The Air We Breathe
Written by Alan Coleman Waltrip
Story by Alan Coleman Waltrip and Daniel Paul Hightower
Art by Lynati
January 23, 2173. Manhattan.
Samson had been waiting for this night for almost six years. While the teenaged gargoyle had tried to keep the excitement held in, those closest to him could see how he was feeling. Samson was a special case, and for that some of the other members of the clan felt sorry for him. Because Samson had grown up on Avalon for a large part of his life, his age was out of synch with the closest generation of the clan. Biologically, he was two or three years older than most of them, and for that he was admired by those a bit younger than him. When he was a child, his friends had been abundant, but circumstances had caused those friends to become only acquaintances as they became older. Those who did not know him well looked up to him. He was known as the elderís youngest son, or the Leaderís brother, or the Timedancerís pupil. He longed to be known simply as Samson.
But tonight was his night. Traditionally, a whole generation would go through the ceremony that symbolized them becoming certified patrollers. Tonight, though, his parents had planned a small, private ceremony, inviting only his family and their close friends. That wasnít for almost an hour from now, and Samson was looking out over the city skyline, gathering his thoughts for later tonight.
Brooklyn almost always had taken him out on patrol, sometimes with Sata or Persephone coming with them. His brother had only escorted him three times in the six years he had been a trainee, but Samson had never held it against him. He knew that being their leader was hard, and was something that Artus had been thrown into. With that in mind, Samson respected his brother as much as he could. He loved him like a brother, but Artus was not his friend. He was, like some many others, only an acquaintance.
The young gargoyle turned around at the sound of footsteps from behind. Alex came walking towards him, holding out his hand. Samson took it. "Congratulations, Samson," the human told him. "You feel any different?"
Samson smiled. "Not really. Iíve been doing this for six years. Iíve just always had someone with me. Everyoneís just making a big deal out of this because Ė "
"Ė Because of your family," Alex finished for him.
Samson nodded. "I guess you kind of know what that feels like."
"You have no idea," Alex said. "Come on, Iíll walk with you to the ceremony." The human put his arm around Samson, noting how much the boy had grown. This was his night, after all. He only hoped it went well for him.
* * * * *
Brooklyn paced back and forth while Sata got the children ready for the evening. His Love looked at him and smiled. Her formal kimono rustled as she left Ariana on the floor and came over to try and calm him down. "I know you care for him, my love."
"Do you remember your coming-of-age ceremony?" he asked her.
"Of course. It was a cold evening. Iíve told you of it before," she said.
"I know. And youíve heard mine. But this is so much different for Samson. We had people to go through this with. He doesnít. Artus is busy all of the time, and I know that he wishes he had more time for his brother. And Gwenyvere is gone. He doesnít even know where."
"That was long ago," Sata said.
"I donít know if he feels that way. He was so young Ė"
"He was strong. He still is," Sata told him. "With his life, he has to be strong. Come, let us go see him become an adult. He would never forgive us if we missed the ceremony," she teased.
Brooklyn smiled. "He reminds me so much of home. Well, at least what used to be my home."
"How so, my love?" Sata asked.
"Heís what I remember about the clan I grew up with. The adventurous streak that Broadway used to have, and Angelaís way of analyzing things. I guess they both still have those things," Brooklyn said.
"They are his parents," Sata commented, picking Ariana back up off the ground. Brooklyn went to his son, picking the small child up. They were growing up fast, as fast as he had watched Samson grow. He only hoped that his children would grow up to be the same type of gargoyles Broadway and Angela had raised.
"It goes back farther than them, though. He has Goliathís sense of honor, more than heíll ever know. He would be proud to see what his family has grown in to."
The two gargoyles took their children and made their way to the ceremony.
* * * * *
More than anything, Samson hated attention. Tonight it was the worst. As he stood at the head of the presentation room, wearing a nicer set of clothes than his usual ragged street garb because of his motherís urging, he only wished that all the people watching him would go about their business. They were making much too big a deal of this, and he realized that he would be just as happy to go through this with the generation younger than him. He smiled as he saw Brooklyn and Sata come in with Graeme and Ariana in their arms. They quietly took their seats, and waved a greeting.
Artus, who was sitting with his parents in the front row, stood and came to the front, standing next to Samson. Leaning over, he asked him, "You ready for this?"
"I wish we could just get it over with," Samson said honestly.
"Itís not for you, itís for mom and dad and everyone else who cares about you," Artus told him.
"I know. Letís just get on with it."
Artus smiled, motioning for everyone to be quiet. He looked over the audience, who was composed of family members and other close friends. His parents, Brooklyn and Sata, Alex and Serena, even Demona and Benedick were sitting near the front of the room. His aunt had finally given in to Benedickís advances almost a year ago, and everyone was glad that she had finally found some happiness.
"Over a thousand years ago," Artus began, "our clan faced a terrible tragedy. We were left with only seven of us. But we endured. Centuries later, our clan awoke in a different world, facing new adversities and problems. But still, we endured. When the Great Quake came in 2064, and both the human and gargoyle races loomed on the brink of coming apart, we banded together to create a better world for everybody.
"Through that alliance, our race was allowed to do what it is we do best: protect. We have gained so much through that alliance. We live in our ancestral home; we are given rooms to call our own; we are given purpose. More than ever, our races are truly able to work together as one.
"And so tonight we celebrate the coming of age of one of our own. From various circumstances, he does this ahead of those in his generation. Six years of training have gone into this night. Tonight, the city has one more set of eyes to watch over it. My brother has asked not to have to say anything in front of everyone," Artus gestured towards Samson, who was still standing nervously off to the side, "but I think he would appreciate it if you would all come talk to him before you left.
"Thatís all I have to say," Artus said simply. He turned to Samson and grabbed his hand. They pulled each other into a hug, and for the first time Samson felt like his brotherís equal. "That wasnít to bad, was it?" he asked.
"Probably worse for you," Samson said. "I didnít even have to talk."
"Come see me in a hour or so, okay?" Artus asked. Samson nodded.
