Bad Girls
by Christine Morgan

Chapter Three -- Betrayal

Author’s Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney and are used here without their creators’ knowledge or consent.
All other characters belong to the author and should not be borrowed without permission. Some adult language, violence, and sexual
content – a little of everything! <g>

November, 2003

     “Free again at last!” breathed Hippolyta, and quickened her pace when she heard sounds coming from the rooms up ahead.
    Hellcat had already vanished off to whichever haunts she had missed, but even more than freedom, Hippolyta was more starved for
    She had done her best to keep up on her exercises while contained, but she itched for motion, exertion! Her three-room suite seemed
spacious by comparison to the tiny, stark, and antiseptic quarantine chamber, let alone the generous freedom of having access to the gym
again, the target range.
    Being confined for six weeks had nearly driven her out of her head with boredom, nearly pitched her back into the despairing state she’d
been in during her first enforced isolation.
    At least she hadn’t been completely cut off during that time. She’d been able to converse with her teammates every now and then via
videophone, and Diamond had paid frequent visits. She’d had access to broadcasts, music, and movies. It had helped the nights to pass at
slightly less than a snail’s pace, prevented her from losing her mind out of sheer loneliness.
    Hellcat, the only other one of them careless enough to have breached the integrity of her germ-suit, had been in the quarantine room next
door. Not that she was the best of company. Hippolyta had tried several times to communicate with her, but while the mutate often gave the
impression of listening, she never significantly responded.
    Except for once, if one could call it a response … late one night, talking more for the company of her own voice than in expectation of a
reply, Hippolyta had started telling Hellcat about her clan. But doing so only made her realize how much she missed them, how much she
missed soaring the open air with her brothers and sisters. So, to change the subject, she’d asked Hellcat if she had a family.
    Oh, and what a look of deep and stricken pain had come into the mutate’s lava-hued eyes! Her chin had trembled, her hands had curled
in a silent, eloquent expression of longing. She’d wrapped empty arms around herself as if yearning for a mate’s embrace, or the sweet hug
of a child.
    But then a flaming rage overtook her, and she blasted the crysteel window between their rooms with such volcanic, searing heat that it
triggered alarms and sprinklers on both sides. The crysteel held, but had gone milky at the center.
    After that, Hippolyta was careful to stay away from the topic of family. By then, as well, her mind was on other matters. Such as the reason
she’d been put into quarantine in the first place, as the ninth night arrived.
    It had passed without incident for either of them. As had the eighteenth. And the twenty-seventh.
    Elsewhere, the infected human continued to transform, but Hippolyta and Hellcat remained unaffected. Whether it was luck, or whether the
ailment only claimed human victims, the doctors never could determine, but they all agreed that both females were infection-free.
    At long last, Diamond had obtained clearance for them to be released and sent back by van. Now she was finally returned, refreshed, and
ready to join her companions and see what new adventures might be awaiting them.
    She entered the series of rooms that they all used as a common lounging area. Here in the kitchen she found Hunter, putting the finishing
touches on a hearty meal of baked chicken and potatoes.
    “Well met!” Hippolyta said cheerily.
    “Look who’s home,” Hunter replied. “Good t’ see ye back.”
    “Better to be so.” She swung a leg over one of the stools that ringed a high butcher block, and helped herself to an apple from the bowl in
the center. Her fangs weren’t well-suited to fruit, so she carved it into sections with her claws and crunched up a crisp slice.
    How good it felt to be home again, among her clan!
    From another room, she could hear the cheering and colliding mayhem of some televised sport, interrupted by a commercial for the armed
forces. Hyena ambled in, fanning herself with a magazine.
    “I’m gonna need a cold shower after this!”
    Hunter averted her eyes, thinned her lips. “Ye do know that it’s na normal.”
    “Hey, lots of women get turned on watching sports,” Hyena protested, digging in the refrigerator for a bottle of beer. She popped the cap off
with her sharp thumbnail and drank deeply. “Two athletes in peak condition, performing to the best of their abilities … a contest of wit and strength
and skill … oiled skin shining … the slamming and flexing and knocking the shit out of each other … what’s not to get hot over?”
    “What are you watching?” Hippolyta asked, brow ridge raised. She saw Hunter frantically motioning negation, but pressed on. “Football?
Boxing? Wrestling, mayhap?”
    Her chin dropped slightly, pulling her mouth open and letting a chunk of apple fall into her lap. “Battlebots?”
    “You got a problem with that?”
    “Aye, it’s deranged,” Hunter said. “Preferring machines t’ men.”
    “Maybe you see it that way, but think about this – I preferred machines to men back when I was pre-upgrade.”
    “I’d sooner not think about it, if it’s all the same to you,” Hippolyta said, blinking.
    “Oh, right … you gargoyles are all prudes anyway.”
    “Pure vanilla. Those tails are probably just for show.”
    “Oh, now, that is untrue!”
    “Yeah? Do tell!”
    “Well,” she hedged, “there’s said to be a maneuver that brings untold pleasure, but I’ve never figured it out, and did not have the chance
to ask Corwin for more detail.”
    “Detail,” snorted Hyena. “Har har.”
    “Up next!” announced a male voice from the television. “The super-heavyweight round … in the red corner, he’s big, he’s bad, give it up
for MegaThrust!”
    “Ooh!” squealed Hyena, and dashed out of the kitchen.
    Hunter groaned lightly, shook her head in a short, sharp gesture, and sighed.
    “Strange tastes,” was all Hippolyta dared say.
    “Och, aye.” Hunter sprinkled a mix of Parmesan and cheddar onto a tray of seasoned potato slices and slid it into the oven. “So who’s
Corwin, then? Yer mate?”
    Hippolyta smiled, not without a touch of wistfulness. “No … he has no mate, though not for lack of trying on the parts of several of our
sisters. I might not have even minded him for myself, but that his loins are unmoved by females. Not that he ever let that stand in the way of
his good manners.”
   “Good manners? Do I want t’ know?”
    “He was always most obliging in other respects, which must have been how he stumbled across this trick of the tail,” she said. “I wish I
knew which of my sisters he’d discovered it with … strange that the rest of us never heard about it!” A thought struck her and she laughed
aloud. “Perchance quiet Thisbe … I can just imagine! Or demure Elektra, would that have been an event!”
    “I see Hyena was wrong t’ call yer kind prudish,” said Hunter. “Did ye have a mate?”
    “Not I. I chose not to breed, being not ready for the woes of egg-bearing. But before the breeding season, we were all muchly zealous at
loveplay. What of you? Had you a mate … or husband?”
    “No. We were always so busy trying t’ find the Demon that there was never much time for meeting people. I was dating one man fairly
steadily a few years ago, but our work kept getting in the way so it never got serious. An’ then, o’ course, I wound up here.”
