Timedancer - Return to Paradise, part II
By Robby Bevard and Alan "Ordell" Coleman with contributions by Stephen R. Sobotka, Jr.
Outline by Jonathan Cotleur, Rahsaan Footman and Stephen R. Sobotka, Jr.
* * * * *
Previously on Timedancer…
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.
----Trust No Future----
* * * * *
Sata awoke with a loud roar. The first thing she noticed was she wasn’t in the same place she had turned to stone in. She shrugged it off, knowing Harthoth had the means to move her while she slept. Next she noticed that the periodic shaking of the platform had stopped.
A small table and chair were off to the side of the room. On the table sat a small breakfast, fruit and a carafe of juice, and another black book. This one had the same Phoenix Gate on the cover. Sata slowly sat on the floor and opened the book. She absently ate an orange as she skimmed the book. This story was again in first person.
"'We danced into what we thought was the far future,'" she read aloud the tale of her and Brooklyn's dealing with Dr. Isaac Payne. She shivered at the memory, but continued reading until she came to the end, when she heard Harthoth enter the room.
"Interesting, is it not?" Harthoth asked her when she closed the book.
Sata hesitated, but at last nodded. "It is very detailed."
Harthoth took a piece of fruit and sat in the chair.
"This is what you want?" Sata asked him.
----Deals and Exchanges----
* * * * *
The man handed the scroll over to the Client, who graciously accepted it.
"My dear boy, you will be handsomely rewarded for the endeavor. You have my word."
The man nodded and left the Client and his Partner alone together in the alley. The Client opened the scroll and began to murmur the contents aloud.
" ... stabilize the Gate ... immense power ... " Harthoth said aloud, dropping his human form and taking on his more natural form of the black and gold Egyptian gargoyle. "This is it. This is what I've been looking for."
"I hope this endeavor will be useful to us in the future?" his Partner asked, not nearly as excited as Harthoth.
"Very useful, my dear Isfet, very useful indeed."
* * * * *
"I don't care!" Payne's voice was pained and frustrated. "I don't care where I go, I just want in on your next dance! As long as it gets me as far away from this Godforsaken place, the better!"
Brooklyn rolled his eyes. "You're kidding, right? You think after all I've had to go through, that I'm just going to drag you along with me to give me a reminder of everything that's wrong with my blasted life?!"
"Exactly. It's your fault we're in this mess to begin with. You're the one who's going to get us out." Payne's expression took an unholy light. "Or would you rather that I meddle with the timeline?"
----I Am Become Death----
* * * * *
"Yes. We'll drink a toast to freedom, and to gargoyle hunting." Loki looked startled for a second, then laughed. It was the most chilling noise Payne had ever heard.
"Yes, we will. A grand idea. Now listen, this is important. You have said you agree to this, but you must accept my power completely or things will go very wrong for you."
"Okay," Payne huffed impatiently, "I understand. Let's get to it."
"So be it."
The two of them stood there for another second, before Payne insisted, "Well?"
Loki narrowed his eyes on the impudent scientist. "It is coming."
At almost that instant, Payne felt something rise in him, a surge. It was a geyser going off in his chest, spreading to all his limbs -- then the feeling of the balloon inflating in his head again, only this time, it wasn’t constrained.
Payne clenched his teeth. "Wh-what’s happening?"
"There is a part of me already inside you. It is seizing control. Let it or it will kill you."
Payne managed a nod, only to regret it as his neck tightened and convulsed. His mind began to splinter, to crack, and something seeped through: a memory. But not from his point of view...
...Project Chronos was successful. Yes, that brilliant, incandescent sphere of blue crackling energy. That marvelous, endless vortex. The culmination of his work. It had worked.
...He wasn’t the only one to notice. From within the Phoenix Gate, something had been stirred to life. The machine had drawn from the Gate, and in so doing, had drawn its occupant out. But not all the way. It had a second, no more. A second in which...
...To leap from its prison into Dr. Isaac Payne. Payne, its passage to freedom. But only a fraction of itself made it before its prison was unplugged, before it was re-sentenced to eternal dormancy by its escorts.
...And dizzying plunge into the depths of time, the depths of the human consciousness, into a nook in a corner recess of his new vessel’s mind... forced there for it had no means of surfacing without being bidden... it could not take possession without permission...
At last, Payne snapped out of his delirium.
Loki clutched one hand to his chest, then slowly moved it away. Between chest and fingers there stretched a strobing energy field. Loki pressed his fingers together into a fist and the power not in his hand retreated back to his body. The fay opened his hand to display a globe of shimmering green-black energy that pulsed in his palm.
Payne eyed the ball with mixed wariness and anticipation. His body was still being ‘seized’, his muscles were all frozen, and he felt like his heart might explode and his mind melt down.
"Come on," said the man, "I'm ready."
Loki released the ball, which spread across his body. The energy sheath snapped tight around him and entered. It hurt. Considerably. But Payne was anticipating it and accepted it. For a few seconds it felt like he was two persons in one body, but then Loki's essence faded into his subconscious, almost as if it had never been there. Payne could just barely detect the presence if he focused on it. With dissipation of Loki's power came relief from the pain of the transference and Payne swooned, dropping back into the snow.
Loki looked at him for a long time before turning away. "I have begun it, and now I will end it."
----Nor Iron Bars a Cage----
* * * * *
"I want to go home, Timedancer!" Payne told him. "And you’re not dancing anywhere else. You’re going to die here, and the Gate will be mine."
Brooklyn dodged a blast of energy, which slammed into the wall behind him. The wall froze from the blast, chunks of fresco shattering with the impact, but Brooklyn didn’t notice. He ran towards the exit, the Phoenix Gate and Spera held tightly in his hand.
"No, Timedancer!" Payne yelled at him, not moving. "I made a pact with the devil to get home. I’m not going to die here!" He continued to fire blasts of energy from his hands, but each missed Brooklyn as he got closer to the exit. The blasts hit the walls around them, rocking the temple to its foundations. Payne looked to his left, seeing a marble pillar swinging unsteadily. It finally toppled, and Payne was to slow to move out of its way.
If fell on him, almost crushing his legs in the process. "No! Not now! Not like this!" Payne screamed from under the pillar as the ceiling began to crumble on top of him. Brooklyn took one last look at the doctor, grimaced, and bolted out the door.
Isaac Payne, the creature that he now was, lay under the marble pillar and a variety of other things. The ceiling had successfully fallen into the building, but Payne could still see the ash falling from the sky. It fell onto his skin, burning it. The doctor’s eyes glowed a darker blue now, and the marble and stone that touched his skin froze with ice.
