doc file - Beyond The Page

wellofflimpetMobile - sans fil

14 déc. 2013 (il y a 3 années et 4 mois)

83 vue(s)


1


Here we have the first work of any length I did in recent history, and sadly the
longest single piece I have done to date. This is a fan
-
fiction story for the Gargoyles
universe, and is set in between The Price and Avalon in the second season. It was
supp
osed to have sequels, set after the second season, during a no
t
-
sucky version of the
third season, but I never got around to them. However, this is the first appearance of
Michael Hawkings and Cyberhawk, as well as their origins, so I have it up here under

the
Deus Et Machina section. I wrote this a while ago, and the writing and formatting might
be a bit crude, but it still deserves a spot. It might not make much sense if you have not
seen at least a little of Gargoyles, but then, you should see at least a

little Gargoyles.
Enjoy!.



David Xanatos had found that of late he had come to hate sunset.


The young billionaire sat in his office at the top of the Aerie building, his chair
turned away from his desk, allowing him to cast his gaze through the large wi
ndow at the
back of the room. The last rose
-
red light of the day still lit the sky, but the sun itself was
already hidden behind the towering cityscape of New York, and would soon pass below
the horizon itself. And with that final passage, the gargoyles wo
uld awaken.


It was not that he bore them any deadly animosity; in fact, he was forced to admit
that he had a certain, strange fondness for them. They had their uses, truth be told. They
served his ends quite often, despite the fact that they had managed
to escape his custody.
He was even in debt to them in certain ways; without their intervention, he would have
lost Fox through his own machinations, a thought that still had the power to send a chill
through him. Even when the Gargoyles’ actions interfered

with his plans, the damage
they did was never enough to severely hinder him, and he could hardly fault them for
taking action against someone who had so often worked towards their detriment. People
would fight their enemies; it was pointless to hate them
for doing so. It was not hatred or
anger that he felt towards them, but rather annoyance, a sense of frustration that dug
deeply into him.


He lacked control.


He had always sought control, and since the arrival of the ancient coin in the mail
so many year
s ago, he had possessed the power to gain it. Every obstacle fell before him;
he had risen with ease through the business world, his intelligence allowing him to out
-
think and out
-
maneuver those around him. Soon he had become one of the richest men in
the
country, and his prestige and influence had opened door after door for him. Those
doors that did not open for him he opened on his own through whatever means necessary.
But the gargoyles had changed that.


They had been his doing, truthfully. Without him,
they would still be nothing
more than decorations on a crumbling Scottish castle. He had brought them back into the
world on his terms. He had dictated the early course of their new lives, acting as the only
one in this new world that knew them and would h
elp them. At least that was how he had
planned it.

None of them were stupid, but none possessed an intelligence to match his own.
By all rights, he should have had no trouble dealing with them. However, they surprised
him at every turn, out
-
thought him, m
aneuvered around him. Even their assistance with
Fox had in the end been voluntary; his own manipulations had fallen flat. They saw

2

through his plans, and defeated the ones that managed to work. Again and again, they
broke through where he had expected the
m to fall. His constant failure to control them
was beginning to grate on him.


Xanatos sighed to himself as he swung this chair around to face his desk again.
His fingers dashed across the keyboard as he called up some of the more recent reports
that he h
ad requested. While most activities were handled by Owen or another of a
faceless sea of underlings, Xanatos made it a point to try a keep a general idea of what
was going on in the company. Keep his fingers on the pulse, so to speak.


He was interrupted f
rom his studies a short time later by a sharp knock on the
office door, followed almost immediately by Owen’s stiff figure.


“Excuse me, sir, I don’t mean to interrupt, but something rather interesting has
arisen.”


“No bother. I wasn’t really doing anyth
ing important. What’s happened?”


“A man arrived in the lobby several minutes ago requesting to see you. Normally
security would have simply turned him away, but he was quite insistent. He demanded
that they contact you. The guard at the front desk put in
a call to me and I spoke with the
man. He refused to leave a name, but he supplied the name of one of our outside projects
and claimed to have brought information concerning it.”


“Did he now. Which project?”


“The Cyberhawk project, sir, under Dr. Havelo
ck Centaro.”


Xanatos nodded in recollection. “Ah, yes, I remember him, the cyberneticist. I
had almost given up hope on him ever completing the project. Did the man give you any
other information?”


“I am afraid he refused to tell me more before he could
talk with you.”


“I suppose I’d better meet this mysterious messenger of his, then. Where is he?”


“I had him brought up to the castle. He is waiting for you in the Great Hall.”


“Well, let’s not keep him waiting.” Walking around the desk, Xanatos walked o
ut
the door with Owen falling into step beside him. As they walked down the halls, he spoke
up again. “I can’t help but wonder what has taken the good doctor so long to bring us any
news of his project. I would have expected him to have already completed i
t by now; the
Pack’s cybernetic enhancements took only a fraction of this time. I can only hope that the
finished product warrants both the time and expense.”


“I do not doubt that it will, sir. I has researched many of Dr. Centaro’s past works;
he deserve
s his reputation as the best in the field.”


A few moments later, the stepped through a final door and into the Great Hall and
Xanatos finally got to see the messenger.


He was Caucasian and fairly young, not looking a year over twenty
-
four. He
stood tall,

several inches over six feet, and had a head of slightly unruly
black

hair. His
right arm was outstretched as he ran his hand down one of the many hanging tapestries.
He wore black leather gloves and a long, dark
-
gray trench coat. Though the coat obscured

much of his figure, he seemed to have a solid build. He seemed to hear their approach
and turned to meet them with a smile.


Xanatos found himself having to suppress a small shudder. The man’s smile held
all the warmth of a glacier and his gaze seemed to

almost bore into him with analytical
intensity. The man stepped away from the wall and walked to meet them, extending his
hand to Xanatos.


3


“It is good to finally meet you, Mr. Xanatos,” he said as he took Xanatos’ hand in
a firm handshake. “I have heard
so much about you from Dr. Centaro. You were most
generous in your dealings with him.”


“Gladly so,” replied Xanatos, slightly surprised. Despite the man’s cold
expression, he seemed ready to conduct himself with all courtesy. “I must say, though,
that I d
on’t understand why exactly you are here. Dr. Centaro has never so much as called
with a progress report. Why now has he actually sent someone to report to us?”


“I regret to inform you that dear Dr. Centaro has passed away. I’m afraid that his
health has
been in a downward spiral since his son was killed by those creatures.”


Xanatos felt a sinking feeling in his chest, caused not so much by sadness at the
doctor’s passing as from the realization that he might just has blown millions on a project
that woul
d never be finished. “That is indeed regrettable. But even that you could have
told us over the phone. You didn’t happen to bring the project to New York with you?
Having whatever has been completed would help me to recoup some of the lose.”


“Oh, fear not
, Mr. Xanatos,” the man replied, a hint of humor creeping into his
voice. “The project was completed before the doctor’s death, he made sure of that. I have
come to deliver it you.”


“How kind of you. If you would just tell us where it is, we can take whoe
ver it is
off your hands immediately.”


“That will hardly be necessary. That ‘whoever’ is already here,” he said as his
cold smile slid into an equally cold grin, his amusement now fully evident.


It took Xanatos only a fraction of a second to catch his me
aning. “You?”


“You sound surprised.”


“I am given the time and money that went into this project, I was expecting
something a little more, well, impressive,” Xanatos replied, waving his hand at the man’s
all
-
too
-
human appearance.


The man chuckled. “Don’t

worry Mr. Xanatos, I am much more than what I seem.
In fact, my ability to blend in is one of my most effective weapons.”


“Well then, I hope you can live up to your claims. Do you have a name?”


The man’s smile wavered for a second, twitching at the edge
s, before his face
regained its amused expression. “Cyberhawk will suffice.”


Xanatos frowned slightly. Something about the man seemed off, but he could not
quite place his finger on what it was. “Very well. So, Cyberhawk, when exactly can you
begin your w
ork?”


“I intend to start right away.”



“Excellent. You will be coordinating mainly with Owen, but …”


Cyberhawk raised his hand to stop him. “I’m afraid that I, like the doctor, will be
working independently on this one, at least for now. If my current p
lans fall through, I
will have to come back to you for help, but otherwise, I will act alone. My visit here was
merely to tell you that the project was complete and to inform you of my intentions.”


Xanatos frowned again, letting some of the annoyance and
anger that he felt show
on his face. “I must say, after pouring so much capital into this project, I expected to be a
little more in the loop than this. Dealing with the gargoyles is a rather high priority for
me, and if this project ... you … cannot deliv
er on your promises, all that I have invested
in your creation can be written off as a complete loss. I may be a rich man, but I did not
acquire my fortune by allowing my money to be wasted.”


4


Cyberhawk chuckled, obviously amused by Xanatos’ annoyance, cau
sing another
wave of anger to rise within the billionaire. “I’m afraid that I must remain adamant on
this point, Mr. Xanatos. Given my skills and method of operation, I can only be
completely effective if I am allowed free reign. Not my fault; its part of
the design that
the good doctor used. And though I really have not made any real promises so far, I can
say with certainty that you will be pleased with the results of this particular project.”


This time it was Xanatos’ turn to smile. “You sound fairly co
nfident of your
success.”


His accusation was met with yet another chuckle as Cyberhawk drew his amused
smile back into a wicked grin that sent a shiver up Xanatos’ spine. “I assure you, my
confidence is not unfounded. Give me one week, and I guarantee tha
t the entirety of the
Manhattan clan will be under your control once more.”


****


“Well, Owen, what do you think of our latest … acquisition?” asked Xanatos as
the two men re
-
entered his office, Cyberhawk having already gone his own way, back out
into the

city.


Xanatos’ ever
-
proper assistant took a moment to collect his thoughts as he
adjusted his glasses on his nose. “I must say that my feeling are mixed, sir. The man
himself left me with a rather negative impression, pertaining to both his character and

his
sanity. On the other hand, he had a certain air about him that leads me to believe that he
might be ideal for dealing with the gargoyles.”


“I must say that I agree with you, on both counts,” replied Xanatos as he settled
into his chair, turning once
again to face out over the city. “There are very few people
who make me feel genuinely uncomfortable, but our Cyberhawk already does. But as you
said, he might be what we need.” He sighed and leaned backwards into the padding. “I
can’t say I like being so
far from the actual planning, but perhaps this is a time where one
has to give up some control to gain more elsewhere.”


“One can only hope so, sir,” responded Owen, as the last traces of red disappeared
from the evening sky.



****





Elisa Maza took a s
hort step back, hastily trying to avoid the stone shards that
bounced off her red leather jacket. She remonstrated herself in her mind; she had been
through this little ritual enough times to know to not get too close. The evening air was
filled with the s
ounds of guttural roars and cracking stone as the Manhattan clan of
gargoyles awoke around her. She had said it once and it still rang true; she would never
get tired of seeing that.


Nearest to her Goliath turned towards her, shaking his wings to free the

last traces
of stone skin before settling them into a cape over his shoulders. Upon seeing her
standing there, his mouth turned upward into a warm smile as he stepped down onto the
clocktower’s balcony. “Elisa, it is good to see you again. It has been sev
eral days since
you greeted us as we awoke. Is something wrong?”


5


She returned his smile with one just as warm as she replied. “No, I just had some
free time. It’s been a slow shift so far. Sorry I haven’t been up recently, but Matt and I
have just been fi
nishing up a serious case. I would’ve stopped by before sunrise
yesterday, but I was caught by paperwork until past nine. Tonight’s been a welcome
change of pace.” She looked down the line of gargoyles in front of her and raised her
eyebrow questioningly.
“Where’s Broadway? Didn’t he make it back last night?”


Lexington relaxed from a back
-
arching stretch and turned to her. “Nah, but that’s
not really a surprise. There was an all
-
night marathon of old detective movies at a theater
across town. He told us he
’d probably just find a place to sleep over. He didn’t want to
miss a single minute.”


Elisa frowned. “Is that really safe?”


Lex shrugged. “He’s done it before. Anyway, Xanatos is the only one looking for
us, and I doubt he’d think to look on the roof of
an old movie theater. Broadway’ll be
fine.”


Brooklyn was shaking his head as he stepped down from his perch, a look of
mock confusion on his face. “I really don’t know what he sees in those things; they’re all
the same.” He grinned at Elisa. “It’s really
your fault,” he joked. “If you hadn’t been a
detective, he probably wouldn’t have gotten stuck on them.”


She cocked an eyebrow at the red gargoyle, returning his grin. “He could do
worse.”


“You need not worry, Elisa,” said Goliath. “We appreciate you ju
st as you are.”


“Thanks for the vote of confidence, big guy.”


To her left Hudson grunted as he settled himself onto the balcony floor. “Aye, just
ignore the young ones, lass. They do not yet have the wisdom of age that we adults do.”
The aged warrior tur
ned to Lexington and Brooklyn. “If ye see Broadway while ye’re out
on patrol, remind the lad that he is on duty as well tonight. Now ye’d better be off; the
night nay be getting any younger.”


Brooklyn let out an exasperated sigh as he stepped back up onto

the balustrade,
earning him a stern glare from Hudson. “No rest for the weary I suppose.”


Lexington stepped up with him, grinning impishly. “Guess not. This protecting
business is serious work, after all,” he said, winking at Elisa. “We’ll catch you guys

later.” With that, the small green gargoyle leapt, spreading his arms and legs to open his
webbed wings, followed closely by Brooklyn.


Hudson shook his head as he watched the two young warriors disappear around a
building. “Sometimes I cannae believe I
was ever that young.” Turning, he reached down
to pet the head of Bronx who had come up beside his and pressed eagerly up into the
hand on his head. “If ye will excuse me, there’s a program coming on that I’ve been
meaning to watch.” With that, he retreat
ed thorough the face of the clock to the living
quarters beyond.


Elisa turned back to Goliath. “You staying in, too?”


“Yes. The past few nights have been busy for us as well, and I was looking
forward to a quiet night to relax in the library.”


“Would y
ou mind a little company? I don’t have to meet up with Matt again for a
while, and there really isn’t much for me to be doing right now.”


He smiled down on her again. “As always, Elisa, your company would be most
welcome.


6

****



Broadway’s awakening roar
turned quickly into a deep yawn as the last of his
stone skin fell from his body. Smiling broadly, he hopped down from his perch onto the
roof of the old movie theater. Squatting down, he reached under the eve to pick up the
trenchcoat and fedora hat that
he hidden there the previous evening. He was always
careful not to wear them when he went to sleep; he’d torn one trenchcoat badly waking
up, and had been forced to abandon a hat that had fallen down into a sidewalk full of
people. He knew that he really d
idn’t have to bring the outfit with him, since no one
would actually see him there, but it always made him feel more comfortable at the
theater, more in tune with the shows. Brooklyn and even Lex had chided him more than
once about both the outfit and his
little obsession, but they just didn’t understand. They
couldn’t grasp the little nuances that were in each movie. It was a pity, though; he would
have liked to have someone to watch them with.


He’d tucked the outfit under his arm and was about to jump o
ff the roof when he
heard the metal door at the top of the stairwell rattle. Normally, this would have made
him depart immediately, but there was certain frantic quality to the noise, as if the person
was desperate to get the door open as quickly as possib
le. To add to that, the person on
the other side was cursing at the sticky handle with a passion. Broadway took several
steps toward the door before it exploded open, a young man dashing through in a dead
run, his eyes so intent on the stairwell he’d just
departed that he collided with Broadway
going full tilt. The blue gargoyle wasn’t shaken at all, but the man rebounded hard,
falling backwards with another curse.


Broadway’s arm flashed out, grabbing the man by the front of his heavy jacket,
catching him
before he fell on his back. He drew him up and set him back solidly on his
feet. The man shook his head to clear it, and then took a look at whom he’d run into. His
eyes shot open as wide as they would go as another strangled curse rose from his throat.
Hi
s arms pinwheeled as he tried to step backwards and tripped over his own feet, forcing
Broadway to catch him again.


“Y
-
y
-
you’re one a’ those gargoyles!”


Broadway felt like sighing out loud, but he kept it in. It was the same old thing,
every time. At le
ast this guy wasn’t calling him a monster. Yet. “Don’t worry, I’m not
gonna hurt you. Whatcha you running from?”


Something clicked in the man’s eyes, an older fear taking precedence over the
new one. He swung his body around and pointed back down the sta
irs. “There’s some
psycho down in the theater with a gun! He’s swinging it around, yelling about how he’s
gonna kill somebody! He’s got the front doors barricaded up, but I thought that I might
be able to jump across to another roof, get some help, ya know
.”


