|Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney
and are used here without their creators' knowledge or permission. Some
names and references from other sources; credits listed at the end. This
story is a sequel to Coventry. Mature eyes only, due to some violence
and sexual content. January, 2003. 31,000 words. A big thank-you to Kimberly
T., for beta-reading and setting me straight on a few things.
The brochure had advertised this
particular nature trail as 'moderate.' If that was the case, Nell Carpenter
would hate to see their idea of 'difficult.' She was running with sweat,
her legs ached, and the complaints of the kids grated on her ears like
nails on a chalkboard.
"I wanna go swimming," Cissy whined,
scuffing her feet and raising a cloud of dirt. "Wanna go swimming now."
"This is boring," Ethan said.
"Why'd we even come here?"
Why had they come here?
Oh … because Mike had taken the kids to Disneyland when they'd
visited him over the summer, and Nell was determined to prove that she
could take them on cool, exotic, expensive vacations too.
Except that, since Mike made three
times what she brought home from the cola bottling plant and drove a car
that didn't need about three hundred dollars' worth of maintenance and
repairs every couple of months, she couldn't. The kids had lobbied
for a trip to Florida, or a cruise, or a week at the Mall of America with
its indoor thrill rides and waterslides.
This had been the best she could
do. It was within driving distance of their home – if fourteen
hours in the car counted as 'driving distance' – and they could
stay with Aunt Penny instead of at a hotel. That freed up the budget for
admission to the park, souvenirs, and the occasional meal out.
She had gone to the mat with Ethan's
teacher and the school principal, arguing that a vacation like this was
educational enough that he should be excused from class. Did he appreciate
it? He griped about school every day it was in session, but now that he
was out in the wilderness while his classmates were in the stuffy, cramped
room working on math and spelling, he was acting like she had deprived
him of dessert.
Thank God Cissy wasn't in school
yet. Most of the time, Nell could hardly wait. Both kids, out of the house
for several hours of the day. She might get on top of the housework and
laundry for once. But the prospect of having to wrangle with two teachers
would have been more than she could stand.
"When can we go swimming?" Cissy
The little girl had started off
this hike with a cute little backpack containing her sack lunch, a few
extra juice boxes, and Stinky No-No, her stuffed skunk. This load had become
"too heavy, Mommy, too heavy!" within thirty paces, so now Nell
had to carry the backpack while Cissy dragged Stinky No-No by the tail.
The skunk's black and white pelt was rendered dun-brown by the dust.
Nell saw this and bit back an
angry retort. She had told Cissy to carry it, not drag it, and not to scuff
her feet. Now, look. She'd have to do a load of laundry when they got back
to Aunt Penny's house, because Cissy would raise the roof if it was even
put forth that she go to bed without that stuffed skunk to snuggle up with.
Ethan had picked up a stick and
was roaming ahead, leaping to swipe at overhanging leaves. He was a thin
kid with hair that was always too long. It cost a fortune to go to the
haircutting place anymore, and Mike wouldn't give her extra money for it,
but Mike was always the first to get snotty about Ethan's hair when he
showed up to take the kids for one of his weekends. Ethan looked just like
him, was even starting to sometimes sound like him, and it was all
Nell could do not to take out her irritation with Mike on his son.
Why had she ever decided to do
this? The kids would have been happier staying at home, where they had
their own toys and their own stack of videos, and didn't have to worry
about Penny's rules or Penny's neurotic Pomeranian. That damn little dog
with its high-pitched bark and its digestive problems could not stand the
sight of the kids, and went into a frenzy unless Penny kept it locked in
the sewing room.
All she'd wanted was to make them
happy, impress them, prove to them that their father wasn't the only one
who could arrange a neat vacation. They should have loved it. Hiking, swimming,
back-to-nature, and the most amazing animals they would ever see in their
If they ever did see the amazing animals. Thus far, despite what the
slick brochures and the website had promised, Nell had yet to see anything
bigger than a striped chipmunk or strutting blue jay.
She never should have gotten married.