He smiled as his brother walked on, Samson looking behind him to the line of people waiting to shake his hand. Persephone came up to him, a huge smile on her face. She also embraced him with a hug.
"Iím proud of you," she said. "I donít know what else to say, really. I didnít know that many people when I came here. You made it feel more like home. To me, youíre as much my brother as you are Artusí."
Samson smiled at her words, but couldnít think of anything to say. He simply nodded, and Persephone knew. She walked passed him, and he saw Alex and Serena come forward.
"Youíll make a good asset out there," Serena said. Alex held out his hand and Samson took it, the words he'd said earlier that night repeating in his head. The two didnít even nod to each other, the looks on their faces saying whatever needed to be said. Samson liked Alex, and he liked his family. The Xanatos family and his clan had been intertwined since Goliath and the others had awakened all those years ago. Samson liked to think that they would stay that way until the end of time.
He saw Demona and smiled. They hugged, and Demona looked him in the eyes. "This is a great day for you," she said. "I know that great things lay ahead for your future. You have the best parts of me. All of my grandchildren have the best parts of me. Donít ever forget that."
"I wonít," Samson promised. His grandmother nodded. He saw Benedick behind her. Samson liked Benedick. He was good to Demona, and he made her happy.
"Samson," Benedick said, as a way of greeting.
"Benedick. Iím glad you came," he said honestly.
"The pleasure is all mine. I know that Demona is very proud of you. So am I," the older gargoyle said.
"Thank you. That means a lot," Samson told him.
"Iím probably the fortieth person to tell you this tonight," Samson heard Brooklyn say, "but Iím proud of you." The young gargoyle smiled as he saw his mentor coming towards him. Both of them hugged as well, Samson being sure not to crush the small Ariana in Brooklynís arms.
"I know," Samson said.
Brooklyn laughed. "Weíll go patrolling together some night. Just you and me," he suggested.
"Count on it," Samson agreed.
Brooklyn patted him on the shoulder and left him behind. It was a big night for him, and he already had other people congratulating him twenty times over. Samson knew that Brooklyn cared, and that he was proud of him. They would talk later, if the need arouse.
Sata, with Graeme in her arms, smiled as their eyes met. Samson pushed some of the small childís hair back with his finger. "How are the kids?" he asked.
"They are both fine. They grow fast, as you did," Sata said. She looked over at her love, who was standing by the door holding their other child. "You remind him of where he came from, and of what his life used to be like. As long as we stay here, I think that a part of him will always want to go back there."
"Ever since he first came here, heís been my hero," Samson told her.
Sata smiled again. "I think he knows that. Have a good time tonight, Samson."
"I plan to," he said, looking at the smiling faces of his parents behind her. His mother came up and gave him a hug. He knew she was about to cry, he could see it in her eyes, and he only hoped that he would be able to get back to his room before she did so.
"Mom, please," Samson said.
"Iím sorry. Iím just proud," Angela said, wiping some early tears from her eyes.
"Itís not that big a deal. Iíve been doing this for six years," he said.
"But youíve never done it alone," Broadway said. Samsonís father was able to compose himself more than his mother, but he could see the pride in his eyes. His father knew that Samson knew he loved him, and that he was proud of him. He just wasnít the type of person to tell his son those words every time he saw him. Samson respected that.
"So, I do it alone tonight. Thatís tradition more than anything. Artus will probably have me go out for an hour and come back. No big deal," he said.
"Just be careful," Angela said.
"I promise, Mom," Samson told her. The new patroller looked around and noticed that everyone else had moved on with their evening. "I need to go change, and then go see Artus. Donít worry, Mom," he reassured her again.
"I promise to try not to," Angela said. Samson smiled and patted his mother on the shoulder.
"Iíll be home soon," he said. Angela and Broadway watched their youngest son exit the gathering room.
Broadway put his arm around his mate and brought her in closer. "Heíll be fine," he told her.
"Itís just that..." Angela hesitated. "Weíve lost one child. I donít want to lose him."
"Heís not the type to stray," Broadway said.
The two did not say anything; they just stood in the room, even after the lights were dimmed. This day was hard for both of them, just in different ways. Their son would come back home, in only an hour or so. They simply did not like to see their children grow up to fast. They had seen that done once to often in their lifetimes.
* * * * *
"Lights, please," Samson said as he entered his room. It wasnít much more than a place to keep his personal possessions, take messages, and maybe rest after he came home from patrolling. Removing his shirt, Samson looking around for his usual clothes, which he considered much more comfortable than what he had worn during the ceremony. He had thought that once it was over he would feel different, somehow more mature. But he felt exactly the same as he had the night before, and the night before that.
"You have two messages," Lexingtonís computerized voice said.
Turning towards the monitor, Samson wondered who would have called him. "Letís see them," he said, searching for a clean pair of pants.
The screen flashed on, and he saw the human face of Detective Majandra Richardson smiling at him. He knew the detective as a friend of Persephoneís, who had become an ally to the clan years ago when they had returned home from Avalon. She was one of the last people Samson expected to hear from on this day.
"Hi, Samson," he heard her say. He remembered a case that Brooklyn and Persephone had been assigned to almost a year and a half ago. He had wanted to help out with that case more than anything. Majandraís image continued. "Iím sorry I couldnít be there tonight. You know how work can be. I just wanted to congratulate you on your accomplishment. Youíll be a great asset to the force. You were trained by the best. I also wanted to let you know that if you need something, you can always come to me. Your clanís done a lot for me. That means a great deal. I hope to hear from you soon." The screen flickered off.
Samson spotted a pair of pants and slipped them on. "Whoís the next one from?" he asked.
"Unknown," the voice came back.
Samson froze. He knew whom the message was from, but he hoped he was wrong. He pulled a chair towards the screen and sat down. "Play it," he said.
The screen filled with the image of his sister. "Hi, little brother," she said. Samson did not move; he just continued to watch the screen. "I know this must be something of a surprise. I know this is your big day. Iím just sorry I couldnít be there. Iím sorry I canít be there at this time in your life, but you know I wish you the best.
