Timedancer - Return to Paradise, part I
By Robby Bevard, Alan "Ordell" Coleman, and Stephen R. Sobotka, Jr.
Outline by Jonathan Cotleur, Rahsaan Footman and Stephen R. Sobotka, Jr.
Artwork by Robby Bevard.
* * * * *
Previously on Timedancer…
"I'm sorry that you had to get caught up in this, Sata," Brooklyn said earnestly. "If there's any justice in this universe, I'm sure we'll find our way back to Ishimura again."
Sata regarded him with dark eyes, deeply sad but with a resigned determination dawning in them. "Well then, Brooklyn-san," an arch smile came across the female's face as she sheathed her sword, "until that time arises, if and when it does arise, you and I will travel this strange path together."
Better stay close, Sata." Brooklyn's familiar smug grin slowly spread across his face. "It's gonna be a bumpy ride."
* * * * *
He peered down at Sata, who was watching him with a mysterious look on her face as her hair was tossed wildly in the wind. "Yeah?"
"You said before that you loved children, hai?"
He grinned. "Yeah, I’ve gotten to like them a lot on this dance."
"Good." She nestled in even closer to his ear, and softly whispered, "because now we’re timedancing for three."
Brooklyn's jaw dropped. "You mean it?" At her affirming nod, he laughed and hugged her tighter. It was the last thing the English clan saw before the ball of fire disappeared, taking its winged occupants with it.
* * * * *
The tingling started again. Brooklyn's heart sank. "No ... not now! Not now..." He surrendered to his sadness as he pulled back from his mate. "I have to go now, Sata. Don't forget me."
Sata looked at him, watching the blossom of the Phoenix flames widen around him. Her tears fell steadily now, her throat tight, barely letting her speak the words she felt. With all of her sadness, she gave her final plea to her mate.
"Don't go ..."
Brooklyn looked into her eyes, all the sadness she felt compounded by his own. He took one last, good look at his mate. "I love you, Sata." He backed into the Phoenix flame, which fully engulfed him. A moment later, it subsided ... and he was gone. Sata sank to her knees, feeling her sorrow overtake her. She let loose with a loud wail into the night, which escalated into loud gasping sobs as she lay prone on the rookery floor. And just as suddenly, the effects of the magic took their toll on her, sending her into more violent convulsions, stronger than her previous ones.
But this time, she was truly alone.
----Crossroads, part II----
* * * * *
Return to Paradise, part I
TIMEDANCE, YEAR 1
Prophecy had chosen him. At least, that's what the Sisters had said. He had not been doing this charade for more than a few months, and already he tired of it. Brooklyn looked at his new surroundings as the flames dissipated around him. The image of the Weird Sisters was replaced by the simplicity of a dark forest. He breathed in, falling to the ground.
The Timedancer craned his head to the sky, seeing speckles of stars and bits of the moon through the trees. He wouldn't cry. He would not allow himself to cry. He was too strong for that. Where was he now? What was his purpose here? He didn't know. And more importantly, he didn't care.
Things had been right, as right as they could have been. He was relatively happy. He had his clan, his family. And they had taken all that away from him.
He hated them, plain and simple. No, Brooklyn thought. I can't hate them. This is what had happened to Demona, he realized. She had merely sat around, letting her hate for humans fester into a madness he could never truly understand.
What about his rookery brothers? What would he do without them? They were all he had, all he had ever wanted in his earlier years of life. Now, he simply wanted to go home to them. He wanted to hold Broadway and Lexington in his arms and say that he would never leave them, that he would always be there to protect them, no matter what happened between them.
Now he wept. The first time he had since he was a hatchling. Had another soul been around, he would have been embarrassed. But no one was here. Brooklyn sat down on the woodland floor and, holding his head in his hands, thought of the other members of his clan. What if he never saw Goliath again? Or Hudson? Or Angela? He had so much to clear up with her, and now he might never be able to do it.
Brooklyn felt that tingle in his skin, and he cursed its cause. The sun was rising. The gargoyle looked to the sky once more, and again wondered where exactly the Gate had brought him. Bane of my existence, he thought before he was petrified in his stone shell.
And Brooklyn dreamt. He dreamt of life and love, of his family, and of his future. He dreamt of making amends, and of finding his true purpose in life. If this was his purpose, so be it. In time, he could except that.
Most of all, though, Brooklyn dreamt of home.
* * * * *
TIMEDANCE, YEAR 6
The nights here were warm, but bitter. Brooklyn was learning to become content here, but seeing everyone made him miss home even more. He had made friends here. They were more than friends, they were brothers. He noticed Harthoth, who had been the most accepting of this new figure, and smiled.
The black gargoyle made his way over to Brooklyn, and the two met. "How goes it tonight, my friend?" Harthoth asked.
"As well as can be expected," Brooklyn said. "Yourself?"
"The same. Do you know what tonight is?"
Brooklyn flipped through the thoughts in his mind. Nothing marked this night as special to him, and he shook his head. Harthoth nodded, as if he knew Brooklyn wouldn't admit it.
"It has been one year since you arrived here with us. I don't know how they kept time where you came from, but -"
"A year." Brooklyn cut him off without thought.
"Indeed, my friend." The two exited Thoth's mighty temple, Brooklyn not noticing that his companion did not check in for duty beforehand. The moon lit up the area, and Brooklyn smiled at the sight in front of him. Meryt jumped in the red gargoyle's arms, kissing him on lips.
"Hello, lover," she whispered in his ear.
He set her down, and she locked her arm in his. The three continued to move away from Thoth's temple. They talked about nothing in particular, when Brooklyn broke their train.
"Where are we going, anyway?"
Meryt and Harthoth eyed each other. Finally, she spoke. "We're celebrating the anniversary of your arrival, my love. Thoth and Isis have given us all leave for the evening, and Geb and Nuit will be joining us after an initial patrol. It's your night."
"Huh," Brooklyn agreed. "That's great. Really," he told them both, but he looked at Meryt.
She leaned into his ear where only he could hear her. "It really is your night. Whatever you want, my love. I mean it."
Brooklyn smiled again.
* * * * *
Meryt carried a very exhausted Brooklyn inside the Temple of Thoth. She kissed his forehead, but he hardly noticed. He peered at her though hazy eyes. He hadn't eaten or drunken anything that night; he was just simply exhausted.
He was suddenly aware of Meryt's presence. "I love you," he told her, not sure if she was listening.
"I know. Rest my love. I'll see you first thing tomorrow night." She kissed him again, and Brooklyn fell asleep.
In all his journeys, or even his time in Manhattan, no one had ever loved him back. Not Maggie, or Angela. They had only offered rejection and a major reaction of jealousy and guilt. But Meryt was different. She loved him back, and he didn't know if he would ever experience that again. For the first time in his existence, Brooklyn was truly happy.
* * * * *
TIMEDANCE, YEAR 8
His surroundings came into view once again. Brooklyn sighed, pulling the Gate out of his belt pouch and holding it in his hand. If he could, he would have destroyed it with his bare hands. He would have burned it over an open pyre, and then locked the ashes away where no one would ever have to lay eyes upon them again.
It has its own agenda, Brooklyn thought to himself. Meryt had been his one chance at true happiness, and the Gate had taken all that away from him. He had found a clan in Kemet, a new family, but the Gate didn't seem to care. He missed them all: Harthoth, Geb, Nuit, and most of all Meryt. She was his first love. At least, the first who loved him back.
The Gate had tricked him into thinking that it had delivered him into a clan; it had just taken its time while doing it, having him do a little bit of good in the process. And then he had found Meryt, who had hated him in the beginning. But their emotions had grown. Their love had grown.
And now he had no one, again. He was destined to travel through time, alone. Brooklyn mustered the strength to take in his surroundings, but he didn't want to. He knew it was dark, and it smelled like old limestone, but beyond that, he didn't care.