    “I think Hellcat must’ve had a family,” Hippolyta said after a quick look around to see if the fiery mutate was nearby. “Do you suppose
they know about her?”
    “If they did, they’d be none too happy t’ welcome her home. Most people dinna take kindly t’ anyone or anything they see as different.
Would her parents or husband want her back? Would her children, if she had any?” Hunter somberly shook her head and pulled on a pair of
kitchen mitts. “It’s best na t’ think o’ such things. Those lives are all behind us now. This is all we have.”
    “Forever?” said Hippolyta softly. “Is this what we’ll do forever? Whatever Diamond bids us do?”
    “Aye, that’s the fine print. Were ye having second thoughts all that time in quarantine?”
    “A bit, mayhap. Haven’t you?”
    “While ye were cooling yer heels in the Tank, Hyena and I were doing all the work. We’ve been t’ Costa Rica an’ back, fighting mercenaries
and retrieving stolen aircraft. We took out a terrorist team that meant t’ unleash a killer virus. This is our job, Hippolyta. We work for the
Coalition now, and they dinna care for second thoughts.”
     Chastened, Hippolyta dipped her head in an acknowledging nod. Leaving Hunter to her cooking, she ventured into the other room and tried
to involve herself in Hyena’s program. She watched Bulldog square off against Wrecking Ball, but just before Alien Botopsy took on the Red
Baron, she found she couldn’t stomach any more of Hyena’s lewd remarks. It wasn’t that she was prudish, it was that Hunter was right … it
was so very disturbing!
    So it was that, after all of her eagerness to be rejoined with her teammates, her makeshift clan, she ended up in her own quarters for the rest
of the night, alone and melancholy with missing her rookery siblings.


    “I think we should get to take it easy this time and those two should do all the work,” Hyena said, elbowing Hunter. “They had that nice long
rest in quarantine, so they’d better start earning their keep.”
    “You need not tell me,” Hippolyta said. “I am more than eager to be doing something instead of sitting about!”
    It was two weeks after her release, two weeks spent in training, getting back in condition after such idleness. Despite still nurturing some slight
misgivings, Hippolyta found herself looking forward to whatever mission Diamond might have for them.
    “Yeah, bring it on, baby,” Hyena said. “I’m sick of busywork, ready for some fun! Some real action, as my old buddy Wolf would have said,
if he hadn’t gone and gotten himself a one-way ticket to the big kennel in the sky.”
    Diamond came in, chuckling at their enthusiasm. She had a bundle of file folders and videocassettes in her arms, and deposited them at the
head of the table.
    “The time has come for you to undertake one of the most vital missions of your careers,” she said. “The fate of the world could depend on
your actions.”
    Hunter raised an eyebrow. “Saving the planet from alien ghouls wasna important enough for ye? Or getting back that Japanese plane?”
    “Or taking out those terrorists? Damn, you’re a demanding boss,” Hyena said.
    “Well, when you put it that way …” Diamond laughed. “How about a shot at saving society, then? Do any of you know about the Illuminati?”
    “Aye, a secret cabal said t’ control governments.” Hunter looked significantly at the tapestry that hung on the wall of the conference room –
sickle-wielding man atop a broken pyramid – as if making some connection that eluded Hippolyta.
    “Would it surprise you to learn that they’re real?”
    “Nah,” Hyena said. “Nothing surprises me anymore.”
    “Rest assured, they are,” Diamond said. “For centuries, they’ve been determining the direction the civilized world takes.”
    “Pardon me if it doesna seem they’re doing a bang-up job,” Hunter said. “Poverty, crime, starvation …”
    “Exactly.” Diamond folded her hands on the table and leaned forward. “They’re only out for themselves, their own best interests. They
decide who has power and who doesn’t, and they make sure it’s always in their hands. Crime rates are skyrocketing, disease is rampant,
every week it seems like there’s a new drug on the streets, corruption is everywhere, people are suffering … but as long as none of it touches
the Illuminati themselves, as long as they keep their power, they don’t care.”
    “What has this to do with us?” asked Hippolyta.
    “Most people don’t even believe in the Illuminati. They think secret societies are the stuff of supermarket tabloids. So, even when presented
with proof positive, they’re unable to accept it. But some other groups do know the truth, and are out to put an end to the Illuminati’s reign of
   “Ye mean like the Coalition?” Hunter had an odd tuck to her mouth that made Hippolyta think she wasn’t all that impressed with Diamond’s
    “Like the Coalition,” Diamond confirmed. “We’ve been struggling for decades to build up enough strength to challenge them on their own
turf, expose them, bring them down.”
    “It sounds to me as though much of what you do is the same that they do,” Hippolyta observed. “Or so it seemed during the incident with
Dr. Jessec.”
    Diamond flashed her a glance of both irritation and pity. “Hippolyta, I don’t expect you to understand all of the workings of our world yet,
but you must realize that sometimes we have to stoop to our enemies’ level, even become that which we despise,  in order to get the job done.
Some of our methods may have a bit in common with theirs, but our intentions are altogether different.”
    “So what do you want from us?” Hyena said. “I mean, I knew they existed, but I just thought they were a bunch of harmless old farts making
themselves feel important with their secret handshakes and no-girls-allowed meetings.”
    “You’re thinking of the Freemasons,” Diamond said wryly. “Though there may be some crossover, of course. At any rate, the Illuminati are
strong, and dangerous. They have to be stopped before they bring this country to its knees. Here we are in one of the richest, most prosperous,
most advanced nations on the planet, but the average person is ignorant, uneducated, and scraping to make ends meet. Does that sound like a
good master plan to you?”
   “Ye haven’t answered Hyena’s question – what does this have t’ do with us?”
    “It’s finally time,” Diamond said, “for us to start taking direct action against their plots. To undermine them, to make them lose their strangle-
hold. Something they’ve had in the works for years now is about to come to a head, and we mean to put a stop to them.”
    The tapestry rolled up, exposing the screen behind it. A photo of a mid-thirtyish human male appeared. He was glancing back over his
shoulder with a surprised, pleased smile, as if hailed unexpectedly by a friend not seen in long years. His hair was dark silver-gilt blond, wavy,
very full and thick. His eyes were grey-blue, his teeth white and even, his features not movie-star flawless but attractive and appealing and full
of character.
    Hyena made a wolf-whistle.
    “That’s the picture they used for the cover o’ People, wasn’t it?” asked Hunter. “When he was named sexiest man o’ the millennium?”
    “Who is he?” Hippolyta asked, feeling a bit embarrassed for not knowing him when everyone else seemed to. She did recall seeing his
image on the television, but mainly on the news shows, to which she paid little attention.