Broadway felt that the man’s flight was probably fueled more by self
-
preservation
than heroics, but he couldn’t blame him, and right now it did not really matter. His face
turned grim and his eyes filled with iron resolve as he moved around the man to
get to the
stairs. Ever since the time when he accidentally shot Elisa, Broadway had possessed a
distinct hatred for guns, and for those that used them he had no mercy. “Go get help if
you can. Try and call the cops if you find a phone. I’m going to go see

what I can do to
help downstairs.” Setting his shoulders, he started down.


7


He’d only gotten down one stair when he felt a sharp penetrating sensation in the
back of his neck. Reaching up, he felt the small welt now there. With a quizzical
expression, he
turned to look back through the door and was able to make out the small
injection gun in the man’s hand and the icy grin on his face before cold darkness rolled
forward to envelope his mind.

****



Goliath’s worried frown grew deeper with each passing minu
te. Hints of red were
already visible along the horizon, and there was still no sign of Broadway. Tension
appeared to roll off him, and it seemed to Elisa that he was ready to leap from his perch
despite the approaching sunrise. Shaking his head, he let a
growl of frustration issue from
his throat. “Where could he be? One day away I can understand, but two…and without
telling us where he would be…. He knows better than this. Something is wrong.”


Hudson sighed in agreement. “Aye, lad, this bodes ill indeed
.”


Goliath turned to address Brooklyn and Lex. “You are certain you do not know
what could have happened?”


Brooklyn shrugged, a look of worried guilt on his face. “We did a fly
-
by of the
theater but we didn’t see him on the roof. We figured he’d just gon
e out on patrol
already.”


“There weren’t any signs of a struggle that we noticed,” chimed in Lex. “We
could stop by again tomorrow night, take another look around.”


“I do not like waiting that long.” Goliath turned again to face Elisa. “Elisa, could
you
look during the day, to see if you can find any clues as to where he might be?”


“You have to ask?” she replied, moving her hand as if to wave his worries away.
“I’ll hook up with Matt and head on down to the theater, see if anyone saw anything.”


“My than
ks, Elisa. You are a true friend.” He turned back to watch the horizon as
the sun finally rose. The first rays cast themselves across the face of the clock and with a
sound like crinkling ice Goliath turned to stone, a worried expression set on his now
fro
zen face.


Elisa gave a worried sigh of her own as she walked through the door and down
the steps to the gargoyles home. As much as she hated to admit it, Goliath was right.
Broadway could be absent
-
minded at times, but he knew better than stay out without

checking in first, especially after having already spent one day away from the clocktower.
Though she hoped that nothing was wrong, she knew it was probably wishful thinking.


Listening at the door, she made sure that she couldn’t hear anyone talking or
walking around before she pushed up the stairs and stepped out into the hall. She didn’t
want people wondering what was so interesting about an old clocktower, and in a
building full of detectives, even the smallest thing might get people asking questions.

She’d learned her lesson with Matt, and though he had turned out to be a good friend to
the gargoyles, the more people that knew they lived here the greater the chance that
Xanatos might hear about it. Speaking of Matt, she’d have to hurry if she was goin
g to
catch him before his shift ended. Even if he wasn’t able to come along to search for
Broadway, he’d want to know what was going on. He got along with Broadway better
than any of the others in the clan, Broadway’s love of detection meshing well with Ma
tt’s
paranoid view of the world. Matt had even given Broadway his old trenchcoat to replace
the one that had been shredded during the Silver Falcon case.


8


Noise enveloped Elisa as she entered the station’s main squad room. Shouting
voices and the rustling
of papers filled the air as the night shift prepared to depart for
home and the morning shift came to take their place. Elisa wove her way speedily
through the crowd, acknowledging the various greetings and goodbyes from her
colleagues. She reached her des
k quickly and just in time to see Matt donning his coat
and hat across the aisle.


“Hey, Matt, you got a second?”


“Sure, partner. What’s up?”


“Nothing good.” She proceeded to fill Matt in on the details of what was going
on, watching his face turn grim.

“I was going to head out and take a look around, check
to see if anyone near the theater saw or heard anything last night that might give us a clue
as to what might have happened to Broadway. Do you want come along?”


Matt nodded. “I’m not doing anything
too important today, at least nothing that I
can’t put off. And anyway, if we’re going up against something that can take down a
gargoyle, you’ll need someone to watch your back.”


“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” She waved off his apologetic look quic
kly.
“Don’t worry, I understand, and what’s more, I agree. It’ll be good to have some backup.
Glad to have you along partner. C’mon, I’m driving.”


It took them almost half and hour to get across town in the morning traffic, but
they finally arrived at the

theater. Elisa looked it over as she got out of the car. It was an
older building, only a couple of stories high, but the paint on the walls was new and it
looked as if the owners worked hard to keep the place in shape. An old
-
fashioned
marquee stood unli
t above the main door, proclaiming the showing of various classic
films. The sign for the detective movie marathon had already been taken down. She
scanned the part of the rooftop that she could see for Broadway, but he was nowhere to
be seen. She walked t
hrough the alleyways beside the building, checking the sides and
back of the building, but found nothing. She came back to the street and joined Matt by
the main door.


“Any sign of him?” asked her partner.


She shook her head. “None. Is there any chance t
hat we can get inside?”


“Probably not. The doors are all locked, and it doesn’t look like anyone’s in right
now; the place doesn’t open until the afternoon. And even if we could, we couldn’t get to
the upper floor or roof without questions being asked tha
t we couldn’t really answer.”


Elisa gave a sigh of resignation. “All right then. If we don’t find anything today,
I’ll ask they guys to check it out up there. Let’s ask around the neighborhood and see if
anyone noticed anything out of the ordinary last ni
ght. Who knows, something might turn
up.”

****



The noises of the city rose to Brooklyn’s ears muffled by the wind rushing around
him. Catching a draft of warm air rising from between two buildings, he gained a little
altitude and changed his course a bit
, angling in the direction of the old theater. The
gnawing sensation in his gut that had started at sunset was still there. He’d desperately
hoped that Elisa and Matt would have been able to find Broadway during the day, and
that the situation would simply

have turned out to be some big mistake. The fact that they
hadn’t even found a clue as to his possible location, or to what might have happened to

9

him, made him extremely worried. To make matters worse, he couldn’t help but feel
somewhat guilty for not ta
king things more seriously earlier. As second in command of
the clan, he couldn’t help but feel that he should have been able to do something to
prevent what was going on. Now it had come down to a simple scouring of the city in
hopes that they could find
some sign of their friend before dawn came again.

Elisa was on duty again, but she and Matt had split up and were doing their best to
cover ground in their cars, checking the scanner for additional information. Hudson and
Bronx were staying at the clockto
wer in the increasingly unlikely event that Broadway
found his way home on his own. Goliath was out on alone, keeping in contact with the
radio transmitter. Brooklyn glanced to the side where Lex was flying beside him; the two
of them were supposed to chec
k out the rooftop of the theater for any clues they could
find, then report in on their own transmitters and split up in order to cover a greater area.
He wished that he had more hope for the venture, but the chances that would find
anything useful seemed
slim to him. Whatever had happened to Broadway, it had
happened quickly and quietly enough that even the combined minds of Elisa and Matt
had been unable to find even the slightest clue after a day of searching. He felt in his gut
that this was one of thos
e times where the clan would end up reacting more to situations
than dictating them, being swept along with whatever plans people had for them. While
they had always survived such times before, Brooklyn couldn’t help but hate the feeling
that everything wa
s out of his control.

“You okay, Brooklyn?”

Lex’s question shook Brooklyn out of his reverie. “Yah, I was just thinking.
What’s up?”

“We’re almost there,” replied the green gargoyle, pointing down to one of the
buildings below. Brooklyn could just barely m
ake out the glow of the marquee on the
front. “Should we tell the others?”

“Nah, let’s see if we can find anything first. The last thing they need is a pointless
chatter.” Flexing his wings, Brooklyn set himself into a slow, spiraling dive towards the
roof

of the theater, Lexington close behind him. They came in to land over the
neighboring buildings so that the people on the street wouldn’t see them, touching down
on the left side of the roof near raised doorway that led to the floors below. Brooklyn
took
a quick look around the roof, and then stepped around the raised doorway to check
behind it. He gave a depressed sigh. “Elisa was right, he’s not up here. We should head
out, start checking the rest of the city.”

The smaller gargoyle gave him a stern look.

“We can’t just leave without looking
around a bit. We have to see if there are any clues here that might tell us what might have
happened to Broadway. This is pretty much the only place Elisa and Matt couldn’t get to
during their search, so it might be ou
r best chance to get a handle on things.”

Brooklyn nodded. “You’re right. Okay, I’ll search the upper floors for anything I
can find. You go over the roof with a fine tooth comb, and then join me downstairs. Clue
-
finding more your thing, so make sure you c
ome down before we leave.”

He had turned and had his hand on the doorknob when something caught his
attention out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head and pointed at an object near the
forward eve of the building. “Hey Lex, is that what I think it
is?”

The small gargoyle’s gaze turned to follow Brooklyn’s and his eyes went wide
when he saw what the red gargoyle was pointing at. “That’s Broadway’s hat!” Going

10

down on all fours, Lex began bounding towards the beaten
-
up fedora. “There’s no way
that he
-
-
"

Lexington’s sentence was cut short as his words turned into a howl of pain as he
was suddenly wreathed in electrical sparks. The blue light danced across his skin as his
backed arched and his head shot back, his eyes and mouth wide open. The, just as qu
ickly
as it had started, the electrocution apparently stopped, and Lex went limp, collapsing
down to the roof.

Shaking off the astonishment he felt, Brooklyn took a quick step towards his
fallen rookery brother, but pulled up short. All around the hat on t
he roof was a mesh of
incredibly fine wire, about ten feet square. It had been hidden before in the gravel that
covered the roof, but Lex’s spasms had shaken it loose from its cover. Lex had set it off
somehow when he had stepped on it, but the charge had
apparently spent itself. Brooklyn
hurried over and knelt beside Lexington’s still form reaching down to check for a pulse.

“There’s really no need for that. I can guarantee you that he’s still alive. I’m
supposed to collect you all first.”

Brooklyn spun at

the sound of the new voice, rising quickly and easily into a
fighting stance, his talons extended and wings extended, the white glow of his eyes
giving his snarling face a truly monstrous cast, ready to spring into action.

The figure before him seemed ent
irely unimpressed. He was a normal looking
human, draped in a long gray coat, and stood directly in front of the door to the stairwell,
which now stood completely open. He gave a smile at Brooklyn’s appearance, one that
was decidedly not normal and sent a
chill down Brooklyn’s spine. “I must say, luck

has

really been with me so far. Spotting the fat one up here when he slept, and now two of
you where I expected only one. This is turning out to be far easier than I originally
expected it to be.”

“Don’t act s
o smug, buddy. Just getting me here doesn’t mean you’ve won. You
might have gotten Broadway and Lexington, but you don’t have the element of surprise
anymore, and I won’t go down easy.”

The man just smiled again. “Of course not.” He spread his arms out to
the sides,
gloved hands open with empty palms facing upwards. “But just to help you out anyway,
I’ll let you make the first move. Unless you’re afraid too, of course.”

Brooklyn hesitated, and the man’s smile widened with a self
-
satisfied chuckled.
With an
enraged snarl, Brooklyn dug his talons in to the roof and sprang forward, wings
pulled in and arms extended, his claws reaching for his enemy. The expression on the
man’s face never changed, but at the last second he to dodged to the side, sliding
effortle
ssly out of the way, and bringing his right hand forward towards the oncoming
gargoyle.

Seeing that he was going to miss his prey, Brooklyn tried to dig in his talon and
turn towards the man again. He found purchase on the roof, but instead of stopping, he

found himself thrown against the doorframe of the stairwell. The impact drove the air
from his lungs in a single gush as he slumped into a heap on the roof. He tried to right
himself by grabbing the doorframe as he gasped for breath, but his limbs felt li
ke lead
and would barely respond. As his head tilted down, he saw a dart of some sort sticking
out from his chest. He couldn’t even remember having felt it hit him. With considerable
effort, Brooklyn brought his head up, his eyes sliding across the roof to

find his
adversary.


11

The man was still standing off the side where he had dodged to. He was shaking
his head as he returned what looked like a small dart gun to a wrist holster inside the
sleeve of his coat. “Really, after all that bluster I expected a bit

of a better showing from
you.” He looked down at the struggling gargoyle and smiled. “Don’t bother trying to
fight it, its quite useless. Not as strong a dose as what I used on your fat friend, but one
must make concessions for range.”

“W
-
Who…are you?”

Th
e man’s only response was another enigmatic grin as me stepped forward and
drove his fist into Brooklyn’s face.


****



Hudson was leaning of the stone railing of the clocktower, watching the night sky,
when the transmitter around his neck chirped again an
d Elisa’s voice came out.


“You there, Hudson?”


Reaching down, Hudson brought the microphone to his mouth. “Aye, I’m here,
lass.”


There was a pause and a burst of static before Elisa responded. “I guess it’s too
much to hope that you’ve heard anything.”


Hudson sighed. “Sorry lass, I havnae heard a word from anyone since the last
time ye called me. I hate tae say it, but I don’t think the boys will be callin’ in at all.”


“It’s looking that way, isn’t it. Damn it, we shouldn’t have split up like this, we
’re
too vulnerable in small groups. Half of you guys are gone and we don’t even know what
it is that we’re up against.”


“I agree, but what are we ta do about it?”


“Regroup. Matt’s tied up with a robbery across town, but I’ll give Goliath a call
and we’l
l meet you back there at the clocktower. Maybe together we’ll have a chance to
fight back against whoever it is that’s picking us off one by one.”


“Goliath is nae gonna like that. The lad won’t want to call off the search while
part of the clan is still m
issing.”


“I’ll talk him into it; he’s got to see the logic in this. We’re too weak right now,
and somebody’s taking advantage of that. If we don’t pull together now, there might not
be anyone left to find the others.”


Hudson sighed and shook his head. “I
’m nae arguin’ with ye, lass. I don’t like it
any more than Goliath will, but ye speak sense. I’ll wait here for the two of ye.”


“Thanks Hudson. I’ll try to get there as quickly as I can. Talk to you in a bit.”


A click signaled the end of the connection.

Hudson took one more dubious look at
the small contraption before dropping it to hang from its band again. Talking machines;
the things around him still couldn’t fail to amaze him. So many new things, so many
differences in life…


“Such a wondrous world,
but to tell ye the truth, boy, I think I think I preferred
the castle of old,” the old gargoyle said, addressing the garg
-
beast that lay on the balcony
beside him. Bronx brought his head up from where it had rested on his forepaws and gave
a little whine.
“Things were so much… simpler. We had the castle, and we defended the
castle no matter what. That was all we needed to know. Yuir friends were the ones in the
castle with ye, and the enemies were the ones beyond the wall, trying ta get in.” Hudson

12

looked o
ut over the noisesome metropolis around him. “Aye, back then we had a
sanctuary, boy. Back then we at least knew who the enemy was. This would nae have
happened then.” He sighed as he leaned forward on the railing again.


Bronx let out another whine, but s
uddenly cut it short. His webbed ears pricked
up, and his head spun towards the doorway back into the clocktower, his face hard and
alert. Hudson pushed back off the railing and followed the beast’s gaze. “What is it, boy?
Is Elisa back already?”


Bronx le
apt up, his feet splayed, hackles up and teeth bared. His eyes took on a
fierce white glow as he lowered his head and a menacing growl rose up through his
throat.


“Okay then, not Elisa,” muttered Hudson to himself. There was a faint whisper of
metal on le
ather as he drew his sword out from his belt, bringing it forward into a ready
position. He had taken one cautious step forward when Bronx let out loud bark of
challenge and sprung ahead, disappearing through the door in the clock
-
face. “Damn it,
boy, stop
! Don’t…!” He stopped short as Bronx’s barks were joined by the whine of a
charging laser. The glass face of the clock was suddenly lit from within by a red flash,
which cut off as instantly as it appeared, but was accompanied by the squeal of a laser
shot

and a yelp of pain from Bronx. A second later came the distressing sound of flesh
impacting with stone, and then silence.


Cursing under his breath, Hudson went through the doorway in a dead run,
coming to a quick stop at the top of the staircase, his lon
e eye searching the scene in front
of him. The lights in the tower were all off, leaving only the moonlight filtering through
the clock face to illuminate the gargoyles’ home, cloaking most of the room in shadow.
Bronx lay unmoving against the side wall, t
he puckered black wound of a laser strike
evident on his chest. The ladder leading to the police station below was lowered, but
Hudson could see no one still near. Realizing that he was leaving himself vulnerable to
the unseen attacker, Hudson took a quick

leap forward and left, dropping towards the
floor beside the stone staircase.