And then his belt shook with the magic that was the Phoenix Gate. He wanted to take it and smash it, let the demon inside take over the world. He didn't care anymore. He only wanted contentment, if only a little bit. And he wanted it constantly, not in sporadic periods that he could be pulled out of and thrown back into a lifestyle he despised with all his heart and soul.
The fire consumed him, and Brooklyn was gone, nothing of his presence remaining in this place. The Timedancer had moved on to better things.
The sun had already sunk behind the luxuriant green rolling hills and austere mountains surrounding the seaside valley. Monstrous black thunderclouds swarmed the empty night sky, saturating everything in their path in a silvery curtain of raindrops. As the water poured into the valley, collecting in carefully dug canals between the tiered rice fields, a familiar blaze of circular fire lit up the night and deposited a tired Brooklyn in the mud.
* * * * *
TIMEDANCE, YEAR 11
The rain poured heavily in the darkness of the night. Brooklyn did not notice. He was in a cave, well out of the rain -- with his mate.
Sata was relaxing in his arms and lap, and he smiled warmly as he held her. Their mating ceremony had been a few months ago, and the honeymoon felt like it was still going. After the visit to Niagara falls, they had several fairly uneventful dances where they had nothing but time to spend together.
One or two dances had been fraught with danger as was to be expected, but for the most part, the timedancers had been able to just enjoy themselves.
A sound from Sata stirred the beaked gargoyle's attention. "Brooklyn-san..."
"Yes m'love?" he asked quietly.
"How long will this last?" she asked, eyes closed and still relaxing.
"How long will what last?"
"This time of peace. The Gate will likely not let us go without danger forever."
Brooklyn smiled some. "Would you have it any other way?"
Sata turned and got up out of the white maned gargoyle's lap. "Mmm, I suppose not."
He looked at her. "But."
Sata paused for a moment, not really wanting to bring up her thoughts. "But... I enjoy the way things are right now. The peace, just being with you... It is wonderful."
"Yeah," he smiled more as he looked over her features again. Sata had been with him for so long, she felt a part of him. More than Meryt had. "I wouldn't mind staying here for just about forever."
Sata looked a little concerned. "So you are happy enough right now that you would give up the gate and all hopes of ever seeing your family again?"
The male gargoyle sighed a little at that, and looked at the cave wall, as he listened to the sound of the rain pouring outside for a few moments. "I said 'just about forever', not forever. All that matters to me is the here and now, with you. As long as I have that, nothing else matters."
She looked at him thoughtfully and smiled more.
The beaked gargoyle continued. "What we have right now Sata... ko..." he added, "is peace. Past love, past want, past thinking to take another breath. The world could change itself crazy all around us, and I wouldn't care -- as long as I'm with you. Now is all that matters, who cares about the future?"
The jade green gargoyle smiled more widely at that. All her pretenses were gone. Her barriers of protectiveness, her honor, her love, her hopes and dreams, any complaints or problems in attitude she might have at any other given time, were gone. Her arms wrapped around him and the two held each other close. For the moment, it was just her and Brooklyn. And he was right, the now was all that mattered.
* * * * *
TIMEDANCE, YEAR 21 -
A cool wind blew through the grassy field, and shook the leaves in a tree. Below the tree, Isaac Payne grumbled.
"I don't understand it! Here we are in the middle of nowhere, and you are just sitting there!"
The red gargoyle smiled. "Actually Payne, I'm lying down." Arms folded behind his head like a pillow, and with his eyes closed, Brooklyn was enjoying the moment.
"But on every dance so far, we've run into trouble almost immediately! Danger has always been lurking around every corner, and things seem to just happen to try and kill us! Even the seemingly peaceful areas have been trouble!"
Brooklyn sighed but did not open his eyes. "Your point being?"
"Why aren't you at full alert right now?"
"Because." The gargoyle let the words hang in the air.
The scientist waited a moment for a fuller explanation, and received none. "Because WHY?"
Still not opening his eyes or making any effort to move at all, the white haired gargoyle remained silent.
The silence continued.
And stretched for a few moments.
And then a few minutes.
Isaac Payne's eyes widened a little. "You aren't dead are you, Timedancer?"
"Nope, just ignoring you," the beaked one grinned.
"Why?" the human asked, annoyed at gargoyle's usual cockiness.
"Because." Brooklyn smiled some more and went silent again. Then, thinking better of it, added to his statement. "Because we haven't run into trouble almost immediately, it’s a large valley where there aren't any corners for danger to lurk around, there is currently nothing trying and kill us and so far this seemingly peaceful area is staying peaceful. Until something happens to change that, I'm relaxing. When the gate gives you a chance to relax, you take it.
"It's a nice night. There's a nice breeze blowing, the crickets are chirping, the stars are shining except for where the clouds are covering them. Enjoy it while you can, we probably only have twenty minutes here before danger jumps back into our laps. Personally, I like relaxing when I get the opportunity."
The doctor grumbled again. "It's freezing, bugs are biting me, and it looks like its going to rain. What's so relaxing?"
Again Payne was met by silence, and after a few moments he gave up, crossed his arms and looked away from the gargoyle, in an effort to not to be annoyed by his pretentious traveling companion who he did not even like.
Some time later, the man who would be possessed by Loki looked at the stars for a moment and then frowned. Since the Timedancer was not paying any attention to him, he spoke to himself.
"All I ever wanted was some money and some respect. I worked at Project Chronos for twenty years to get that... Twenty years on one complex where we had no records of past history so that all our research would be genuine and authentic. No holographic television, no information broadcasts of any sort, just news that the higher ups thought we should have."
Brooklyn listened to the doctor's silent rant, as his sensitive gargoyle ears picked up the man's quiet mutterings.
"People in the other divisions of the project were allowed such niceties, but not Doctor Isaac Charles Payne. Not that it really mattered, I was so wrapped up in my research... Ilsa was the only real intelligent mind I could relate to when she joined the project, but even then, the project was all that mattered. And then it all came to a head after 20 years of my time and effort, and the project actually WORKED. I was going to be rich, I was going to be famous, and it was going to be my life's achievement. But then the blasted Timedancer mucked things up and then I get stranded in time only to meet up with a lonely and depressed gargoyle who's responsible for my predicament in the first place... It isn't fair."
Payne's muttering died down, his personal rant to himself finished, and somewhere in Payne's mind, a tiny piece of Loki's essence snapped to consciousness at the hatred for the Timedancer.
The gargoyle's voice broke Payne's quiet mumbling. "Homesick huh, Payne?"
"Eh?" the balding man suddenly flinched after his contemplation.
"I know how you feel. It wasn't my choice to be here right now. I'd much rather be with my mate than with you." Payne frowned at the Timedancer's obvious insult. "But for the time being, we're stuck together, so you may as well accept that."
"Accept it? This coming from the gargoyle constantly complaining about the girl he left behind?" the scientist retorted.
Brooklyn's eyes opened at that, as he sat up to stare at his traveling companion. "I'll get back to Sata. Just you wait and see."
"Suuure you will, Timedancer. Just keep telling yourself that."
The brick red gargoyle sighed, lay back down and closed his eyes again. "I'll get back to Sata. Just you wait and see."
* * * * *
TIMEDANCE, YEAR 22...
2168, The Eyrie Pyramid
In the Eyrie Pyramid, shortly after the sun had been chased from the evening sky, a low tone reverberated along the walls of the hallways, calling for an assembly to come into the main meeting hall.
Walking in pairs and small groups, gargoyles of every kind and color filed towards the main doors, beyond which a pair of Steel Clan Mk-4's, standing on the parapets scanned each gargoyle as they passed through.
Through a short foyer lay the hall itself. Modeled after the first meeting place of the council, it spread from the floors to the ceiling like a large bowl, its walls lined with stepped tiers. There, beneath banners that indicated clan affiliation-Ishimura, London, Avalon, etc.-the elders of the council stood in their traditional places, which looked down onto a low, flat-topped stone that served as the rostrum, from where the current leaders of the council would direct the nightly business of the clans.