"I know you probably donít remember me leaving, or exactly why I did. It doesnít mean you donít know why. I wonder how you all think about me. Do you ever talk about me? Does Mom? Or am I just the black sheep that no one ever even thinks about? I donít want your perception of me to be warped. Iím sure mother has taken the greatest pleasure in doing that, right?" Gwenyvere stopped. She laughed, pushing some of her hair out of her eyes.
"Iím sorry, Samson. I know Iím ranting. I want you to know that if the opportunity ever arises, youíre welcome in my new family. Thatíll probably never happen, though. I know you have a life of your own. I wish I were a part of that life. Donít worry about me, though. Iím doing fine for myself. Iíll let you go. If I can, Iíll call again soon."
The screen went blank again, but still Samson did not move. He would not cry. He could not. It was like she said. He didnít know her anymore. He had grown up just fine without her in his life. "Computer, can you tell where that message came from?"
"Negative," the computer said.
"I thought so," he said to himself.
Tonight was not the night for such things. It was wrong of her to do this tonight. But he could push it out of his head, and force himself to focus on the task at hand. Artus had told him to come by his office, and Samson knew exactly what the reason was. Tonight was his night, and he was not going to allow anyone to change that.
* * * * *
The runner entered the brightly lit office. He had gone unnoticed by those outside the office, and hoped that the man behind the desk was pleased with his work. The man looked up from his paperwork and motioned for the runner to sit down. The runner wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his palm, ready to give his report.
"Itís not hot outside," the man noted. "Why are you sweating?"
"Nerves. Stress. I think I ran over here. Iím not really sure," the runner told him.
"Did you relay the message?" the man asked.
"I did. Our leader was not thrilled at all with our suggestion, though."
The man nodded. "I did not think he would be. We might have to do it ourselves. Our cause is a noble one, my friend, but we might have to give it a jump-start. I trust that you are still in agreement with my views and those of my associates?"
"Of course," the runner said. "My loyalty lies only in you."
"Your loyalty should lie in our organization, except in those areas that you oppose with so strongly, like this one. I am not your master, but your colleague. Do you understand?" the man asked.
"I do. Should I locate the contact and tell him to begin?" he asked.
The man behind the desk nodded. "Tonight is when it should start." He paused for a moment, straightening some of the paperwork on his desk. "Tell him to begin."
The runner stood, smiling as he did so. "Our work is important. I will not let the organization down," he said.
"I neednít remind you not to speak of our plans to anyone. If our leader does find out about our work, we might be in trouble. Our leader is all-knowing, but in this he is misguided," the man said.
The runner nodded and left the office. Sighing, the man behind the desk returned to his paperwork.
* * * * *
"You wanted to see me?" Samson asked, poking his head into Artusí office.
"Yeah, come on in," his brother said, waving him inside. "Big night, huh?" Artus asked.
"I suppose so. So, can I go out?"
"Yeah. Just be careful okay? Donít get in trouble your first night out. When you get back, go tell Mom everything is okay. Sheíll like that," Artus said.
"She worries to much," Samson noted.
"She just loves you," Artus told him.
"I know." Samson paused. "Who else is going out tonight?"
"Itís been pretty quiet lately. Iím going to send out Dad and Brooklyn Ė "
"What?" Samson interrupted.
"Itíll be fine. Itís not like the world stops just because you get to go out on patrol by yourself," Artus said.
"Dad hasnít gone out on routine patrol in a long time," Samson pointed out.
"Youíre only going to be out for an hour or so, okay?" It wasnít a question.
"Look, Iím more proud of you than you can ever know. I wouldnít rob you of this night. Just be careful. Donít do anything stupid, and weíll all be all right. Do you understand?" Artus asked.
"Yeah, I follow you," Samson said.
"Good. Now get out of here." His brother smiled.
"Weíll go out together some night, right?" Samson asked.
"Count on it," Artus told him, returning to his paperwork.
* * * * *
Brooklyn and Broadway stood looking over the city skyline. "Are you up for this?" the Timedancer asked his rookery brother.
"Of course. Iím not as old as I might come off," Broadway told him. "Besides, weíre just supposed to follow behind him, just in case something comes up he canít handle."
"I doubt that will happen," Brooklyn said. "Heís a good kid. Better than we were at that age."
"Heís been through a lot more than we had."
"You would not think that if you have heard the stories my husband has told me," they heard Sata say. Graeme and Ariana were on either side of her, holding their motherís hand. Brooklyn scooped up his daughter and gave her a hug. "You could fill a novel with your adventures as youths."
Broadway smiled. "You have no idea."
"Will you be okay tonight?" Brooklyn asked his wife.
"Of course. You go out all the time. Even if I went, someone would be here to watch these two," she said. Ariana was resting her head on her fatherís shoulder, his fingers going through her hair. "But the reason I came to see you was to show you this." Sata pulled out a pamphlet and showed it to her husband.
The brick red gargoyle took the pamphlet, seeing its bright yellow print on the front. It read, The Role of Gargoyles in World War II. "I found this lying around," Sata said. "Its contents are disturbing, to say the least."
Brooklyn opened it up and read: The role of Gargoyles during the Second World War was very prominent. Stories of their presence in the battles in Britain and Japan have been passed down through the centuries. In fact, a statue depicting their image still sits in London, a tribute to their help during the Battle of Britain. It is unknown why a tribute stands, since many historians believe that gargoyles were not working on the side of the Allies, even bringing down British fighters during battles. Adolf Hitler might have even had associations with gargoyle clans, as it is well known that the man had ties with the Occult. The story of the presence of a gargoyle in Nagasaki is told in small villages in Japan. It is believed, in these villages, that the gargoyleís presence brought the destruction of the bomb, as it is told that the creature disappeared in a flame of fire mere days before the tragedy.
Brooklyn stopped. "What is this?"
"I do not know, but it bothers me," Sata said.
"This type of thing has gone on for centuries," Broadway said, who had read the pamphlet over Brooklynís shoulder. "There have always been people who believe great wrongs have never taken place. They blame the outcome of those events on the people who were hurt the most by it."