"I’ll get you, Timedancer!" he yelled. "We’ll get you!" His body continued to be surrounded by ash and soot. And Payne knew that the lava would soon come. He continued screaming at the Timedancer until the extreme heat silenced his voice.
----Fire and Ice----
* * * * *
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.
* * * * *
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.
* * * * *
"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."
----Return to Paradise, part I----
* * * * *
Return to Paradise, part II
2158, The Eyrie Pyramid
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.
Payne's eyes opened wide as he saw the Phoenix flames vanish before him. Having sneaked into the pyramid, he had just arrived at this spot to confront the Timedancer and get the Gate... All that time, all that waiting through the centuries... Payne fell to the floor, writhing and screaming. An invisible force seemed to be holding him back, restraining him from within.
"Timedancer! Timedanceeeeer!" he yelled, breaking down into hysterical crazed sobs. "You will not escape me! No, Timedancer! No! We will have you!"
* * * * *
The hover-transport glided over the Egyptian desert. Sata could see her destination even at night. She sighed and asked herself what she was doing. The transport pulled to a stop and Sata exited. No one paid heed to her appearance.
Another transport, this one smaller, black and designed in the style of a late-twentieth century limousine, obviously waiting for her. A man stood outside the door.
"Lady Sata?" the man waiting asked her. The jade gargoyle nodded.
"I can find him on my own," she told the man strongly.
"Please," he said, opening the door for her, "Master Harthoth insists."
Sata cringed at the name, making herself step into the transport. It was only a matter of time now.
* * * * *
As the doors slid open with a hiss, Brooklyn stepped inside the room that was his and Sata's --for the time being at least.
"Sometimes I forget just how big this place is," he sighed, walking across the room to where a chair beckoned. Obviously made for a gargoyle’s comfort, it had a cut section in the back that allowed a tail to slip through, but was strong enough to support his back without any loss of comfort.
"Nice," he murmured as he relaxed. Idly, he let he gaze travel around the room, coming to rest on his belt of pouches which had been laid across the top of a table nearby. Without thinking, he reached over and pulled the belt to him, taking a moment to rise to strap it about his waist. Adjusting it, he frowned as he noticed it felt… different, somehow. Looking down, his hand moved to the pouch where the Gate was stored…
…and found it open, and empty!
"The Gate?! I could have sworn--?!" He looked around the room quickly, ducking down to look under the furniture and everywhere, but the Gate was nowhere to be found. That alone nearly made the crimson warrior stop breathing.
"Where is it? Could it have left without me?" he asked himself, starting to pace the floor. "No. I'd have felt it activate." He turned and stared at the room, noting that someone wasn't there. "Sata! Could she have left with the Gate?" He shook that thought out of his mind. "No. The Gate chose me to be its guide, not her."
Still pacing, Brooklyn was snapped out of his train of thought by an insistent beeping from the communications panel on the wall.
"Swell!" Stepping over, he looked at the device uncertainly… until he spied the flashing green switch below the video panel. Punching it with a talon, he snapped, "This is… um, Brooklyn here. What's up?"
The screen lit up with the image of D'Artigan-one of the younger clan members who was still working in the communications hub. "Brooklyn! You'd better get down to the rookery right now!"
"The rookery!?" Brooklyn stepped back in surprise. "What is it?"
"We have a situation going on down there. Artus just called in Alexander and his wife, and there's a security team on the way. Artus wants you there as well, so get down there, fast!"
"I'm there, kid," Brooklyn replied, thumbing the device off as he turned to leave the room. "What's going on now!?" His mind jangled with thoughts of Sata and the Gate, the crimson gargoyle slapped the door release and darted out into the hall…
* * * * *
"Greetings," Harthoth said, motioning for Sata to sit down. She did, though she knew her discomfort was apparent, something she had told herself to avoid. "It is good to see you again, samurai. How have you been? Everything is well, I trust?"
"Do not mock me, wizard. I have come for a reason. Five years ago, I approached you for a deal. Do you remember?" Sata asked, trying not to look at Harthoth.
"Indeed I do," he answered, "do you wish to discuss that deal again?"
"Do you know what has happened? Surely you must. He has come home, Harthoth. After ten years, the Gate has brought him back to me. But the children…"
"I know. I know everything, Sata," Harthoth stated. "Your actions, no matter how inane, are well documented in various circles."
"Things have changed. We don’t know for how long the Gate will allow us to be together. I like it here, and I want us both to stay. Our children are here... my friends are here."
"I'd need the Gate, Sata. I told you that at our last meeting. Without it, I am powerless in this field."
Sata pulled out the Phoenix Gate and showed it to him, "I have it this time." Her voice dripped with guilt. "Brooklyn does not know that I am even here, or that the Gate is with me."
Harthoth smiled, "So what is it exactly you want now, besides to stay here? My resources are becoming less available as more time passes."
"I want to make a trade. A complete accounts of our travels in exchange for you stabilizing the Gate. As I've said, you know magic and the Gate. Only you can do this for me."
"Are you trying to haggle, samurai?" Harthoth asked, "The original deal was information for information. This is... substantially more. But all things are negotiable. My offer is this: I will send you and Brooklyn to a time of your choosing."
"That is my offer, Sata. Take it or leave it."
"But we need to stay here. Our children -"
Harthoth cut her off, "My terms are invariable."
"I thought you said all things were negotiable, Harthoth."
"I am offering you a boon that I am not untitled to, samurai," Harthoth said. "Things are coming to a head, my friend - "
"I am not your friend," Sata cut him off.
"Let me finish. The humans have created a world as close to a utopian society as they will ever reach. You have no idea what is being put into effect." Harthoth sighed. "I do not want either of you being hurt."
Sata sighed and hung her head, "I can not. Our children and here; they need to know their father. I believe you once agreed with me on that statement."
"Do not patronize my weaknesses, samurai. I care for you both; you know that. But I pledged my service to another over eight thousand years ago. I want to be free."
"And I want to be happy," Sata replied.
"Goodbye, Sata," Harthoth said. "I have business to attend to. Consider this offer. It might be your only chance for true happiness."
Sata nodded. Harthoth turned, his footsteps echoing through the small meeting room they were in. "Harthoth," Sata said. The wizard turned. "Thank you for the book you gave me. I keep it with the children, as a reminder that Brooklyn is out there, somewhere."
Harthoth smiled, something Sata had never seen him do. He turned and left. Sata sighed, wondering again what she was doing here. She left out the same door Harthoth did. She needed to return to Manhattan, lest her presence be missed.
He had said things were coming to a head. Though she didn’t know what that meant exactly, Sata hoped that they would all be safe. Brooklyn needed her, and their children needed them both. Sata left Egypt with that thought lingering on her mind.