As the last of the visiting members took their places, a familiar pair of gargoyles stopped in the doorway, watching the others for a moment with a proud smile.
"It's a sight to see," Artus remarked, as his gaze swept over the crowd. "A good showing from the original clans, too." He pointed to the second tier, far in the back of the hall. "We even managed to get the Caledonians to send their chosen this time."
Beside him, Persephone shook her head in amusement. "Ever since you and I were voted as the new heads of the council, you still act as if you were just representing our clan."
Artus shrugged. "Considering we still do, I've made it a point never to let our elected positions go to my head."
His pink-skinned mate chuckled, giving him a brief hug. "A good thing. Your head’s big enough as it is!" she teased.
The brown-skinned male returned the hug, taking a moment to straighten his tunic before waving towards the standing stone. "Shall we get this gathering started, my love?"
Persephone replied as she took his arm, "Lead on, my Leader."
Together, they stepped through the doorway and walked towards the stone. All around, polite applause rolled from the steppes as the council members watched them enter. Returning the acclaim with a few waves, the co-leaders of the Manhattan clan ascended to the top of the stone. Once there, Artus allowed the clapping to continue for a moment more, before quickly flaring his wings out to their full extension. Like a human's gavel banging, it made all noise in the hall cease.
With a flick, he caped his wings and smiled deeply. "My brothers, sisters, and friends," Artus said, projecting his deep voice to the highest tier. "We of the Manhattan clan welcome you to our home and our protectorate. During the course of these proceedings, consider our home yours. And speaking of which, it is time to honor one of the traditions of this council." With a motion of one hand, he added, "Will the volunteers please step forward?"
As a small group of younger gargoyles walked down from the tiers to the standing stone, Artus stretched out his arms as if to hug the entire assembly in a sign of welcoming greeting. "In honor of those who took the first steps, we of the Manhattan clan would like to welcome the newest volunteers, who are about to undertake a new chapter in their lives. Please, come and introduce yourselves."
Out of the group of young gargoyles, who were mostly unsure who was to go first, a tall, bronze colored female with split wings and hair as white as cotton strode to the fore, her tartan skirt and halter adorned with the crest of the Caledonian clan. "My name is Tamar, Leader, and I greet you in the name of our clan, our elder, and our honor," she said proudly, planting her fists at her hips; an action which made her arm muscles ripple. "I am a first-class tracker, and I can fight as well as any warrior on this island. Even better!"
Both Artus and Persephone nodded in reply. "Well met, Tamar. Welcome to our clan. You do realize of course that the main reason for the exchange program is to see how other clans live, and learn their traditions and stories and such, and not to battle, right?"
"Of course," the white haired girl frowned a little, and then beamed. "A tradition set up by the first council leaders. I understand that you do not have many battles to fight, but I'm sure you have several instructors that will be more than willing to test my skills in combat."
Artus looked at the young gargoyle. " And perhaps teach you a few other lessons in the process."
The bronze female nodded curtly. "Good. I like a challenge!" She stepped aside to allow the next youngster to approach. This one wore more modern-styled clothing, and obviously was very nervous at standing before such an august assembly.
"M-My name i-is… R-Ruffio, Leader," he stammered, running his hand through a bristle-brush crop of black hair, before letting it fall over his badger's face. "I… I-I am from the Soho branch o-o-of Clan London!"
Persephone's beak parted as she smiled in a friendly manner. "Well, young Ruffio. What is your task to your clan?"
Reasured by her tone, the gray-furred male replied, "If you pardon me, Mum… I-I am a junior assistant to o-our historian." Giving the rest of the council an apologetic look, he added, "I-I've always liked books."
"Books!" Tamar snorted. "No one ever got fed reading books!"
A chuckle rolled around the hall, but it was meant in good humor. Artus grinned and said, "Well, we value knowledge of the mind just as greatly as we do fighting prowess. It's certain you'll find plenty of reading to occupy your time here, Ruffio. We have an extensive library within our castle above. I'm sure you will have every opportunity to explore it, as well."
"Coo!" The young historian beamed. He quickly bowed, then moved to stand next to Tamar, smiling at her even as she shot him an odd look.
With a smile, Artus glanced back at Persephone—who gave him a look as if to say "That's the younger generation for you."—before turning back to face the volunteers, waving the next one forward…
* * * * *
As the last of the light from the Gate faded from existence, the first thing that struck Brooklyn was a soft, steady rain. Looking around at the virtual wall of greenery around him, he took in the heady scents of tropical flora, mixed in with the damp smell of earth and mud; that later item he found himself slightly sinking in, up to his ankles.
Closing his eyes, the crimson-skinned warrior sighed. "Swell," he said aloud. "What is it with jungles, that I always seem to end up in one?" Squinting in the dim light at the canopy overhead, he tried to see where he had ended up this time. But, the foliage above was too think for him to see the sky overhead.
"Swell," he muttered again. Starting to move forward, he felt the mud clinging to his feet like thick lead. Grunting, he levered himself against a nearby tree, pulling at his trapped appendages. A sucking sound echoed around him as one foot finally came free, allowing him to plant it against one of the tree's roots.
"Great, might as well grow a beard and call myself 'Mudfoot'," he quipped humorlessly, staring at his leg and foot for a second, before leaning down to scrape the muck off with a talon.
Just then, the pouch that held the Phoenix Gate began to move. A puff of smoke issued from around the edges of the flap, accompanied by the smell of heated burlap. Alarmed, Brooklyn forgot his feet just then. Reaching down, he yanked the Gate out of its pouch, holding it out to the side to get a good look at it. The talisman was glowing, giving off small, fiery sparks ever other second like a shorted-out wire.
"What the--? What's going on with you?" he asked, his eyes wide as he took in the display.
By way of an answer, the Gate gave off a stronger flash. The resulting spark arced out, touching the damp bark of the tree Brooklyn was leaning against. Even wet, a section of the back flared up like a torch.
"Great! This I don't need!" Brooklyn cursed as he back-peddled away from the flames. "I'd better put this out, before I get the local populace up at arms for burning down their forest!"
But before he could do anything, sounds of something mechanical—like something from a science-fiction show—came humming down through the trees from somewhere behind him. A hissing sound popped off, and two streams of a whitish substance sailed through the air towards the flames. Piling up over the fire like a whipped topping, it quickly smothered the fire in no time.
Brooklyn turned around, not knowing what to expect. What he saw nearly made him drop the Gate out of shock. A spherical-shaped device hovered there, two tear-drop shaped pods attached to it on the sides by tiny outriggers. A pair of nozzles emerged from the pods, where remnants of the foam dripped on to the jungle floor below.
"A flying fire extinguisher?!"
Just then, a lens snapped into view on the front of the sphere. The machine angled downwards, its bluish color flashing to an amber hue as it locked onto the still-sputtering Gate. "Thermal conductive source located… extinguish! Extinguish!"
Brooklyn's reaction came from months of danger-strewn traveling: he dropped to his haunches, his hand letting the Gate go before grabbing a clot of muddy earth, which he threw with all his strength at the hovering machine. The shot was off a bit, but the splash of wet dirt across its lens seemed to confuse the flying firefighter. Taking advantage of its pause, Brooklyn leaped up and sank his talons into the machine. Turning in midair, he hurled it at a length of exposed rock. It smashed against the stone with a puff of oily smoke, before falling to the ground where it rolled to a stop against a half-buried root and lay still.
Brooklyn smirked as he landed on his feet. "Good riddance! The last thing I need around here is to get myself creamed." He recovered the Gate from where he had dropped it and glared at it, watching it sputter with a sigh and a grimace. "Why do you always bring me trouble? Well, I guess things can't get any worse..."
A snarling whine climbing from behind him made the brick-red gargoyle turn in place. Before his eyes, three more of the machines descended from the forest canopy, their pod ports open to reveal twin nozzles, aimed directly at him.