"We have to get going," Brooklyn said, seeing a lone figure flying into the city. "Take this to Alex. Maybe he can find the author, or at least the publisher." He handed Ariana back to his daughter, the young hatchling giving her father a kiss. Brooklyn bent down and kissed Graeme on the cheek. "Love you guys," he said. He handed the pamphlet back to Sata.
"Love you, Daddy," Graeme said.
He kissed his Love as well, turning to look out over the city again. Sata watched her husband and Broadway jump out into the night. She stayed looking with her children until she could not see them anymore.
* * * * *
Brooklyn and Broadway kept their distance from Samson, sometimes even losing sight of him. The night was cold, but neither gargoyle noticed.
"I donít think he sees us," Brooklyn said.
"If he did, he wouldnít say anything," Broadway told him.
"He has a lot of Goliath in him. I can see it in almost everything he does," Brooklyn noted.
Broadway simply nodded. "He would have been proud to see him."
"Goliath never knew him?" Brooklyn asked.
"Brooklyn, you know I canít talk Ė"
"Iím sorry," he said. "Iíve been here so long, sometimes itís hard to forget where Iím from."
"I know. But we did spend a lot of time on Avalon. Thatís where he grew up. I think that outside of his immediate family, and you and Sata, heíll always see them as his real family, no matter how much time he spends here," Broadway said.
"I can understand that."
"In a way, heís more the opposite of Gwenyvere," Broadway told him. "Heíd rather go back to Avalon, while she always wanted to come back here. But heíll stay here as long as heís needed, because he knows itís the right thing to do."
"Do you hold it against her?" Brooklyn asked. No one talked about Gwenyvere very much. He knew she was a hard topic, especially for those closest to him.
"No. Sheís still my daughter, and I will always love her. You know, she calls me every Fatherís Day. So, no, I donít hold it against her for leaving. Under the circumstances, I might have done the same thing if given the opportunity."
Brooklyn nodded. For the rest of the patrol, they followed Samson in silence.
* * * * *
The solo patrol was not as exciting as Samson expected it to be. He did not know what he had expected, but nothing of importance had gone on. He should have known as much, as nothing exciting had happened in the past year or so. It was almost time for him to return to the castle anyways. Samson realized that he enjoyed going on patrol with others, especially now that he would not have to be left behind when something important happened.
But that was when he saw it, and his entire world of the clear lines between right and wrong was shattered. The gargoyle saw the body, lying on its stomach in the darkness of the alley. At first he thought it might just be a pile of garbage, or maybe a forgotten house pet searching for a bite to eat. Of course, it was not.
Samson landed in the alley, not really sure what was going on. He heard his father and Brooklyn land on a roof above him. He did not mind them following him as much as he thought he would. In a way, it was nice to have two sets of eyes watching out for him. The young gargoyle approached the body, slowly reaching out his hand to turn it over. It was clearly male, and Samson took the palm in his hand. There was no pulse, and he dropped the arm back to the ground. He put his clawed hand on the manís shoulder, slowly turning him over on his back.
Samson turned away in disgust, immediately trying to push the image out of his mind. It would never happen though. This memory would stay with him for the rest of his life, haunting him when he closed his eyes. He didnít know if he cried out or not, but within a matter of seconds Brooklyn and his father were directly behind him. They both saw the body, and Broadway tried to pull his son away.
"Come on, Son," he said. "Iím sorry you had to see this."
Samson pulled his body away from his fatherís grasp, walking a bit closer to the body. He simply stared at it, not saying a word.
"Samson, itíll be okay," he heard Brooklyn say, but both he and his father were in a different part of the universe, as far as he was concerned.
"Itís worse," he said, more to himself than to the two elders standing with him. "He was a cop."
* * * * *
The hour quickly passed. Persephone knew something was wrong when she saw Samson coming back home with Brooklyn and Broadway in tow. She knew Artus had asked his father and Brooklyn to watch after him, but she didnít expect anything to happen that would require them to reveal themselves. The clanís second-in-command approached the trio as they landed.
"Howíd it go?" she asked, knowing for sure something had gone wrong. Samson was stoic, staring at the ground.
Brooklyn sighed, putting his hand on Samsonís shoulder. "We found a body," he said.
"I found the body," Samson corrected. He looked at Persephone. "He was a cop."
"Iím sorry, Samson," Persephone said.
"Yeah. Whatever," he said, returning his gaze to ground.
"Iím going to go tell Artus. He wasnít that far from here," Broadway said." He'll have gotten the report through channels already, but he'll want to hear the details directly."
"I need to go see Alex about something," Brooklyn told them. He turned to Persephone. "Can you take him to his room?"
"Of course," she said sympathetically. She took Samsonís hand, but the younger gargoyle did not seem to notice. He didnít see Brooklyn or his father walk off to their separate ways. He thought about the words his father had tried to say on the way back home, and the way he could not seem to form the right ones. When he looked back up, he and Persephone were in the hallway where his room was. Everything seemed to be happening on the outside of him, in a way that he only saw them after they had happened. Samson was deep in his own thoughts, ever since he had found the police officer earlier.
"Come here," he heard her say, pulling him into a hug. She pushed him back, looking him in the eyes. "You know, where Iím from, where we both grew up, there was no violence. We all lived in peace, as a family. You adjusted to Manhattan so much easier than I did, because you were young. But I had a hard time. This place is so different than Avalon. Believe it or not, I can relate to what youíre going through."
Samson did not have an expression on his face. He looked in her eyes, trying to close them, because that was when he saw the body. He was not going to cry, because he was not that type of gargoyle. He was a warrior, trained ever since he could remember. The body had bothered him more than he thought it would. The cop was a warrior, too. Now he was gone, killed in a sense that was ultimately pointless. Visions of the future ran through his mind, thinking of how people would remember him one hundred years from now. People were trying to draw him out of it, but that was not going to happen. Not tonight. Not for a long time.
"I think I should get some rest," Samson said, turning towards his door. "Iíll see you tomorrow night."
He turned silently, opened his door, and walked inside. He needed sleep, or at least to be alone and not have anyone talk to him. Samson did not sleep unnaturally very often, but tonight was one of those times.