* * * * *
Old Castle Wyvern
The beeps of her personal messenger made Angela look up from her reading material for that evening. She stood, marking her place and walking over to her communicator. The elder female pressed the talk button.
The voice was automated. "Incoming call from … ‘your daughter’…" Gwenyvere’s voice broke through the computer’s. "Will you accept this call?"
Angela nearly fell off of her feet at the voice. "Y… yes," she stumbled out.
"Daddy? Is that you?" Gwenyvere’s picture filled the screen, her skin pale.
"Gwen. It’s me," Angela said through a series of tears. It had been almost five years since she had seen her daughter’s face or heard her voice.
"Oh. Hello, Angela," the voice through was cold and harsh, not that her daughter had possessed ten years ago.
"Gwen, please. I’m your mother. Can’t you at least call me such?" Angela asked.
"I don’t have much time before the scrambler fails and you can trace this call," Gwen told her simply. "Where’s Daddy?" Angela noted that her daughter’s pictures fading in and out of her screen.
"Don’t do this to me," Angela said, crying at her fullest. "Come home, my dear. We miss you so much. Do you know what it’s been like?"
"Do you think I’ve forgotten what you did to me?" Gwen asked her accusingly.
"I didn’t do it to you," Angela pleaded.
"Right. You did it for her. You might of won her, but you lost me."
"Please, Gwenyvere. Come home. Samson… he’s growing so fast. And he misses you. And Artus… he’s such a good leader. And Brooklyn has come home, finally. He’s worried about you too." Angela had stopped crying, but her voice was still begging her daughter to come back to them.
"Fine, Angela. Tell Brooklyn and Sata I said hello, and that I’m sorry… for everything. Tell Artus and Samson not to worry about me, that I’m doing fine. And tell Daddy I tried to call him. I have to go. Goodbye, mother." And with this, the screen clicked off.
Angela walked back to her chair and sat down. The only thing on her mind was, She called me ‘mother.’ She put her head in her hands and cried for a longer time than she would remember later. When Broadway came to their room, she told him about what happened, and he cried with her then. D’Artagnan had said that a trace was unsuccessful, and they could only wait until she tried to reach them again.
Angela hoped it would be soon.
* * * * *
Harthoth closed the door to his office and donned the guise he used for meetings and outings. He sat at his large desk, organizing a few of the papers that cluttered its surface.
"What do you think you are doing?" A female voice broke the silence in the room. Isfet's form took shape in front of Harthoth’s desk.
"I'm dealing with Brooklyn in my own way," Harthoth answered, not even looking up from his paperwork. He would not give her the service of his attention. "Do you want something, or are you here simply to question my actions? I do not answer to you."
"I should kill him," she said simply.
"As you've mentioned before. He's been a problem in the past, so we need to rid of him, but not in that way. I don't want to kill him, and I don't want him to be around when everything starts happening."
"Very well. Your compassion is your weakness, Harthoth. You have too big of a heart, so I'm going to be watching you," Isfet said, vanishing. The ancient gargoyle disguised as a human continued his work. Everything would be fixed soon enough.
* * * * *
Brooklyn dashed to the rookery, out of breath by the time he arrived. His left shoulder throbbed mildly in pain, and the rest of his muscles were pumped with adrenaline, ready for action. Whatever the situation was, he was ready for it. And then he saw that he was not ready for the situation.
Alexander Xanatos, a girl Brooklyn vaguely recognized as Serena, Artus, and half a dozen other gargoyles were standing by as security used laser rifles to try and blast through a... Wall of ice? The chalky haired gargoyle examined the situation. The lasers were passing right through the ice, but they weren't damaging it at all. The ice was like diamond, clear and unyielding, and indestructible.
"Oh please don't be what I think this is..." Brooklyn whispered to himself.
"Brooklyn," the fire haired member of the Xanatos family began. "Do you have any idea what..."
Alex fell silent as a figure appeared on the other side of the ice. The features were somewhat obscured, but it looked like a man.
"Payne!" Brooklyn growled.
A light and sinister chuckle came from the other side. "I'm surprised you remember me, Timedancer."
"How could I ever forget someone as irritating as you?" the brick red gargoyle let his eyes flare a bit.
"Considering the last time we were together two millennia ago you left me to a fiery death, I just find it surprising is all."
"What do you want Payne?" Brooklyn's patience was already wearing thin. He did NOT need this.
The mad doctor's voice came back. It had that same eerie distortion it had possessed back in Pompeii, Brooklyn noted. Still Payne's voice, but higher in pitch, and it almost had an echo effect to it.
"You. AND the Phoenix Gate," started the reply. "You'll come to me, and come alone, unless you want others to become living icicles. And be quick about it."
"Brooklyn, what is this about?" Artus questioned.
"Payne is a creep I met a couple times in the course of my dances. The last time I saw him he had somehow started to develop strange ice powers, but I thought he had been caught in an exploding volcano. And besides that, it was so long ago... He shouldn't be here. He can't be here."
Alexander Xanatos noted in a calm voice that matched his father's ability to note a situation. "And yet he is. So what do we do about it?"
Serena tossed in her observation. "The power he has is not his own. I do not know where it is coming from, but it is certainly not his."
Brooklyn listened and stared intently at Payne's distorted silhouette through the ice. Payne seemed a bit impatient, his arms were crossed and he was staring right through the ice wall.
Alex nodded at Serena. "I thought the same thing. But if his power isn't coming from him, then where?"
"Doesn't matter," Serena smiled. "We'll go in there and take him down. We have the power for it.
"No!" Brooklyn shouted and whispered at the same time. Artus already understood why.
"You can't just do that while he's in the rookery. The eggs are in danger."
Brooklyn frowned. "For now we have to play it Payne's way. The cold temperatures he's letting off puts the eggs in danger with each passing moment. I'm going after him. By myself."
* * * * *
It was cold, and he could feel it. He felt everything that happened in the past two thousand years, which wasn’t a lot. He hated being drug around the world, being shown off as an ancient exhibit. But he knew, the crowds would come tomorrow, as the always did.
One item did stand out in the exhibit, and he knew it was he. He was not the great scientific genius he had once been. Now he was only a body, incased in sulfuric ash, lying in the remains of the Temple of Apollo. But this body had powers, powers that were given to him by a true god. Or perhaps it was simply the devil.
Patience, the voice came to him. Allow your body to thaw fully and your blood to begin circulating again. We have waited a long time; a few minutes more will not hurt.
He had spent centuries gathering the strength to break out of this prison and seek his revenge. Had anyone been there that quite night, they would have been mystified as the cracks around the body grew larger, and light of blue began to glow around them. Had anyone been there that quite night, they would of perished.