"Look, guys," Brooklyn said, but it was all he could get out as one of the three emitted a thin bolt of green light, which lanced into his right shoulder. A tingling, burning sensation swept through the nearly-healed muscle.
Brooklyn snarled in pain. "Ouch! Hey! I thought you put out fires?!"
The machines answer came in the form of more of the green beams, which the three guardians fired as rapidly as their weapons would allow.
Brooklyn took two more shots--which were meant to stun and not kill--before he burst away from where he stood, digging up clots of mud as he tried to gain ground away from the automatons. Eventually the ground became firmer under his feet, and he started to pull away from them, weaving through the trunks and plants to put some kind of protection between him and their weapons.
"I… don't… like this… one… BIT!" Puffing and pumping for more air, he glanced behind to see where the machines were. When one of them fired a rapid succession of shots, clearing a path through the branches for the others, he pointed his nose back in front of him and charged ahead.
He was so intent on evading more shots, he nearly knocked himself silly against a large plate of glass that suddenly appeared from nowhere in front of him. He put his hands out, keeping him from sticking his face through it and then bounced off of the surface, ending up flat on his backside.
"OOF!" Shaking himself, he looked up at the wall of glass, his eyes wide with surprise. "What in the world is this doing out here?"
The whine of motors broke through his musing, and he threw himself to the side just as six more of the stun bolts stitched their way through the space he'd just occupied.
"Worry about it later, Brooklyn!" he scolded himself. Another bolt glanced off his left shoulder guard, spurring him on. It wasn't until then that he suddenly realized that he wasn't running on wet soil anymore; a smooth concrete path lay before him, running parallel to the glass wall.
"What kind of a jungle is this?" He glanced ahead, spying what looked to him like an automatic door. Rushing forward, he tucked himself into a diving roll. More shots from the caretakers rained around him, but they missed. He tumbled along, coming to his feet just as the doorway slid open with a hiss of air. Brooklyn threw himself into the opening and slammed into the back of a small, black-walled room. Dazed, he blinked furiously, staring at the wall beside him and the small panel with buttons affixed there.
The machines screamed down towards the doorway, their weapons silent as they searched for him.
Spurred on, Brooklyn rose up and slapped the panel, hoping that one of the buttons would close the doors. A soft PING resounded and the doors hissed shut, leaving the mechanical watchdogs floating impotently on the other side.
Sighing gustily, the crimson warrior slumped against the wall in exhaustion. "Well, I certainly rate that an E-ticket ride… except for the pain!" Closing his eyes, he reached up to rub the sore spot on his shoulder, just as the room shifted with a soft bump. Brooklyn's eyes snapped open, but before he could move an inch, the room started to rise slowly upwards in a straight line.
"Now what!?" he muttered, quickly getting to his feet. His eyes darted to the panel, staring as a series of numbers began to count up: 99… 100… 101…
"An elevator… nothing in this crazy jungle makes any sense!"
Just then, the walls of the room shifted from their black shade into a transparent state. Watching, Brooklyn's beak dropped like a rock as he watched the scenery fall away; tall buildings of a familiar style intermixed with wide spans of green, forested areas. Vehicles of every size and shape soared through the air in every direction.
A sense of deja-vu swept over Brooklyn, making him press his face against the surface of the glass as the elevator continued to rise. "It… It can't… be! That's… Manhattan! But what year is this!?"
* * * * *
"…a valid point, Tsumi," Artus said, addressing the representative of the Japanese clans. "And we'll make sure to send support by the end of this month. The last thing we need is to loose such a monument as Sendai Castle." Several of the other council members nodded in accordance. "Now, with that, I'd like to address--."
Before the next volunteer could introduce himself however, a chiming sound interrupted the procession. Before everyone's eyes, a beam lanced down from a hidden holo-projector in the ceiling, forming the image of one of the gargoyles on watch.
"Sorry to interrupt the council proceedings, Artus," a red and blue gargoyle youth said, bowing towards the assembly, "but the internal security net has detected a fire in the West Arboretum in Mid-Level."
Several gasps went up from the members, but Artus held up a hand to silence them. "What is the status, D’Artagnan? Is the arcology in danger?"
"Negative. We had a few Firewatchers deal with the blaze. The sprinklers took care of the problem." The youth smirked.
Another murmur rolled around the hall. Artus looked to his mate, both puzzled and worried.
"Wait, Artus. We've also had one of the Firewatchers go off-line. When reinforcements arrived, they detected an intruder was the cause of its shut-down."
Another murmur rolled around the hall. Artus looked to his mate, both puzzled and worried. "How did an intruder get into the Arboretum!? All outside access from Mid-Level has been shut down for the night."
D'Artagnan replied, "That's what we're reading here, but someone got in somehow." He consulted something out of sight of the camera pickups. "The Firewatchers chased him into Auxillary Lift-Two, and we're tracking that has heading up into the castle proper."
Persephone asked, "Can you identify the intruder?"
"Negative. Some kind of energy signature is scrambling all attempts to get a positive ID." The young gargoyle frowned mightily. "It's like nothing I've ever seen before."
Apparently this was said a bit too loudly. One of the representatives spoke out, "Could this be an attack against the council?"
Artus shook his head. "We've had trouble with the Chiselers and such, but in ten years they've never been this forward, or this blatant," he explained. Turning towards the projection, he said, "Call up our patrols and have them return at once. Also scramble some of the Pyramid Security Teams to protect the rookery and the Xanatos Wing. I'll get Alex to authorize the order. Then have some of them meet me at the Level Ten access station."
"At once, Leader." With that, D’Artagnan's image winked out.
Turning to Persephone, Artus said, "Stay here and keep the proceedings going. I'll have some of the patrols come here to beef up security."
The pink and gray female pursed her beak with concern. "Are you sure you should be going off like this?"
The husky gargoyle nodded once. "I'm the leader. It's my job to make sure our guests are safe." He reached out to touch her face tenderly with one hand. "Don't worry. I won't be taking any fool-headed risks."
She returned the gesture with a half-smile. "You'd better not, or you'll answer to your parents first, then to me!"
He nodded in mock terror. "We can't have that! My friends," he said, addressing the assembly, "I have to see to this security matter, but the council will continue on. I leave my Second, Persephone to do the honors." With a parting gesture, he stepped down from the standing stone and marched towards the doors. With a subtle motion, he activated the small comlink on his tunic. "Artus to Polaris, bring four of our kinsmen to Level Ten…"
* * * * *
Not long after leaving the elevator, Brooklyn didn't have time to catch his breath as a soft-but-persistent klaxon sounded off, accompanied by red lights flashing all along the hallways. Not wishing to be found again, he quickly found refuge in a hidden corner down a long hallway, where he crouched down to gather his thoughts.
"Okay… just, calm down," he muttered under his breath. "Now, this has to be Manhattan of the future! All of those gardens… and the flying cars! But… just where the heck am I? The Pyramid? It’s got to be!" He stared up at the lights and the alarm with a grimace. "But the question is still…when?"
Just then, the sound of a pneumatic door opening cut across his musings. More sounds—boots on floor panels, weapons being cocked—filtered down to his ears, as well as words being spoken in a commanding tone: "The contact was last scanned on this floor! Still no ID, but our orders are to capture alive and detain it for questioning. So, here's how this cow's eating the cabbage… Remy, take your team down six floors and sweep up. Another teem is starting from Level-Ten. We'll spread out here and see if they flush the contact out and drive it here."
Brooklyn tensed. "Uh-huh! I'm not mixing it up with anyone tonight, fellas!" Looking around, he spied a doorway with a "STAIRS" sign affixed to it. With a sigh, he quoted an old movie reference, "Losing Brooklyn!" before he darted as quietly as he dared towards the door, opening the latch with equal care before ducking inside…
* * * * *
Earlier in the Castle
It had become a normal routine for her over the years. Sata didn’t like to dwell on how long she had been here. She lived in the present, as much as she could. Ten years of dancing with Brooklyn had taught her to do that. But ten years of living with the clan of his descendants had forced her to do what she could to not break down each night she woke without her love.