Outside, Persephone sighed, not really knowing what to do. She had said all that she could tonight. It was up to him to come out of this. Turning, she went to see her husband.
* * * * *
"So howíd he take it?" Artus asked his father.
"Pretty bad. He didnít talk on the way home. When he got back, all he said was that he found the body. I told him this type of stuff happens, but itís something more than just seeing a dead body thatís bothering him."
"Heís strong. Iíll call Hector and check on it."
We called it in on site," Broadway said. "But we needed to get him home. The body was in a pretty low populated area, so we didnít think anyone would stumble on it until the authorities arrived."
"I understand. Iíll go talk with him later tonight. You said Persephone took him to his room to rest?" Artus asked.
"She did. Like you said, heíll be okay."
"Thatís my girl. Always looking out for someone else," he said, smiling.
"Iím going to go see your mother. Call me if anything come up," Broadway said, standing from Artusí office chair.
"Of course," the leader said. Longing to go out on patrol more than he did, Artus picked up the phone and dialed Hector Siddiqís private line.
* * * * *
Brooklyn sat down in Alexís office, noting the pamphlet on his desk, among other things. "Did you find out anything more?" he asked.
Sighing, Alex shook his head. "Not really. Thereís an address on the back to write for more information. Iíll contact them tomorrow and see what other types of things they have to send out."
Brooklyn nodded. "How far can this thingís influence reach?"
"I can find that out too," Alex said. "This type of thing went on in the early twenty-first century, mostly in Japan. It died out after a while. After a tragedy, enough time passes that people just ignore it or blame it on someone else. The blame for the Quakeís starting to rise again, and people are forgetting that your kind were instrumental in the rebuilding of this city. When they look to one thing, they look to the others."
"Human nature, I suppose," Brooklyn said.
"Iím afraid so."
* * * * *
The door to Samsonís room opened, but he didnít look up. Artus saw him lying down, looking towards the ceiling. He knew why his brother was there, and he simply did not want to talk about it. Artus sat down on Samsonís bed, but the younger gargoyle didnít move.
The leader sighed, not exactly sure what to say. "Itís going to be okay."
"Everybody has told me that," Samson said.
"I know. But itís true. If you need to talk, you know where to find me," Artus said.
"Yeah, I know."
"I have to get back to work. Remember what I said. Tomorrow will be a better day."
His older brother got up and left, but Samson stayed lying down, looking up at his ceiling. Too many things were going through his head. Heíd work them out later, when the right time came.
The right time could take a while to come.
* * * * *
February 17, 2173. Manhattan.
"So you knew this guy?" Brooklyn asked. He and Sata sat in Artusí office, the Manhattan leader uncharacteristically not sitting behind his desk. He stood in the corner of his office, his arms crossed.
"Yes. We were friends. He advocated the clan and the force working together. Lonnie was a good guy. Samson had even met him a few times. Itís still a shame he was the one who found him."
Brooklyn nodded. "Does Samson know it was him?"
"He does now. He didnít seem that affected by it," Artus said.
"He has gone into himself. He is not affected by much anymore," Sata told them.
"Lonnie was unrecognizable. They had to go to genetic markers to figure out who it was," Artus said. "Thatís not all. He was just the first. I know you guys have heard, but they found another body this morning. Another cop, the same mode of operation. That makes five in the past month."
"Horrible," Sata said simply.
"I know. Captain Siddiq sent over some forensic reports. They think that some type of inorganic claws made the slashes and cuts on the body. Weíre dealing with a serial killer, guys," Artus said, unfolding his arms.
"Someone who has it against us," Brooklyn added.
"Have you found out anything new about that pamphlet you found a while back?" Artus asked.
"No. Alex left me a message to come by later tonight, so maybe he found something," Brooklyn said.
Artus nodded. "Good. Just keep me informed on that."
"Who has been assigned to the case?" Sata asked.
"Detective Majandra Richardson. Which is good, because sheís a friend of Persephoneís," Artus answered.
"Weíve met," Brooklyn told him.
Artus nodded. "Right. The bodies thing. That was a while ago."
"Two years," Brooklyn said. He did not see Sata shift uncomfortably in her chair.
"The reason I asked you guys to come down here was because Iím going to double patrols for a while, which means we need to send out everyone we can. Iíd like you guys to go out with Samson."
"You sure thatís a good idea?" Brooklyn asked.
"I think so. He looks up to both of you. He wonít get better until this thing is resolved, and Iíd like him to be a part of the resolution. The station hasnít requested our help on anything yet, at least not officially," Artus said.
"But unofficially?" Sata asked.
"Unofficially, weíre going to help as much as we can. I want you guys to go out later, about an hour. So, go see Alex and see whatís going on with that pamphlet," Artus told them.
Both Brooklyn and Sata nodded. "Let us know if you need anything else," he said.
"Of course," Artus said. His two guests left, leaving the leader alone in his office. Artus returned to his work, hoping things would clear up soon.
* * * * *
"Mr. Xanatos, Brooklyn and Sata are here to see you," Alexís secretary, Laurel, said over his intercom.
"Send them in," he said, pushing some paperwork to the side of his desk.
The two gargoyles entered his office a few minutes later. "Whatís going on, Alex?" Brooklyn asked.
"Well," he said, motioning for them to sit down. "I got back a response from the organization who published your little pamphlet."
"Look for yourself," he said, handing them two other pamphlets. "They basically say the same thing as the other: a lot of circumstantial, biased information that doesnít actually say anything. Because it doesnít really say anything, it gives people the opportunity to come to their own conclusion."
Brooklyn looked at the pamphlets, printed in the same style as the other. Both titles, The Gargoylesí Role During the Crusades and A Brief History of Gargoyles, stood out from the images on the cover, artists renditions depicting devilish images of his kind.
"Both offer incriminating evidence against gargoyles. Iíll understand if you donít want to read them," Alex said.
"We will," Sata told him. "Weíre just busy tonight."
"Is this something we can fight?" Brooklyn asked.
"I donít know. Iím not sure how far the pamphletís influences reach. Sata found the original pamphlet lying around the office," Alex said.