Not right out of high school, and not to Mike Carpenter. Here she was at
twenty-four, divorced with two kids. So much for her dreams of moving to
a big city, New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco, and becoming an interior
decorator, or maybe a fashion designer. Her looks were shot, her ass about
four sizes too big.
"My life sucks," she grumbled.
"What, Mommy?" Cissy piped.
"Nothing," she said.
"Are we gonna go swimming yet?"
"No!" She rounded on the child.
"No, we are on a nature walk! Got it? We are going to walk. In nature.
Until we get to the end of the trail."
Cissy's eyes welled with tears,
but her lip stuck out in that way, that insolent pouting way …
it drove Nell crazy.
"I said no!" Her voice was rising
out of control.
Up ahead, Ethan stopped in the
middle of the trail. "Mom?"
She ignored him, focused on Cissy.
"I told you five times already that we would go swimming when we got back.
But if I have to tell you one more time, you can forget about swimming!"
"Mom," Ethan said, and she entirely
missed the nervous quaver in his voice. "I think I hear something –"
"Shut up, Ethan, for Christ's
sake, shut up, you're as bad as your father, always running your mouth!"
"I don't wanna have a stupid nature
walk," Cissy said. She sat down, plunk in the dirt, and crossed her arms.
Stinky No-No was in her lap. "I'm done."
"You get up right now, Cissy Laureen."
"That's enough, Ethan!" she snapped
over her shoulder. "Cissy, I'm going to count to three."
"Mnyeah!" Cissy stuck her tongue
"Three!" Nell barked, and her
hand closed on the child's arm like a claw. She yanked Cissy upright. Stinky
No-No went tumbling into the bushes at the edge of the trail.
Bleating with pain, Cissy twisted
and kicked Nell in the ankle. "Let me go, you're a mean mommy, I hate you!"
"You little brat!" Nell slapped
Cissy, palm smacking sharply against the girl's face. "Don't you dare kick
me, how dare you kick me! And when I tell you to get up, you do what I
say! Maybe your father lets you get away with this shit, but I'm not –"
She had been raining blows on
Cissy during this tirade, first hitting the face, then the bottom, then
the face again. Ethan shouted something but Nell was lost in a red rage.
If she registered him at all, it was to mentally put him down for a good
whack upside the head too.
Cissy was wailing and screaming,
crimson, tear-streaked. Nell raised her hand for another slap.
Her wrist was seized in an unbreakable
grip. She became aware of a huge hulking shadow in the same instant that
she felt a humid snort of breath on the back of her head. It reeked of
a strange, pungent animal odor.
A clawed hand, knobbed with bony
spurs, was around her wrist. It was a muddy reddish-purple in color, the
spurs shading to a near ivory. The hand connected to an arm bulging with
muscles beneath plated skin.
Nell was yanked backward and around.
She lost hold of Cissy. The child plopped into a sitting position again,
hard, throwing up a puff of dirt. Ethan was shrieking.
A monster had Nell. It towered
over her, head hunched low between shoulders like the protective pads of
a football player. Another gust of a snort came from it, and its inhuman
eyes seemed to burn into her.
It slapped her across the face.
The blow whipped her head to the side so hard she thought her neck would
break. She was knocked to the trail. As she tried to get an arm under her
to break the fall, she felt a sharp cracking agony that raced both ways
from her forearm.
She fought for breath to scream,
couldn't find it. The monster grabbed her again and hauled her to her feet.
It struck her again and again, on the face, on the ass, pinching her shoulder.
She was blinded by tears and hair and pain.
At some point, she fell again
and this time was left there. Nell cowered on the ground, her broken arm
held tight against her chest, wheezing and wincing at the stabbing of what
felt like fractured ribs. She tasted blood from her split and swollen lips.
When she could move again, she
slowly raised her head and peered around. The silent woods seemed to peer
back at her. Even Stinky No-No, his plastic eyes reproachful, was watching
her from the bushes where he'd been dropped.
But she was alone. There was no
sign of her attacker.
And Ethan and Cissy were gone.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Stealthy as a shadow, silent as
His coloring, a dusky blue-grey,
let him blend into the perpetual twilight of the city. Darkness above and
riot of neon and lights below mingled here, at the event horizon of the
The air was warm, though a hint
of a chill had already begun to creep in as the heat of the desert day
was siphoned off into the cloudless sky. But his blood was pounding, warm
There. The window.