No sooner had he stepped off the platform than another shot went off and a
crimson beam of energy passed through the space he had occupied a moment before,
puncturing the glass

of the clock face behind him. In the momentary illumination of the
laser beam he could make out the silhouette of a man in some kind of long coat standing
in the far right corner of room, his left arm extended upwards towards the old gargoyle.
Before he c
ould see more, though, he landed on the floor, the stone stairway now
blocking the line of sight between him and the attacker. Leaning back against the stairs,
he paused to catch his breath, keeping close watch on the back of the room for any sign
of movem
ent. Taking a beat to go over the situation in his mind, he found his hopes
sinking. He was alone and outgunned, facing off against an opponent who had already
proven himself capable of taking down even multiple gargoyles, if Brooklyn and
Lexington’s fate
was indeed what he feared it to be. Bronx was down, at the very least
unconscious, possibly worse. All in all, he was left with very little in the way of options
to work with. Muttering another curse under his breath, he reached down and turned the
transmi
tter on.


“Elisa? Are ye there lass?”


There was a pause that seemed to last a lifetime before the Elisa’s voice came
back in response. “I’m here, Hudson.”


13


“Where are ye now?”


The detective’s voice turned worried. “Hudson, I can barely hear you. What’s
going on, why are you whispering?”


“I dinnae have the time to talk right now, lass. Where are ye? Where’s Goliath?”


“I’m in my car right now, stuck in traffic. I’m probably about ten, fifteen minutes
from the station. Goliath’s still across town; there w
as one last place he wanted to check
before meeting up with us. Are you okay, what’s going on over there?”


Hudson let out another curse, his hopes for reinforcements dashed. Neither of
them would be able to arrive before the battle ended, and he doubted i
t would end well.
He brought
t
he transmitter up again. “Someone’s here; I think it be the same one that
took out the lads. Bronx is already down, and I dinnae bet much on my own chances.
Dinnae bother coming here, ye’d be too late. Call Goliath, meet with
him somewhere
else. Maybe the two of ye can…”


“Chatting with friends in the middle of a fight? I’d think someone of your
experience would know better.”


Hudson spun as the figure stepped around the base of the stairs. It was a human
male, tall, dressed in

a long coat, with a pistol of some sort in his right hand, which he
held at arm’s length, pointed at the old gargoyle. Cursing his inattentiveness, Hudson
sprang forward just as the man pulled the trigger, bringing his sword in a broad sweep at
his oppone
nt’s torso. He felt a sharp sensation in the center of his chest but finished the
sweep. The tip of the sword sliced through the leather of the coat, but failed to connect
with flesh as the man dodged backwards and to the side, a look of annoyance on his f
ace.


The two opponents stepped back from one another, preparing for the next attack.
Hudson glanced down at his chest to find a dart of some sort stick out from the dead
center of his chest. His thick leather tunic had managed to keep the missile from
pe
netrating too deeply, but he could be his muscles begin to relax and his limbs become
heavy as tiny black dots began to appear in his vision. Taking a deep breath, he raised his
sword double
-
handed above his head and let loose a thundering war cry as he ch
arged his
enemy. Instead of dodging the oncoming attack, the man simply raised his left hand,
catching the falling blade in the palm of his hand. With his other hand, he pressed the
pistol’s muzzle against Hudson’s unprotected forearm and pulled the trigge
r again.


This time the drug hit Hudson’s system like a sledgehammer. He fell to his knees
as his sword slipped from his limp fingers and clattered to floor beside him. He fell
forward like a toppling tree, the side of his head impacting with the stone of
the floor. He
tried to move but found himself struggling to even hold onto consciousness. Black
-
booted feet came into his vision as the man stepped over to look down at him.


“Don’t be too hard on yourself, old man. You gave a good showing of yourself. I
c
an definitely say that you gave me more trouble than any of the others so far.” The feet
shifted as the man squatted and leaned over to bring his face even with Hudson’s. The old
gargoyle found himself looking at a cold and cruel smile, topped with eyes as

hard as
diamonds. “Just go to sleep already. You needn’t worry about your leader; I’ll deal with
him before the night is over.” With that the man gave a self
-
satisfied chuckle and Hudson
finally drifted into unconsciousness.


****



14


Elisa slammed her fist

against the steering wheel and let out a long stream of
swears. She’d been trying for the last two minutes to get Hudson to respond on the
transmitter, with no success. She’d heard the other person’s voice before the call had
been cut off, so the fighting

had probably started immediately after, meaning it was
already over, or would be at any second. Hudson had been right; she’d never make it in
time. Traffic was at a dead standstill where she was, an accident of some sort having
blocked the street. She sat

back and took a few deep breaths, working to calm her nerves
so she could think clearly. Okay, first things first. She had to decide quickly what she was
going to do next. She was afraid that she was going to have to write Hudson off as a loss
for now. Ho
pefully whoever was after the clan wanted them alive, something that really
wouldn’t surprise her. Xanatos had spared the gargoyles’ lives several times before in
order to get them in his control. She would have been sure from the start that this was
anoth
er of the billionaire’s schemes, but the style was wrong. This was too calculating,
too quiet; even replacing Hudson with a statue had possessed a spark of melodrama that
Xanatos couldn’t seem to avoid.


She shook her head and fought to focus again. The id
entity of the culprit could
wait until later. For now she had best take Hudson’s advice and warn off Goliath from
going to the tower, then meet up with him and try to formulate some new plan of action.
He wouldn’t like abandoning his former mentor at the t
ower, but if he went charging like
he usually did he’d end up sharing Hudson’s fate. Switching to Goliath’s frequency, she
picked up the microphone again.


“Goliath, you there?”


Goliath’s voice came back almost immediately, accompanied by a background of
wind that meant he was already in the air. “I am here, Elisa. I
s

something wrong?”


“Yeah, big time. I just had another call from Hudson. Someone managed to find
the clocktower and ambushed him and Bronx. Bronx was already out of the fight by the
time Huds
on called, and he didn’t sound too confident about his own chances.”


“Then we must get there immediately!”


“No, Goliath, we need to fall back, meet up somewhere and come up with some
sort of plan. We can’t just...”


“I will not simply abandon a member of

my clan to the enemy, Elisa.”


“This was Hudson’s call, big guy. You’d never get there in time to help him, and
you’d be useless to him or the others if you get taken out as well.”


“You assume that they are still alive.”


“I’m optimistic. Call it cop ins
tinct, but this feels more like a capture operation
than assassination. You’ll have a chance to get them back, but not if you play into the
hands of whoever it is who’s after you guys.”


An aggravated growl rumbled from the speaker. “Very well, I will heed

your
advice for now. Where shall we meet?”


“Go to the rooftop of 53
rd

and Vine. It’ll take me a little while to get there in this
traffic, but I should be there when you arrive. Got it?”


“Yes. I will come as quickly as I can.”

The connection went off w
ith a click and Elisa put the microphone down,
returning her attention to traffic. It took her five minutes to fight her way out of the jam
onto a side street, and another ten to get over to the building. Pulling her car over to the
curb, she got out, lock
ed the doors, and headed to the alley in the back. She had used this

15

building as a meeting spot with the gargoyles before. The building itself was rarely used,
and the fire escape in the back provided her with easy access to the roof. Leaping up and
catchi
ng the bottom rung of the ladder, Elisa hoisted herself up and began her assent.

The rooftop was empty when she reached it, and no one answered her calls, so she
assumed that Goliath had not arrived yet. The rooftop itself was fairly plain, with a raised
s
ection in the middle, heating and ventilation ducts dotting the entire surface. Despite the
privacy that the building’s disuse provided, she wished some of the heating vents were
still in use. The snows had all melted, but spring had yet to arrive and the
air still had a
sharp bite to it. Hiking up the collar of her jacket against the wind, she exhaled into her
clenched hands to warm them up. Rubbing her arms to try and work up some friction, she
scanned the night sky above her, hoping that Goliath showed u
p soon.

The only warning she had was the faint sound of a step on the concrete behind
her. Before she could react, she felt something strike her hard on the base of her neck,
setting off a fiery blossom of pain along her spine. A hand grabbed her on the sh
oulder,
spinning her around, and another blow hit her in the gut, doubling her over and driving
the air from her lungs with explosive force. A solid shove to her chest sent her toppling
over backwards. She hit the roof hard and lay on her back for a few se
conds, trying to
clear her mind, drawing the frigid night air back into her lungs. Opening her eyes, she
looked up at her attacker.

Her detective’s mind sprang into action, quickly cataloging him. He was male,
mid
-
twenties, Caucasian, had
black

hair, and w
as little over six feet with a solid build.
The feature that grabbed her attention the most though was the laser pistol he had leveled
at her. He smiled down at her over the barrel and inclined his head in greeting. “Good
evening. Detective Maza, is it not
? So good of you to come so quickly.”

“Who are you? What…”

He shook his head and brought his index finger up to his lips to silence her. “Not
now, I’m afraid that we don’t have the time for questions. You made very good time,
detective, but not that good.
I believe your friend is already arriving.” He took his eyes
off her as he glanced up and to the right. His smile seemed to grow and Elisa’s heart sank
as the sound of the wind on leathery wings finally reached her ears.


****



Goliath tried to clear his
mind of worry as he began his descent to the building
below. Elisa had been right; he did not like this at all. Abandoning a member of his clan
to his fate, no matter how little a chance he had of actually helping, seemed wrong to
him. Try as he might, the

ways of this world were still foreign to him. He had always
faced his foes on the field of battle, and no matter what trickery they had employed, he
had fought openly and honestly. All this sneaking around, retreating, and scheming was
something he simply

could not get his mind around, and he doubted he ever would. Yet
despite his discomfort with it, he felt himself forced to acknowledge its necessity. His
methods from a millennium ago had more than once left him vulnerable in this time,
endangering both h
is own life and the lives his clan, and that was something he found
intolerable. Events were spiraling out control around him now, and though a part of his
mind screamed at him to make a beeline for the tower and try to save Hudson or avenge
his defeat, he

put his trust in Elisa’s judgment and her assessment of the situation. And

16

even he could see the dangers of flying into could very well be a trap. If falling back and
planning his next move was what was needed to save the lives of his clan, then he would
do so.


The gravel on the rooftop crunched beneath his feet as he landed near the edge of
the roof. Folding his wings around him like a cloak, he turned, scanning the rooftop for
his friend. There was no one around that he could see, but the raised center
of the
building blocked most of the roof from his sight. It was quite possible that she had indeed
arrived before him but was simply hidden from view. Starting around the side, he called
out. “Elisa, are you here?”


“She’s over here, gargoyle.”


Goliath sp
un at the sound of the unfamiliar voice, splaying his feet and balling his
hand into fists, but he felt his heart turn to ice at the sight he took in. Elisa stepped around
the far corner of the raised section of the roof, directed by a tall man in a long,
dark coat.
He held a laser pistol in his left hand, pointed steadily at Elisa’s back. Directing the
detective away from the raised section, he stepped forward to stand beside her, his gun
still pointing in her direction. Turning to face Goliath, the man ai
med smug smile at the
gargoyle. “I’m glad you could join us, Goliath. I’ve been looking forward to meeting
you.”


Ignoring the man, Goliath turned his head worriedly to look at Elisa. “Are you all
right?”


She nodded slightly. “I’m fine. I’ve only been her
e for a minute, but Chuckles
here was already waiting for me,” she replied, inclining her head to indicate the man
beside her.


The man raised an eyebrow at the comment but his smile did not waver.
“Chuckles? Really, detective, a person in your situation
should show a little more respect
to their captor.” The man raised his gun an inch and sighted along the top of the pistol,
his eyes hard. “And anyway,
my name is

Cyberhawk if you need to call me anything.”


Goliath let out a growl of warning. “Let her go
. If you are the one who has been
attacking my clan, then your fight is with me.”


Cyberhawk turned his head back to Goliath, his eyes analyzing gargoyles leader
for a moment before he responded. “Ms. Maza matters nothing to me one way or the
other beyond
her use in obtaining you. And to answer the implied question, yes, I am the
one who has been hunting your friends down.”


“What have you done to them?”


“Oh, don’t worry, they’re fine, at least for now. I only drugged them to facilitate
capture and transpo
rt,” he said, patting a second pistol holstered on his belt. “The laser is
just for Ms. Maza. It

i
s not much use to have a hostage if all you’re going to threaten
them with is unconsciousness.” Cyberhawk’s smile grew for a moment. “I must say, this
entire
operation has been much simpler than was anticipated. I gave Xanatos an estimate
of a week until completion, and even that was with the possibility that I might have to fall
back on his support in order to succeed. But instead, you gargoyles have been very

accommodating, lining up one by one to be taken down. Really, much more was expected
from you.”


Goliath felt his temper rise at the insult to his clan, but Elisa spoke up before he
could respond. “So you’re another of Xanatos’ goons? Where’d he manage to

find you?”


17


Cyberhawk’s face twitched in a way that way that made Goliath shift his weight
for a charge, and by the look on Elisa’s face, she found it peculiar as well. It passed in the
blink of an eye, though, and his expression returned to one of smilin
g confidence. “I
would hardly consider myself one of Xanatos’ usual employees. In truth, my relationship
with him is merely one of convenience. It was assumed that I might need his assistance in
order to complete the mission, but as I said, I’ve been
able

to do quite well on my own.
Still,” he said with a sigh, “the parameters are set and must be followed. I have to work
with him, at least in a limited capacity, and he must be given access to the gargoyles once
they are all captured”

The odd phrasing cause
d Goliath’s own eyebrows to rise questioningly, but Elisa
interjected once more before he had a chance to ask the man what he meant. “If Xanatos
hasn’t been helping you out so far, how have been able to find us so easily? I can
understand Broadway, Brookly
n and Lexington, but how did to find Hudson at the
clocktower? And for that matter, how did you know where I was meeting with Goliath,
let alone get here before me?”

As a response, Cyberhawk reached into his coat pocket with his free hand and
drew somethin
g out. Presenting it at arm’s length to the detective, he let it dangle free
from his fingers. Goliath heard Elisa swear under her breath before he recognized the
item as one of the transmitters that the clan used. “I pulled it off the red one after I’d
de
feated him. It was child’s play really to use it to tap into your conversations.”
Returning the transmitter to his pocket, Cyberhawk let out a small laugh. “I can
understand the gargoyles leaving such an obvious security hole open, but really detective,
I
would have expected you to anticipate something like that. I have to admit, though, luck
really has been with me so far. From spotting the fat one on the theater on the way to
meeting Xanatos to having the transmitter fall into my possession, things have r
eally
gone my way in the past few days.”

Goliath let out a snort of disgust. “Only a fool relies only on luck to win his
battles. I wish to see how well you do in a fair fight. Let Elisa go and face me, man to
gargoyle, and we will see who triumphs. Or per
haps,” he said with a sharp
-
toothed grin,
“you are too afraid?”

Cyberhawk looked at Goliath with an expression of amused disbelief, shaking his
head and chuckling to himself. “You’re right about luck, Goliath, but the truth is only a
fool goes into battle
without some kind of plan, or at least an ace up his sleeve.” With
that, he flashed the gargoyle another smile, turned his head to the left, and shot Elisa in
the chest.


****



She saw what he was going to do in his eyes a nanosecond before he pulled the
trigger, but there no time to react and no way to prepare for the white hot pain that
seemed to envelope her being as the beam hit her square in the chest. She was dimly
aware of being knocked back by the force of the blast, the world blurring in front of
her
eyes as the shot spun her around and she toppled down. Her body had gone completely
limp as the rooftop came up to meet her, the lancing pain in her chest blocking out all
other signals. The breath was knocked from her again as she hit the roof hard sh
oulder
-
first, her forehead slamming into the concrete a moment later, but the new pains were

18

hardly noticeable to her. She’d been shot before, a few grazing bullets on the arm or leg,
but nothing like this. She remembered almost nothing from the time Broad
way had shot
her; the doctors had said later that she had fallen into unconsciousness almost as soon as
the bullet had hit. This time though she was all too aware, and she was almost
overwhelmed by the red waves that flowed across her mind.


She was dimly

aware of something happening behind her, the sound of more
laser
-
fire and the thundering howl of Goliath’s roar fighting their way through the fog
that surrounded her brain, screaming for attention. After what seemed like an eternity, she
finally drew new

air into her lungs, the strain on her chest causing the pain to flair up
anew, but she shoved it down, worry over Goliath scrambling to the front of her mind.
Trying desperately to fight through the pain and fog, she pushed down with her elbows,
flipping
herself over onto her back. The movement made the pain nova again and her
head swam, the world swirling in front of her eyes. She squeezed her lids shut and for a
moment she thought she was going to pass out, but the disorientation passed and the pain
subs
ided to a level she could handle. She finally opened her eyes, only to find that
everything was already over.