    “Daniel Harmond,” Diamond said. “Handsome, single, a professed romantic who adores children and animals, a former professional baseball
player, a race-car driver, a fighter-jet pilot. He’s got impressive family connections. Nephew of famed senator William Harmond, son of war-
hero Gregory Harmond and silver-screen goddess Cecily Tate … and to appeal to the younger crowd, his cousin was Julianna of the rock band
Scarlet Angel. Daniel Harmond is the sweetheart of nearly every faction of the population. Which is exactly how the Illuminati want it.”
    “Aye, they call him America’s Prince,” Hunter said. “But what do the Illuminati have t’ do with all that?”
    “They’d been planning something like this for years, though Daniel Harmond wasn’t their first choice. America is fascinated with royalty, you
see. The Illuminati knew that when England’s Prince William turned eighteen and started making the news, America would need a prince of her
own to hold the public’s interest. They’d originally intended for John Kennedy Jr. to fill that role, but that plan was spoiled. So they went to work
on Harmond. They’ve molded and groomed his entire life to make him what they want, and now they intend to make him the next President of the
United States.”
    “Oh, hell, not another election!” Hyena made a face.
    “Yes, I’m sure most of us in the room well remember the 2000 Presidential debacle,” Diamond said. “But I don’t suppose it ever occurred to
you that that was orchestrated by the Illuminati too?”
    “What d’ye mean, that they wanted it t’ be nearly a tie and waste all that time an’ money on court hearings, an’ leave the poor son of a bitch
with a tainted term o’ office t’ dog him the rest o’ his days?” Hunter frowned.
    Hyena snorted. “Don’t blame me; I wrote in the fat naked guy from Survivor.”
    “Ye’re registered t’ vote?”
    “Hey, just because I’m a cyborg and a convicted felon doesn’t mean that I don’t get an absentee ballot under a phony name.”
    “Now there’s democracy in action for ye.”
    “Girls, please. If I may continue … the 2004 election is going to be nothing like that. It’s going to be the most overwhelming landslide in the
history of the U.S., and even though Daniel Harmond hasn’t declared his candidacy yet, he’s going to win. That, at least, is the Illuminati’s plan.”
    “How do you know so much of their plans and intents?” Hippolyta asked.
    “My father was one of them,” Diamond said. “As a young man, he wanted to expose them. But with conspiracies like that, usually by the time
you’ve gotten enough evidence, you’ve also gotten in too deep to extricate yourself. So he joined. At first, he tried to change them subtly from
within. When that proved ineffective, he resorted to more direct measures, but they found him out.” Her expression suggested that it was best
not even to ask what had become of him. “He told me their secret plans, and I resolved to put that information to good use. My then-husband
and I formed the Coalition, and while we’ve done quite a bit of valid, legitimate work, our main purpose has always been to bring down the
    “So you want us to off Daniel Harmond.” Hyena examined the long golden quills of her fingers speculatively.
    “You’re getting ahead of me.”
    Hippolyta half-rose from her seat. “Kill him? Assassinate him? But why? From what you say, he is popular and beloved, and might well make
a good leader for this land of yours! Why end his life?”
    “Because his life is a lie, and all he’d be is a blatant Illuminati pawn. In the past, they’ve settled for nudging and influencing. They’ve managed
to get everyone elected that they wanted to be elected, but most of the time the politicians involved had no idea and were hapless dupes. In
Harmond’s case, they would have complete, direct control over the President of one of the most powerful nations on the planet.”
    “But to kill him!”
    “You’ve killed before.”
    “Ain’t it a slippery slope, though?” chuckled Hyena. “First you shoot a few rogue humans, but they attacked your clan first, so that’s all
right. Then you go on a wholesale massacre, but they’re ugly alien monsters so that’s all right. Trust me, hot stuff, you’ll always find a way to
rationalize it to yourself.”
    “If you cannot see that there is no difference between a battle and an assassination …”
    “Of course there’s a difference,” Diamond said soothingly. “But sometimes it’s also necessary to look at the larger scheme of things. The
big picture. Without Harmond, the Illuminati’s plan falls apart. Their eggs are all in one basket, so to speak.”
    “What I want to know is how we’re supposed to get close to him, if he’s got all these people looking out for him,” Hyena said. “Secret
Service and all.”
    “Ah, but they aren’t,” Diamond said. “Because no one knows about their plans for Harmond, not yet. It would look strange to have him
surrounded by bodyguards. At most, there will only be one or two, and even they won’t be expecting trouble. He’s in no danger yet, because
he hasn’t shown any political aspirations. He’s supposed to declare his candidacy on an apparent whim, a joke, but they’ll laugh him all the
way into the White House. Until then, though, he’s not anyone’s target because nobody is supposed to know.”
    “How d’ye know they don’t have a back-up plan in case anything happens t’ him?” Hunter demanded. “Kennedy’s death was an accident,
so they have t’ be prepared for the possibility o’ something going wrong wi’ this one too.”
    “There’s no one else they could have ready in time for the elections. No one else with such wide poplar appeal. It would force them to put
their plans on hold until 2008, which would give us more time and weaken their position.”
    “Kill an innocent man in cold blood?” Hippolyta said, shaking her head. “I do not know if I can do that. In fact, I’m sure I cannot.”
    “Don’t sweat it.” Hyena made a gun of her thumb and forefinger, and blew across the pantomimed barrel. “I’ll do that part. Though what a
shame, what a waste, why couldn’t we be going after some old ugly type?”
    “I trust your little crush won’t hamper your mission?” Diamond asked with exaggerated sweetness.
    “He’s only human. There’s no one I wouldn’t snuff if the price was right.”
    “Good. But you, Hippolyta …” She took a slow breath and let it out in a reproving sigh. “You work for us now, or had you forgotten?”
    “No, but --”
    “You swore an oath and signed a contract, or had you forgotten?”
    “I hadn’t --”
    “While your performance thus far has been exemplary, need I remind you that there are those in this organization who would just as soon see
you in the gunsights?”
    “No, Diamond.”
    “Then what is the problem?”
    “I do not think it is right to kill this man when he’s done nothing to deserve it.”
    “I see,” she said sympathetically, but with steel beneath. “Well, allow me to make a suggestion. Do as untold soldiers before you have done.
Follow your orders and don’t try to second-guess the right and wrong. Leave those thorny moral issues to your superior officer, who is paid to
lose sleep over matters of right and wrong.”
    Hippolyta bowed her head, contrite and not quite daring to remark that it certainly didn’t look as if Diamond lost much sleep over anything.
She was aware of the eyes of her cohorts on her, probably wondering if she was going to press the issue and get herself a jolt of discipline from
the band secured to her ankle.
    “Does anyone else have any concerns?” Diamond asked.