"I just donít want to go back to the days where I had to worry about where the next person who wanted a piece of me was," Brooklyn told him.
"Theyíre out there, Brooklyn. Their voice has just been a bit muffled over the years," the human said. "You guys should probably get going."
"Right. We have patrol," the brick red gargoyle informed him.
"I figured," Alex said. He returned to work, hoping his friends would be okay.
* * * * *
He heard his door open, and knew it was his mother. She had talked to him the least, and Samson hoped that it wasnít the reason she was there. He didnít want to deal with anybody, ever again. He wished that if he didnít say anything for long enough, no one would bother to talk to him. In his mind, thatís what he wanted.
Angela breathed in slightly, hesitating to speak. "Artus wants you to go out on patrol with Brooklyn and Sata."
"Okay," Samson said simply.
"Is that all you have to say?" his mother asked.
Samson did not reply.
"Youíre being selfish," Angela blurted out.
Samson sat up, not making eye contact with his mother. "I'm just starting to see things, mom," he said quietly, no emotion in his voice. "Iím seeing things in ways none of the clan has seen before. Is it so wrong for me to question my role in life? Iíve always been led, always followed my family or friends. I became a patroller because it was expected of me. I should be allowed to think for myself." It was the most he had said in the past month.
"What are you saying?" she asked.
"What does it sound like?"
"Iíve heard this before. You sound like your sister," Angela said.
Now Samson stood. "Donít you dare say that," he said. "Donít ever bring her up in front of me!" he yelled.
Angela stood speechless.
"Go away. I donít want to see you. I donít want to see anyone," Samson said.
His mother closed her eyes. A second later she turned, wiping a tear away from her cheek. If she could have slammed the door, she would have. Samson sighed, exiting his room soon after. If Artus wanted him to go out on patrol, then he would go. He would show them that he could go on, and do what he wanted to do.
* * * * *
Broadway saw his Love storming up to him before he had time to react. He saw the anger in her eyes, but he recognized it more like hurt. He could only guess what this was about. Their son had gone into a type of solitude since coming upon the body almost a month ago, and it had hurt Angela most of all. She feared that he would go down the same path as Gwenyvere, but Broadway knew he was stronger than that. He could face whatever fears he had gained, and he could overcome them.
"This is your fault," she said, looking him in the eyes. Her own were red from tears.
"What are you talking about?" Broadway asked.
"If you had been with him, this wouldnít have happened."
"I was with him, Angela. This is his test. Heíll overcome it."
"How do you know that?" She started crying again.
"Because he has the best of both of us. He has the best of your father," he said.
Angela remained silent.
"In fifteen minutes or so heíll be out there with Brooklyn and Sata. Theyíre his heroes, my love." He put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her into an embrace. "Heíll be okay."
"We shouldnít have to ask them to do that. Itís our job. Weíre his parents," she said.
"He has a different relationship with them than he does with us," Broadway told her. "Sata was making progress with Gwenyvere before..." he stopped himself.
"Before what?" Angela asked, pulling back from him.
"Nothing. Letís have some dinner, okay?" He put his arm around his love, walking with her to the kitchen.
* * * * *
"I think I need a break," Samson said, flying in between Brooklyn and Sata. It was one of the few things he had said all night.
"That building over there," Brooklyn said, pointing to an industrial rooftop.
The three landed. This was the perfect opportunity for them to speak, even though the night had been uneventful. This was why Artus had asked them to do this, to try to get to the bottom of Samsonís condition.
Sata came up to her husband, out of earshot of the younger gargoyle. "How should we do this?" she asked.
"Just back me up, okay?"
"Always," Sata said.
They walked up to Samson, who was looking out over the city, watching some smoke rise from somewhere far away. Brooklyn sighed as he approached.
"Itís easier to just ask," he said. "But I want to know whatís bothering you, besides what you saw last month."
Samson was silent for a moment. "Why?" he finally asked. "I want to know why it happened." He truly did.
Brooklyn took a deep breath. He looked at Sata, who nodded. "Because nobody is perfect," he said. "Because no matter what time we live in, there are always going to people, or even gargoyles, or fay, who want to hurt others. Because in all that madness, there has to be someone to protect those who donít deserve it."
Samson was still silent. He seemed to be taking Brooklynís words in. It was one the clearest things anybody had ever said to him. "But those who have been hurt are the protectors. The guy I found, the others; who protects them? Or us?"
"Our family," Sata said. "Those we love, Brooklyn and myself, your father and mother."
Samson nodded. "I need to be alone. Iíll meet you both back at the castle," he said, taking off towards the northern part of the city.
"At least itís progress," Brooklyn told his wife. "Thatís the most heís said to me in a long time."
"Should we follow?" she asked.
"I think so. Just to keep watch."
Sata nodded in agreement, and the two lovers took off after the youth.
* * * * *
She did not like coming here, especially in this part of the city. After the Quake, no one dared to venture into some parts of the damage, for fear of their own lives. The desecration was the reason she had left, though, and one of the reasons she had returned.
Her transport landed on an unsteady platform. It would be sufficient for her needs tonight, though. Stepping outside, she breathed in air she had not breathed in a very long time. But he was out there, and he needed her. If nothing else, her intentions were good.
Locking the transport, she made her way into the city.
* * * * *
Brooklyn and Sata sped up in the night air, trying to catch Samson. He had flown around aimlessly for about fifteen minutes, and they had watched his back, ever vigilant. Becoming more aware of their presence, Samson turned to his guardians.
"Is it time to go home?" he asked.
"Almost," Brooklyn replied. "Letís regroup over there." The three landed on a nearby building top, looking towards the direction of the Eyrie Pyramid. Samson could barely see it through the thick clouds. He walked over to Brooklyn and Sata, who were watching an alley below them.
"Thank for..." Samson started, searching for the right words. "Everything."
"Anytime," Brooklyn said. Sata put her hand on the youthís shoulder. "You think youíll get through this?" he asked.
"All in good time."
"-You still think you heard something down here?" they heard a female voice ask from the alley. Turning to the source, the trio of gargoyles saw two police officers, a man and a woman. The female was in front, walking into the dark alley.