Goliath lay facedown on the roof less than ten feet away, arms stretched out
before him. A laser burn had left a black line across one of his sho
ulders, and for a
moment her mind seized up with fear of the worst, but the slow rising and falling of his
chest showed that he was still alive. Cyberhawk was on the far side of him, squatting
down on his haunches. He was scanning Goliath up and down with
his eyes, a blank
expression on his face. His left hand was extended palm
-
down over Goliath’s back,
hovering several above the skin, and moved slowly down along the spine.


Elisa shifted on her elbows, trying desperately to rise, but her body felt like it

weighed a ton, and the blossoming pain in her chest cause to falter and fall back, letting
out a grunt of frustration. The sound seemed to catch Cyberhawk’s attention though as
his head snapped up to focus his eyes on her and his hand stopped in its track
s. His
expression remained blank for a long second before the cold smile and hard gaze
returned. He drew his hand back and stood, gazing down at Elisa. “Still conscious, are
we? I must say I’m impressed. The pain you’re in right now must be truly incredibl
e. I
knew you were tough, but still. Don’t try to get up quite yet though, you’ll be in shock for
a while now. Don’t worry about dying; I can be surgically precise when I need to be.
Nothing important should have been hit, and the laser would have cauteriz
ed the wound
so you won’t bleed to death. Give it a little time and you should be fine, other than the
pain.” His smile grew a fraction. “I feel I owe you some thanks; you played your part
perfectly. Don’t worry about your friend; his vital signs are stabl
e, but with the amount of
tranquilizer he has in his system, he won’t be waking up for a while. ”


Elisa’s chest burned as she spoke. “Why…did you need me?”


“Why did I need you? I didn’t really, but as I told your friend, I don’t like leaving
things to ch
ance.” He pushed his sleeve up for a moment and punched a few buttons on a
device on his forearm, then let the sleeve fall back into place. “It was unlikely that I
would have been able to catch Goliath by surprise after having done so to all of the others
in the clan, and especially not with you acting as his voice of reason. And in a straight
fight Goliath has proven himself to be a skilled enough warrior to have caused even me
some trouble, and that was unacceptable. He has been overprotective of you in t
he past,
and though rage has its uses in battle, it can also cause one to act without thinking. Case

19

in point, after all.” He grinned at her. “You should feel touched. Though I have to admit
my experience in the matter is almost nothing, I must say have ne
ver seen someone so
angry before.”

Cyberhawk turned as a low whine echoed across the rooftop and a small hover
-
platform, similar to the one the Macbeth robot had used, rose over the edge of the
building and set down. Squatting down again, Cyberhawk hooked

his arms under Goliath
and lifted the gigantic gargoyle with frightening ease, carrying him over to the platform
and setting loading him onto it. Elisa tried to rise again, but the shock still hadn’t worn
off. She collapsed again, the pain of impact causi
ng black spots to appear in her vision.
Taking deep breaths of the frigid night air, she had to watch from the rooftop as
Cyberhawk stepped on to the platform himself. He turned back and gave her a
disparaging look. “You’re very lucky the parameters of my
mission forbid me from
killing unless absolutely necessary, detective. I can tell you’re probably going to be
trouble, left alive. Hopefully this entire affair will be finished before you have the chance
to interfere, though. As it is, I suggest you leave
things as they are, and forget about the
gargoyles.” Pushing a few buttons on the control panel, Cyberhawk guided the platform
up and over the side of the building, disappearing from sight into the alleyway beyond.


****

It never ceased to amaze David Xana
tos that the elite ranks of the country could
be so full of complete idiots. He gave an exasperated sigh as he left the conference room
and started the walk back to his office. While his competitors’ stupidity did give him an
undeniable edge in negotiation
s, it also meant that he was constantly stuck for several
hours in meetings with people that made his
mind
want to shut down it defense of its
sanity. He rubbed his eyes as he settled down into his chair and tried desperately to forget
the extremely profit
able yet extremely boring last two hours. There simply was no
enjoyment in sparring with someone so easily defeated.

He relaxed as he leaned back in his chair, gazing out the window at the sun setting
in the evening sky, and found his mind drifting back to

the gargoyles. At least there he
was presented with a constant challenge, even if it was accompanied with frustration. He
had come to realize over the past couple of days that he was distinctly uncomfortable
with simply handing the task of their capture o
ver to Cyberhawk. Not only did the man
himself make him nervous, but being completely out of the loop took all of the enjoyment
out of the task. He had always prided himself on being able to handle any situation, and
this felt too much like letting someone

do his work for him. Simply paying for something
did not allow one to claim responsibility for its accomplishments.

Xanatos watched the sun in silence as it sank inch by in the sky, the bottom of the
orb already blocked by some of the taller buildings. Pe
rhaps there was some way to
change Cyberhawk’s mind, to pull back from his mission. Xanatos had just been glad to
get rid of the man at first, but as time passed, the situation bothered him more.
Cyberhawk’s loyalty to Centaro’s plan seemed odd, and Xanato
s suspected that the man
had an agenda of his own, and that Centaro had purposely picked a subject for his work
that had a hatred of the gargoyles equal to his own. Still, every man had a price. He just
had to find it and use it to gain some control over t
he cyborg.

The intercom on his desk chirped and Owen’s crisp voice issued from the speaker.
“Cyberhawk is on the line, sir. He says he wished to speak to you.”


20

Xanatos spun his chair back around to face the desk and frowned at the light
blinking on the pho
ne. “Well, speak of the devil.”

“Pardon, sir?”

“Nothing, Owen, just thinking out loud. Thank you, I’ll take it here.” The
intercom channel cut off as Xanatos reached over and brought the handset up to his ear.
“Xanatos here. Owen said you wanted to talk to

me?”

There was a pause before a voice responded. “Ah yes, Mr. Xanatos. I am pleased
to report that I have been able to complete the mission sooner than anticipated.”

Xanatos sat silent for a moment, nonplussed. “Already? I find that hard to believe.
You e
stimated a week, Cyberhawk. It’s been only two days.”

He heard a chuckle over the line, and felt a new twinge of anger. “Let

u
s just say
that I got lucky. Things went better than I anticipated.”

“Well, then. I trust that all of the gargoyles are in your po
ssession then, unharmed
I hope.”

“There was a pause before Cyberhawk responded. “They are indeed all in my
custody, and whatever harm they came to during their capture should be gone by the time
they wake up.”

“You took them all while they were animate, th
en? Not while sleeping?”

There was another pause. “Yes. The doctor wanted me to. His anger towards the
beasts was rather vehement, I’m afraid.”

“Understandable, in his case. If you give me the location where you are keeping
them, I can arrange for their tr
ansport to one of my facilities.”

The pause was longer this time, the faint sound of breathing the only thing
Xanatos could hear from the earpiece. “I’m afraid they aren’t ready for transport quite
yet, Mr. Xanatos. I’ll have to insist that you come down h
ere yourself first. Transport can
be taken care of later.”

Xanatos’ anger spiked again, and he could not keep all of it out of his voice. “I
must say, this is very irregular, and more than a little exasperating. I’m not in the habit of
having my employees
dictate the terms of their jobs, or give me orders as they see fit.
You are capturing the gargoyles for me, Cyberhawk. Try not to forget that.”

There was a quiet laugh on the line. “To tell the truth, Mr. Xanatos, I am not
strictly speaking an employee of
yours. My mission was given to me by Dr. Centaro, and
I cannot deviate from the parameters he set for that mission.”

“Your loyalty to a dead man is touching.” He sat back down and thought for a
moment. “Very well, if that’s the way things have to go, so be

it. If you tell me where
you are holding the gargoyles, I’ll come down and meet you. But once the gargoyles are
in my custody, our association is terminated. I want nothing more to do with you when
this is over.”

“I expected nothing less from you, Mr. Xan
atos. I’m not worried though; right
now the mission is all that matters to me.”

“Of course.” After copying down the address that Cyberhawk gave him, he set the
phone back on the cradle and removed his jacket. He had folded it and was laying it on
the back
of the chair when Owen entered and approached the desk. “Are you really going
to accede to his requests?”

“You listened in on the call?”

“Of course.”


21

Xanatos gave a chuckle of his own as he sat back down. “I don’t like to argue
with madmen, Owen, its bad f
or my blood pressure. I could tell of friend wasn’t going to
take no for an answer.”

“You are sure of his insanity, then?”

Xanatos frowned. “There is something wrong with the man, Owen. You yourself
acknowledged as much when we first met him. That combined

with his actions since
leave me with little doubt in the matter. And as to your first question, you should know
me better than to think I would concede the point so easily.” Reaching down, he opened
one of the bottom drawers of the desk and drew out a med
ium
-
sized laser pistol and
shoulder holster. He stood again as he pulled the straps over his shoulders and secured the
gun under his arm. Turning, he picked up the jacket from the back of the chair and put it
back on, concealing the weapon from sight. “I d
on’t like being manipulated, Owen,
especially by someone that is supposed to be in my control. I can’t help but feel that
Cyberhawk is using me as a convenience in this matter, and I don’t feel like letting that
continue.” He straightened his lapels and st
epped around the desk, starting for the door, a
grim expression on his face. “I want you to make a few calls before we head down to
meet Cyberhawk. Have a hovercraft prepped with heavy restraints available inside, ready
for launch if we call it. Also, I wa
nt four of the Steel Clan robots to be switched to
standby mode, once again set to home in on us if called.”

Owen cocked an eyebrow at his employer. “You are intending to double
-
cross
him then?”

“Just preparing for the worst. If things go badly, we’ll need

a back
-
up plan. And
given the situation, I would hardly consider it a double
-
cross on my part. Make the calls,
Owen. I’ll be waiting in the Great Hall when you are done.”


****



Matt Bluestone snapped himself out of a doze as soon as he saw Xanatos’ limo

pull up to the inside of the garage checkpoint. Reaching over he nudged his partner gently
in the shoulder, bringing her awake. “Looks like Xanatos is finally heading out.”


Elisa gave a curt nod but said nothing, which worried Matt. Neither of them had
g
otten much sleep that day, napping in shifts in order to keep an eye on Xanatos in hopes
that he would lead them to the gargoyles. The sun had already set, and Matt felt
exhausted, but he knew Elisa felt worse. Her face wore a strained expression and the
m
uscles around her eyes were tight, showing she was still in pain from the laser wound.
Between the two of them they had done their best to treat the wound and ease the pain,
but Elisa had refused to go to a doctor. The wound itself was nowhere near as seri
ous as a
normal gunshot wound would have been, and worry over her friends and over the
questions that a doctor might ask had made up her mind.


“Are you sure you’re up to this, partner.”


She tilted her head and gave him an exasperated look. “Stop worrying

already, I’ll
be fine. I promise, as soon as this is over I’ll get someone to look at it. Until then, I’m not
just going to sit back and let the guys get taken by Xanatos. Not while I can do anything
about it.”


“And just what exactly do you think you’ll
be able to do?”


She sighed. “I don’t know. Something. I just know that I can’t give up on them.”


22


Matt patted her on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, neither will I. We’ll just have to
play it by ear, then.” Turning the keys in the ignition, he eased the gas p
edal down and
guided the car out into traffic as the limo passed through the checkpoint and exited the
garage.

Staying several cars back from the limo, he followed them for over thirty blocks,
doing his best to keep them in sight while remaining undetecte
d. While his beat
-
up sedan
was nowhere near as noticeable as the Fairlane, he knew that Burnett had a sharp eye for
tails. Keeping his eyes on the limo, he inclined his head towards his partner. “Are you
sure that Xanatos doesn’t already have the guys stas
hed away up in his castle? Leaving
them out in the open like this doesn’t seem his style.”

Elisa nodded. “It isn’t, but I’m sure of it. For once I think events are out of
Xanatos’ control. Cyberhawk acted almost contemptuous of Xanatos, said he was only
in
volved in the operation as a back up. He also said that once all of the gargoyles were
captured, Xanatos would be “allowed access” to them. That doesn’t fit with the clan
already being locked up in the castle, or with Xanatos ever having exclusive control
over
them.”

Matt couldn’t help but give an amused chortle. “I can’t imagine that has Xanatos
very happy. He’s never struck me as the kind that plays well with others.”

Elisa frowned in thought. “No, he isn’t. And that’s all the more reason to free the
guys

quickly. If it comes to blows between Cyberhawk and Xanatos, the clan is going to
get stuck in the middle.”

“At least if it comes to that, we know that Xanatos wants the gargoyles alive.
Might be a trade up from this Cyberhawk character if he’s as nuts as

you say.”

“True, but I wouldn’t be so sure of Xanatos winning that particular fight,” Elisa
replied, shaking her head.

Matt glanced over at her and raised an eyebrow. “That scary, huh?”

“Matt, we’re talking someone who took out Goliath in the time it took

for me to
collapse on a roof! And that was after he’d already gone through the entire rest of the
clan.”

“Point.” He paused for a moment. “What is it exactly that you’re hoping to do
here again?”

She sighed and slumped down in her chair. “Anything we can.


“Well, whatever it is, we’re going to find out soon enough.” The limo had pulled
to a stop on the street ahead. Matt eased the sedan into the nearest ally and killed the
engine. The area of the city they were in was nearly deserted and any stray cars wer
e
bound to be noticed. Easing out of the car, he locked the door and walked to end of the
alley, studying the limo around the corner of the building. He was joined in a second by
Elisa and they both watched as Xanatos and Burnett exited the limo and steppe
d onto the
curb. The two men talked for a moment and then went through a nearby chain
-
link fence,
crossing a wide courtyard and entering what appeared to be an old warehouse.

Matt turned to his partner. “Want to try and follow them?”

She shook her head. “
No. If that is where Cyberhawk is holding the clan, there’ll
be security measures all around the place.”

“Well then, it’s a good thing I came prepared.” Reaching into his coat he
withdrew a pair of high
-
power binoculars and motioned to the fire escape behi
nd. “Let

s
get to the roof and hope that Cyberhawk forgot to board up the windows on that place.”


23


****



“Ah, Mr. Xanatos, so glad that you could make it.” Cyberhawk rose from his seat
on a folding chair and strode to meet the two men as they entered. “I’
m sorry for the
inconvenience, but I hope the results are to your liking.”


Despite himself, Xanatos had to admit that he was impressed. A series of
electrified cages stood in a row against the far wall, with a back
-
up generator attached to
the end of the
line. Each cage contained a member of the gargoyle clan, right down to the
garg
-
beast, who had turned to watch Xanatos enter with a menacing growl. Most of the
others were seated on the floors of their respective cages, conversing or remaining silent.
At
Bronx’s growl they all turned to watch the newcomers, with the exception of Goliath,
who remained seated with his arms across his knees, his head down and his eyes closed.


“I must say, Cyberhawk, until this moment I still held some doubt about your
claims
. I’m impressed. I didn’t think it was possible for one person on their own to have
taken the gargoyles so quickly.”


“To tell the truth, capturing them was much easier than I anticipated. I am
surprised that you have had so much trouble with them in the p
ast,” Cyberhawk replied,
causing Xanatos to bristle at the implied insult. “The leader and the old one were the only
ones that presented anything even approaching a challenge.”


“You’re friend’s got a serious arrogance problem, Xanatos,” called out Brookly
n
from his cage in the back, obviously annoyed by Cyberhawk’s statement. “The two of
you must get along real well.”


The only response the red gargoyle gained from Cyberhawk was another amused
chuckle, but Xanatos took the opportunity to break off his conv
ersation with the cyborg
and walked over to Brooklyn’s cage. “By all accounts his arrogance seems justified,
Brooklyn. Your clan doesn’t seem to have made much of a showing for itself in the past
few day, now has it?”


The second in command snarled and fix
ed Xanatos with an angry glare. “What do
you want with us, Xanatos?”


“The same thing I’ve always wanted. You gargoyles have proven your usefulness
many times over, and I want that usefulness to continue, and be a bit more under my
control. Just imagine al
l of the things that you and your friends could do for me.” Xanatos
took a step back and glanced to his left. “I can’t help but notice that your fearless leader
is peculiarly quiet tonight. What’s the matter, Goliath, cat got your tongue?”


The gargoyle le
ader opened his eyes and turned to face Xanatos, and the anger
and hatred in his gaze almost made Xanatos take an involuntary step back. “I will see that
pay dearly for what you have done, Xanatos. You may be sure of that. I will take your
life in vengeanc
e.”