    Hellcat hadn’t contributed anything to the conversation, only sitting alertly in her chair in a posture that could only be comfortable to someone
with a cat’s flexibility, but from which she could also probably flow like fast water if need be. She blinked her molten eyes at Diamond, her
expression as fey and mysterious as that of any witch’s familiar.
    “Nay,” said Hunter, though she seemed pensive.
    “Nope.” Hyena drew out the word and then popped her lips on the plosive at the end.
    “Good.” She beamed at all of them, but beneath the maternal pride was something else, a smirk of possessiveness.
    The meeting went on, discussing the details of their impending mission. Hippolyta sat and listened, contributing nothing but lost in her own
thoughts. She kept coming back to something the Magus had once said -- there’s no getting the better of a deal with the devil.
    And wasn’t that what she’d done? Bought her life at the pain of her conscience, of her soul? She couldn’t even tell herself with any real
conviction anymore that she’d agreed to the Coalition’s terms in order to protect other gargoyles.
    It had been a choice of simple selfishness. She would have done anything to save herself, anything and more to get herself out of solitary
    And just what would happen to all those other gargoyles if the truth came out? If the world learned what she was doing now? How much
worse would it be for them if it became known that a gargoyle had been involved with the death of this much-loved Daniel Harmond?
    She was canny enough to know that name often mattered more than numbers to these humans. Hadn’t she seen it even on their news shows?
When an earthquake smashed a city and killed thousands of people in a remote corner of what they called the Third World, it got minor squibs
on the news and in the papers. When an earthquake broke windows and hurt three people in Los Angeles, it was lead stories and special bulletins
and up-to-the-minute updates even beyond the point when every last drop of interest had been wrung from the story.
    Hunter was looking sharply at her and Hippolyta feared that her thoughts were plain as writing on her face. The cold hard glint in Hunter’s eyes
said it all, so clearly that Hippolyta could nearly hear her voice.
    Aye, it’s wrong, but ye know as well as I do … what choice d’ we have?


    “Another compu-geek billionaire showing off,” Hunter said sourly as they watched the string of limousines and high-end cars snaking up the
sweeping curve of the driveway.
    It was first weekend of December, and the grand opening of the Experience Movies Project, a megalithic museum dedicated to the art,
science, history, and technology of filmmaking. It included the world’s third-largest sound stage, a gallery of sets from famous pictures, dozens of
interactive exhibits, a theater capable of seating six hundred, and a separate IMAX theater. And one astronomical admission-price.
    The building itself was, to Hippolyta’s eyes, a thing of uncommon ugliness. It resembled a partially-melted montage of other of the Emerald
City’s landmark buildings, as if someone had sculpted a candle of the Seattle skyline and left it too near an open flame. To make matters worse,
the entire exterior was picked out in silver plate and gleaming sheets of jewel-tone metal.
    At the front, golden larger-than-life statues of film legends lined the drive. A red carpet of incredible plushness stretched between cordoned-off
areas where throngs of reporters and onlookers jostled for position. Attendants in crisp white uniforms moved to greet each car, and flashbulbs
dotted the night with white fire as the guests made their way toward the great silvery doors.
    The four of them were in the hover-jet, having staked out a spot on the roof of a neighboring building much earlier in the day, while Hippolyta
was still asleep. She’d wakened to a cloudy winter night and a picture-postcard view.
    They were across from the sprawling Seattle Center, looking at the Space Needle, the graceful white arches of the Pacific Science Center, an
amusement park, and the sinuous track of a monorail passing amid the attractions. The Space Needle had a Christmas tree shape of yellow lights
on its crown, and a crane being used in the construction of a five-level parking garage was twinkling with multi-colored bulbs.
    “Look at all those rich snobs and movie stars,” Hyena said. “It’s a pity the things you see when you don’t have a backpack nuke.”
    “Shh.” Hunter pressed her earpiece more firmly into her ear. “Op. 17 says that the car just left the hotel parking garage. One driver, two
bodyguards, Harmond, an’ his date.”
    “Who’s the shank of the day?” Hyena asked.
    “Courtney Jane Fischer, the television actress.”
    “Please say we get to kill her too.”
    Hunter shook her head. “Only Harmond, unless it’s unavoidable. They’re on their way. Ye all know what t’ do.”
    Hellcat growled assent, and Hippolyta nodded.
    “It’d be easier to just shoot him when he gets out of the car,” Hyena complained.
    “Too chancy. We dinna want to make a mess o’ this. We’ll do it as planned.”
    With that, she started up the hover-jet’s quiet engines, and brought the exterior cameras online. A row of screens lit up with images from
various vantage points, which changed as the jet rose straight up.
    It was a sleek, dark thing, invisible and silent against the background lights and noise of the city. The windshield was tinted a deep blue. The
only identifying mark was a large gold emblem on the side, a sickle-edged crescent.
    When Hippolyta had asked why have such a mark at all, why give any hints, Diamond had merely smiled an enigmatic little smile and said
that they wanted the Illuminati to wonder who was behind this.
    She stayed in her seat, difficult though it was with adrenaline pumping wildly through her bloodstream. She still wasn’t used to gliding on
wings other than her own, would have preferred to be out in the open air. Her stirrings as she instinctively tried to correct for what she saw
as errors in Hunter’s piloting earned her a stern look.
    “Would ye sit still, ye back-seat flier?”
    The jet hung unnoticed high above the packed street, waiting like a predator ready to pounce. The line of cars moved painfully slow. One
of the screens showed Harmond’s among them, inching its way toward the spot where it could disgorge its illustrious passengers.
    “Now,” Hunter said, more to herself than them. She hit the thrusters, and the jet dropped with a screaming roar.
    “Bombs away!” Hyena pressed a button.
    Rather than a true bomb, which would have left devastation for blocks in all directions, a magnetic clamp on a thick cable dropped from the
bottom of the jet and plunked neatly onto the roof of Harmond’s car.
    The jet surged upward, pulling the car with it. They could hear the crunch and screech of metal as it scraped along the vehicle in front, and
then it was airborne, swinging in a circle at the end of the cable.
    A general outcry arose from the crowd. Flashbulbs popped like corn. A policeman on the scene fired at them, but the jet’s armor plating
deflected the bullets harmlessly.
    Hyena retracted the cable until the car was dangling just beneath their underside, and Hunter sped away, weaving a dizzying path amid the
skyscrapers before seeking refuge in the dense cloud cover.
    “So far, so good,” Hyena said. “We could just pitch ‘em into Elliot Bay and be done with it.”
    “Not sure enough. Ye heard Diamond.”
    Certain she wasn’t imagining the doubt in Hunter’s voice, Hippolyta spoke up. “Can we do this? In all honor and good faith, can we?”
    “Now’s na the time for this,” Hunter said sharply.
    “Yeah, zip it. Who gives a tin shit about honor and good faith? We’ve got a job to do, and we’ve gotta do it.”