"Yeah, just up ahead," the man told her. Samson kept his eyes on him, wondering if they should offer assistance. When the policeman reached behind, Samson saw the flash of metal, and the glove that he pulled out.
Unable to move, he was not exactly sure what to do. He saw the man lurch towards the policewoman, and he realized that this is what he was meant to do. "Itís him," he told Brooklyn and Sata.
Samson had already leaped off the building before they realized what he meant. Brooklyn looked down in the alley, seeing the man with the clawed glove reach out to the woman and turn her around. He could not see the madness in his eyes as the man slashed her across the stomach.
Samson hit him in the side, catching the man off guard. The woman gasped in pain and fear, stumbling back to the brick wall behind her. She absently kicked garbage away with her feet, the color draining from her face. She heard the roars of the gargoyles attacking the man who had been assigned as her temporary partner.
Brooklyn and Sata jumped into the alley, Brooklyn yelling for Samson to take some type of control. His plea went unheard. He was on top of the man with the glove, his eyes glowing their bright white. Sata ran to the woman, positioning her so she was lying on her back.
"Can you hear me?" she asked the woman.
She nodded, her eyes glazing over. "Are you an angel?" she asked.
"Not tonight. You have lost blood. I want you to rest here, and weíre going to get you some help. Can you do that for me," Sata asked, her voice low and sweet.
The woman nodded again. Sata pulled out her communicator and dialed for help.
Not twenty feet away, Samson had pinned the man down on the ground. The young gargoyle slashed at his face, to which the man only laughed in response.
"You think this is funny?" Samson asked him, looking into his dazed eyes. "You killed five people. I could do the same to you right now."
"Samson, no!" Brooklyn yelled, catching the younger gargoyleís attention. "Let the proper authorities deal with it.
"He is the proper authorities," Samson told him. The man continued to laugh.
"At last you show up, my friends," the man said, looking Samson straight in the eyes. "They told me you would."
Closing his eyes for only a second, Samson forced himself off the man, keeping his guard up the entire time. He took a few steps back, watching the man collect himself as he got to his feet. He touched one of the wounds on his face, seeing the blood it produced on his fingers.
The man smiled. "Good. Good. I hoped for this," he said, his voice strong, yet lost at the same time.
"For what?" Samson asked.
"For my purpose to be fulfilled, of course. The master will be pleased. Do you know your purpose, young one?" the man asked Samson.
The young gargoyleís eyes flared again with adrenaline as he lunged at the killer one more time. He had more control over himself this time, and picked the man up by his shirt collar, bringing him to meet his eyes. "This is what Iím here for," he said, throwing the man on the ground. He landed on his stomach, and Samson pulled out a pair of regulation binds from his pocket. Closing them over the manís hands, he recited something he knew by heart.
"You have the right to remain silent. If you chose Ė"
"You think this will stop it?" the man interrupted him. "Itís already begun. Itís bigger than me or you or even the master. You canít stop it now."
"What are you talking about?" Samson asked.
"Youíll find out, my friend. Youíll all find out."
Samson stood, clearly hearing enough of this manís ramblings. Brooklyn walked up behind him, and they heard sirens in the background. The older gargoyle saw the man bite down on something, but only realized what has happening after it was to late. They both saw the man convulsing on the ground, so much that they didnít hear him take his last breath.
Samson closed his eyes and sighed, holding in a scream of frustration. Brooklyn put his hand on Samsonís shoulders and led him over the Sata and the woman who had been attacked. The younger gargoyle knelt to the ground.
"Is she going to be okay?" he asked Sata, who had stayed with her during the duration of their fight.
"She should be," she said. "The ambulance is coming soon."
"Is it okay if I go?" he asked Brooklyn. "Iíll meet you back at the Pyramid before sunrise."
Brooklyn sighed. "Go on. Weíll cover for you. Just be careful."
"Thanks," he said, already climbing the wall to fly off into the night.
Sata and Brooklyn stayed near the ground with the woman as they heard the ambulance sirens drawing closer. "Will he be okay?" Sata asked.
"He should be. He likes to be alone sometimes," Brooklyn told her. Sata pushed a lock of hair out of the womanís face and sat quietly with her as they waited for the medics. The brick red gargoyle walked over to killer, still lying on the dirty concrete.
"You know what the worst part about all of this is?" Brooklyn asked his mate.
Sata shook her head, but he was not watching her. He sighed. "He died for a cause."
* * * * *
The man still sat behind his desk, his instincts telling him that their job was over for now. He heard the beep of his communication screen behind him, and ordered the call to come through. Though he couldnít see the face, he knew who it was.
"The servant is gone," the runner informed him. "Shall we dispatch another?"
"No," the man said, his voice echoing throughout his office. "By tomorrow evening, all the work weíve done these past years will finally start to mean something. We will all make our public appearance soon enough, and after we do, they will write about us in history books, my friend."
"The book?" the runner asked. "The first publishing will only be preaching to the converted."
"That is as good a place to start as any. Some of the names we have on our list surprise even me. Besides, those who already believe in our cause are more likely to bring others over." The man behind the desk was quiet for a moment. "We should begin to look for more potential candidates to spread the influence of our group even farther, perhaps those with political influence."
"I agree. I shall speak with you later, sir," the runner said. The screen went blank.
The man behind the desk continued to sit in the dark, hoping for a better future.
* * * * *
He needed to get home, as the sun would be rising soon. Samson had flown around parts of the city he rarely visited and never thought about, trying to gather his thoughts into some type of clarity. The bad guy was dead, but he seemed to think that others would come. Samson had done his duty, found what he thought his place in the world should be.
He felt proud to be who he was.
Landing on the ground, Samson decided to walk the short way back to the castle, as the muscles in his wings had become unreliable. It was a short time later that he became aware of the small figured woman following him. At first, he did not think anything of it, until he started taking routes to try and lose her.
But still she followed him. Maybe the fight wasnít over for the night.
Digging his claws into the side of an abandoned building, Samson quickly made his way up the two-story structure, not wanting to get in another fight this evening. Looking down on the city, he could not see the woman that had been following him.