Xanatos gave Goliath a quizzical look, taking a deep bretah to settle his nerves.
“Really, Goliath, this is unlike you. I’ve done worse before than simply capture you and
your clan. What on earth warrants this kind of response?”


“Elisa is dead. Your
mercenary killed her.”


Xanatos felt the shock of the clan’s gasps echoed within his own mind, and finally
saw the sorrow underlying the anger in the lavender gargoyle's eyes. Behind him,
Cyberhawk barked out a laugh. “Is that you been so upset about? Sill
y beast.”


24


Xanatos turned and fixed Cyberhawk with an angry gaze of his own. “Then what
he says is true? You killed Detective Maza?”


The cyborg wore an amused expression as he shook his head. “Oh, I admit that I
shot her, but don’t worry, she’s not dead.
She’ll be in quite a bit of pain for a while, but
she’ll be fine. Goliath just wasn’t in a state to notice when she started moving again.”


A collective sigh of relief sounded from behind Xanatos, accompanied by a
whoop of delight from Lexington. Xanatos l
et out a calmed breath of his own, and
glanced back to see the look of overjoyed surprise on Goliath face as he settled back on
the floor of the cage. “That aside, it was still ill
-
advised to have shot her. Blatantly
attacking a police officer, Maza in par
ticular, can too easily garner unneeded attention.
You should have avoided any situation where it was necessary.”


“I’m afraid your opinion hardly matters to me in this case, Mr. Xanatos.”


A rough laugh came from Hudson’s cage. “Trouble keeping yer lacke
ys in line,
eh, Xanatos?”


Xanatos kept his gaze locked with Cyberhawk and smiled sardonically.
“Cyberhawk has made it quite clear that his loyalties do not lie with me, Hudson. Allow
me to make it equally clear that after this affair is over, I want nothi
ng more to do with
him. He can go and do as he will, as long as he does not interfere with my plans. It seems
that I’m going to have to
write

your creation off as a loss, Cyberhawk,” he said,
addressing the cyborg again. “Though I am thankful that you have

collected the gargoyles
for me, it seems that your usefulness to me has run out. So let

u
s do whatever it is you
want done and let me take the clan back to the castle.”


Cyberhawk’s smile turned cold as he reached to his belt and withdrew the laser
pistol

from its holster, moving too fast for Xanatos to even reach for his own weapon.
Holding the gun leveled at the young billionaire, Cyberhawk studied Xanatos’ face. “I
think you misunderstand what is going on, Mr. Xanatos. You are not here to negotiate
cust
ody of the gargoyles; you are simply here to watch them die.”


****



Matt muttered angrily under his breath as he fiddled with the focus knob on the
binoculars, trying to find a setting that would give him a better view of the events in the
warehouse. He
was kneeling on the roof of a three
-
story building, his elbows resting on
the raised stone edge of the rooftop. Elisa nudged him from the side. “What can you
see?” she asked, impatience lining her voice.


“The windows look like they haven’t been cleaned in

years, which is probably the
case. I can’t see much, but it’s enough. The clan’s in there all right. There’s a row of
cages along one of the walls, and I think I can see the guys moving around inside them. I
can just see Xanatos and Burnett, and also some

guy in a coat that I assume is
Cyberhawk. But it doesn’t look like there’s anyone else around.”


Elisa made a frustrated sound in her throat. “Doesn’t matter, there’s no way we
could take all three of them. We might be able to handle Xanatos and Owen, but

throw
the cyborg into the mix and the fight’s over before it begins.” She sighed. “I don’t
suppose you’ve been able to come up with any brilliant ideas?”


25


“Sorry, fresh out right now.” He frowned and leaned forward, adjusting the
binoculars again and swor
e out loud. “Something’s wrong. Looks like Cyberhawk just
drew on Xanatos.”


“What?!”


“I’m just telling you what I see. Here, look for yourself,” he said, handing the
binoculars to his partner. “Looks like that falling
-
out you predicted is happening right

now.”


Elisa let out a curse of her own as she looked into the warehouse. “This is not
good.” She lowered the binoculars and sat back on the roof, drumming her fingers on the
concrete. “We’ve got to do something, and do it now.” She stared into space for
a
moment, worry evident on her face, before a sly smile played across her face. “I’ve got
an idea. It’s nuts, but it might work.” She tossed Matt the binoculars and jumped up,
dashing back to the fire escape. “Come on, we don’t have any time to waste.”


By

the time Matt caught up to her at the car she was inside on the passenger side.
She had the radio out and had already put a call through. As he sat down, he heard a
voice respond from the handset, too low for him to make out. Elisa pushed the button on
th
e side and spoke into the microphone. “Hey Claire, its Elisa Maza. I need you to do me
a no
-
questions
-
asked favor. Sorry to put you on the spot, but it

s important and I don’t
have much time.” There was a short pause before an affirmative response came bac
k.
“Thanks, I’ll owe you one.” Elisa took a deep breath and glanced out the window down
the alley. “I’m near the warehouse on Pratchett Street, down by the docks. I need you to
tell me where the power substation for this area is.”


****



Xanatos kept his
eyes locked on Cyberhawk’s face, doing his best to seem
unworried by the weapon pointed at his chest. “I thought I had made myself clear,
Cyberhawk: the gargoyles are of little use to me dead.”


“And I thought that I had made myself clear as well: your wan
ts and desires really
mean quite little to me. Now be so kind as to disarm yourself, and to instruct Burnett to
do so as well. Just put the guns on the floor and kick them towards me. And don’t bother
signaling for your reinforcements; I made sure to lay d
own a localized jamming field.”
He grinned. “Like I said, I leave nothing to chance.”


Xanatos reached slowly into his jacket and drew out the pistol from its holster,
watching out of the corner of his eye as Owen did the same. Placing the weapon gently
on

the ground, he straightened up and kicked the gun, sending it skittering over the
uneven floor of the warehouse to be stopped by Cyberhawk’s boot, as Owen’s pistol was
also a second later. Pushing the weapons to the side with his foot, Cyberhawk returned
his attention to Xanatos. “Thank you. I would have so hated to have to hurt you. Things
will go so much easier this way.”


“Speak for yourself, psycho,” called out Brooklyn. “I can’t really say I like the
way that this conversation is headed.”


Cyberhawk c
ocked his head to the side and gave the red gargoyle a disparaging
look. “You’re shouldn’t. Up to now, I was satisfied with merely taking you and your
friends alive, but circumstances have changed. I am afraid I’m going to have to kill you
now.”


26


“Circumst
ances have changed?” asked Xanatos. “I don’t really see how anything
has changed since you set out to capture them.”


“On the contrary, much has changed. The gargoyles have been captured, and you
are here, Mr. Xanatos.”


This time it was Broadway that spok
e up, clearly confused. “That’s it? You finish
the mission and then everything you want is different? And why does Xanatos have to be
here?”


“I find myself agreeing with Broadway,” added Xanatos, his eyes searching
Cyberhawk’s face, trying desperately to
find some clue as to what the man was thinking.
“I don’t really see any reason for your goals to have changed either. Surely there is some
other way we can do this. As I said, the gargoyles are quite important to me, and as much
as I hate to admit it, you
have the upper hand in this situation.” He spread his hands,
empty palms up. “I am hardly without resources; there must be some deal that I can make
with you for their lives. If your wanting them dead stems from some hatred you have of
them, I assure you,
there is a better was of dealing with it than killing them.”


Cyberhawk raised his left hand and shook his index finger at Xanatos. “Now,
now, none of that. I told you already, we are not here to negotiate, so I can assure you, all
attempts to do so will b
e futile. Moreover, I do not bear the gargoyles any real animosity
of my own. I am simply following the plan that was set down for me by Dr. Centaro. He
was quite clear in his instructions. The gargoyles were to be captured alive and brought
together, usin
g your help wherever it was necessary but as little as possible. Then you
were to be summoned to wherever the gargoyles were being held. Both of these
conditions have been met. Therefore the next part of the plan, the gargoyles deaths, must
be carried out.



“Nonsense,” retorted Xanatos. “If you bear the gargoyles no animosity, then none
of this is necessary. Whatever Centaro paid you to carry out his wishes, I can match or
top. Whatever he promised you for completing the task, I can obtain for you through
other means. Whatever loyalty you have to Centaro, it should not blind you from the
facts; he is gone, and I can promise you more than he ever could.”


“That does not matter, Mr. Xanatos. I hold no loyalty to the good doctor, but I
cannot deviate from the
parameters with which he programmed me.”


Xanatos was shocked into silence for a moment at this response, and Lexington
took the opportunity to voice his own confusion. “If you’re an cyborg, how can you have
been programmed? Are you actually an android lik
e Xanatos’ Coyote series?”


“I am most definitely not an android, but I am also not a cyborg in the strictest
sense of the word. I am something a little different, an entity of Dr. Centaro’s own
invention,
a NICAI:
a neurologically integrated
cybernetic
ar
tificial intelligence. I am
similar to normal A.I., such as the kind utilized in the aforementioned Coyote android,
but while my control units and parameter holders are normal mechanical devices, they are
all integrated into the host body’s brain. I utiliz
e the brain the same way normal person
would, but my own personality is overlaid on that of the host body, allowing me to utilize
the brain and body for my own purposes. Dr. Centaro did not wish to entrust such an
important task to another human, so he cre
ated me instead.”


“So instead of a human being with mechanical enhancements as with a
conventional cyborg, you are a mechanical entity that has a human being integrated into

27

it to enhance its functions,” interrupted Owen as he scanned Cyberhawk up and dow
n
with an analytical gaze. “Intriguing.”


“It is an abomination,” snarled Goliath, his teeth bared as he stepped to the front
of his cage. “It is a creation that reduces a human being to no more than a device to be
used, a puppet to be controlled for its o
wner’s purposes. Your master must have been a
madman to bring something like you into existence.”


Cyberhawk affected an expression of mock surprise. “I’m hurt Goliath, but really,
I would expect a gargoyle to think twice before calling anything and abomin
ation. You of
all people should know better than to leap to judgment.”

“Perhaps, but I also know evil when I see it. Nothing that robs a person of his own
mind can be anything else. But be you man or machine, I will not stand idly while you
murder my clan.



Cyberhawk let out a derisive laugh and fixed Goliath with an almost pitying look.
Turning slightly, he brought the barrel of his pistol around to point at the gargoyle leader.
“Please dispense with the useless heroics. I have a task to carry out, and I
am afraid that
despite your little pledge, you are really in no position to stop me.”


****



“Remind me again: why am I doing this?” asked Matt as he slid the end of the
tire
-
iron into the lock on the chain
-
link gate.


“Because my arms still hurt too much

to have enough strength to break that
thing,” replied Elisa, watching over his shoulder.


He gave her a mock glare. “That’s not what I meant and you know it.”


“Look, we don’t have time to argue right now. Just do it, I’ll explain as we go.
Trust me on th
is, Matt.”


“Fine, as long as you tell me sometime.” He threw his body against the tire
-
iron,
levering the end against the fence post and snapping the rusty lock off of the gate.
Swinging the gate open he went onto the path that led to the power substation
.
Approaching the metal door, he reached down and tried the knob. “Locked, of course.”


“I’ve got this one, partner.” Kneeling down, Elisa reached inside her coat and
brought out two thin metal tools. Inserting them into the lock on the door, she started t
o
move them around, turning one while probing with the other. Matt could hear the
tumblers in the lock begin to fall into place.


“I don’t want to know why you have those things, do I?”


Elisa gave a tight smile, her focus still on the lock. “You hang arou
nd Robbery
long enough and you pick up a few tricks. Got it,” she muttered as the final tumbler
clicked and the handle of the door turned.

Elisa stood and pushed the door open, and Matt followed her as she entered the
control room for the station. Reachin
g to the side, he flipped on the lights, illuminating
the stark white room. The walls were plain plaster, pitted in some spots, but otherwise
bare. At the end of the room stood the control panel for the station, and beyond that the
floor fell away and Matt

could see area that held the wiring and transformers that
distributed the power to the area. Matt stepped up to the panel and started studying the
controls. Keeping his eyes on the panel, he queried his partner again. “Okay, now that

28

we’re here, can you p
lease tell me what you hope to accomplish? I don’t think having the
lights go out in the warehouse will give us an edge in a fight.”

Elisa stood to the side of the panel, staring into the guts of the station. “There’s
not much we can do to beat Cyberhawk i
n a straight fight, so we’re not going to try.
We’re going to let the gargoyles handle him.”

“Pardon me for asking, but what does cutting the power do to allow that? They’re
all caged.”

“Yeah, I saw the cages. They look like normal animal cages, nowhere ne
ar strong
enough to hold in a gargoyle. Which means that Cyberhawk must have enhanced them
somehow.”

Matt felt like hitting himself for his stupidity as he saw where Elisa was going
with her line of reasoning. “You think the cages are electrified.”

“They h
ave to be. Even if they were made of titanium, those bars are way too thin
to hold an angry Goliath. I figure if we can cut the power source to the cages, the clan
will be able to handle him on their own.”

Matt chuckled at the thought. “I’d like to see him

try to take them on all at once
after having fought them piecemeal.”

“He’ll never have the chance if we don’t hurry.” Elisa glanced down at her watch
again, impatience and worry etching lines in her face. Matt could tell she had to be
thinking about what

could be happening back at the warehouse. “Have you figured that
things out yet?”

“I think so. I think I just need to do…this,” he declared in an unsure voice, taking
hold of several switches and toggling them down. The response was almost immediate.
The
whir of the transformers, which had permeated the air since their entrance, began to
slow to a low buzz, and then cut off completely. The lights in the control room flicker for
a moment and then died, plunging them into darkness. Rushing to the door, the p
air
watched as every light in sight blinked out. “Well, that did it all right. I just hope it gives
the guys the chance they need.” Placing his hand on Elisa’s back, Matt gave her a gentle
push towards the open gate. “C’mon, let

s get back to the warehouse

before someone
comes to check out what’s going on.”


****



Xanatos glanced up when the overhead lights of the warehouse flickered weakly
for a moment, and then flashed back on as the generator in the corner hummed to life. He
looked down to find all trac
e of amusement gone from Cyberhawk’s face. The cyborg
lowered his pistol, breaking his showdown with Goliath, his eyes darting about. Striding
forward he walked down the row of cages, checking each one, then moved to the door of
the warehouse. Opening it,
he took a step out and turned his head left and right, scanning
the neighboring area. Still facing outwards, he shouted back. “It appears that we are in the
middle of a localized blackout.” A low laugh filtered back to Xanatos’ ears. “This is far
too conve
nient to be coincidence. I truly wish I had been allowed to kill Maza; I knew
she’d be trouble.”


Turning his attention from the door, Xanatos sought out Owen and silently caught
the man’s attention. Owen raised his eyebrow questioningly at his employer. X
anatos
pointed quickly to the side and waited for Owen’s nod of understanding, then turned back

29

to the door. Making sure that Cyberhawk was still focused on the area outside, he shifted
his weight on the balls of his feet and dashed forward, racing to wher
e the two pistols lay
on the ground. He caught motion corner of his eye and dove forward, his hand stretching
towards the nearest of the weapons.


The gun exploded in a flash of light while his hand was still a foot away. He
quickly closed his eyes as minu
te shards of metal and plastic flew into his palm and face,
digging into the skin like burning pinpricks. Snapping his hand back, he hit the ground
shoulder
-
first, using his forward momentum to roll beyond the area of the blast. As he
skidded to a halt on
the rough concrete, he pushed himself up on his uninjured hand and
reopened his eyes.


A small burn mark was all that remained of the first gun, and the second had been
thrown aside by the explosion, putting it well out of his reach. Cyberhawk was walking
towards him, the laser pistol pointed almost casually in Xanatos’ direction. The cyborg’s
expression was one of cold anger as he came to a stop several dozen feet away. “If it
wasn’t for the fact that I am expressly forbidden from killing you, Mr. Xanatos,

you
would be dead right now. Take your wounds as a lesson though; just because I can’t kill
you does not mean I can’t cause you pain. Your attempt failed: please do not try again.”


“On the contrary,” responded Owen from beside the generator, causing
Cybe
rhawk’s head to snap around, his expression sliding deliciously from anger to
surprise. “I believe that Mr. Xanatos’ distraction was most successful.” Raising his left
hand above his head, Owen brought his stone fist down hard against the side of the
gener
ator. The machine’s metal siding crumpled under the force of the blow, its insides
belching sparks and smoke. The gentle hum the generator had produced degenerated
immediately into a rough grinding noise, and then died altogether as the warehouse
joined th
e rest of the neighborhood in darkness.