The petrified ash deteriorated around the body, and he was finally free, free to do whatever he pleased. But this would require planning, something he was good at. Only one thing ran though his mind, the same thing that had run through his mind since he had been encompassed in that blasted shell.
* * * * *
2043, Project Chronos Complex
Michael Barnes and his girlfriend Minnie escaped from the building as it exploded. In a mad dash, they had barely made it to safety. Looking back, Michael breathed hard.
"Hey, we made it. Barely." And explosion went off behind him, and the two kept moving.
The brown hair girl smiled at him. "Yeah, would ya believe it?"
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.
As the light dissipated, the lifeless, rock-hard body of Ilsa Winters remained. Beside her stood her true form, the creature that Payne was destined to become.
Payne's laughter grew in intensity and insanity. His eyes flared a blue glow and his body began to refreeze. Only one thought remained in his mind.
"Phoenix Gate! Phoenix Gate! Phoenix Gate!"
* * * * *
Brooklyn came back to the wall of ice, now clad in modern fashion. He noted with a smile that it was basically the exact same outfit he had worn last time he was here, ten years ago. This time though, the shoulder pad provided an extra bonus. It covered the scars and worked as a bracer. Even if the work of the ruby eyed creatures never left him completely, the bracer was a nice touch that would help him out. He did not have the wrist guards he possessed last time he was in the future however, Payne might consider them a weapon.
That was hardly important now. The snow-haired gargoyle was ready to face his enemy, but the other half of the ransom, the Phoenix Gate, was missing.
"Spit," he noted to himself. "With every moment we waste, the eggs are put in further danger... Where could the stupid gate have gone? It wouldn't have flared out without me would it?"
The irony of the situation struck Brooklyn. The one time he actually wanted the blasted gate and it was no where to be found.
"Brooklyn-san!" came Sata's shout, breaking him out of his train of thought. He turned to see his beautiful mate, carrying the gate in one hand, followed close behind by Serena. She'd apparently been escorted as soon as she arrived.
"Sata! Where have you been?"
"No time to explain love! Our children are all in danger, according to what Serena has told me."
"Yeah. Blame it on Payne."
The jade female looked shocked. "Payne? The doctor we met in 2043?"
The beaked gargoyle growled slightly. "One and the same."
Before the conversation could go any further, a yell came from behind the wall. "Oh Tiiiimedaaaaancer!"
Brooklyn growled and slipped the magical talisman into his pouch. "I've got to go."
Sata nodded. "Good luck."
With a deep breath, the red gargoyle approached the ice wall and shouted. "Payne! I'm here, and I have the gate!"
The ice wall opened up some. Brooklyn looked back and the glances exchanged between the group said this might be the perfect opportunity to get Payne, but the magic ice was already resealing.
"I suppose we just have to hope the plan works," Brooklyn muttered to himself as he stepped through the wall, the wall of ice reformed as soon as he was past it.
Most of the room was covered in ice. Stalactites and stalagmites were strung all around the room, putting the area at far too cold a temperature for the eggs to remain healthy. Payne did not seem to mind the temperature at all.
The two opponents looked at each other. Brooklyn noted that Payne had aged quite a bit. He was balder, his beard was scruffier and going white in spots, and his eyes sagged with age. The eyes were odd. They glowed an eerie light blue, crackling with power. The gargoyle unconsciously shuddered in the mad doctor's presence.
His attire now consisted of a blue outfit with metal strips lining the top, metallic boots, and a while lab coat. The loin cloth tied with a brown sash in front of the pants struck Brooklyn as odd, until he realized it was probably Payne's idea of a joke in comparison to what had been Brooklyn's entire wardrobe. Still, for someone who had lived several millennia, he looked in good shape.
Payne stared at the Timedancer. Barely changed from when he had seen him last. A bit more tired perhaps, but aside from the shoulder pad, still young and the same creature he hated.
Isaac was the first to speak.
"The Gate. Now!" he shouted, placing one hand on an egg.
Brooklyn pulled the object out, and let Payne see it. "Here's the gate, Payne. I don't suppose it would be too much to leave the eggs alone?"
"Far too much." he smirked mischievously. "Now, toss me the gate."
"How about I just give it to you?"
"I don't trust you to come that close Timedancer. Just toss me the item."
Reluctantly, the gargoyle underhand tossed the object to the man. While the gate was still in mid-air, a blast of ice came forth and nailed Brooklyn, holding him in place. He was unable to move, and was freezing.
"So what are you going to do now? Torture me until I beg for mercy?" he tried to sound defiant.
"A definite possibility," the bald and bearded man smiled.
Brooklyn kept the banter going, and Payne's attention, as Alex and the others worked at melting the ice wall on the other side.
"I'm not afraid of you Payne."
"Of course you aren't Timedancer. You still think of me as I was."
The gargoyle's teeth began to chatter. "You should..." he shivered, and he tried to hide it. "Thank me for all the times I saved you."
"Thank you?!?" Payne flared up, and his eyes began to glow a bright blue. "You put us in those situations to begin with! Thanking you is the last thing we have on our agenda!"
The gargoyle with snow colored hair narrowed his eyes at Payne's awkward phrasing. Plural --not singular. Odd...
Payne seemed to calm down some, and an evil smile came across his lips.
"Believe me, I have other, much more interesting things in mind. You see, Timedancer, I had plenty of time to plot your death. After the agony of having to watch you effortlessly flee my grasp, it took ten years to draw you back."
"What are you talking about?"
Before an answer could come, the sprinklers shot online. Hot salt water sprayed down on the pair.
The lord of cold's eyes widened, and he turned his powers against the sprinklers. With an impressive display of blue energy, he froze the water in the pipes. A few drops of water that managed to hit Payne froze on him.
"A futile attempt," the doctor commented, turning back towards Brooklyn.
"Depends on your point of view," the red one grinned, as he broke free of the ice, half melted by the hot water.
"Clever, Timedancer. Do you have any more tricks?"
* * * * *
Brooklyn gathered his powerful legs beneath himself and leapt forward; landing right in front of the danger to the eggs.
"It's over, Payne," Brooklyn growled, shoving his beak into the man's face. In a flash the warrior had the transformed human by his shirt collar. With a rough toss, the gargoyle hurled the man against a nearby wall and the gate slipped from the doctor's grasp.
The brick-red gargoyle reached down to grab the gate, and as he straightened up, was shocked to see Payne was moving; slowly rising to his hands and knees while shaking his head.
"No way! You should be out cold! I could have thrown you through the wall with that toss!" Brooklyn gaped.
The doctor pulled himself erect, glaring at his enemy. "I am not the trembling weakling you once knew, Timedancer!" With a flick of his wrists, Payne launched a blast of ice shot at Brooklyn, who managed to dodge it.