That involved training Gwenyvere in her first months in the Eyrie Pyramid. And then her student had taken off. It pained Sata every night when she thought about her, and longed to know what had become of her. The last any of the clan had heard from her was on Father’s Day five years ago, when she had contacted Broadway and ended up fighting with her mother.
Now, Sata’s routine involved checking in on her eggs. They were days away from hatching, and how she wished Brooklyn could be here to share in the excitement. But she had learned to deal with her pain. The samurai approached a large locked door and pulled out a metallic security card with her picture on it. She slid the card through a scanner to the door’s right, and the large screen slid back with a defining ‘swoosh.’
Sata stepped into the Manhattan Clan’s rookery, a lush and extravagant setting that spanned two stories of the Eyrie Pyramid’s inner sanctum. It was in one of the most secured areas of the establishment, and only caretakers and expecting parents were allowed inside. She had volunteered to watch over the eggs tonight, something she was doing more and more often lately. The jade gargoyle made her way down a circular staircase into the actual area the eggs were kept in.
The damp and wet nature of the rookery had become a familiar setting to Sata. She walked over to the two large, twin eggs, wishing that the area was better lit. She stared at the eggs, running her fingers over the purple blotches which stood out even in the black light.
"Hello, my children," Sata chimed at the eggs. "He will be here, sooner or later. I promise. You will know your father one way or another." Sata felt behind the eggs on the right, pulling out a large, leatherbound black book. It had been delivered to her five years ago, and was simply an account of her mate’s childhood in the very castle almost two thousand years ago. She began reading to the eggs, a story which they had heard dozens of times over the years.
Some time later, Sata made her way out of the rookery. The next worker on schedule would come down soon, and she had another place to be. Another part of her routine was to check in on Anna Xanatos, whose room was on the same floor as the rookery and had become a very close and personal friend since she had arrived in this time.
* * * * *.
A Little Later -- A Private Hospital Room, Several Floors Above
After the nurse made a quick notation in her portable log, she smiled at the patient in her floating wheelchair. "I'm finished for tonight, Ms. Xanatos. If there is anything more that you require, you just have to ring the medical station, all right?"
Waving her away with one wrinkled hand, Anna Xanatos smiled. "I'll be sure to do so, Nurse Chapman." She then straightened her blouse before adding, "But, I think I just want to be left alone with my friend here."
"Very well, Ms. Xanatos," the nurse replied. "I'll be in with the doctor in the morning then. Good night, and the same to you, Sata."
Sitting at a small table nearby, a jade-green female in Japanese-style dress nodded towards the retreating nurse. "Good night, and be well Julie-san." As the door to the room slid closed, she turned back to the elderly woman with a concerned look. "Is everything all right, Anna-chan?"
The elder Xanatos twin shook her head slowly. "It's nothing, my friend. I'm well enough, for all that my body feels like it's eighty years old. I'm just still recovering from the draining I received when I was abducted all those years ago. There's been marked improvement, to be sure…"
Sata nodded in understanding, reaching down to finish pouring the cups of fragrant tea she had been preparing while the nurse was there. "Hai… you seem to be much improved from when we recovered you from the kidnappers."
"Not for the lack of trying," Anna admitted. "I looked so old then! Father has been sparing no expense to speed my recovery along. Specialists, doctors, treatments… he even wanted to send me to Avalon, to let Granma Titania have a turn with me. Tsk! I'd rather not have THAT kind of sabbatical, thank you very much." Activating the chair controls, she floated towards the table with a smile, breathing in the scent of green tea. "Ah, that smells marvelous, Sata!"
The Ishimuran nodded with a small smile, handing one steamy cup to her friend. "I could do no less for my friend, Anna-chan."
Anna accepted the cup, taking a moment to savor the smell before sipping gingerly. "Mm, and it is your best! It's been a boon to have you here throughout my recovery, Sata. Without you, and this," she said, indicating her tea with a tip of her cup, "I don't know if it would have been bearable."
"I am just glad that Alexander has an ample supply of tea plants on hand," Sata replied, fixing her own cup with measured grace. "Otherwise, I would have to make frequent trips to Japan to acquire more."
Anna chuckled, "And you'd do just that, you stubborn thing! I still find it amazing you still find time to see and old invalid like me, even with all of your duties with the clan." Taking another sip, Anna added, "Not that I'm ungrateful, mind you. We both seem to have benefited from our time together."
Sata nodded, raising her cup to drink. "That we have, Anna-chan. I have drawn much good from our friendship over the years."
"It only seemed fair. After all, what with your becoming stranded here, the others wanted to make sure you never lacked for anything."
At Anna's admission, Sata nearly dropped her cup. After your becoming stranded… She realized then that it had been almost ten years since that day. "Hai… yes. I have been well blessed by my mate's clan; with good friends, shelter and much more."
The sad tone made Anna look at her companion, realizing that she'd mentioned something that touched on old wounds. "Oh, Sata… I'm sure he's all right. We've been keeping an eye on history to see if he's left any clues, or even a message for us to find."
Sata nodded, her attention wandering through memories long untouched. "I know…"
Anna placed her cup down and started to say something more, in hopes that she could prevent the female gargoyle from lapsing into melancholy, when the alarm and warning lights went off by the doorway. "Great stars! What is going on here!?"
Sata rose nimbly to her feet, her sadness forgotten in a rush of warrior's instinct. "That is the security alarm." She stepped over to where a computer console sat on the near wall, quickly tapping the sequence to patch it into the Security Center. A moment later, the image of the watch officer appeared. "Watchman! This is Sata on Level 14. What is the reason for the alarm?"
"Intruder alert, ma'm," the human guard replied quickly. "Security teams are trying to box the interloper in between floors, but it’s somehow evading capture."
Sata shot Anna a worried look. "How could someone get through the security watch?"
Anna shrugged, but she hovered over the carpet to the panel to say, "This is Anna Xanatos. Is there any danger to the castle or the gargoyles?"
"Sorry, Ms. Xanatos, we can't be certain of that," the guard explained. "Last reports were that the intruder was armed, and had disabled one of the Firewatchers in the West Arboretum. For your own safety, stay in your quarters and lock the doors. A security team will be in contact soon to escort you back to a safe area."
Just then, the door to the room hissed open, and a large figure burst through at a dead run.
Sata didn’t waste words. Without thinking, her body shifted so that she was between the interloper and her friend, her hand flashing to her sash to draw her katana. She reversed it, laying the blade along her forearm and thrust it backwards towards the intruder…
"WAIT!" cried out a familiar voice.
"Brooklyn?" She whispered unbelieving, so caught off guard that she failed to add the honorific to his name.
"S-Sata!?" the brick-red gargoyle replied, his tone also colored with doubt. Silence seemed to stretch into an eternity between the two gargoyles, broken only by the sound of Sata's katana hitting the floor.
The jade-green female stretched out one hand towards him hesitantly, since her shocked mind couldn’t comprehend the reality of what she was seeing. With a hoarse whisper, she said aloud, "If this is a dream, please… let me sleep forever!"
Brooklyn stood stock still. "Ditto!" he whispered softly, then lifted his hand towards hers.
The moment their hands touched was like lightning striking. When they were assured of each other's realness, there was nothing that could stop the sudden cloudburst of emotion; each one pulled the other close, enfolding them both in a fierce hug. Tears flowed out like a long awaited rain, falling down their cheeks as they clung to one another.
"We have GOT to stop meeting like this."
The jade female found herself laughing at the remark, recalling the first time they had met. "Baka! Is that all you can say to me, after leaving me for ten years!" She reluctantly released him and looked into his eyes, seeing the sudden emotion contained within.
"Sata... I've missed you so much!" he admitted, smiling through his tears. "I've been waiting so long to come back to you..."