A beam of red light ricocheted off the dead generator as Cyberhawk fired at
Owen, the shot coming too late as the valet dropped from sight behind the machine.
Cursing at the top of his lungs, Cyberhawk spun as quic
kly as he could, tracking his
weapon towards the new sound of tearing metal, but once again he was too late.


Dropping to all fours, his eyes glowing furnaces, Goliath let loose a guttural snarl
as he bounded towards Cyberhawk. Dodging around the laser fir
e directed at him, he dug
his feet into the concrete and lunged with fist outstretched. The blow landed squarely on
the cyborg’s chest, its force picking him off the ground, the air rushing from his lungs
and the gun flying from his hand. Cyberhawk landed
in a heap several yards away, and
Goliath sprang forward again. The gargoyle brought his claws down in a slashing motion
at Cyberhawk’s face, only to have his wrists caught in vice
-
like grips.

With a snarl of his own Cyberhawk rose to his feet. Thrusting
Goliath’s hands to
the side he delivered an arcing blow to the gargoyle’s face, driving him back. Taking a
step back of his own to gain some space, the cyborg suddenly found a pair of crimson
arms encircling him in a bear hug, pinning his own arms to his s
ides.


Brooklyn leaned his head forward to snarl in the cyborg’s ear. “Don’t forget the
rest of us, buddy.”


“Don’t worry, I haven’t.”


Something shifted underneath the cyborg’s coat and a pair of metallic wings
exploded from the Cyberhawk’s back, shreddin
g his coat and ripping deep furrows along
Brooklyn’s chest. Brooklyn shrieked in pain as he was thrown back, off of Cyberhawk.

30

The cyborg spread his wings to the sides for balance, the metal feathers on each bristling.
He turned to face the rest of the cla
n arrayed against him, twisted with rage. “I would
have preferred to work more delicately, but don’t worry, you’ll find that the doctor
equipped me quite well for direct combat.”

The clan watched in morbid fascination as Cyberhawk’s scalp split apart, a
false
wig and skin falling away to reveal a metal surface beneath. Curved metal extended from
over his forehead and from beneath his chin, forming a crude metallic beak, framing his
face. His black gloves split apart at the seams as his fingers extended in
to silvery talons,
and beneath his clothes components writhed as body armor shifted and locked itself in
place. Stripping off the remains of his coat, he snapped his left arm up as a laser extended
up from out of his forearm. Red light lit the warehouse as

Cyberhawk released a flurry of
blasts towards the clan. They scattered, letting the beams tear into the concrete floor.


Watching the gargoyles engage the cyborg, Xanatos felt a hand grasp his arm as
Owen reached down to help him stand. Rising to his feet
, he gave his valet a brief pat on
the shoulder. “Perfectly executed, Owen, well done.”


“Thank you, sir.” Owen reached up to straighten his glasses as he turned to watch
the fight. The gargoyles had split apart and begun to encircle their opponent, moving

in to
strike. “If I may say, sir, things seem to have gotten a bit out of control.”


“Indeed,” replied Xanatos, stepping over to where the second pistol now lay. “I’d
say it’s about time we retook the reigns.” Picking up the weapon, Xanatos turned back to

the fight. He watched as Cyberhawk drove back an attack by Broadway, then aimed and
fired. The shot didn’t strike dead on, but drove the cyborg’s shoulder back, throwing him
off balance. Snarling, Cyberhawk raised his left arm towards Xanatos to return fi
re, but
was thrown forward to his knees when Lexington swooped in to strike him hard between
the shoulder blades. Xanatos observed as Cyberhawk rose slowly back to his feet with his
eyes darting back and forth, scanning the gargoyles around him. All humor
was gone
from his face, his expression now a blank mask, cautious and unreadable. Brooklyn was
kneeling against the wall, hands grasped to the wounds on his chest, but the rest of the
clan was still on its feet.


Hudson took a step forward, fists balled up

and raised in the absence of his
confiscated sword. “Fer all yer talk, lad, ye don’t seem to be faring as well in this fight as
before. Do ye really think that ye can win here?”


Cyberhawk cocked his head to the side and looked the old Gargoyle in the eye
.
“No, I don’t.” Snapping his wings out, he leapt up, putting as much distance between
himself and the gargoyles as he could. A jetpack between his wings ignited, blowing up a
cloud of dust from the floor and hurling him into the air. A shot from his arm b
laster
shattered one of the windows and he rocketed through it, escaping out into the night sky.


Springing forward, Broadway rushed for the door. “We’ve gotta go after him!”


Goliath placed a hand on Broadway’s shoulder, stopping him. “No, we cannot
risk
having him separate us again. If he wishes to battle again, he will have to come to
us.”


“He’ll return, you can be sure of that.” Xanatos walked towards the clan leader,
returning the laser pistol to its holster. Ignoring the looks that the clan threw his

way, he
continued. “This is far from over. His programming probably won’t let him leave you in
peace until he’s finished his mission.”


31


“You mean until he has killed us,” Goliath retorted with a snarl, turning to face
Xanatos. “A mission which you set him

on.”


Xanatos raised his hands in defense. “On the contrary, I never wanted you dead,
merely captured. And I had nothing to do with Cyberhawk’s programming; I was
expecting a normal cyborg, not an egotistical machine. His wish to kill you makes him as
muc
h my enemy as yours.”


“I think he tells the truth, lad,” asserted Hudson as he bent to retrieve his sword
from beside the shattered generator. “He did fire on the beast, and ‘twas his man that
freed us in the first place, no doubt on his orders.”


Goliath

sighed, looking Xanatos up and down. “Very well,” he conceded. “But
whatever your intentions, Xanatos, you did have a hand in that thing’s creation.”


“True,” said Xanatos with a small shrug. “And for that I would be more than
willing to assist your clan
in defeating him. Together we have a much better chance of
ending his threat than either of us does alone.”


Goliath was about the respond when the sound of a car door slamming shut
reached his ears from outside. A moment later Elisa strode though the door
, followed by
a grinning Matt. “Looks like we missed the fireworks.”


“Elisa!” Goliath stern expression broke into a relieved smile as he stepped
forward to meet her, grasping her by her shoulders and lifting her off the ground.


Elisa gave a startled grun
t and tried to disentangle herself with a laugh. “Easy big
guy, I’m still not a hundred percent yet.”


Goliath released her and stepped back, slightly embarrassed. “How badly are you
injured?” he asked, his voice concerned. “Have you seen a doctor yet?”



Not too bad, and no, not yet.” She rolled her eyes at the look he gave her. “Don’t
worry, I’ll see one today.”


Xanatos cleared his throat, catching the detective’s attention. “If you like,
Detective Maza, I can give you access to my company’s medical staf
f. They are well
trained, and I can guarantee no questions asked.”


Elisa fixed him with a hard stare, her distrust evident. “I’ll take my chances with
the hospital, thank you.”


Xanatos shrugged. “As you wish. Just trying to lend a hand.” He glanced back
and forth between the two detectives. “I assume it was the two of you that engineered the
blackout.”

“Yeah, and he had to shut down an entire substation to do it. Another trouble we
can lay at your feet, Xanatos,” replied Matt, a look of distaste on his fa
ce. “Your little
plan seems to have back
-
fired on you this time, though,” he added with a smirk.

“Indeed it has; a matter that I intend to correct.” Turning to the rest of the clan, he
continued. “I would imagine you would all appreciate some time to recup
erate. I would
suggest that we meet tomorrow night at the castle to discuss how best to deal with this
situation.” He sighed at looks of distrust this garnered from the gargoyles. “I promise, no
harm will come to you. Until Cyberhawk is brought under contr
ol, he is a threat to my
plans, and your assistance is the best chance I have of stopping him”


After a moment’s consideration, Goliath nodded. “I will trust you, at least for
now. Very well. We will meet you at the castle after sunset.”


****


32



Goliath be
nt his legs as he landed, absorbing the force of the impact. Leaning
forward, he let Elisa slide from his arms and set her feet on the ground. They stood in an
alley near one of the city’s hospitals, the clan waiting on a nearby rooftop. She gave him
a smi
le as he rose to his full height once more. “Thanks for the ride, Goliath. Much as I
hate to admit it, it’ll be good to get this looked at. At the very least it will get you guys
off my back about it,” she said teasingly, shooting him amused look.


“It was

the least that I could do. We all owe you much tonight. If you had not
taken the risks you did, we would all be dead.”


She laughed. “You guys have saved me so many times, this doesn’t even begin to
pay back what I already owe you.” She shrugged. “Anyway,

you’re my friends; I
couldn’t just let some psycho kill you. It’s not in my nature.”


“Whatever your reasons, I thank you.” He sighed slightly and shook his head.
“And despite what you say, you are in no debt to us. You have risked your life for us time
a
nd again. You have been a friend to us when no other would.”


“I did what I thought was right. I always have.”


“It is just that…when I saw him shoot you, when I thought you were dead… I
cannot bear the thought of you being put in danger because you are
our friend. I do not
wish to see you hurt.”


Her expression softened as she reached out and touched his arm. “You don’t have
to worry about me Goliath. I can take care of myself. But…thanks.” She laughed and
looked away. “Anyway, it’ll take more than some
two
-
bit cyborg to take me out. We
Mazas are tough.”


Goliath smiled down at her. “Of that I have no doubt. Are you sure, though, that
he will not come for you during the day?”


“Sure enough. From what you say, he’s bound pretty tightly by his “parameters”.

I think he only used me because I was already there; seeking me out would probably be
too much of a violation of his rules.”


“Still…”


“I’ll be fine, I promise. Now get back to the rest of the clan; it’s you guys he’s
after.”


Goliath nodded and turned,
sinking his claws into the wall and beginning to
climb. Elisa watched him from the ground until he reached the top and launched himself
into the air, gliding out of sight. She smiled to herself as she turned and began walking to
the mouth of the alley. “Ni
ce to know someone cares sometimes.”


****



Xanatos was waiting for them when the gargoyles touched down in the courtyard
of the castle the next night. The billionaire approached Goliath as soon as he landed. “It’s
about time you showed up. I was beginnin
g to worry that something had happened to
you.”


“The rest of the night was uneventful, and we hid well during the day. He did not
find us, or if he did, he did nothing.”


“I wouldn’t be surprised; his logic process lacks a certain sanity. Come on in, the
good detectives have already arrived. They should be waiting for us inside with Owen. If

33

you’ll just follow me, we’ll get started.” Turning, Xanatos walked through the gate back
into the castle, the clan trailing along behind him.


A few minutes later they

entered Xanatos’ office. Elisa and Matt were there, both
of them trying in vain to speak to Owen. They looked far more rested than they had the
night before, and the edge of a bandage could be seen near Elisa’s neck, testifying to her
hospital visit. All
three turned as the clan entered. After greetings were made, Elisa was
the first to speak up. “Okay, Xanatos, everyone’s here so you can stop stonewalling us.
There are a few things I want to know. What exactly is this Cyberhawk guy, what is he
capable of?

And who’s Dr. Centaro, and what was he got against the gargoyles?”


“Direct as always, aren’t we, detective.” Walking to his desk, Xanatos turned to
face the room and leaned back on the desk’s front edge. “I’ll tell you what I can, but in
truth, I don’t r
eally know much more than you.”


“Then tell us what you know Xanatos,” rumbled Goliath, “and we will see how
useful it is.”


“Of course.” He paused to collect his thoughts, then began. “To tell the truth, this
all started with your first battle with Coldst
one after he was resurrected.”


Lexington interrupted with a question. “What does Coldstone have to do with any
of this?”


“Not much, really. What mattered was the events occurred during your conflict.
Before we adjourned to the bridge, there was a lot of
damage done to the area where
Coldstone was released. There were a few casualties; three people ended up staying in the
hospital with serious injuries, and there was one death. A young man was struck by
masonry that fell from a building that Coldstone blas
ted. He received a serious head
trauma and later died in the hospital during surgery. The story would have ended there,
except for the fact that the young man in question was Jeffery Centaro, son of Dr.
Havelock Centaro, a rather famous and eccentric cyber
neticist. The good doctor flew to
New York immediately upon hearing his son’s fate, trying to find out what had happened.
He refused to accept the fact that the police couldn’t find the parties responsible and so
investigated on his own. After stealing a s
ecurity tape from a building in the area of the
fight, he found on the tape the people he felt caused his son’s death: namely, the
gargoyles.”


Brooklyn groaned from where he stood against the wall. “Just typical; one of your
schemes hurts someone and we g
et stuck with the blame. I’m really getting tired of
playing the scapegoat.”


“Okay, that explains why this doctor guy wants us dead,” interjected Broadway.
“But what I still don’t get is how he ended up working for you.”


“He did some research into strang
e events in the city that might help him find
you, and my name kept popping up. He came to me to find out what I knew. He showed
me the tape he had taken and explained that he wanted revenge on you for his son’s
death.”


“And you of course jumped at the op
portunity to exploit that,” said Elisa
sarcastically.


Xanatos smiled. “It wasn’t a chance I could just let pass. Dr. Centaro was the best
in his field, the biggest fish in a very small pond. I told him a brief background of your
activities, mostly true, a
nd offered an alliance to help capture the lot of you. I’d tried
recruiting him before, but he’d always declined my offers in the past. Even with the

34

incentive of tracking you down, he was unwilling to work directly for me, so we ended
up coming to a rathe
r loose arrangement. I would fund his creation of a cyborg that could
be used to ensnare you, and in return for that I would have custody of you once you were
secured.” He shrugged. “To tell you the truth, though, I had almost forgotten the project
before
Cyberhawk actually arrived in New York. Centaro had refused to give status
reports; the only communications from him were invariably requests for additional
funds.”


“And you just gave him the money?” asked Matt skeptically.


“The doctor’s reputation warra
nted it, and the chance of returning the clan to my
control was worth the expense.” He frowned and leaned back on the desk, glancing over
his shoulder and out the window. “The results, however, leave much to be desired. It
would seem that Centaro’s desire
for revenge outweighed any loyalty he felt towards me
for helping him. Perhaps, as he saw his death approaching, he felt anything besides
vengeance was unnecessary.”


Goliath growled and shifted on his feet, fixing Xanatos with an icy glare. “I find
that I

can no longer be surprised by how casually you play with others lives, Xanatos, but
what’s done is done. We must focus on what we can do now. Your machinations
destroyed the lives of a father and son; I will not let them claim another.”


“I assume you ref
er to whoever it is that Centaro used to house Cyberhawk.”


Goliath nodded. “If what he told us last night is true, then Cyberhawk is merely a
machine, but the body that he uses is a human being, and a victim. We cannot simply kill
an innocent who is being

manipulated. We must find a way to right the wrongs that were
done to him.”


“Idealistic as ever, I see,” responded Xanatos with a smirk, earning a snarl from
Goliath. “Don’t worry, I anticipated your feelings, and even agree with them. I’ve spent
the day

with Owen, looking into ways that we might be able to shut down the Cyberhawk
persona. I believe we might have come up with a plan to do just that. Owen, if you
would?”


Burnett was cleaning his glasses with a handkerchief, but put them back on as the
ent
ire room turned to face him. He cleared his throat as and began. “There are
unfortunately many variables and unknowns that we cannot account for, but I believe that
the plan we have formulated has at least a marginal chance of success. It is, however,
quit
e dangerous, and would require the assistance of entire clan.” He raised his eyebrow
questioningly at Goliath.


The gargoyle leader nodded. “If your plan meets with my approval, we will do
what is necessary.”


“Excellent. Very well, then. You must understa
nd that Cyberhawk is unlike
anything either of us has faced, and considerably more powerful than other cyborgs. Mr.
Xanatos was not exaggerating when he called Dr. Centaro the best there was. His theories
and ideas were astounding; you have experienced fir
st
-
hand how effective his products
can be.”


“Get to the point, lad,” growled Hudson.


“I am,” retorted Owen with a disapproving glance before continuing. “While
Cyberhawk is indeed a machine, his design makes him far more intelligent than any other
so far

produced. Access to a human brain gives him uncharted reasoning capabilities;
tricking him will not be easy. And as we can see from his retreat in the warehouse and his

35

methods for capturing each of you, he will be extremely reluctant to engage in a
confr
ontation where he is not sure that he has an edge. So we must manufacture a
situation where he believes us unknowingly vulnerable, but where in fact he leaves
himself vulnerable.”


“So you’re saying that we gotta get his into a fight where he thinks he’s
tricking
us, but in fact we’re tricking him, like a sting,” interrupted Broadway.


The look of surprise on Owen’s face was almost comical. “Yes, that is exactly
what I mean,” he replied, making the blue gargoyle beam with satisfaction.


“Okay, that makes s
ense,” said Elisa, “but how do we do that?”