His white hair, which might have
given him away like a beacon bright as that of the Luxor's pillar of spotlight,
was tied into a ponytail and tucked under a baseball cap.
A t-shirt with Alex Rodriguez'
number on it was stretched across his chest. Its seams strained with each
flex of his wings. Only a few short months ago, that shirt had billowed
on him. Now he could barely fit into it, even allowing for the slits in
the back that allowed his wings to protrude.
Angus glided in a wide arc, checking
as surreptitiously as he could to see if he was being watched. The novelty
of a resident clan of gargoyles would have worn off by now in any other
city. Witness New York, or London, for example. But here in good old Lost
Wages, the constant ebb and flow of tourists meant that there was always
a new population of gawkers wanting to eyeball the local gargs.
The Coventry Hotel competed with
the other lavish resorts. Its Olde English theme made for a natural addition
to the odd assemblage of structures. Pyramid, castle, Roman marble, space-age
spires … and a bastardized Tudor built on colossal scale. Why
The window. He felt the tug of
that rectangle of light the way a moth might feel a flame. It drew him.
It would have drawn him even if he hadn't decided the moment he shed his
stone skin upon waking that tonight was the night. He was going to do it.
Going to at least try. An adventure worthy of any young
He looked around again. Worthy
adventure or not, he knew that his parents would have a fit if they found
out what he was doing. They had grown up in a completely different
era – over a thousand years ago, in medieval Scotland –
and had forgotten what it was like to be young.
If his father, Coldstone, ever
had been young. Angus personally found it hard to believe. Coldstone
was the type who might have been born middle-aged and was well on his way
to 'old coot.'
He flinched at the thought as
if he'd spoken it aloud. That sort of thing wouldn't go over well. Neither
would arguing that both Coldstone and Coldfire had forgotten more than
youth. They'd forgotten what it meant to be alive.
It wasn't as if they could help
it. Their souls, after centuries of death, had been raised and installed
in cybernetic bodies. They could perceive and think, and had emotions,
but they couldn't feel .
And that meant they no longer
understood. If they caught him out here, they would know that what he was
doing was wrong, but they would fail to remember the urgings of the flesh
that made him do it. Thus, his punishment would not be tempered by commiseration.
Best not to get caught.
Best, probably, not to be doing
this at all, but he had to.
He landed on the railing of the
balcony beneath his target. His large, clawed feet made a soft thud as
he touched down. He balanced there, the double membranes of his wings extended,
his tail with its end club of solid bone held out behind him for a counterweight.
Nothing happened. No one called
out to ask what he thought he was doing. No one looked out to see what
the noise had been.
Heart thumping giddily, Angus
reached up and gripped the edge of the balcony above his head. He stretched
up on tip-toe and peeked between the posts of the railing.
The sliding-glass doors were closed,
and curtained by wispy sheers that did not quite reach all the way to the
lush carpet, or meet in the middle. From this vantage point, he could see
the end of the bed and a rumpled heap of satin sheets. He could see a costume
shoe, stiletto heel and rhinestone straps. He could see –
He could see a lacy bra lying
on the carpet. The capacious cups were see-through white embroidered with
tiny blue flowers. No underwire or anything, because she wouldn't ever
need to wear something like that for support. She'd wear it only because
of the way it looked.
Angus imagined the way it would
look on her. That bra and maybe a frilly pair of panties. The deep indigo
of her skin showing through the thin fabric.
His head swam dizzily. He held
tight to the balcony, breathing out a low whistle. All his available blood
had rushed elsewhere, leaving only enough for minimal circulation in his
limbs and not nearly enough for coherent thought.
And then she strolled past the
window. Gold-painted toe claws, long sleekly-muscled legs, tail swaying
in her wake like a charmed serpent. She was wearing some sort of wrap made
of sparkly rainbow cloth. It was backless to the base of her tail, only
extended a couple of inches down her thighs, and was clasped together with
a knotwork rosette between her breasts.