Sata smiled, her voice was shaky and so filled with joy. "Yes. Ten years is far too long to be apart, Brooklyn-san." She ran her hands up his arms towards his face, but stopped when she encountered the scar tissue on his unshielded shoulder. "My love!? You are hurt! What happened?"
He said quickly, "It's an old wound that I've had for a while. Don't worry though, it's getting better!"
Leaning in close, he gently kissed her on the lips before adding, "Sata, I'm fine! Do you think I'd finally get back to you just to die in your arms!? Sata, we've been through so much. What happened to me while we were apart doesn't matter to me! What matters is that I'm here, now… and that's where I want to be!"
Anna Xanatos smiled fondly at the pair and quietly keyed the speaker. "Notify Artus and my father that the alert is canceled. Authorization: Anna-Two-Eleven-Zeta! Our intruder is of the friendly sort… and I think he's well due for a welcome home!"
Sata looked at her mate for a while longer before the worry and sadness slipped away from her face, leaving only happiness behind. "Hai! This is where you need to be!" She buried her face in his neck and held him close once more; as if she'd never let him go again.
His wings wrapped around and held her close. "I love you, Sata!" he whispered, feeling that everything was perfect once again. And for a few brief moments, nothing could shatter that sense of rightness.
* * * * *
A short while later, Anna and Sata led Brooklyn to the main hall. Along the way, Brooklyn took in the familiar surroundings with new eyes; the lower levels of the castle were nearly fully modernized, complete with computerized doors and lights. It wasn't until they reached the level where the main hall was that some of the old stone work of the castle emerged.
"Wow!" Brooklyn commented in an awed tone. "Things have really changed in ten years!"
"It's all part of father's attempt to bring the castle into the 22nd Century," Anna explained with a grin. "He figured that since there isn't much of the original Wyvern left, why not go ahead and add improvements?"
Brooklyn didn’t know what to say about that; he’d always liked the old castle and the way it felt like home to him. But, before he could comment on that thought, he and the other two were standing at the doors of the hall, which swung open like parting gates.
Anna and Sata held back, motioning for Brooklyn to enter first. "Go on," Anna prompted. "Everyone’s been waiting for your return!"
"Well," he told himself, "it's not like I've been through this before." Squaring his shoulders, he stepped into the hall…
…And nearly fell backwards at the wave of applause and shouts that rolled over him. There, standing in the middle of the hall seemed to be every member of the future Clan Manhattan. Some he recognized, like Angela and Broadway (looking very much dignified in their elder years), Tao and Polaris, and even Scrivener the author. Several younger gargoyles were shouting and cheering, with Artus’ younger sibling Samson at their head.
Looking around, Brooklyn spied the other gargoyles lining the sides of the hall, all clapping in response to the arrival of the Timedancer. Most he didn’t recognize, but he did manage to make out the origins of a few. Finally, he looked towards the end of the hall, where Artus and Persephone waited for him with big smiles of welcome.
Brooklyn nearly blanched pale red, unused to all the attention. "Geez, what am I getting myself into?"
Fortunately, Artus flipped his wings open again, bringing the applause to a merciful end. Stepping down from the standing stone, he made his way through his clan brothers and sisters towards Brooklyn. Coming to a stop in front of the time-traveler, he extended his arm in greeting. "Welcome home, Brooklyn. We’ve been watching and waiting for your return, and it does us good to see that it wasn’t all in vain."
Grasping the brown-skinned warrior’s arm in return, Brooklyn nodded solemnly. "It’s good to hear that, Artus. Nice to know I wasn’t forgotten." He looked at the rest of the clan around him, adding, "It's good to see you all. Especially since… well, after all the travels I've been through, it's just good to be among friends again."
"Especially Sata, huh?" Samson chirped with a grin, watching from the sidelines as Sata and Anna arrived at Brooklyn’s side. He got a poke in the ribs from one of the older youths for that.
"You couldn't be more right, kid," Brooklyn smiled, not minding Samson’s statement of the obvious. Pulling his mate close to his side, he said, "I’m happy to see she was well taken care of while I was gone."
"She’s had nothing but the best," a voice replied.
Turning around, Brooklyn smiled, seeing a familiar, red-haired figure appear in a modern-day casual suit step in from the entrance. Beside this newcomer walked a willowy female dressed in an exotic outfit in varied colors of green and reds.
"Alex?!" Brooklyn asked, before he smiled broadly.
"The one and only. It’s good to see you too, my friend," the heir to the Xanatos empire replied. "Oh, you weren’t introduced the last time you were here. This is Serena, my wife."
The brown haired woman nodded, holding out her hand for Brooklyn to take. "I am please to meet you at last, Brooklyn." With a knowing giggle, she continued, "He and Sata have told me a lot about you."
Brooklyn chuckled, turning to give Sata a fond nuzzle. "Giving away my trade secrets, love?" It was then that he remembered something, turning Sata in his arms to stare at her middle. "Wait a minute! You were pregnant when I left! What happened to the eggs!?"
Sata forced a smile. "Oh, those? You bakamei gaijin… only now do you notice that I am no longer so round in the middle anymore!"
Artus coughed lightly. "Perhaps you two should pay the rookery a visit?"
Sata glanced at Brooklyn. "Shall we, Brooklyn-san?"
Brooklyn felt a soft blush darken his skin. "Um, so long as everyone doesn't mind us going off for a bit?"
Alex nodded. "Sure! Can't keep a father from his kids! But, why don't you leave your gear with us? We'll make sure it gets back to Sata's quarters."
Brooklyn's forehead creased with worry for a moment, but he shrugged before unbuckling his pouches and handing them over to the young billionaire. "Sure… just make sure nothing happens to the Gate. It's been acting strange lately."
Sata teasingly reached over and hooked her finger under his beak, turning him towards the door. "Come, husband. Let us see your children… You were just lucky that you missed the labor."
As she started to lead him away, Brooklyn laughed and removed her hand with a kiss. "All right! I'm coming! We'll be back in a little bit, okay?" With a parting look to the others, the two gargoyles headed out the doorway and were quickly out of sight.
"Take your time, Brooklyn," Anna called after them. "We'll be here when you get back!" The moment the two were gone, the smile on Anna's face fell, and she turned to give her father and Artus a sad look. "Father?"
Serena echoed her daughter's worried expression. With a heavy sigh, Alex nodded to Artus.
Touching his comlink, the Manhattan leader spoke softly, "D’Artagnan? Call Dr. Abrahms… Brooklyn's returned, and Sata will tell him at some point. Dr. Abrahms should be prepared for when she does."
* * * * *
The Castle Rookery
Brooklyn was in such shock, his beak couldn't have dropped any lower unless it was unhinged. "Those… ours?" he asked Sata, pointing to the two eggs that were resting on a low stone shelf, cradled in a nest of straw and moss.
"Hai," she whispered softly. "Come, you deserve a closer look." She started to lead him down the access stairs towards the bottom, her steps a little unsteady.
Brooklyn didn’t notice her trembling as he glanced around. His eyes were taking in the span of the huge room, looking much changed from the rookery he recalled. Glancing up, he noticed the metal pipes that made up the sprinkler system.
"Rookery's a step up from the old hole in the ground," he commented absently, not being able to think of anything else to say. But when they reached the bottom, and Sata led him towards the eggs. A look of fatherly pride and enthusiasm showed one his face as he knelt beside them, reaching out to gently touch their pebbly surface.
Sata crouched beside him, watching his face with a growing feeling of sadness. "You like them, my husband?"
"How can I not like them, Sata-chan? They're perfect!", he beamed. Clearing the huskiness from his throat, he asked, "So… how long until the eggs hatch?"
The jade female forced a smile. "Not much longer at all, my love."
His beak turned into a huge smile, and for ten silent minutes he sat and stared at the eggs... His children. After a while, Sata nudged him, and reluctantly, he went with her to leave the room and take care of other business.