“By using Cyberhawk’s own planning against him,” answered Xanatos. Stepping
around the desk, he began typing on the keyboard, bringing to life the monitors on the
side of the room. “What you see here are compute
r logs, records of the various activities
and transactions performed by our mainframe.” He hit a few more keys and several of the
lines became highlighted. “These records are the ones we are interested in. Owen found
them today, entirely by chance. They ar
e hidden from the programs that monitor such
things, and therefore went unnoticed until today.”


Lexington moved towards the monitors and scanned the selected lines. Pointing at
a section of the screen, he spoke up. “These look like fund and material trans
fers.” He
moved his finger down the lines. “And these look like new protocols for the castle
security systems.”


“Very good, Lexington,” said Owen, smiling. “That is exactly what they are.
These were performed off
-
sight by a foreign user, undoubtedly Cyber
hawk. His unique
nature seems to allow him to link directly with machines, with a level of skill that
allowed him to easily bypass the usual security measures we employ.”


“So this is how he got the hovercraft and cages he used in capturing us,” surmised
L
exington, still studying the screen. “That much I can figure out. But I don’t know your
security system too well; what is he doing with these new protocols?”


“Therein lies the heart of the plan,” said Xanatos from behind his desk. “Those
protocols create

an aerial approach path to the castle where the security system is blind.
We believe Cyberhawk put it in as a precaution, a way to ensure that he would never be
without access if things went badly during the final confrontation. What I want to do is
this:

I will fly out with part of the clan, offering Cyberhawk an opportunity to strike.
Once he does, we would retreat to the castle where the rest of the clan is waiting, along
with the security systems of the castle itself. The obvious conclusion Cyberhawk w
ould
draw is that we were trying to lead him into a trap, since the entire clan plus the defense
systems would be far too much for him to win against. I hope that at that point he would
utilize the approach vector he engineered to gain access to the castle
.”


Matt spoke up, interrupting Xanatos. “What would he gain by coming into the
castle? What would we gain for matter?”


Xanatos extended his hand and swept it across the room, indicating the entire
clan. “The automated systems that control the defenses re
cognize you all as friendly right
now; that is why you were able to approach the castle unharmed. It also now recognizes
Cyberhawk as hostile, and would therefore fire on him. What I hope is that Cyberhawk
will try to turn our apparent trap against us. He
could link with the castle’s systems once
inside and switch the system to make his profile friendly and yours hostile, causing the
defenses to ignore his presence and fire on you. He could then use that advantage to

36

attack and defeat you. But since we know

about the entry corridor, we can anticipate his
move and be ready for him.” He pointed at Owen and Lexington. “Once he has
established a link, we can work back across that link to invade Cyberhawk’s systems and
eradicate his programming, conceivably freei
ng the host from his control.” He turned to
face Goliath and spread his hands. “That is the plan. While it has its faults, I believe it is
the best chance we have to achieve our mutual goals.”


Goliath frowned for a moment. “I am not sure. I do not wish to

place my clan at
risk for a plan we cannot be sure will work.” He looked at Lexington. “You know more
about this science than I. Do you believe the plan would succeed?”


Lexington’s expression was skeptical. “I agree with it to a point, but after the link

is established, how do we destroy the Cyberhawk program? Ignoring the fact that he
might simply break the link physically, how would just Owen and I be able to compete
with a near
-
sentient A.I.?”


“Someone would have to be present at the site of the link
to restrain Cyberhawk
and keep him from breaking contact,” responded Owen. “That would not be difficult, as
he would have most of his concentration devoted to stopping our electronic assault.” He
glanced at Lexington. “As for the actual assault itself, we

wouldn’t be unarmed. We have
a virus in our possession which I believe would be powerful enough to distract even
Cyberhawk. I have made some modifications to its code that will prevent it from
infecting the host’s mind once our task is finished, so it is
perfectly safe to use.”


Lexington sighed and glanced back at Goliath. “As much as I hate to say it, I
think this is the best chance we’ve got. If we want to destroy Cyberhawk without hurting
the host, we’re gonna have to get into his mind, and for that we

need a direct link.
There’s a lot that could go haywire, but I think it’s worth a shot.”


Goliath was silent for a moment, lost in thought, before he finally nodded. “Very
well, Xanatos, your plan is satisfactory. When do you wish to begin?”


The billiona
ire smiled broadly as he gave the lavender gargoyle a slap on the
back. “You’ve made the right choice. Most of the preparations have already been
completed, so give me a moment to suit up and we’ll be under way.”


****



Brooklyn eased himself up on a warm

current, his eyes alert as he scanned the city
below them for any sign of their adversary. The gashes on his chest had healed with a
day’s sleep, and he was ready for action. They’d left the castle almost half an hour ago,
gliding in a circular pattern ar
ound tower, spiraling outward, but there was still no sign of
Cyberhawk. Glancing to his left, he checked on the others in the scouting party. Goliath
was a dozen yards off of Brooklyn’s left wing, with Hudson another dozen over. Both
were watching the ter
rain below with expressions of concentration, ready to move at the
first sign of the enemy. The whine of engines from the front declared the presence of the
other half of the group. Xanatos flew in his red and black battle armor, flanked on either
side by
a Steel Clan robot. Taking the lead to draw fire if it came, all three had sensor
extended and primed.


One of the whines changed in pitch slightly as Xanatos dropped some speed and
altitude, falling back towards Goliath. Turning his head back, Xanatos’ gr
ainy voice
came across the battle suit’s external speakers. “I’ve been picking up a ghost of a signal

37

on and off for the last five minutes. I think he’s spotted us and is tracking us at a
distance.”


Goliath frowned. “Why has he not moved to attack?”


“He
will. It

s just that he knows this is too convenient, so he’s probably being
over cautious. Don’t worry, eventually…” Xanatos cut off and his head snapped back
down just as the warning sirens started blaring on the two robots. “Everyone, scatter!”


Brookly
n tucked his wings and rolled to the side as beams of iridescent light
suddenly filled the air around the group. A new whine suddenly reached his ears as
Cyberhawk shot out of one of the alleys below, roaring at top speed towards the
gargoyles. His face wa
s smiling, but his eyes were locked on his prey.


The group broke in pairs, the robots rocketing forward, Hudson and Goliath going
to the left. As Brooklyn steadied his path, he heard the sound of Xanatos approaching on
the left. “Guess you’re with me.”



Yeah, lucky me,” growled Brooklyn as he broke right, circling back around
towards the cyborg, Xanatos right on tail.


Goliath and Hudson were the first to reach Cyberhawk. With a snarl Goliath
swooped in, trying to grab the cyborg with his claws. Cyberhawk

spun in flight, his wings
buffeting the gargoyle leader and knocking him out of reach. Ducking below Hudson’s
sword, he shot up, impacting hard with the elderly gargoyle as he flew quickly past the
pair.


Brooklyn moved in before Cyberhawk had a chance to

respond, grabbing his
waist with his feet. He t
h
rust his beak in the cyborg’s face with a wicked smile. “You’re
pretty good on the ground; let’s see how you do now that you’re in our world.” Cocking
his shoulder he delivered a sweeping roundhouse his oppo
nent’s face, snapping it back,
and almost got his arms sliced open by the metallic beak. Cyberhawk gave a grunt of
pain, but without bothering to look up he flexed his wings and spun once more. Brooklyn
found himself howling in pain as a laser blast intend
ed for his enemy struck him in the
shoulder, sending searing heat through his body. Reaching forward, Cyberhawk grasped
Brooklyn by the neck and hurled him against Xanatos, propelling them both away. Firing
his rockets again, he swooped upward in a tight c
ircle, coming down hard against
Goliath’s back with fists outstretched, knocking the lavender gargoyle into a tailspin.
Turning, Cyberhawk made to follow him down.


The cyborg was forced to pull up with a snarl of frustration second later, though,
twin bea
ms of light flashing past him as the Steel Clan robots moved in. Snarling, he
spun around and shot past the first, coming face to face with the second. Grasping it by
the shoulder, he drove his fist through its armor plating with a sickening crunch and
spr
ead his talons inside, slicing though circuitry. The robot’s eyes lost their light and its
engine cut out, causing it to fall backward, plummeting down until it detonated on one of
the roofs below. Twisting around towards the first, Cyberhawk snapped open
his blaster,
delivering a shot at almost point blank range to the robot, blowing a hole through its
chest. The machine exploded with a flash of light and a deafening boom, forcing
Brooklyn to cover his face. Cyberhawk flew back out of the range of the blas
t, then
hovered on his jets, waiting.


Brooklyn was about to attack again when Xanatos’ amplified voice reached his
ears. “Abort! The mission is a failure, retreat back to the castle!” The remaining members

38

of the scouting party broke off their attack as p
lanned and turned in midair, flying now
towards Xanatos’ skyscraper in the distance.


Nursing his injured shoulder, Brooklyn glanced back at Cyberhawk. The cyborg
was still hovering, apparently frozen by indecision, but then angled his wings and shot
forwa
rd in pursuit. Chuckling to himself, Brooklyn found he was unable to hold back a
grin. “Gotcha.”


****



Lex drummed his fingers on the table beside the keyboard as he waited for word
to come from the scouting party. His eyes were locked on the monitor in
front of him,
studying their preparations. The virus was prepped and ready to upload as soon as
Cyberhawk linked up. He and Owen would be able to start their attack on his systems at
any time. Now all they had to do was wait, and it was driving Lex nuts.


There was a slight chirrup from the side and Lex looked up as Owen raised his
hand to touch the earpiece on the headset he wore. “Here, sir.” There was a pause.
“Already? Very well then, give me a moment to check around.” Flipping a switch on the
side of t
he headset, he spoke again. “Broadway? Is your group ready? Excellent. Stand
by, he will be incoming in a moment. Yes, I’ll give you the signal as soon as it is time to
move.” He hit the switch again and then turned to Lex. “Are you ready?”


Lex cracked hi
s knuckles and grinned, giving Owen the thumbs up. “Ready
whenever you are.”


Owen gave a small smile in return and turned back to his own screen. “We’re all
set on this end, sir. Bring him in.”


****



Goliath spun as soon as he landed, searching behind h
im for Cyberhawk’s
silhouette against the night sky. The airspace around the castle was empty, though. The
figure that had followed them doggedly the entire way had simply disappeared.


He heard a curse beside him and looked down to find Brooklyn there, hi
s right
hand protectively placed over his wounded shoulder. He too was turning his head back
and forth, scanning the air. “Man, I look away for one second and he vanishes. I’ll give
this much to him; he’s good. That Centaro guy makes one heck of a cyborg.”



Hudson stepped forward to join them. “I’ll nae argue with you on that, lad. I’d
hoped we’d have more of an advantage in the air, but he was making fools of us out
there. I can only say that I hope he has nae turned tail and fled. It would be an awful
sh
ame to have gone through all that trouble for nothing.”


The sound of hissing air came from behind them as Xanatos removed his helmet.
“I’d have to agree with Hudson. I’d hate to think that I just wasted another two robots. “
He smiled. “Luckily for all of

us, that doesn’t seem to be the case.”


Goliath raised a questioning eyebrow. “The castle’s sensors have found him?”


Xanatos shook his head as he responded. “Just the opposite, actually.” He tapped
the headset he was wearing. “According to Owen, Cyberhaw
k has entirely disappeared.”
He grinned. “Don’t worry, that’s a good thing. If he had turned away, we would have
been able to sense him doing so. His suddenly vanishing like this can only mean that he is

39

using the flight corridor he created. Things are goi
ng exactly according to plan. Now we
simply wait for the signal before moving in.”


Goliath grumbled slightly. “I do not know, Xanatos. I do not like simply waiting
here while others risk there lives. We should be going to help restrain Cyberhawk, not
simp
ly standing here.”


“We have to stay for now. If we moved too soon, we might scare Cyberhawk
away before he gets a chance to link to the computer, and then the night really will be for
nothing,” explained Xanatos, laying a restraining hand on Goliath’s sho
ulder. He gave an
amused smile. “Don’t worry. I’m sure Detective Maza and the others will be fine until we
arrive. I have even assigned one of the Steel Clan to watch over them is case anything
goes wrong. We have to wait for now.”


“Very well, I will wait
,” sighed Goliath, looking down at the floor of the
courtyard, imagining what might be happening below. “But I will not wait long. And I
warn you, Xanatos, if any harm comes to them, I will see you pay.”


****



The empty hallway echoed with the barely aud
ible sound of his footsteps as
Cyberhawk walked cautiously through the abandoned hallway, his eyes scanning his
surroundings for any sign of danger. His cybernetics were once again retracted, and he
wore a smile on his face once more. He chuckled slightly
as he moved towards the room
where he knew he would find a suitable terminal. He couldn’t help himself; the entire
situation seemed too amusing. He was forced to admit the gargoyles had given a good
fight when they came looking for him; his face still smar
ted from Brooklyn’s blow. But
falling back to the castle, imagining that it was some bastion of safety for them…. He
almost felt insulted that they would think that he hadn’t anticipated this very possibility,
anticipated it and prepared for it. It was alm
ost his obligation to show them how wrong
they were. An obligation and a privilege.


He entered the room carefully, scanning left and right before fully entering.
Walking to the workstation terminal, he reached down and switched it on, the machine
humming

to life. The monitor flickered on, but he ignored the images that popped up on
it. He opened the access ports on the side of the terminal, exposing the data jacks that lay
within. His smile grew as he took a long, thick cord from his pocket and plugged in

into
the jack. Dr. Centaro’s instructions seemed to sing in his ear as he opened the panel on
the side of his head and inserted the cable, and then was lost in the data stream.


****



“He’s in!” exclaimed Lex, bolting upright in his chair. “Should I move

to
intercept him?”


“Not yet,” replied Owen, his right hand dancing across the keyboard like a pale
spider. “Give me a moment to prepare the virus. We don’t want him running too soon.”
The keys clicked for what seemed to Lex to be an eternity, but Owen fi
nally nodded.
“The virus is uploading. Let us begin.”


40


Lex turned back to his screen and began typing, grinning as text began to scroll
across his screen. “Okay, buddy, you’ve fought us on the ground and in the air. Let

s see
how you like gargoyles in cybe
rspace.”



****



Cyberhawk was standing stock still with his eyes closed, humming quietly to
himself, when the virus hit. His eyes shot open and a look of pure shock splattered across
his face as he realized what was happening. The next expression was one

of almost pain
as his legs gave way and he fell to his knees. Scrambling desperately to his feet, he
leaned heavily on the terminal. He reached upward shakily, grabbing for the wire that
connected him to the terminal. He had almost grasped it when a pair
of aquamarine hands
suddenly grabbed him by the wrist, halting his motion. Broadway’s face came into his
view, his eyes glowing and his teeth bared in a smile.


“Sorry, buddy, but you don’t get out that easy.”

The cyborg tried to reach over with his other
hand, only to find it restrained by
another pair of hands, this one human. Elisa’s grinning face appeared as she drove his
hand against the terminal. “Payback time.”


Matt leapt forward, driving his shoulder into Cyberhawk’s back right between the
shoulder

blades, shoving the cyborg face
-
first against the terminal. His face was turned to
the left, and he was looking directly at Elisa. She could see that the cyborg’s expression
was a snarl of pain and confusion. His entire body was twisting weakly under his
captors’
grasps, but they held tight, not letting him budge an inch. Slowly the struggling lessened
and then ceased entirely. His face went from a spasming mess to a blank slate, a slight
twitching on the left side the only movement now evident. The three
loosened their grips
a bit, watching carefully for any signs of motion, but their were none.


For a moment Elisa thought it was over. But then she felt an icy chill in her gut as
a smile slowly appeared on Cyberhawk face. He spoke up, almost as if to himse
lf, in a
halting, broken fashion. “They’re good, I must admit. But not quite…good enough.”


****



Owen gave a cry of alarm as his terminal exploded, the monitor belching smoke
and spitting sparks in his face. He pushed back desperately, falling from his c
hair in the
process, his glasses being knocked askew and his headset dropping to the ground. Lex
spun in his chair, staring in shock. “What happened?”


“A sudden power surge, probably caused by him. I’m afraid I was not vigilant
enough.” He glanced at the
gargoyle. “Ignore it, continue.”


Lex nodded and returned his gaze to his screen. Upon seeing what was there, he
gave a cry of his own.


Owen stood quickly. “What is it?”


“Nothing good.”


Owen adjusted his glasses and looked over the gargoyle’s shoulder a
s Lex began
typing frantically, desperately trying to make up for lost ground. The blond man stared
for a moment, before stepping back with a sharp intake of breath. “Disastrous would be

41

more appropriate.” Bending down, he retrieved the headset from the fl
oor, he put it back
on and opened a channel. “Mr. Xanatos? I’m afraid I have problem.”