Because she was standing directly behind him.
"Samson," he heard her say, making him jump to attention. He turned around, taking the figure in. She was a human, with dyed blonde hair and green eyes. Samson did not think that he recognized her, but her voice...
"Can you still remember my voice, after all these years?" the woman asked. Samson watched as she raised her hand, covering herself in a dark blue, yet transparent, light. He blinked, and when he opened his eyes, he saw his sister standing in front of him.
For all the years she had been gone, she had not changed much in appearance. She was a little older, but so was he. Dressed in an almost professional looking outfit, she was still as beautiful as she had always been.
"Gwen?" Samson said, almost absently.
She simply nodded, keeping her distance. "I canít stay for long, or Iíll be missed. I just wanted to see you. Itís been ten years."
"Iím fine. Iíve been great. I grew up great without you," he said coldly.
Gwenyvere looked at ground, her sigh of guilt audible to her younger brother. "All I can say is that Iím sorry, Samson. I have certain sources in Manhattan. I have a clue about whatís going on in your life. Donít leave here, brother, no matter what. The world is harsh on us. It will destroy you."
Samson did not say anything for a moment. "How can you possibly know whatís been going on in my life? I donít even know where youíve been for most of it."
"Youíll know, someday," Gwenyvere told him. "Trust Dad. Heíd do anything for you."
She looked at the ground again, not moving. She moved in closer to him, and Samson did not react. He looked at her face. Her eyes had no tears in them, as his almost did.
Gwenyvere sighed. "I have to get out of here," she said, looking around. "I canít stand this town. I love you Samson, more than anything. Take this." She held out her hand, holding a card. Samson reached out his own hand and took it, staring at the bold face type on it. It was a communications number.
"You can reach me there anytime. Just donít give it to anybody," Gwenyvere told him.
Samson simply nodded.
Gwenyvere reached in to him all the way and embraced him in a hug. He hugged his sister back, her smell the same as it always was. She had always been so much older, so much bigger than he. And now here she was, a few inches shorter than he, his equal in more ways than one. They were finally both adults.
"Do you think that you can ever come home?" he asked.
She pulled back her head and looked him in the eyes. Tears had started in her eyes now. She put her hand on his face, noting how big he had gotten. "This isnít my home anymore, Samson. I know that we canít ever be a family, but... try and let me be your sister."
She released her brother and turned, not looking back. Samson watched her jump off the building and fly off into the night, fighting the urge to go after her. When he couldnít see her anymore, Samson started to make his way home.
* * * * *
Brooklyn and Sata landed quietly in a part of the old Castle Wyvern. Immediately, a view screen nearby lit up with Alexís image.
"Brooklyn, Sata, can you guys come to my office? Thereís something you need to see before the sun comes up," the building's owner told them.
"Sure," Brooklyn said. "Weíll be right there."
When they arrived, Alexís office was full. Artus, Broadway, and Angela were already there, apparently awaiting their arrival. Brooklyn walked over to his love, and she took his hand in her own. By the feeling in the room, he knew that Alexís news was bad.
"Something came in the mail today, Brooklyn. It was a book," Alex said, reaching in his desk and pulling out a large, leather bound tome. "I think this is what youíve been looking for."
Brooklyn took the book and looked at the cover. Etched in the leather in gold letters was the title: The True History of Gargoyles. He opened it up, seeing the all-to-familiar image of Goliath and the rest of his clan fleeing from St. Damienís Cathedral back in 1996. It seemed like a lifetime ago, but that picture had been shown on news broadcast for a long time after that.
"It depicts your kind as a race fighting for your own cause, as demons who would do anything to get back on top of the world, Ďlike their kind were in the beginning when man did not roam the earth,í" Alex quoted. "It came with a letter, addressed to me and my family." He handed the letter to Brooklyn and Sata.
Sighing, he took and started to read: Thank you for you interest in our cause. Our organization is called the Gargoyle Education League and our purpose is to inform the world about the truth about our nocturnal partners. Please read the book enclosed during your spare time, and share it with others in your family and workplace. The book is organized and edited by a number of world-renowned scholars and historians. In a few months, our organization will contact you about joining our cause. Please consider this opportunity. Within a month, this book will be sent to every house and business in every major city in the United States. Again, we thank you for your interest." The letter was not signed.
"They must have put me on a mailing list when I requested some of those pamphlets last month," Alex said.
Brooklyn crumbled the letter in his hand, and handed the book back to Alex. The human declined. "Read it. Itís the only way we can fight it."
Brooklyn nodded, and he and Sata exited the office. Outside, he looked at his mate, seeing his own pain reflected in her eyes. "This is the cause," he told her, taking her into his arms.
* * * * *
Samson sat in his room again, in the dark. But this was not a time for him to go inside himself. He had done that already. He pulled out the card that Gwenyvere had given him and held it in his hands. The number was most likely untraceable, but he would try to find something out tomorrow night.
His thoughts went back to the day that they had returned to Manhattan, all those years ago. Artus had been chosen to be leader, more for political reasons than anything else. He had a very well know heritage, and the council hoped that the human population might respect that. The former leader, Orion, was still around, but he not in much of a capacity to offer any advice.
Samson did not remember anything of his life before Avalon, of his life before the Great Quake. Some of his first memories of his life back in Manhattan were of Gwenyvere being distant, of clearly not fitting in with anyone. She was wild, and as much as their parents tried to tame her, nothing seemed to work. She was cold with everyone except him, their father, and at times Artus, which is why he had always loved her.
He felt tears start to well up in his eyes, but he held them back as much as he could. Samson still loved Gwenyvere, as much as he could. She was his sister, his blood, and nothing could change that. Looking at the card again, he ripped it in half. While he would always love her, that part of his life was over. Slowly, he threw it in the trashcan in the corner of his room.
Samson leaned back on his couch and wiped his eyes dry with the back of his hand. He felt the force of the sun wash over him, as it did the same to the buildings outside. His whole body turned to stone, and he would dream well that day. Tomorrow was another day, and for the first time in his life, he was ready for it.
* * * * *