Sata did not have the heart to tell him as he was looking right at the eggs that when they hatched, they would die.
* * * * *
The Parapets, Castle Wyvern
Brooklyn and Sata sat on one of the old perches of Castle Wyvern, enjoying one another’s company, and making up for lost time. Sata lay her head in his lap, simply glad he had finally come back to her, not aware that she was hiding something from him.
"What have you been doing all this time?" Brooklyn asked his mate.
"I made myself useful," she said, smiling. Brooklyn had let himself forget so many things about her: her smell, her touch, her voice. Sata had let herself do the same. "I helped train some of the younger warriors after the laying ... especially Gwenyvere."
The name hit Brooklyn hard. Gwenyvere was Broadway and Angela's middle child, who had tried to seduce him the last time he was her. She had simply not known about him and Sata. Her ignorance had almost caused the two to separate.
"Where is she?" he asked, "I didn't see her with the rest of the clan."
Sata sighed, closing her eyes. "After you left, Gwen-chan got in trouble one too many times. Artus assigned her to watch over me during the pregnancy." She held up one hand to forestall the question before Brooklyn could ask it. "And, no I did not mind her presence. In fact, Artus and I both thought it would do her good. I taught her combat and discipline. We both came to respect each other after a time."
"But… something happened?" her mate asked warily.
"A while later she disappeared. Broadway and Angela-chan have always kept it to themselves whether or not they know where she is, but the general feeling of the clan is that she ran away. Because of all the pressure on her to conform to Artus' demands." She looked at Brooklyn with a shrug. "There was a search for her, but that was years ago."
Brooklyn took everything in. "I… I guess I never expected something like that could happen, especially to someone like her."
"Tell me, my love," Sata said, "of your travels without me. It could get boring here at times, especially without you ... or the Gate."
"Not much to tell really. More of the same of what we went through for ten or so years, just lonelier." He kissed her cheek to reassure her that this was all true. No reason to tell her about what had gone on and how much danger he had been in. Exploding volcanoes, Vietnam... Certainly no need to let her know about the company he had kept. Between Payne and Pandora, much of his dancing was not material he really wanted to share. So he mentioned only a few choice snippets.
"Fought some pirates again, met Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, ran into Demona, only got caught up in a couple of wars..." he said in a joking manner, to try and further prove nothing serious had happened. He was unaware that his run in with Demona had been only a hallucination, but he would never learn otherwise. "The usual..."
"Hmm." Sata said thoughtfully. "Then would you at least tell me how you got that scar on your shoulder?"
The white maned gargoyle had been prepared for this question with an excuse to keep Sata from worrying. "Got that fighting a magical creature about a year ago," he smiled, again lying about how recent and dangerous his encounter with the Jersey Devil and its many parts had been.
"The wound only recently started to heal properly, probably because it was magically inflicted. My shoulder is still a bit stiff from time to time," he noted, not wanting to lie too much, but still not mentioning the fact his ribs had been broken only about thirty-six hours before.
"Perhaps we should have Alex look at that later then?" Sata suggested.
"Sure," Brooklyn agreed, not really paying attention to the words, but more to the feeling of being with his mate.
Sata seemed to accept the answer, she knew he would tell her more of his two years spent dancing later.
"Perhaps." Brooklyn struggled with his next words, trying to change the subject "So, other than training the next generation, what kind of excitement has gone on for you in the last ten years? I'm… a bit behind on the times, so to speak."
His mate looked up at him, playfully punching him in the arm. "It is as I said before, Brooklyn-san. Not much has happened since I first arrived here. Although, not long after the eggs were laid there was some excitement… something about aliens entering the solar system."
"’Space spawn’ or something of that matter," she said, not really caring about the ten year old news to her. But something about that bothered Brooklyn. Something familar.
He was silent and contemplative as he ran his talons through Sata’s hair. Her eyes were closed and his soothing motions were relaxing her greatly. She assumed the brick colored gargoyle’s silence was merely his enjoying the moment.
Brooklyn’s mind raced through a barrage of memories. If the aliens, the ‘space spawn’ had come about right after he left, that would have been in 2158... Why did the term ‘space spawn’ and that year seem so familar? It was something from his earliest dances, from twenty years ago or more. His eyes widened when he remembered the adventure in 2230 and the way the world had been then.
"Jalapena..." he whispered.
"What?" Sata stirred and opened her eyes.
"I was just thinking about the Phoenix Gate," he said, voicing one of his several current worries. "It’s brought me back at last..."
"But will it allow you to stay?" Sata frowned, having thought about this herself.
"To be ripped back into time again and taken from you again.... I don’t think I could survive that. And I can’t take you with me, now more than ever."
The black haired female remained silent to let her mate explain. She knew him well enough to know he was going somewhere with this.
"You have friends in this time and you feel comfortable here."
She lapsed into Japanese for a moment. "I left comfort once to be with you Brooklyn-san."
He smiled at the dialect change, and matched her language. "The first time you left your home was an accident, and the second time..." he smiled at the fond memory, "was probably the most romantic thing anyone has ever done."
The beaked gargoyle continued. "But now is different. We have eggs about to hatch. This would be a great place to raise them to be sure. Human gargoyle relations are great, there aren’t any wars, technology can provide for them... It’s a great place to raise a family. We can’t take newborns timedancing, that’s for sure.
"Most of all, this is Manhattan. The Wyvern clan. My clan and family. It’s as close to home as we’re ever likely to get. And I’m ready to settle for anything that will allow me to stay with you and the children."
Sata nodded, shifted back to English, and looked away from her mate's eyes. "This place is perfect."
Sata stared at him in surprise. "You would stay here? Let the Gate go on, unattended?"
"I know," he said, understanding her question and the unsaid one inside her words. "I said that the Gate was my responsibility once. But it pales before the responsibility I own to you and our children, Sata." He dropped his head to his chest. "I just hope that when the time comes… I have the courage to let the Gate go."
Sata frowned. "Is there no alternative, my love?"
He lifted his gaze, looking out at the high tech horizon of the island below. "I guess we'll have to wait and see how things work out. It's all we can do for now."
"Perhaps…" Sata murmured, rubbing her chin with the back of one finger.
Her sigh broke Brooklyn's good mood.
He looked at her and she pretended not to notice. "What is it Sata-ko?" he asked, putting the most relaxing and romantic honorific on her name that he knew.
"Our children will hatch out of their eggs soon."
Brooklyn arched one brow questioningly. "You don't seem too happy about that." A sudden wave of concern bubbled up from his gut. "Are they all right!?"
Sata looked away, not wanting to see Brooklyn's expression when he heard what was coming.
"They are… alive, Brooklyn-san… and it is not much longer until they will hatch. You saw that for yourself. But…"
Brooklyn focused his entire being at her, his expression now one of complete concern. "But what?"
Sata slowly turned and leaned towards him, placing her head on his shoulder. Before Brooklyn's mind could form another question, small tears started falling down her cheeks. "Brooklyn… while we were still together, traveling through time and space… remember how sick I became, because of the magic of the Gate?"
She felt Brooklyn nod slowly, understanding starting to come. "While we were dancing through time, the Gate's magic also did harm to the eggs… terrible harm!" Lifting her eyes, she looked tearfully into his, wishing it wasn't her that had to tell him, but deep down recognizing it was her duty to do so.
"The eggs… our children," she said, a hitch breaking the rhythm of her words, "they are not… likely to survive… after they hatch."
The red gargoyle stared his mate with a horrified expression frozen on his face. The sense of everything being perfectly right in the world that he had only a few minutes ago, was totally gone.
* * * * *
Artus met the couple at the entrance to the Biogenics Lab, having figured they would go there after Brooklyn heard the news. Seeing the slumped posture of the brick-red gargoyle, Artus stepped forward to place both hands on Brooklyn's shoulders.
"My friend… there's nothing I can say that will change what you know," he said gently. "But, you shouldn't give up hope."