The gargoyle sprang to the rookery's exit and slipped on the ice-coated floor. Scrambling backwards and getting away, he reflexively reached for the stone wall. He winced as suddenly the pain in his arm flared up again.
"Ahh! Not NOW!" He groaned against the agony as his claws curled into the stone. Gritting his teeth, he caped his wings and stared down at his opponent.
"I want the Gate, Timedancer! Give it back!" Payne shouted.
The gargoyle snarled and his eyes flashed briefly. "You want it!? Come and get it!"
The insane human screamed and fired another ice blast, but Brooklyn was already leaving the rookery, dodging the shots that followed a bit more successfully. Unable to do much more, Payne started to chase the time-traveler down.
"Swell," Brooklyn panted. "I've gotten Payne away from the rookery. Now what do I do with him!?"
The Timedancer dashed through the building, thankful his previous injuries were basically healed. If his ribs has still been broken or his shoulder had been giving him as much agony as it had been-what was it now? Two days ago. Three?-he would have never been able to keep up such a grueling pace. As it was, he barely stayed two steps ahead of the human was no longer merely human.
To prove the point, several blue flashes burst behind him, freezing the walls or the floor right behind him.
"Stop dodging my blasts Timedancer!" Payne shouted from down the hall.
"I'm not dodging, you're just a lousy shot!" he yelled back.
Loki's servant had to pause to fire his ice bolts, but it wasn't enough of an advantage for the gargoyle to get ahead. One good shot would be all Payne needed to stop him. Struggling against his own body's fatigue, Brooklyn tried to gain ground, but the other timetraveler's physical endurance and ability seemed to be reaching peak gargoyle levels now.
After a chase that lasted far too long for the tiring gargoyle's tastes, he found his way to a outer-doorway. Rushing through it, he emerged into the castle courtyard, much changed from the one he was familiar with in 1996. One thing that hadn't changed was the placement of some decorative shrubbery along the far wall, as well as the lone watchtower rising high overhead.
"Okay Brooklyn," he muttered to himself while catching his breath, "Think. Where do you go next? What do you do next?"
He hadn't gone far when the door below burst outward. When Payne emerged, he shouted out into the night air, "I am. Getting to be. DISAPPOINTED!" Turning, he suddenly looked up, and spied Brooklyn, far out of reach. With a sneer, he fired off another flash. but it fell far short of the crimson warrior overhead.
The old Isaac Payne would have come up with a quick plan. but this time, he was obsessed with one thing. "Phoenix Gate!" he shouted. "Give it to us, Timedancer!"
The gargoyle flinched for a moment. Payne's eyes were glowing an unnatural color, and he did not seem fully in control of himself, almost as if something else were in charge. "Its almost like it was with me and the Jersey Devil crew..." He shook his head, now was not the time to be sympathetic towards the one trying to kill him.
Not a word came forth in reply from the quick-climbing gargoyle. Payne fired a small solid blast of ice from his hands, and encased his arms in ice claws. The surge of power shredded his overcoat into tatters as he lashed out and dug his ice claws into the side of the parapet, easily breaking through the stone.
"Very well, Timedancer, you leave me no choice!" He began his pursuit, which looked as if it would end right at the pyramid's peak.
While this was taking place, not too far off in the distance, a large figure watched the battle with unblinking eyes...
* * * * *
Brooklyn glanced down during his climb and immediately regretted it. "For someone who couldn't climb a tree before, he's making good time!" Shaking his hair out of his face, he squinted towards the peak.
Turning back to make his own way upwards, he traveled another ten meters before he felt a familiar sensation. Shooting his stare down at his belt pouches, his eye's widened at the sight of sparks sputtering out from under the one leather flap of the pouch on his belt.
"Oh no you don't! Don't you dare!" he yelled at Phoenix Gate. Whipping his head over his shoulder again, he did not see Payne this time, but he saw the rush of several civilians, headed for the airpad as they were being evacuated from the immediate premises.
"At least no more people can get hurt," Brooklyn noted. He turned back to his ascension, which was now made more difficult as the pains in his left arm became worse, despite the bracer.
Finally he reached the top, his limbs heavy and aching-especially the wounded shoulder-and nearly out of breath. Struggling to get his energy back, he nearly collapsed on the side of the high capstone. Storm clouds gathered in the sky, and the air grew cooler.
Only a few moments later, Payne's voice pierced through his fatigue-laden mind. "That climb took a lot out of you didn't it, Timedancer?" With a thump, Payne appeared while clinging to the side of the structure, his blue eyes flashing with madness.
Brooklyn heaved a shuddering breath as he came wobbling to his feet. "I still…have plenty left!"
"I suppose you won't be trying any heroics now, will you?" the ice fiend questioned in self-satisfaction.
"Why do the bad guys always say stupid things like that?" the crimson gargoyle wondered aloud. Reaching for his waist, he yanked the Gate out and held it towards the scientist. "What do you want? The Gate?"
As Payne reached out, Brooklyn whipped his arm out to the side, holding the gate over the empty space below.
The unstoppable force of ice did not flinch. "Have I ever wanted anything else!?"
"If you want it," Brooklyn growled, "Just go get it!" He hurled the magical trinket with all his strength, intending to send it sailing far out of Payne's reach.
The bald human's gaze followed the trinket's path. He flicked out his arm and an icy tendril of energy snaked out and caught it in midair.
The tendril retracted into Payne's hand as he chuckled malevolently. "Nice try, Timedancer. But, I would have gotten the Gate eventually anyway," he said. "What I really want is you. I have waited a long time to pay you back for Pompeii... have you any idea what it is like to be engulfed in an avalanche of molten lava?"
Payne's eyes glowed hot while he started to maneuver himself along the side of the peak. "I did not wait all those years to draw you to me, only to be cut short. I would have made you really squirm, if I had managed to hold onto your precious eggs."
The red gargoyle's eyes lit up as he snarled. "Just leave them out of this, Payne!"
The bearded man chuckled. "My, my! You still have that temper, Timedancer!" A ball of energy began to form in the doctor's hand. A moment later the energy crackled as another bolt of ice shot towards Brooklyn. Because of the distance between them, Brooklyn managed to dodge it, but fell to the ground out of breath.
The master of perpetual winter watched his prey as he prepared to deal another frigid blow. He smiled a cocky grin. "You are exhausted, Timedancer! Worn out! Yet my power is keeping me strong! I rather like this reversal in our old..."
The doctor's words cut short as a sharp pain lanced through his ice-encrusted arm. He turned and saw a green female gargoyle, sword in her hands.