    “It seems so wrong --”
    “It probably is, but none o’ us have a choice.”
    Hippolyta said no more, but inside of her she seemed to hear a clanful of voices in protest.
    Moments later, they descended onto the roof of an unfinished building atop Capitol Hill. They had scouted it out the previous night, and
knew it would eventually be a new hospital, but it was currently little more than a framework of girders and a shell of concrete.
    Without releasing the clamp, Hunter settled the jet a few yards from the car, the length of cable extending between them like an umbilicus.
She opened the side hatch, and Hyena was first out.
    She extended her arm. A panel slid up and over, and a small grenade launcher rose from her forearm. “Come out and play!” she called to
the car, and fired. A canister of gas plowed through the grill. The interior began to fill with smoke.
    The doors flew open and five humans spilled out, coughing and gasping, into the frigid December night.
    One of them, a young man in a dark suit, squinted through streaming eyes and tried to draw a bead on Hyena. Laughing, the maniacal
cyborg shot a second gas grenade at him. It hit him just above the belt with a solid punching thump and he was pitched backward, gun flying,
head colliding with the side of the car. He slithered to a stop and did not move, immersed in a cloud.
    The second bodyguard rolled away from the crippled vehicle and got off a round of his own. It ricocheted off Hyena’s hip with a metallic
whine. Hellcat cleared the distance between the jet and the man with a single leap. She landed on his back, pinning him flat, and swatted the
gun from his grasp with one swipe of her claws. This also tore most of the flesh from his hand, and his scream was high and shrill.
    Daniel Harmond himself, looking disheveled and alarmed but not afraid, was shielding the terrified, evening-gowned and mink-coated Miss
Fischer with his own body.
    “Who are you?” he demanded. “What is this about?”
    The driver, a man of less sterling character, flung himself down with arms outstretched in supplication, and began to gibber.
    Hunter hopped lithely down from the jet. Her face was set in resolve – she clearly didn’t like this, but she was just as clearly going through
with it. “We’ve just come for ye, Mr. Harmond. Stand away from the lady unless ye want her t’ be in the line o’ fire.”
    “Get away from me!” Courtney Jane Fischer cried, slapping at him with both hands. “It’s you they’re after, get away from me or they’ll kill
me too!”
    The words of the starlet so disgusted Hippolyta that she was on the move before she knew what she was doing.
    She seized Courtney’s wrist. “You selfish creature! Here is a man who tried to protect you, and you throw him to the wolves to save yourself?”
    The eyes of both humans widened as they saw her.
    “A gargoyle?” The way Harmond said it, with recognition and surprise and grave disappointment – a gargoyle, how could a gargoyle be a
part of this? – pierced Hippolyta to the core.
    “Stand back, Hippolyta,” ordered Hunter. “Take her and get out o’ the way.”
    “Let go of me, you freak!”
    “We should just shoot her and shut her the hell up,” Hyena said.
    Hippolyta ignored all of it, even the manicured nails scrabbling uselessly at her talons where they held fast to Courtney’s wrist. Her gaze was
locked with that of Harmond.
    “I’m sorry,” she said in a low tone.
    “I don’t understand. What do you have against me?”
    “It is not my doing.”
    “I’ll not tell ye again, Hippolyta … move!”
    Pulling Courtney, Hippolyta backed away from Harmond. As Hunter raised her rifle and Hyena pointed her laser finger like a gun, as Harmond
stood confused but still showing no weakness, her heart broke beneath the heavy weight of emotions.
    She spun Courtney at her teammates. The sudden motion, the sudden scream, distracted them.
    Hippolyta leapt at Harmond. Her tackle took him around the waist and carried them off the edge of the roof.
    “No!” Hunter yelled.
    “I don’t fucking believe it!” Hyena seconded.
    The cold wind blowing inland from the bay wrapped Hippolyta in a welcome silken garment of air. Gravity pulled hard, and her wings creaked
with the unaccustomed burden of a human passenger. Harmond drew in a startled breath.
    “Do not fear,” she said.
    A beam speared down, Hyena’s laser, firing at them from the roof. Hippolyta turned on a wingtip and was confronted with the bare concrete
side of the building. The places where windows would be were only holes covered with plastic, the glass not yet installed.
    She went straight at one, backwinging at the last second to rake it with her hind talons. It parted in long rents and she dove through, into a dark
maze of half-finished walls, pipes, and ducts. Gliding in here was impossible. She touched down, releasing him.
    “I cannot leave you here. It’s not safe, and they mean to kill you.”
    “I noticed.”
    “But nor can I carry you without air currents to lift us. So run, Mr. Harmond, for all you’re worth. Come with me and run.” She offered a hand.
    He looked at it for a moment, and she could see him weighing his doubts.
    Harmond clasped it.
    She led as they ran, her eyes better suited than his to the lack of light. From behind her came the whine of small engines, as Hyena’s jet-packs
fired in short bursts to let her descend in pursuit.
    Hunter’s voice was like that of an angry goddess in her earpiece. “What in the hell d’ye think ye’re doing, Hippolyta? Ye canna do this t’ us!
Ye’re disobeying orders an’ betraying yer team!” Those last three words stabbed like knives.
    Harmond, running at her side, could hear Hunter as well. “Why are you doing this?” he panted. He was fit, but she was fitter and pushing their
    “Not now! There … the window!”
    “You mean … jump?”
    “Yes.” She stopped long enough to rip another gap in the plastic, then swept him into her arms the way she’d seen great Goliath carry his friend
    “I’ve been skydiving dozens of times,” Harmond said, peering apprehensively out, “but never without a parachute.”
    Despite all her troubles, that brought a quirk of a smile to her lips. She plunged through the opening and down.
    Capitol Hill was a neighborhood consisting mostly of larger, older homes shaded by plentiful trees. Many of them had lost their leaves but
more were evergreens, affording her some much-needed cover. She wove around trunks and chimneys, ever watchful over her shoulder for
the hover jet, thankful that Hyena’s jet-pack wasn’t sufficient to keep up with a gargoyle.
    Harmond was also looking back. “I think you’ve lost them.”
    She veered north, where Lake Union shimmered like a midnight sapphire, and then turned toward downtown by a circuitous route. “I must
return you to your people, where you’ll be safe.”
    “You haven’t answered my question.”
    “I could not be a party to this assassination,” she said. “What came before was self-defense, battle. This was neither.”
    Though it was taking a big chance, she headed for his hotel. In planning the deed, they had considered making the attack there but dismissed
it because he’d be too well-guarded. Hence the idea of abducting him car and all. But the preliminary research had left her familiar with the
layout, and she had no trouble picking out the balcony of the suite that was his. Lights were on within but the curtains were drawn.
