "D...Don't shoot..."

The next thing Dr. Isaac Payne saw was Michael Barnes round the corner. "You! But you're supposed to be dead!"

"I'm afraid the reports of my death were in error, Doc." The raven-haired man smiled, arms akimbo; this was almost over. "Now back up slowly, or my girlfriend fires."

The scientist nodded, and held his hands into the air. He slowly backed up, the security guards did the same thing, Frank having gotten rid of his rats and the rest just running loose in the main room.

Once the two traitors had him cornered, Payne hit a switch on one of a dozen control panels, and an energy shield came down around the pair.

"I think he got us, Michael, ya know?" Minnie frowned at her love. He nodded in defeat.

"You fools! You can't stop me! My work is nearly completed!"

"But we can." Brooklyn's voice came forth as he and Sata stood in the door.

"YOU!" Payne growled like a beast, and he ran towards the beaked gargoyle. The white-haired one dodged easily, while Sata ran for the Phoenix Gate. She pulled it out of its slot.

"Mission completed, Brooklyn-san," she smiled.

"Not yet you haven't! I have yet to show you my secret weapon!" Payne screamed.

"Your... secret weapon?" Brooklyn stuttered. "You don't have Frankenstein in here, do you?"

"Frankenstein would be fairly useless here, beast. His monster might just be the thing I need however."

Brooklyn's eyes widened. "Oh geez, you probably do have Frankenstein's monster here."

Then the scientist snapped. Growling in frustration, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small gun. "This weapon is the best I've got. Unlimited ammo, armor piercing... It should finish you freaks off quickly!"

Brooklyn's eyes burned as the doctor fired and he dodged. The shots hit all sorts of equipment behind him, and the shield holding the two humans in check.

The gargoyles ran for cover, while Michael and Minnie just ducked and hoped for the best.

Payne had snapped as he fired and damaged his work. Then something sparked, and Brooklyn approached where the time portal was to have been made. As he did, a small blue ball of icy fire came into being, and began to expand.

The madman's eyes glossed over. "It works... IT WORKS!" He broke out into a run and knocked Brooklyn to the side as he leapt into the homemade time portal, just as a crucial piece of machinery exploded.

The blue flame closed in on him and vanished, taking the doctor with it.

Brooklyn stared, disgusted among other things, and then he noticed the room looked like it was about to blow. "Everybody out!" The foursome ran for the door when the gate, still charged with energy, began to create its usual ball of orange red flame.

Sata grabbed Brooklyn's hand and vanished with him, while Michael and Minnie did their best to escape.

* * * * *

Doctor Ilsa Winters watched from a safe distance as the Chronos Project went up in flames, most personnel evacuating the building before it went.

She smiled. "Well Timedancer, you've fulfilled your part in the grand scheme of things. Now I can get back to business." The middle-aged woman laughed as she disappeared in a flash of blue light.

* * * * *

2042 AD

Sata covered her pain well as they finished their dance. Normally, Brooklyn would have noticed, but he was still caught up in the moment that had just been, and he had a splitting headache.

"Do you think they escaped?"

Sata gulped and stood straight, her pain having subsided. "He was able to hide for months in the complex. And this time around he had a lady to protect. I am sure he did."

"Yeah," Brooklyn hoped.

Sata smiled slyly at her mate. "So you are ticklish on the back of your neck?"

The snow-haired gargoyle laughed. "Later, my love. For now, we have to do like my future self instructed, and find a video-mail office..." Suddenly, Brooklyn froze. "Oh no..."

"What is it?"

"I forgot the bike."

* * * * *

The End

* * * * *

"Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, -act in the living present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!"

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "A Psalm of Life"