Sata looked to her mate to check and see if he was all right, and then she turned and faced the one trying to kill him. "You will do no more harm, Payne," she growled as her eyes flared red.
Brooklyn smiled. "Nice strategy, get the villain while he's taunting."
Payne glanced at his arm, ice chipped away from it. A moment of concentration and the ice healed itself, but the female...
"I know you..." Payne stammered. "You are the Timedancer's mate. Funny, he finally got back to you after all his whining.
Sata's eyes narrowed, her grip on her sword tightening as she prepared to take over for the exhausted Brooklyn.
Payne frowned. "You, I do not care about." A large blue ball of ice began to build in his hand, as he watched both gargoyles.
The brick-red gargoyle no longer struggled to get up, his arm was giving him far too much grief to allow it. So instead he watched the scene unfolding before him. No doubt Sata had seen some of the earlier battle and knew about the ice blasts, so there was little need to warn her. But something was wrong with Payne.
The blue ball of ice energy continued to gather in Payne's hands, as Sata tensed in preparation to dodge the blast and attack.
The ice claws on Payne's arms began to mingle with the energy forming in his hand, as the ball grew in size.
Brooklyn was confused as he whispered to himself. "Earlier Payne shot off multiple blasts in a matter of seconds, and now he was taking his time to charge up the blast. What gives?"
And then his eyes widened. "SATA! Look out, this attack is going to be a BIG one!"
The jade female glanced in her mate's direction, trying not to take her gaze off her opponent as she cried out, "What?"
The distraction was all the doctor needed, as he suddenly unleashed a huge blast of ice from his arms, a constant flow seeming to stream from his arms into Sata. She was knocked to the ground and half of her body was frozen in ice. A growl escaped from her throat as the red glow in her eyes faded and she collapsed.
"SATA!" Brooklyn screamed, his eyes flaring up a bright white. Adrenaline surged through his body as he forced himself to stand back up, despite his injuries. "That DOES it PAYNE!" he growled. "I won't forgive you now!"
"And you would have before?" Payne asked coolly. "Its an empty threat, Timedancer. You are in no condition to fight me. I have the powers of a god. You... Have nothing."
The gargoyle forced a step forward. "I have enough!"
Suddenly, a flash of lightning illuminated the dark storm clouds that had been gathering over the pyramid. A crack of thunder followed, and then a blanket of rain began to pour onto the courtyard. As soon as the rain touched Payne, it froze on his body. Within moments, Payne found himself starting to become encased in a shell of frozen rain.
Brooklyn looked on the spectacle in degrees of shock and surprise. With a grim smile, he observed, "The plan's working!""Ahhh!" Payne's eyes flashed blue in anger and he tried to writhe himself free, but the rain was not letting up. "Timedancer!" the doctor screamed. "Wh-Wha. How are you doing this!?"
Brooklyn replied, his tone dripping with self-satisfaction. "Weather control, it's a beauty, isn't it?" He glanced upward, where he indicated a hovering pod that was over the pyramid. "While you were chasing me, I had Alex launch that into the atmosphere."
Payne cursed. "No!!!"
The scientist eyes flashed like two blue supernovas. "I won't be stopped like this!" His fists burned with vibrant blue light and blasts of ice shot out into the night, aimed at the weather pod. But each blast ended up absorbed into the rain, turning the drops to ice in an instant. Soon, hundreds of frozen raindrops began splattering the ground like hail, adding their mass to the shell that was quickly solidifying around Payne.
"No! NO!!", Payne screamed in agony. "Give me a chance! No. Not yet! I almost have him!" His eyes flickered like guttering candles in his head, while his features were twisted in pain.
Brooklyn breathed heavily as he watched the shell finish forming. "Well. That's that." He turned to attend to his mate.
A sudden bright blue flash lit the air like a strobe light. The ice cocoon shattered into pieces, and there amid the chaos stood Payne.
"Great! Now what!?" Brooklyn wondered aloud. Payne's posture was different, with a cocky aura that seemed far removed from the former-scientist.
"MY turn, Timedancer!" Payne's voice was different, too: much more suave and a little dangerous-sounding as well. When he started forward again, the rain kept falling, making the ice cocoon anew. The man --or was he now something more-- took a step forward. His foot froze to the ground, but he struggled and managed to pull his other leg forward, only for it to freeze to the ground when it touched.
The creature that had fully possessed Payne grinned. "A long time ago Timedancer, I told you to look at me and know the face of he who will make you beg for death. The face has changed, but I still intend to make you beg."
Brooklyn backed away, unsure what to do with this unexplained wrinkle.
Step after step, Payne's body struggled to get nearer, each step taking more effort on his part. "Timedancer," he mumbled. "Phoenix Gate... You are both ... mine!" Suddenly, he fell forward, unable to move because the rain had frozen both legs to the ground; solid as an iceberg.
Taking in a deep breath, the force that inhabited Payne came to a realization. "Do you really think this is enough to stop ME, Loki?"
The frost maned gargoyle's eyes widened. "Loki!?"
Suddenly a spotlight burst out of the rain-swelled sky, focusing on the stricken figure of the Loki-possessed Payne, accompanied by the roar of jet engines. As both Brooklyn and Payne turned to stare through the downpour to see where the light was coming from, a pair of heavy weapons opened fire.
Brooklyn gasped. "What the--!?" In the backflash of the two heavy guns, the silhouette of a COYOTI robot appeared. Confused by this sudden turn of events, Brooklyn could only watch as the robot poured more fire onto the trapped scientist.
Payne-cum-Loki screamed in anguish, even though the robot's bullets didn't seem to be doing much damage. Suddenly, the Phoenix Gate in Payne's hand started to spark once more, flaring up with a burst of eldritch fire.
"AaaRGH!" Payne's hand shot open, dropping the talisman like a hot brick. Hitting the surface of the ice, the Gate bounced twice then slid across the courtyard, headed for a series of gaps that allowed rainwater to normally flush out and down the sides of the castle.
The barely conscious gargoyle stared as the dropped gate began to slide off the Eyrie pyramid. "Oh no you DON'T!!!" Sprinting across the ice, he leaped and slid after the Gate like a all-star baseball player going for the final out. Just as the Gate was slipping through one of the drain-offs, the crimson gargoyle barely snagged it with his talons, saving it from a mile-high plunge just in time.
Breathing heavily, Brooklyn stared at the Gate. "I may hate you, but you're the big bargaining chip in everything involved in my life! I'm not gonna loose you that easily!" With his left shoulder aching, he turned back towards Payne and the robot, which had been forced back by several volleys of ice shot from Payne, just as the scientist wrenched his body free from the ice with a major effort.