    She landed and set him down. “Be cautious,” she said. “They’ll still mean to finish the job. They know you’ll be here. I suggest you find
other accommodations.”
    “Wait!” he said as she started to leave. “Why me? Why would anyone want to hurt me? What have I done?”
    The balcony door was thrown open. “Don’t move!” yelled a male voice.
    Before she even could move, a gun went off. Something slammed into her chest, driving her tail-first into the rail. Her breath exploded out
in a grunt.
    “Dawes! Stop!” Harmond shouted.
    Wheezing, Hippolyta looked down at herself. Shot … it didn’t hurt as badly as Corwin had described it … or maybe the shock came first
and the pain would be next.
    Yet there was no blood, and an instant later she realized that against all odds, the gunman had actually hit her in the vest that covered so little
of her torso. The ablative gel inside the garment had stopped the bullet, but the impact had been staggering enough.
    “Get down, Mr. Harmond! I --”
    “I said stop!”
    “She’ll --”
    “If she wanted to kill me, believe me, Dawes, she had plenty of opportunities. She saved me.”
    Hippolyta clung to the rail, taking one full breath after another and wincing with each one. She was dimly aware of Harmond and Dawes
talking, more aware of the dull flush of pain now spreading outward from what was bound to be a truly stupendous bruise.
    More humans milled out while others were dispatched to look for the car, the bodyguards, Courtney. The curtain billowed back and forth in
the wind, and their voices rolled like the surf. Somehow, they all wound up ushered back inside.
    “Hippolyta. Hippolyta, are you all right?”
    Harmond. How did he know her name … oh, yes, he’d heard Hunter.
    “Fine,” she said. It was not wholly a lie; she was recovering. She looked around and saw that she was surrounded by armed humans, regarding
her with well-earned suspicion. “I must go.”
    “You’ve been shot. Let me get you a doctor.”
    “I need no healer. Mr. Harmond, leave this place. They’ll be coming for you.”
    He nodded. “Then come with us. You turned against them, so now they’ll be after you, too.”
    “I cannot. They’ll find me. Anywhere I go.” She stretched out her leg to show him the anklet. “They use this as a tool of discipline, to shock us
should we disobey. But there is more to it than that. They’ll trace me with it, and so I must leave before they find us both.”
    “We’ll get that thing off of you --”
    “Take her with us? Mr. Harmond, are you crazy? She’s one of them! One of the kidnappers!” Dawes glared at Hippolyta. “After what they tried?”
    “She turned against them,” he repeated.
    “So that only proves she can’t be trusted!”
    “What?” Harmond said, astounded.
    “If she’d betray one group, she’d betray another! You can’t trust a traitor, even one that’s helped you!”
    “That’s the most absurd thing I have ever heard!”
    “No,” Hippolyta said. “It is not absurd. I am an oathbreaker. No matter how under duress my oath had been taken, no matter how little choice I
was given, I did swear that oath … and then I did break it.”
    “I don’t accept that,” Harmond said. “You helped me, and now I’m going to return the favor.”
    “No! Do you not see? My presence endangers you, will lead them right to you! They will not let you live to become President!”
    On the heels of a universal gasp, Dawes shoved his face close to hers. “How do you know about that? No one knows about that!”
    “President?” Harmond said, unfeignedly stunned.
    “They do!” Hippolyta focused on Dawes. “They know of your plans, and they mean to stop you. They mean to bring down the Illuminati, beginning
with him.”
    “The what?” Harmond looked at Dawes. “What is she --?”
    “There’s no time for that now,” he said hastily.
    “Agreed. Please, let me go and take yourselves to safety before they find you.”
    “Not so fast, missy!” Dawes barked. “You’re not going anywhere until you tell us everything!”
    “Hear me!” she roared, eyes burning red, and though she did not otherwise move, all the guns that had been lowering now centered on her again.
“This is not just a shock-tool, this is a tracking device! It can be found by the satellite anywhere I go! And --”
    Somehow, it had never occurred to her that if they could remotely track her by satellite, they could activate it that way as well.
    A white brilliance swallowed her as the numbing jolt galvanized her body. The room revolved rapidly around her before the floor smacked hard into
her shoulders. Her limbs, uncontrolled, jerked and jittered. Her heel-spurs beat a wild tattoo, then one snagged in the carpet. She heard commotion,
but it all seemed terribly far away.
    This made getting shot feel like a lovetap … the agony was electric and everywhere, each nerve shrieking. She longed for unconsciousness and was
denied it, remaining vividly aware as the torture went on and on.


    Her sense of time-passing had ceased to have meaning. It was forever, all time was now and now was forever, in the unendurable pain.
    And then it was over. Everything was quiet.
    Except for the pitiful cries of some animal.
    No … that was herself.
    Hippolyta locked her jaws and the sound went away, but the shame remained. That had been her, mewling like a hurt kitten, crying like
an abandoned baby bird.
    She finally realized that she was someplace new, a warm and shadowed room lit by the low amber glow of a banked fire. A soft mattress
was beneath her, and the pleasant scents of smoke, cedarwood, and spice hung in the air.
    Her body felt wrung out and trembly, hatchling-weak. A spot on her chest throbbed with each beat of her heart, and her leg was abominably
    She slowly sat up, a light blanket that had been draped over her falling away. This was a bedroom, with fine wood furniture and a cedar
chest at the foot of the bed. The window was shuttered, but through the slats she could see the sparkle of multi-hued lights … human holiday
   Her leg was wrapped in bandages. Peeling them away, gritting her teeth as she did so, Hippolyta uncovered her ankle and blinked in surprise.
    The device was gone. Where it had been, her skin was a mess of raw abrasions, blisters, and scorch marks. They had been treated with
   While she still had her clothing, her weapons and belt were gone. This didn’t particularly surprise her, but it was dismaying to know that here
she was, captured by humans again.
    She got up, limping on her miserable ankle, and tried the door.
    It opened.
    She almost fell over backward, what from expecting locked resistance and finding none. But she regained her balance and looked out onto
a hall papered in light blue with a pattern of gold fleur-de-lis.
    Other doors along it were closed, but for one standing ajar that gave onto a bathroom, and one at the end of the hall that stood open. From
beyond that one, she heard the rustle of newspaper, the shuffle of playing cards, and the low murmur of voices.
    She made for that rectangle of mellow golden light. When she reached it, the noises ceased and she found herself the object of the attention
of four men and a woman.
    Two of them were familiar – Daniel Harmond and the one called Dawes. One of the other men was older and distinguished, setting down his
paper to study her with considerable interest. The last man was on second look little more than a boy, a youth whose eyes devoured her greedily.
The woman was snowy-haired and utterly beautiful.
    “Hippolyta!” Daniel Harmond set down a fan of cards and stood. “We didn’t know when you’d awaken. How are you feeling?”