Godiva in all her glory, and Angus
damn near fell from his perch. Each stride as she paced, phone held to
her ear, offered him teasing glimpses of her legs and bottom. If she turned
around fast, the sides of that wrap might just fly apart.
No such luck. She flipped her
phone closed, tossed it onto the bed, and moved from his line of sight.
"Dammit," Angus muttered.
He shifted, and tried to raise
himself higher on his toes, but the angle was wrong. He could see the back
of her dressing-table chair, the folds of her wings, and the spade-shaped
tip of her tail. That was all.
Holding on with both hands, he
did a pull-up. He had been working out a lot, with Gabriel and on his own
in the Coventry's weight room, and his arms were easily up to the task.
His shirt wasn't. It was none
too new anyway, and it split in several places as he lifted himself.
Big deal. He could get another
A view like this was more than
Godiva must have just come from
the shower, because her namesake cascade of golden hair was still damp.
She was sitting twisted in the chair, head tilted, as she ran a brush through
her hair. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, slightly apart at the knees,
and the rainbow shimmer of the wrap had ridden up on the left to reveal
the entire full curve of her hip.
She brushed her hair languidly,
eyes half-lidded as if she was enjoying the sensuous feel of the brush
sliding over silky tresses. He was fascinated by the way the color of her
wrap caught the light and changed, purple to blue, blue to red, with each
inhalation and exhalation.
His arms were starting to ache
and he barely cared.
Leaning forward, sliding her legs
more to the side, she pursed her ripe lips at the mirror and applied a
ruby lipstick in slow, deliberate strokes. Glittery eyeshadow came next,
and Angus almost lost his grip when she dabbed a touch of that in her cleavage.
She put clusters of diamond teardrops in her earlobes.
He was captivated by her, the
ache-turning-to-agony in his arms hardly registering on his mind.
Godiva stood up, sweeping her
hair around in a practiced movement. It came to rest between her wings,
parting only where her tail emerged. Then, with her back to the window,
she suddenly had the rainbow wrap in her hand.
Angus yanked himself higher. All
he could see was wings, hair, tail, and feet. And that one arm out to the
side with a little nothing of cloth dangling from it. She tossed it idly
aside as she walked to the closet.
His sweaty hands slipped. He scrabbled
for a better hold, hooking his chin on the balcony. His thoughts were entirely
fixed on a fervent wish that she wouldn't get dressed in the spacious walk-in
wardrobe, but would come back out …
She returned to the room, clothes
draped over her arm. Facing the window now. Utterly nude except for the
earrings. His eyes raced from one sumptuous vision to the next. Her bare
breasts, their blue-black nipples erect. The narrow span of her waist.
The hairless mound between her thighs.
For one horrifying moment, he
thought she had seen him. He quailed, waiting for the angry tirade. She'd
send for his parents, all of them would yell at him, he might be grounded,
Coldstone might even whale on him.
But, no. The room was lit on the
inside, and she would only be seeing the sheer curtains.
Godiva laid her outfit aside and
turned to her dressing table again to contemplate her jewelry box. Angus
had her profile now, drinking it in. She mused, hipshot, running her tongue
over her upper lip. Her tail curled lazily over the rug.
When she selected a pair of silver
hoops with clasps like screws, and affixed them carefully to her nipples,
his blood thundered in shock and excitement. She brought out a fine-linked
chain next, clipping its ends to each hoop so that the slack draped in
a silvery thread from the tips of her breasts. She tugged on the chain
experimentally, and shivered.
"Holysmoke," Angus whispered.
It looked like it must hurt, had
to hurt, but the expression on her face was one of anything but pain. He
imagined that if not for the thick soundproof glass, he might be able to
hear her moan in pleasure.
He was stiff as a poker, absently
glad that his shorts were very baggy or else they might have burst their
seams like his shirt had done. If anyone had occupied the room underneath
Godiva's penthouse suite, what a surprise they would have found on the
balcony! A gargoyle from the chest down, feet and tail hanging in mid-air,
with a very prominent bulge jutting out from his crotch.