Glaring, Payne spoke with what sounded like two voices mixed together. "I will not wait any longer to be free, Timedancer!" He ran towards Brooklyn, taking to the air with a flying leap. At that moment, the Gate's fire blossomed in Brooklyn's hand.
"No! I can't dance out of here now!" he cried. But, just as quickly as it had appeared, the flame suddenly died down to a flicker. Brooklyn felt Payne collide with him, knocking him some distance back.
Shaking his head, the gargoyle saw Payne's hands glowing with blue light; it was his power that was canceling the gate's effects.
Again, Payne spoke in the double voice, "I can't let my prey escape now can I?" With an evil laugh, he fired two beams of blue light at the Gate. The light beat back the blossom of Phoenix flame, struggling against it, but slowly pushing it back. For the briefest of moments, it looked to Brooklyn as if the fiend could actually do it.
Then the gate's orange flames locked into Payne's blue power, struggling for dominance. Before the scientist-cum-fey could react, he entire effect changed, the gate was trying to pull the blue energy in!
Not knowing what to do or who to root for, Brooklyn staggered to his feet once more. "Hey, Payne! You want the Gate so badly? Here, CATCH!" With what felt like a last-ditch effort, he threw the Gate at Payne with his left arm. Brooklyn howled in agony as something in his shoulder ripped, again.
The talisman hit Payne dead center in his chest, erupting in a cacophony of orange and blue light and fire. The man let out a horrible scream-made even more terrible due to the double voices-writhing as the blue energy was sucked back into the Gate.
Without the power that supplied his super-human abilities, Payne collapsed in a heap onto the icy stones with a moan. The Gate clattered to the ground, but ended up wedged in a crack between two stones, blinking in the courtyard lights.
Cautiously, Brooklyn approached the fallen doctor, watching as the man rolled his head around in a disoriented fashion. Reaching down with his good arm and ignoring the pain in the other, the gargoyle grabbed him by the scruff once more and snarled, "It's over, Payne! But I swear. if any of the eggs or my clan are hurt at all by what you've done..." No response came from Payne. Brooklyn's wait for any snide remarks or witty retorts would be in vain, as he noticed the severe burn marks his unconscious nemesis had on this face and neck.
"Oh man," he muttered to no one. Exhausted, and with his shoulder killing him, Brooklyn dropped Payne and left him on the stones. Amid the sudden silence, the COYOTI robot landed in the far corner of the courtyard, standing still as it's jets cycled down.
The doctor no longer a concern, the gargoyle hobbled over to his mate. After a few furious swiped at the ice containing her, she was freed. He looked her over, fearing the worst. She was breathing, and the wound she had taken upon her fall was minor.
Just then, a security team-accompanied by Artus, Tamar, and several other gargoyles appeared in the courtyard. Tamar seemed upset she has missed the battle, but Brooklyn paid no attention her. All his concentration was on Sata.
Brooklyn whispered to the jade skinned warrior. "It's over," he told her, close to tears.
"I noticed Brooklyn-san," she smiled, her eyes opening a little.
* * * * *
The medical team had taken Payne away, and was finishing wrapping the gargoyle's wounded shoulder with gauze. "Gee, this seems familiar," he muttered.
Sata, now fully conscious and standing on her own, looked at his wrapped shoulder with concern. "How much does it hurt, Brooklyn-kun?"
"A lot," he muttered. "What does it matter? I'm exhausted right now and sunrise had better not be too far off. I need some serious sleep and healing time."
"Brooklyn..." Sata glared in all seriousness. "This wound is starting to become serious. You had it even before your battle. If this keeps up, it may never heal properly."
To her surprise, he smiled at that. "So I'll go easy on it for a while. If it never heals fully, it'll just serve as a reminder to me to not be so rash all the time."
"Hmm. If you say so..."
He smiled at his mate more, still finding it hard to believe he had finally gotten back to her. "Hey, who turned the sprinklers on back in the rookery anyway?"
Artus pointed to the COYOTI robot standing off in the corner away from the rest.
A voice came from the machine. "I couldn't let anything happen to my niece and nephew. I see what you meant when you told me why you couldn't tell us the future all those years ago ... brother," it said through the speakers.
"Lexington?" Brooklyn asked, recognizing his rookery brother's voice, "Lex? What! How?"
"Not now," Lex told him. "I've been monitoring the twins for a while. I know of Camilla's research, and I think I've come up with a solution. You can see me down in the hospital, which is where you both should be. Your children are about to hatch."
"WHAT?" both Brooklyn and Sata asked in surprise.
* * * * *
Moments later, Brooklyn and Sata arrived in the main section of the medical area, accompanied by Artus, Persephone and Alex. The second they crossed the threshold, an overhead holo-projector came to live, projecting an image of Lexington into the room.
Brooklyn couldn't help but stare. It was his rookery brother, but the olive gargoyle looked taller, older. The image also sported several metallic-looking segments imbedded into various places along his body. "Lex?"
The image made brief eye contact with the time-traveler, saying, "It's... good to see you, too."
Just then, Camilla Abrahms bustled to the fore of the group, wearing her usual medical smock and scrubs. "Good, you made it. The eggs are rocking a fit to beat the band. We've got them tucked in over here." She motioned to a large, Plexiglas cube seated on a table nearby, surrounded by several monitoring displays.
Brooklyn joined his mate as they stepped over to the table, peering through the clear plastic as the two eggs pitched back and forth. From the other side, Dr. Abrahms checked the readout on one of the monitoring machines. "Are they… all right?"
"So far… so good." The female doctor glanced over at the expectant couple. "They're alive, and the incubator will keep them from succumbing to the full effects of the cellular decay. But not for long."
Sata looked at the eggs. "H-How… How long, Camilla-san?"
The doctor frowned. "At the most… only for a couple of hours."
The holo of Lexington moved over to stand beside the doctor. "I've been monitoring the twins for a while," he explained, "While I've been working alongside Camilla's research, we've isolated the cause of their degradation. I think I've come up with a solution, but we haven't been able to implement it… until now."
A loud CRACK! sounded off from inside the incubator drew everyone's attention, just as the surface of one of the eggs began to bulge. As Brooklyn and Sata watched, the top of the leftmost egg popped off, followed by the sight of stubby, green-skinned hand clawing at the rim of the eggshell. A heartbeat later, the second egg split apart, revealing a three-toed foot attached to a red-skinned leg.
Hearts in their throats, it was all Brooklyn and Sata could do to keep from breaking the Plexiglas to reach their children. As it was, they waited with tear-filled eyes as two small bodies slid from their eggshell cocoons onto the floor of the incubator. Even though they were just born, the hatchlings both sported a thatch of dark hair, and the beginnings of a beaked mouth each, just not as pronounced as their father's.