    “I am well,” she said carefully. “The device? What happened? How am I come here?”
    “You don’t remember?”
    “Only the pain.”
    “You had a seizure, but I was able to tend you,” the youth said, and everything in his tone belied his apparent age. He sounded much older,
supremely overconfident, very full of himself.
    “We had to restrain you,” Harmond explained. “And remove the tracking device by force. I’m afraid in the process, we hurt you.”
    “I will mend. But why?”
    “Because you helped my son,” the woman said. She was the very epitome of graciousness. “We could not leave you to suffer that fate. The
ones in control of it apparently meant to kill you with it.”
    “It would have been fatal to a human,” the older man said.
    “And we had to find out what you knew,” Dawes finished.
    “Besides,” said the youth, “we weren’t about to let a new gargoyle slip through our fingers.”
    Chilled by the avarice in his voice, the way he savored every word, Hippolyta studied him more closely. He looked so unassuming, not even
to his full height, with brown hair and a petulant sneer to his lips.
    “Forgive all my questions, but who are you and where am I?” she asked.
    “Manners, Daniel dear.” The woman laughed throatily. “Introduce us to your friend.”
    The term made Dawes scowl.
    “Of course,” Harmond said. “Hippolyta, may I present my parents, Gregory and Cecily Harmond? And Dr. Anton Sevarius, a friend of the
family. You already met Mr. Dawes.”
    “Sevarius?” she echoed, drawing back. “The Anton Sevarius? I had thought …”
    “Hmm,” chuckled the boy. “My reputation precedes me, and unflatteringly, as usual.”
    “It’s too complicated to go into all of that now,” Gregory Harmond said. “Just take our word for it … this is Dr. Sevarius, but as far as most
of the world is concerned, he’s a brilliant young student we took in as a foster-child several years ago.”
    “Everything’s turned out to be more complicated than it seems,” his son retorted. “It’s not every day you find out that your entire life is being
run for you according to someone else’s plans.”
    “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Daniel!” chided his mother. “All children go through that. Yours merely turned out to be a slightly more severe case.”
    He gave her a frown that said the matter was by no means settled, and turned back to Hippolyta. “As for where you are, you’re in my family’s
vacation home at Lake Chelan, near Leavenworth. We brought you here in my private plane.”
    Dawes shifted in his chair and grumbled.
    Noting that, Daniel grinned halfheartedly. “Over some objections, that is.”
    “Am I your prisoner?”
    “Prisoner!” Cecily Harmond rolled her eyes extravagantly. “What ever gives you that idea? This is our home! One of them, at any rate. We’d
hardly take a prisoner into our home. We only hope you’ll repay our hospitality with a little information.”
    “But there’s time for that later,” Daniel said firmly. “It’ll be morning soon. Will you be comfortable in the guest room, or do you need to be
    “Anywhere is fine.” She felt dazed by this conversation, by these strange turns of events.
    “If you feel like walking, I can show you around. And you must be hungry.”
    “I am that,” she admitted.
    “Shall I ring Mrs. Asherby?” Cecily inquired.
    “No, Mother … don’t wake her. We can manage.” Daniel motioned to the door, and an increasingly bemused Hippolyta allowed herself to be
escorted through the house.
    “I am so at a loss,” she said, as they reached a room dominated by a flagstone fireplace large enough to roast a whole boar. “If I am not your
prisoner, what am I?”
    “In this house, you’ll find, we don’t contradict Mother. If guest she says, guest you are.”
    She accepted that for the time being. “You didn’t know, did you? About the Illuminati, the Presidency, or any of it?”
    “No. Tonight has been long, but very … ha, illuminating. I’ve had the whole thing from my parents. The Illuminati … I’d heard about them, but
who believes that stuff? It’s like saucer people --”
    “Or gargoyles?”
    He paused, and laughed. “Let me tell you a story. I roomed in college with a guy named Nick. I was pre-law, he was pre-med. Very grounded,
very concrete. Scientific answer for everything. He was Native American, but whenever anyone would ask him about his heritage, especially the
mythology, he’d tense up and tell them off. A few years ago, I ran into him again at an ecology fundraiser. He’d changed his mind about all of that,
and I asked him why. He told me that one night, a beautiful woman introduced him to gargoyles, and told him it was time to get some old beliefs.
He finished out that night taking on a god in single combat, to win back the land for his people.”
    “Raven!” Hippolyta said, delighted. “Yes, I know of this … Grandmother told it at the Gathering one night when I was acting as honor-guard! I
know these gargoyles of which you speak, and the woman that was with them!”
    “This was about the same time that gargoyles were all over the news, and most people did think it was all urban legend. I was leaning that way
myself, but Nick convinced me otherwise. If he believed it, the most hard-headed logical man I knew, there had to be something to it. As it turned
out, Nick was right. I’ve met gargoyles. I just never thought that one would save my life.”
    “Yet I was one of those who tried to kill you.”
    “That’s Mr. Dawes’ opinion.” He scratched his chin, where dark gold stubble was beginning to shadow the line of his jaw. “It’s all just a little
hard to take in, all at once. My own parents, members of the Illuminati, plotting my future without saying a word to me. No, I take that back …
last summer, my mother made some remark about how I should run for government. I laughed. Last time I did anything like that was in high school,
and I lost. President of the United States, me? I’m not a senator, not a governor, never held an elected office.”
    “And not only to learn that, but to find that you’ve enemies accordant with the status.”
    “Right … this Coalition. That’s what they want to know about, as much as you can tell them. But I don’t know if we have the right to make those
kind of demands. You’ve done enough.”
    Hippolyta looked at the floor. “Indeed, I have done enough … enough to ensure that my life is forfeit. Right or wrong, I broke my vow to them.
I betrayed them … my team, the closest I had to a clan. To say more against them would be adding to my crime, and if these Illuminati are in truth
the corrupt evil powers that they fight against, I may be doing a greater wrong to hamper their purpose!”
    “My parents may keep secrets, but I can’t believe they’re evil.”
    “I no longer know what to believe.” The import of her situation loomed over her and then crashed down like a great dark wave. “You do not
seem a bad man, and I can see no good in your death. But these are human matters, so how did I come to be caught up in them?”
    “That’s what I was wondering. How did you? Everything I know about gargoyles tells me that you’re defenders, not conspirators, not assassins.
What clan are you from?”
    She sighed. “I was of Avalon, but left with some of my siblings after disputes. Then they were lost to me, or I was lost to them, for they thought
me dead. And so I was left to try and see my teammates as a clan, but now I have turned against them. I am clanless.”
    “Can’t you go back?”