His fevered imagination ran away
with that, suddenly picturing some cute girl opening the balcony door down
there and seeing him. Some cute human girl, like the ones he often saw
swimming on summer nights in the Coventry's emerald-lit pools. She'd be
brunette and perky and innocent-looking, though that innocence would only
be a mask.
In his mind, he saw her, this
mystery girl, a sly twinkle in her eye, stepping toward him. Reaching out
and grasping him through his shorts, or maybe whisking the shorts to his
knee spurs before he knew what was going on.
And then her clever little hands
closing around him. While he was suspended here, arms locked, eyes filled
with Godiva. Maybe she'd even kiss him there, slide him into her mouth
and suck him.
He groaned just thinking about
it. But as long as he was fantasizing, why not pretend that Godiva wouldn't
yell at him and tell his parents? Why not pretend that she knew he was
out here, and was putting on a show for him?
Because that was almost how it
seemed. Once she'd hooked those hoops and chain to her breasts, she seemed
overcome by irresistible sensual impulses. She was caressing herself, one
hand playing with that chain while the other coyly covered her mound …
coyly, except that it looked like she was rubbing herself there. Her head
was back, eyes closed, and she was breathing faster.
What would he do if she did see
him, and invited him in? Oh, now there was a dream to savor! Her
husky, throaty voice crooning to him how much he'd grown, how handsome
he was. Asking him if he liked to look at her. Asking him if he'd like
to touch her.
And then she would recline on
the bed, wings spread to either side, indigo on that golden silk of her
hair, and she would take him by the wrists and put his hands on her breasts,
between her legs … sighing his name …
The harsh cry ripped through his
fragile fantasy like a razor. He jumped and lost his hold. His fall was
arrested before he could even think of gliding, when he landed astride
the balcony railing below. His only saving grace was that he was able to
tuck his tail between his legs in the moment before impact, turning what
could have been a wishing-for-death experience into something only moderately
He rolled onto the balcony, uttering
strangled noises. Sex was instantly the last thing on his mind.
The owner of the harsh razor voice
landed beside him. Not his mother, not his father, and he was cognizant
enough to be briefly glad of that. Glad, until he saw the look in Gabriel's
eyes and realized that he might be in even worse trouble from his brother
than he would have been from either parent.
The thick, soundproof glass prevented
anyone but Godiva from hearing the crash as a perfume bottle exploded against
the wall. The heady smell of Take Me swamped the room, overpoweringly
She swore as she unclipped the
silver hoops from her nipples and threw them, as well as the chain, onto
her dressing table. All that for nothing, damn Gabriel to hell! And just
when things were starting to get interesting.
Poor Angus, thinking himself so
stealthy. How long had he lived in the castle? With his own parents as
her heads of security? And he still didn't know that she had proximity
sensors set up around her whole suite? She'd known he was there from the
moment he'd come within range.
The purpose of the sensors was
to warn her about Peeping Toms, so that she could decide whether to trigger
the opacity feature of the window glass or not. She was plagued by curious
admirers, sometimes in helicopters or even hang gliders, and part of the
fun of her life was deciding when to give them a show and when to send
them on their way unfulfilled.
Variable interval reinforcement,
wasn't that how her dear friend Gustav Sevarius would have put it? The
dried-up old bastard, the useless shriveled prick! She still had not forgiven
him for what he'd done to her. That program had been hers! Not her
design, not her invention, but possession was nine-tenths of the law, wasn't
that how it went? That was the rationale by which she kept her fabulous
body, after all. She should have been able to keep her onboard programming,
But, nooo! Sevarius had taken
it upon himself to strip her of her subliminal sex appeal program. Not
that she needed it, really. She hardly ever had to resort to it, what with
the rest of her package. The face, the figure, the dancing, the smoldering
hedonism that characterized her entire personality … she hardly
needed the extra edge of the subliminals.
Except that, in some cases, she
did. It had been the subliminals that kept Gabriel coming back to
her despite his better judgement. He had been disgusted with himself, but
addicted, craving her the way some people craved drugs.
She had enjoyed seeing him struggle
to resist, seeing him cave in, and then reaping the benefits as he succumbed.