Brooklyn could only nod absently, and the fact he didn't speak made Sata's tears start all over again.
"Come inside, Brooklyn," Artus said, motioning towards the lab. "Dr. Abrahms can explain why we all feel there's a chance your children will survive."
Brooklyn looked up into Artus' bearded face. It was easy to see that his whole being was on the verge of being shattered. At last, he nodded, and allowed Artus and Sata to lead him on.
As they opened the doors, a shadowy figure watched from around a nearby corner…
* * * * *
The trio walked into the white-walled, hermetically-secure lab area, wearing sterile suits tailored for their own features. Doctor Abrahms awaited them at the far end of a long table filled with an array of machines, test tubes, beakers, and culture trays. She had her eye fixed on one end of a microscope, while one hand absently typed notes into a small computer terminal. When she heard them approach, she lifted her head and pulled back on the polarized lens covering the faceplate of her suit to greet them.
"Artus, Sata," she said amiably, before she locked her eyes onto Brooklyn. "Well, it's good to see you again, Brooklyn. Though I wish it was under better circumstances."
"Yeah… I guess you could say that," he replied, absently reaching up to run his hand through his hair, and nearly getting it foiled in the suit helmet.
"Doctor," Artus prompted, "Brooklyn knows about his eggs, but not what we're working on to save them. Can you explain it to him?"
Abrahms cleared her throat, coming around the table to remove a sealed culture dish from a rack on the tabletop. "Well, what you've been told is true. We don't expect your children to survive after hatching, thanks to the energies they were exposed to from the Phoenix Gate.
"It was fortunate that they were shielded in Sata's womb, since it was her body's ability to go into stone sleep that allowed them to survive the laying. But don't let that talisman near the eggs again! I doubt they would survive another dose of that energy if the gate were to activate."
"Right," Brooklyn nodded.
"Now, we took numerous types of cell samples from the two eggs, while they were soft enough to obtain them successfully," the female doctor explained, holding up the dish for Brooklyn to see. "Most of the samples have died, no matter what treatments we've used to keep them alive… except for these. We accidentally passed these under some radioisotopes that were being used to boost the power of our electron microscope, and for some reason, the cells survived!"
"What is this getting to, Doc?" Brooklyn asked, getting cross from trying to understand.
"My love, please," Sata implored. "Go on, Camilla-san."
"I think," Abrahms said, pointing at the culture for emphasis, "a particular energy can save your children. They were exposed to extremely high amounts of a specific energy type-that of the Gate-but there's a counter-acting type that will heal the damage. If we can find a way to isolate and constantly project this energy directly into the twins' bodies, their chances of survival would greatly increase. It would give us time to find even more practical means to supply the energy, or even find ways where they wouldn't even need the energy at all."
The red male glanced at Artus and Sata, the doctor’s words finally sinking in through his melancholy. "Then, they won't die!?" When they all nodded, he gave a small sigh of relief, "So, what can be done to provide this energy?"
Camilla looked Brooklyn directly in his eyes, "That's what we've been trying to figure out. Even now, it could take years to find the exact source even from what we've narrowed down to possible candidates."
"We don't have years, Camilla," Artus spoke up, "If I recall the timetable correctly, we only have days until the eggs hatch."
"I know, I know!" sighing, Dr. Abrahms slumped back onto her seat, passing a hand reflexively over her face mask. "Alex has given me full access to the resources of Xanatos Enterprises, and I and several other specialists have been working around the clock to find the solution."
She looked up at the couple, offering a small, apologetic smile. "Brooklyn, Sata ... I'll use everything I have, and a few things I don't. We will save your children, I promise you that."
Brooklyn made to say something, but Sata's hand on his arm made him pause, look at her, then sigh in resignation. "Thanks, Doc. I'm sure you'll do your best."
Thank you, Doctor Abrahms," Sata told the woman, bowed formally before turning her mate around. "Come, my love… we need to get some air."
Brooklyn let himself be turned, saying, "Sure… why not? Thanks again, Dr. Abrahms. Artus. Pardon us, will you?" Together, the couple made their way out of the sterile environment, leaving Artus alone with the doctor.
Heaving a sigh like a huge bellows, he looked back at Camilla. "I know you can do this, my friend," Artus said. "Don't give up hope yet."
"I haven't," Abrahms admitted. "But, I'm now more near the breakthrough I need than I was months ago! How are you so sure that I will succeed?"
"We both know the past of this clan. What is has always been; what has always been will always be; what will always be is what we live in everyday of our lives. Time is like a river, history can not be altered."
"Sounds familiar," Camilla said with a light snort. "Well, I still have a few things left to try for tonight. If you'll excuse me…"
Artus merely looked at the ground and left the lab, leaving the good doctor to her work.
* * * * *
After passing through the security checkpoint, Jeff grinned as he picked up his access key from the guard.
"Now, head through those doors," the guard told him, "and take the second door on the left. Your name is printed on your assigned locker, and only this key will open it." The XES man made a small note on his clipboard, before passing a chit over to Jeff. "That's your crew leader's name, and where his office is located. Go straight there and you'll get your work orders from him."
"Will do! Thanks!" Whistling cheerfully, Jeff heading in the direction he had been told to go, happy for once in his life that things were finally working out. "This is great! A technician's job with Xanatos Enterprises! My first step up the corporate ladder… well, it would be if they had such things these days!"
Chuckling as he found the right door, the new employee wove his way through the neat, orderly racks of tall, metal lockers, his work boots making a clumping sound on the cool tile floor. No one else seemed to be around.
"Must be between shifts," Jeff muttered, shaking his head ruefully. "I'd have expected more people in here. Brr! Maybe not… someone left the air conditioning turned up too high!" Finally, he found the row his assigned locker was on, stepping along the low bench running through the middle of the aisle to get to it. He came to a stop in front of his locker, fitting the key into the lock as he whistled some more.
While pulling out the dark coverall that identified all XE technicians, he didn't see a man-shaped shadow pass over the wall behind him.
"Can't wait to meet the rest of my crew," Jeff said, starting to slip out of his street clothes. As he exposed his bare torso, he shivered mightily. "Wow! I'd better get moving, before I freeze to death in here!" Just as he reached for his coveralls, something made a sound behind him. "Hm? What's going--?"
Jeff never got to finish his thought as he was thrown forcefully against the locker, his limp body falling halfway into the locker itself.
The shadowy figure took the technician’s outfit and quickly donned the coveralls, carefully closing the locker door behind it to hide Jeff’s unconscious body. The figure exited the locker room, its hand brushing up against the doorway.
The metal doorway froze with a low crackling sound.
* * * * *
Anna saw Brooklyn coming down the main hall of the hospital ward of the Pyramid.
"Anna," he said, waving to the woman, "have you seen Sata? She disappeared after out talk with Doctor Abrahms and I can't find her."
"No, I'm sorry. I haven't seen much of much of her since you came back. She really loves you, Brooklyn."
He smiled, "I love her too. Hey, how have you been? We haven't seen each other since ..." he faded out.
"The draining?" Anna finished, "considering it's been ten years, I'm fine. Sata is my best friend, you know? I don't know what I'm going to do when she's gone."
Brooklyn nodded, "Well, I need to go. I have to find her by morning, so I'll talk with you later."
"Take care, my friend. We'll see you before dawn."
The white maned gargoyle began walking towards his temporary room, his mind full of thoughts. He was so lost in concentration he did not notice a technician until he bumped into him.
The elderly man excused himself. "Pardon me."
Brooklyn grunted an acknowledgement. "Its okay, my fault," he numbly replied, barely paying any attention and too preoccupied to be more apologetic.
The beaked gargoyle kept on walking, and as the technician passed under an arch, his mouth twisted into a smile. "Well, hello to you too, Timedancer," he smirked in a somewhat chilling voice.
Chuckling malevolently, Isaac Payne continued on his way down to the rookery.
To Be Continued…