    “To Avalon? To Tourmaline’s clan?” Hope swelled, then died. “No … how can I, now? Now that I’ve done all that I’ve done? They wouldn’t
take me back. They would shun me. I am already dead to them … it’s better that way. I must go on my own, alone.”
    “Where would you go? I can help you.”
    “Why? I saved your life, you saved mine. You have no further obligation to me, and have troubles enough now without adding those of a gargoyle.”
    “Gargoyles have done a lot for my family … have meant a lot to my family. I’d like to do my part in returning some of those favors. I’d like to be
your friend, Hippolyta, and a friend is what I think you need now.”
    He extended his hand, much as she’d done when requesting his trust.
    She hesitated, then placed her own in it.


     The next few nights passed smoothly for Hippolyta. She found that the Harmonds held true to their statement that she was no prisoner, for
she was not kept confined. Had she so desired, she could have easily left their home whenever she wished.
    She did not immediately choose to do so. Her every instinct told her that these people were not her enemies, despite Dawes’ never-pleasant
opinion of her and despite their status as members of the Illuminati.
    What difference did it make, really, to her? One group or another … these were all human politics. And after hearing more from Daniel about
his previous meetings with gargoyles, she began to believe that if either group was more concerned with the welfare of her kind, it was the Illuminati.
    According to Daniel, the gargoyles were linked to that society through their benefactor, David Xanatos. Gregory Harmond’s elder brother
William, once a senator and still an active and respected man in the government, was a staunch gargoyle ally.
    From Toby Jessec, Hippolyta had heard a little about what was known of the gargoyles. From Daniel, she learned much more. He showed her
articles and clippings, video tapes, photographs. Most striking among these was a tape of a rare appearance by great Goliath himself on a televised
talk show.
    Ever stern and noble, he was unbothered by the occasional jeer from the audience as he explained to the hostess – one Elaine Kristen, a honey-
haired woman with a dazzlingly white smile – the beliefs and intentions of his clan.
    “Gargoyles protect,” he said in a voice that sent shivers down the spines of the listeners. “It is our nature, our purpose. While there have been
instances to the contrary, branding us all monsters because of those instances is no different from judging all of your kind by the actions of the
criminally insane. To stop protecting is to go against the clan, to forget what it means to be a gargoyle.”
    “That,” Daniel said after showing it to her for the first time, “is why I knew I could trust you. I saw it in your eyes.”
    He told her of a banquet and ball that he’d been to in his uncle’s honor, an event attended by several members of Goliath’s clan. He even brought
out a photograph of himself that had been taken there, and to her astonishment, the female with whom he was dancing was her own sister, Elektra.
    “I can barely believe it!” she said, running her fingers lightly over the slick surface. “Elektra? Shy Elektra, who kept more to the Magus’ tower
than mix with the clan or with Oberon’s folk? And look on her … she is beautiful!”
    In a satiny gown of light purple, with her hair bound by a fillet of gold, Elektra looked more than beautiful … her resemblance to Katherine had
never been more plain. How had they not seen it before?
    “It makes perfect sense that they’d encourage her to be at these affairs,” Daniel said. “Someone like Goliath is so imposing, intimidating, so
obviously unlike us, that his appearance frightens people even though he doesn’t mean to. But Elektra, why, she could almost pass for human. People
see her and think aha, well, they’re not so different from us after all.
    “More than you know,” she murmured.
    “And then there’s Broadway’s show … he’s so good-natured that it’s almost impossible for anyone to dislike him.”
    “His show?”
    “Cooking Big … you’ve never seen it?” He took out the tape of Elaine Kristin’s talk show and pushed another one into the machine. “It’s on
every Friday at midnight Eastern time.”
    And sure enough, there he was … the same genial Broadway who had visited them on Avalon, his pale green-blue skin glossy with health and
prosperity. He wore a tall, puffed white hat and a smock as he gourmandized his way through a meal preparation, chatting amiably with the camera
and his guests as he did so.
    “How Miriam would love to see this!” Hippolyta exclaimed. “He seems to have done well for himself. I wonder, did he ever state his affection
for Elektra? It was obvious to all on Avalon, all but Elektra, that is.”
    “Well, they’re mates, if that’s what you mean. I understand they’ve got an egg in the rookery.”
    “Oh,” she said softly. “And thus are my unkind words proved as false as they were hurtful … sister, I am sorry. Like the rest of me, my mouth
sometimes acts ahead of better sense.”
    Daniel didn’t ask, and observing her distress, artfully changed the subject. He told her what more he’d found out about the Illuminati, having
pressed his parents for answers now that he knew they were pulling the strings of his life.
    Because he had told her so much, she consented to confess to them all that she knew about the Coalition. It troubled her greatly to do so, and
felt like a continuance of her betrayal … first a defection, and now to tell all to the enemy … but she was coming to see just how Diamond had
manipulated and misused her.
    “But what of the others?” she dared ask afterward, looking from Daniel to his parents, and from them to the obdurate Dawes. “Hunter, Hyena,
Hellcat? They, like me, had no choice. We were all of us bound to Diamond’s bidding --”
    “I don’t know about this Hellcat person,” Cecily Harmond replied archly, “but the other two have extensive criminal histories.”
    “Don’t you know what they nearly did to the Manhattan gargoyles?” put in Gregory Harmond. “Hunter – or Robyn Canmore – and her brothers
blew up the police precinct that was their home. It’s a miracle more people weren’t hurt. You just cannot go around shooting off guided missiles in
the middle of New York.”
    “And Hyena, along with other members of the Pack,” Cecily added, “is guilty of everything from burglary to murder. You are one lone gargoyle
in over your head, but they certainly knew what they were getting into. I have no sympathy for them.”
    “None,” her husband said.
    “They were …” Hippolyta faltered, realizing that no words could honestly describe what they’d been to her.
    Teammates, yes. Friends? Almost … some of them … one of them … maybe. They had put up with each other, got along as well as could be
expected under the circumstances, but she didn’t think for a moment that any of them would have refrained from killing her if necessary to fulfill
the mission.
    The attempt on Daniel’s life had caused a sensation in the news. Plenty of reporters had captured the striking footage of the entire car being
hauled off into the sky by the mysterious hover-jet.
    The bodyguards – one of whom was still hospitalized with a skull fracture and the other of whom was undergoing reconstructive surgery to
repair the ghastly damage done his hand – had maintained their silence on the Harmonds’ orders. The driver and Courtney Jane Fischer were under
no such restrictions, however, and had gabbed the entire story to the hungry reporters.
    So it was that all the world knew that Daniel Harmond had been rescued by a mysterious turncoat gargoyle, and the rest of the assassins had made
their getaway. Daniel himself had consented to a couple of brief appearances, to assure them that he was alive and well, and to apologize for being
forced to miss the gala opening of the Experience Movies Project.


Continued in Chapter Four -- Tangled Webs