Artus looked them over with wide eyes. "Twins! That is rare among gargoyles!"
Brooklyn turned to look at his mate, who tried to smile despite the tears on her cheeks.
"Dr. Abrahms," Lex stated. "I'm ready to do this if you are. We shouldn't wait any longer."
"Right." Camilla replied.
"What do you mean?" Brooklyn asked. "Ready for what?"
Turning around, the hologram nodded towards one side of the room. There, a pair of servomotor arms were putting the finishing touches on a pair of small boxy rectangles that were attached to an armband apiece.
"As Camilla told you before, it was a specific energy that kept the twins' cells from degrading," Lex explained. "I've been using all of the computing power and resources I have access to in the Eerie computer core to pin down the exact energy type." He turned as Camilla approached, carrying the armbands to the incubator. "Each of these units carries an amount of a radioisotope that projects that energy form. Using a special injector system, these will feed a dose of the energy into the body of the hatchling that we attach it to."
Camilla placed the devices into a small port on the side of the incubator, before slipping her arms through a pair of plastic sheaths built into it. "Over time, the devices will continue to feed the energy from the isotope into the hatchling, until the body has absorbed enough energy to purge the energy of the Gate to prevent it's cells from degrading permanently." With gentle hands, she carefully strapped one armband to the left arm of each hatchling."
Brooklyn and Sata looked at the dark-colored devices with a touch of doubt. "Lex… are you sure this will work?"
The holo turned to look at his rookery brother with a wink. "Trust me."
"There," Dr. Abrahms said, withdrawing her hands. "The units are activated. The first dose is being injected now."
Lex looked upwards, consulting systems that no one else could see. "They're working as planned… forty percent… sixty percent… that's the full dose administered."
"What happens now?" Artus asked.
Dr. Abrahms frowned slightly. "Now comes the next part." She paused to take a deep breath before giving both Sata and Brooklyn a look. "We have to switch off the incubator to see if the isotope is doing the trick."
"You do not sound confident, Camilla-chan?" Sata stated, even though her tone was that of a query.
"I won't lie to you two," Abrahms admitted. "This is extremely risky. Once we shut it down, should this whole thing end up not working… we won't have enough time to revive the hatchlings. This is a one-shot deal. And… it really should be your call."
Every head seemed to be fixed on the couple as they looked at one another. Sata was still teary-eyed, but her face was set in a firm expression. "I will abide by what you decide, Brooklyn-san."
Brooklyn stood there, weighing the decision in his mind. Slowly, he looked to where the hatchlings --his children-- lay on the floor of the incubator. Then, he weighed the choice in his heart.
Camilla nodded to Lexington, returning her hands to the sleeves to support the children inside. "Shut it down… let's hope we're right."
The hologram looked away once more, flickering slightly. "Incubator systems… shutting down. Monitoring vital signs…"
With a hiss, the system running the incubator ran down. Every eye looked to the small digital readout on the side, waiting with held breath as the twin pips that indicated heartbeat marched across from left to right. In seconds they started to waver and slow, while the twins started to squirm feebly.
"Heart rate falling… BP reaching minimum threshold…" Lexington intoned.
Sata clutched at her mate, while he himself bunched his fists until the talon tips punctured his palms. "Come on," Brooklyn breathed. "Don't give up! Don't, give, up!!!"
"Heart rate and BP now at critical…"
Artus and the rest looked on helplessly. Each and every one of them was tense with bitter hope. Alex himself stood at the doorway with Serena, the two holding hands in sympathy.
Suddenly, the pips stopped their slowing down. With a shift, they started speeding up
"Heart rate strengthening," Lexington reported, his eyes widening as he scanned the monitor. "BP rising to nominal levels." He turned to look at the gathered host. "They're going to be okay."
Breaking out in a spontaneous cheer, the clan raised their voices in praise. Alex and Serena were hugging one another, and Artus barely could suppress a triumphant smile. A couple of the gargoyles dashed out to tell the rest of the clan, leaving the rest to celebrate and congratulate the proud parents.
Both Brooklyn and Sata were ecstatic, barely able to keep the happy tears from their eyes as they came forward while Camilla removed first one, then the second twin to place into their arms, while Artus came over with a blanket to wrap them up in. All the fuss made them start to cry, but to the couples' ears it was the happiest sound they had ever heard.
Just then, Lexington's hologram drifted in front of Brooklyn, looking down at the two bundles cradled in their arms. Looking at his rookery brother, he smiled and said, "Congratulations, Brooklyn… it's a boy and a girl."
Unable to do much more, the crimson gargoyle simply smiled and said, "Thanks, Lex."
The hologram cocked his head with a grin that Brooklyn remembered from days long ago. "So, what are you going to name them?"
With a start, Brooklyn looked down at the twin in his arms, marveling for a moment at its bright red skin. "He's right, Sata. We've got to give these two names."
She nodded, running a gentle finger over the green brow ridges of the child she held. "We shall, my husband… in due time, after we've all rested from this ordeal…"
* * * * *
A short while later, while the twins were being held in a special nursery Alex had built for the clan's use, back in the main hall Brooklyn, Artus, and some of the others watched while Serena and Alex were in the middle of a spell-trance --projecting a reddish-yellow aura around an object on a pedestal. The tension in the room felt thick, and it was the thickest around the Timedancer.
"Well," Artus said at length, just as the two magic-users came out of their trance. "What did you find?"
Heaving a sigh, the red-haired billionaire reached down and lifted the Gate, turning it over a few times. "As far as we can tell, nothing." He tossed the talisman to Brooklyn, nodding as the gargoyle caught it. "It's stable. At least we think it is."
"Payne must of done it when he ... when whatever happened to him happened," Brooklyn noted.
* * * * *
Harthoth stood outside watching, as he did more than those inside realized. He turned to leave, when Sata grabbed his shoulder. He spun back around, his eyes ablaze.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, standing alone.
"Merely observing, samurai. Just remember, the Gate is only temporarily stable, but from uncertain means."
"How?" she asked.
"Know that I did not do it, not directly. I wouldn't put to much faith in it staying inert. Meanwhile, my offer is still open ... when the Gate begins to spark again, you'll know where to find me."
Sata stood there. "Sata!" Brooklyn's voice came to her as he rushed outside. "Harthoth?"
"Hello, Brooklyn. It's good to see you again, old friend," Harthoth said as others made their way out see what was going on. Harthoth sighed, annoyed, "I mean none of you any harm; but if anyone tries to stop me from leaving, I will not refrain from hurting them."
With that said, the black and gold colored Egyptian gargoyle left. Brooklyn wrapped his arms around Sata, "What was that about?" he asked her.
"It's a long story, my love," she told him, "One for another time."