****



Goliath cursed as he was forced to dodge back from the entrance to the hallway.
Laser fire dug chunks out of the stone wall, spraying him with dust and gravel. C
oughing,
he eased his head back around the corner, glancing at his adversaries. Several Steel Clan
robots were at the end of the hallway, lasers extended and trained on the entrance that
Goliath had just attempted to pass through. The thin hallway made it
almost impossible to
rush them without being cut down by laser fire, meaning that his group was trapped
where they were.


He turned with a snarl, facing the rest of the people that were arrayed behind him.
His eyes sought out Xanatos. “What is the meaning
of this. Are you betraying us?”


The billionaire ignored him for a moment, listening instead the headset that he
wore. His face was grim, and his eyes hard as he finally turned to face Goliath. “Nothing
of the sort, but we are in trouble. They’ve had a bit

of trouble in the computer center.
Cyberhawk managed to blow one of the terminals and used that as a distraction for
another move. He’s created a link between himself and the Steel Clan using the castle’s
computers. Every unit in the building is now under

his direct control.”


“Can they do anything to stop him?”


“Owen says Lex is too busy digging into Cyberhawk’s systems to bother with
this. If he switched his focus, he
’d

lose too much ground to be able to shut down
Cyberhawk. What’s more, without Lexingt
on’s attack to distract him, he would be able to
gain access to other areas, such as the defense systems.”


Brooklyn swore behind him. “Just wonderful. How big a problem is this?”


“To us, not as big as it could be. There are only a handful of units in the

building.
They were built mainly for aerial combat, so those that we cannot avoid we should be
able to fight our way through. Unfortunately, the main threat here isn’t to us.”


Goliath’s face turned hard as he realized what Xanatos meant. “Elisa, Broadway

and Bluestone. He could use the robots to attack them in order to free himself.” He cursed
aloud. “Unacceptable. We must hurry to stop him.” He started back down the hall when
Xanatos interrupted him.


“It’s worse than that, Goliath. Remember, I left one
of the robots with them to
assist in case of an emergency. That means that even if we get there as fast as we can, we
may already be too late.”


****



Cyberhawk went still again after he spoke, not moving or uttering another word.
Nevertheless, Elisa felt

panic rising in her mind. Something had happened, that she knew,
and she doubted it was good. Whatever calm there was now, it would not last. Glancing
over at her partner, she could see her own concern mirrored in his eyes.


Broadway was the first to spe
ak up. “Elisa, what did he mean? What happened to
him?”


42


Elisa shook her head as she responded. “I’m not sure, Broadway. But I think
Cyberhawk just scored a hit against Lex and Owen.”


“Then why hasn’t he done something? If he wasn’t focused on fighting of
f Lex
and the virus, he should be able to move around like normal, shouldn’t he?”


She nodded. “That means he’s up to something; I’m just not sure what that
something is.”


Her answer came only a moment later when a she caught sight of movement out
of the
corner of her eye. A metal fist came out of nowhere, slamming violently into the
side of Broadway’s head. The big gargoyle was thrown back, his hold on Cyberhawk’s
arm broken as he fell heavily to the floor. He looked up as he shook his head to clear it,
a
n expression of shock on his face. Over him stood the Steel Clan robot that Xanatos had
assigned to protect them, its glowing eyes focus on the stricken gargoyle. Ignoring the
two human
s
, the machine took another step towards the Broadway. Raising its arm,

it
extended the laser housed there and took aim.


The blast passed within mere inches of Broadway’s head as he rolled to the side at
the last minute. Rising to his knees, he turned to face the robot. It swung it arm around
for a second shot, but Broadway
never gave it the chance. He sprang up, throwing a tight
punch to the robots head, knocking it off balance. With his other hand he reached over to
the laser, grasping it and squeezing. The weapon imploded with a protesting squeal and
flurry of sparks, whic
h ended when Broadway ripped the shattered blaster from its
housing.


The robot’s response was uncharacteristically swift. Taking another step forward,
the machine wrapped its arms around Broadway, pinning the gargoyle’s arms for a
moment. Broadway was no
t expecting such a move, and was caught completely by
su
r
prise. But instead of attacking further, the robot leaned forward and activated its jet
pack. The blast picked both Broadway and the robot off the ground, propelling them out
of the room and down the

hallway. The robot twisted to turn the corner, its wings
scraping the stone wall with a shower of sparks, and then the pair was gone from sight.


Matt turned back to Elisa, the shock he felt still clear on his face. “This isn’t good.
We’ve got to…”


The r
ed
-
haired detective never got the chance to finish his thought. Cyberhawk’s
wings exploded from his back without warning, picking up Matt and hurling him bodily
across the room. He flew in an arc and struck the far wall with bone
-
jarring force, his
head sl
amming against the stone. Sliding down lifelessly, he collapsed on the floor in an
unconscious heap.


Elisa hastily dropped the arm she’d been holding and tried to make a grab for her
gun. She only had it halfway out of the holster when a hand was suddenl
y on her neck,
the fingers squeezing so hard she could not breath
e
. Her feet left the ground as she was
raised up, and she clawed at her throat, desperate for air.


She was thrown down with incredible force. The back of her head struck the floor
hard, and

her head swam for an infinite moment. She drew in breath through a tortured
throat, the pain in her chest flaring to life again as something pushed down on her. She
opened her eyes to find a foot planted on her chest, preventing her from rising.
Cyberhawk

stood above her, the wire still running from his head to the terminal. His
wings had been retracted into his back again, but he held his left arm steady, his laser
extended and aimed directly at her head. Beyond the black abyss of the barrel, she could

43

se
e his face. His expression was completely blank; not a muscle moved. His eyes though
were a different matter. They both burned, hitting her with a gaze that made her heart go
cold.


“It would seem, Ms. Maza,” he whispered, “that you are not quite so lucky
this
time.”


****



“It seems that things are not going well,” said Owen. He was standing behind
Lex, watching over his shoulder as he listened to the headset. “If we are to succeed, you
must do something soon.”


“I know, I know,” Lex replied in a frustra
ted voice. “But even with the virus to
contend with, he manages to block me at every turn. I’ve never seen anyone do such
much or move so fast before.” He growled in annoyance at the screen. “I just need a little
more time, not much. I’m so close to his co
re systems I can almost smell it!”


“Time is not a luxury we have at the moment. Mr. Xanatos and Goliath are almost
at the location where Cyberhawk logged on, but we don’t know what might already be
happening there.”


“Once again, I already know! Just one
more second, I…” he halted in mid
-
sentence, his eyes going wide as he thrust his face almost against the screen. “Bingo!” he
exclaimed with glee. “You missed a trick, buddy. You really should pay more attention to
what you’re doing!” With an almost manic g
rin, he raised his hand above his head,
calling out, “Let’s see how you like this!” and brought his index finger down hard on the
keyboard.


****



Elisa swung her hands up and pushed hard against the leg holding her down,
meeting surprisingly little resis
tance. Rolling quickly to the side, she rose to one knee and
spun around to face her opponent, only to find him already defeated.


Cyberhawk stood slumped against the terminal, his legs barely supporting him.
His eyes now had the same blank quality as the
rest of his face, the fire in them gone. He
stared vacantly forward, seeing nothing. As she watched, he slid slowly down, slumping
ungracefully to the floor.


Rising to her feet, Elisa rushed across the room to where Matt lay. Turning her
partner face
-
up,

she checked his pulse and breathing, and was relieved to find both strong
and steady. Gently placing his head back on the ground, she stood again slowly, wincing
at the pain in her chest and throat.


The sound of bare feet on stone heralded Broadway’s ret
urn. The gargoyle came
bursting through the doorway he had been flown through, skidding to a halt just inside
the room. His head swung back and forth, surveying the room. “Are you all right, Elisa?
Is Matt…?”

She shook her head, reassuring the gargoyle. “I
’m fine, and Matt will be in a bit.”

Broadway sighed in relief, but then turned to the terminal. “What happened to
him?” he asked, indicating the motionless cyborg.


44


“I think Lex happened to him. He just suddenly shut off a second ago.” She
glanced down at

her partner. “Take care of Matt. He’s still breathing and there’s no
blood, so he’ll probably be fine, but he might be out for a while.”


As Broadway saw to Matt, walked over Elisa kneeled down next to Cyberhawk.
His eyes were closed now, but nothing els
e seemed to have changed. She placed her hand
against his neck and found a steady pulse, but other than the fact that he was alive, she
couldn’t tell what state he was in.


There was another flurry of footsteps as Goliath barreled down the hallway into
the

room, followed closely by Xanatos, Hudson and Brooklyn. “Elisa!” he called out as
he entered, scanning the room for her.


“Over here, big guy,” she called back, “and before you ask, I’m fine.” Standing
again, she threw the lavender gargoyle a reassuring s
mile. “You didn’t miss much. I take
it you guys probably had some trouble with Xanatos’ robots as well?”


“Nothing we could not handle. I am only sorry that we could not get here faster.”


“Don’t sweat it, it wasn’t your fault. Anyway, things worked out in

the end.”


Goliath pointed to the unconscious cyborg. “Does he still live?”


She nodded. “We didn’t do anything to him, but he was still hooked up when he
blanked out. I think Lex managed to get him.”


Xanatos nodded. “He did, only a few moments ago. The
assault, both Lex’s and
the virus, has been halted. According to Owen it appears to have been a complete
success.”


Goliath knelt down, examining the stricken cyborg. “It is over then? The
Cyberhawk persona has been destroyed?”


“So it seems.”


“And what o
f the host?”


Elisa spoke up, shrugging her shoulders. “He’s still alive, and his vitals seem
steady, but I have no idea what’s happening in his mind.”


“We probably won’t until he regains consciousness, if he ever does,” answered
Xanatos. “While the assau
lt we preformed was only on the circuitry outside of the brain,
we have no way of knowing what residual damage there might be from him having his
brain hijacked by a computer program.” The billionaire shook his head in consternation.
“I’ve never dealt with

this sort of thing in the past. All that I can say is that if he wakes
up, he’ll be in control again.”


Goliath nodded. “Then we must protect him until he does awaken, and then help
him recover from his ordeal.” Reaching down he scooped up the cyborg, no
longer
Cyberhawk. He stood, glancing over as Lexington bounded into the room, followed
closely by Owen. “Come. It is time we returned home.”



“One moment, Goliath,” interrupted Xanatos, raising his voice in objection. “I’m
afraid your clan simply does not

have the resources needed to properly care him, now or
when he awakes. And I don’t really think being surrounded by gargoyles is a proper
environment for a damaged mind.”


Goliath spun, fixing Xanatos with a hard stare. “As opposed to where, Xanatos?
One
of your labs? I don’t even wish to think about what you may try to use him for
there.”


“You misjudge me, Goliath.”


45


“No, I don’t believe I do.” Turning away, the gargoyle leader strode away, his
clan and the two detectives following in his wake as he pass
ed through the doorway and
out of sight. Xanatos watched as they disappeared one by one, until he was alone with
Owen. Giving a disappointed sigh, he turned towards the other door and walked out,
returning to the armory to remove his suit.


Owen fell smoot
hly into step with his employer as he exited the room. “I would
expect you to be happier, sir. After all, we won.”


Xanatos shook his he
ad
, a sad look on his face. “No, Owen. For once, I believe
the entire affair can be considered a defeat.”



EPILO
GU
E:



Elisa sighed as she leaned back in her chair, forlornly studying the computer
screen in front of her. The results of her latest search had finally come back, and they
were the same as all the others: no information available on anyone by the name of
Michae
l Hawkings.


It had been several weeks now since the final showdown at the castle. She and
Matt were back at work again, sitting at their desks once more, crunching through the
new cases as they came in. She’d had to face Captain Chavez about her time miss
ing and
the laser wound, but a little wordplay had convinced the captain that she had just been
recovering from a random shooting. It had taken another round of wordplay to convince
Chavez that she was in good enough health for duty, but with that crisis p
ast, she was
available to help out with the other main problem.


The man had remained unconscious until an hour after the next sunrise, but Elisa
and Matt had been too busy to be there. He had been a bit shocked at his surroundings,
but the guys had said t
hat he had accepted what they told him fairly easily, not surprising
considering the evidence present. Elisa supposed that they should be thankful that it had
turned out so well; the man seemed to be of fairly sound mind, the melding with
Cyberhawk not app
earing to have done any permanent damage to his reasoning
capabilities. But he had not escaped unscathed; his memory was shattered. He could only
remember bits and pieces of information from the time before he’d been taken for the
Cyberhawk project, the on
ly significant thing being his name.


It had taken a while for Michael to get his mind around what had happened to
him. Waking up to find most of his body replaced by machines must have been
traumatizing. To be told it had been done to him against his wil
l in order to house an
electronic assassin must have been staggering. Broadway had told Elisa that on the first
night, he had watched as Michael sat for a solid hour staring at his left arm, endlessly
extending and retracting his laser.


He’d improved rap
idly since then. Elisa imagined knowing next to nothing about
his own past had made it easier for him to adjust to his rather strange present. Elisa and
Matt had taken shifts watching him and talking with him during the day. They had even
constructed a cru
de disguise, using a wig and hooded sweatshirt, that allowed them to
take him out of the clocktower a bit. During the night he hung out with the clan and had
actually made friends with them, particularly Lex, who was as fascinated by Michael’s

46

cybernetics
as Michael himself was. Elisa had seen him talking with the trio, all of them
watching television or laughing at each others jokes.


Despite Michael’s apparent acceptance of his new life, it had become Elisa’s self
-
appointed task to find his past for him.

She had sent out feelers everywhere she could,
checking news archives and missing peoples’ reports. Matt had even called in a few
favors with his old FBI friends, but every search had come up empty.


She stood slowly, arching her back and thrusting her ar
ms to the sides with a
yawn. Her shift had been over for about half an hour now, and Matt had already headed
back to his apartment. Sliding her jacket on, she shut off her computer and headed
towards the stairs for the clocktower. While Michael no longer n
eeded someone watching
over him during the day, she wanted to give him the news about the search before she
headed home as well.


She was approaching the door to the clocktower when it opened and Michael
stepped out. He was wearing the disguise they had gi
ven him, a few tufts of hair from the
wig sticking out from under the hood, and had a traveling bag slung over one shoulder.
Seeing Elisa approaching, he threw her a friendly smile. “Hey, Elisa. Didn’t expect to see
you today. I thought you were heading ho
me after your shift.”


She nodded. “That was the plan, and I will in a moment, but I wanted to tell you
that the latest search results came in. Another dead end, unfortunately.” Raising her right
hand, she pointed to the bag on his back. “Going somewhere?
You know you shouldn’t
go out into the city alone too much.”


He gave a small laugh. “Don’t worry, Elisa, I’ll be fine. Besides, I can’t take
anyone with me. This little visit to the outside is going to be a bit more…permanent.”


Elisa raised a questioning

eyebrow. “You’re leaving? Are you sure you’re ready?”


He shrugged. “It’s for the best. I still have access to the funds that Cyberhawk
took from Xanatos, so money’s not a problem. And anyway, I’ve got to get myself
fixed.”


Elisa’s expression turned sorr
owful for a moment. “Michael, look…,” but cut off
at his chagrined look. “Fine, Hawk, if you insist. Look, I thought that you understood that
the cybernetics are permanent. There’s no way to get the missing parts of your body
back.”


“Don’t worry, the cybe
rnetics don’t really bother me much anymore; I’ve sort of
come to terms with them. The problem’s up here,” he said in solemn voice, tapping the
side of his head with a gloved finger. “He’s still up there.”


Elisa felt a twinge of fear as she realized what
he meant. “Cyberhawk? But I
though that Lex took care of him at the castle.”


“Lex took him down, but he’s not out,” Hawk replied, shaking his head. “I can
still sense him, hear him like a buzz at the back of my brain. It gets worse when I’m
around the guy
s, for obvious reasons.” Hawk gave a sigh. “It

s just best for me to get out
of here. You guys don’t have the resources to get rid of him permanently, and I don’t
really feel like going to Xanatos for help. I figure I can use the money I have to try and
fi
nd my own solution.” He gave a shrug. “I just know I can’t stay here. I left the guys a
note explaining everything, and I promised that I’ll keep in touch, but this is really for the
best.”


47


Elisa studied his face for a long moment before giving a sigh of
her own. “I hate
to say it, but you’re probably right.” She placed a hand on his shoulder. “Just be careful
out there, okay? Don’t go getting killed.”


Hawk gave a chuckle. “Thanks for understanding, and I’ll make sure to follow
your advice.” Walking aroun
d the detective, he gave her a wave as he walked down the
hall. A second later, he turned the corner and was gone.