He was always so intense, fucking her like a madman, being rough with her,
as if something inside of him said, "she wants it so bad, fine! Let's give
it to the bitch until she begs for mercy!"
And oh, had he ever! She had gone
several years without a gargoyle lover before Gabriel turned up, and she
had missed the things they could do. Those tails, good God! That stamina!
She wore out her human lovers
so quickly, often rendering them exhausted when she was only getting warmed
up. She'd have to bring two or three of them to her room just to see her
It wouldn't have been half so
maddening if Ohta hadn't been around. Seeing him, night after night, only
reminded her what she was missing. She just knew that lucky little Hoshi
had a lascivious nature under those demure kimonos, and oh, the nights
she had fantasized about catching the two of them in the act and joining
in, their three bodies twining together, hands and tails and breasts and
slippery orifices and rigid flesh …
Damn Hoshi and her 'conditions,'
anyway! If her need to establish some legitimacy as a genuine gargoyle
hadn't been so great …
When she had begun work on the
Coventry, gargoyle-mania was at its highest tide. All of a sudden, it seemed
like every putz in the land was an expert on gargoyle behavior. And what
stood out most of all was that gargoyles went in clans the way lions went
in prides, and nobody trusted a loner.
Thank Goliath for that one, the
pompous ass. His heart-stirring speeches about what it meant to be a gargoyle,
his veiled references to Demona … giving any solitary gargoyle
a bad name. Thanks ever so much, Goliath …
So, when she chanced into the
star-crossed lovers from Ishimura, she had seen it as a godsend. A clan,
or the outward appearance of one anyway. They should have been so grateful
to find a place to call home that they wouldn't have been nit-picky. But
there was a keen mind ticking away behind Hoshi's serene features, and
one look at the way Godiva was looking at Ohta – which, admittedly,
was like a kid on Christmas morning – and Hoshi had laid down
the law with a steeliness that had astonished Godiva.
No fooling around with Ohta. Lay
a talon on him, so much as bat a flirtatious eye in his direction, and
the pair would be out of here in a twinkling.
Godiva supposed that she could
have used the subliminals on Hoshi, but she hadn't quite dared. In time,
the two of them would come around. That was what she told herself, and
kept telling herself, night after night after night.
Of course, by the time Gabriel
had arrived, she'd been on the verge of throwing caution to the winds and
powering up the subliminals anyway. Now, even that option was lost to her.
Trust a Sevarius to ruin everything.
He hadn't needed to do it. His only reason was spite. Certainly it wasn't
out of the goodness of his heart. She never doubted that Gustav Sevarius
had a heart, but she'd always suspected he kept it pickled in a
jar, next to his conscience.
He had taken away her subliminals,
and that had broken her hold over Gabriel as well as ruined any chance
at all with Ohta and Hoshi. Three and a half years ago, that had been.
And then, Gabriel hadn't left
the hotel. He'd wanted to stay with his family, so she still saw him every
night, but he had spurned her every subsequent advance.
Infuriating son of a bitch!
There were men who would cheerfully
kill for an hour in her bed. He should have been flattered. It wasn't as
if female gargoyles were beating a path to Gabriel's door. Not with
his track record. Three mates dead, his childhood sweetheart mated to another
male … he hadn't even been able to score with a clone. But he
could have had Godiva, the most desired and sought-after female on the
face of the planet, and he opted for celibacy.
Three and a half years. Three
and a half long, long years. She hadn't even tried with Coldstone, partly
because she suspected that Coldfire would burn her baldheaded if she so
much as gave him a wink and partly because he seemed to have all the passion
of a photocopier.
Other eligible males had been
few and far between.
Until little Angus got his growth
spurt. Seemingly overnight, he had shot up a foot, bulked out by seventy
pounds, and his face had lost its baby roundness in favor of excellent
cheekbones, a fine cleft chin, and long white hair that just demanded to
have feminine fingers comb through it. He was athletic by inclination,
so he had killer pecs and a butt to die for.
Plus, that knob on the end of
his tail was intriguing. She couldn't help wondering what sort of delicious
uses it might have.
She hadn't wanted to irreparably
warp him when he was too young to understand, but more and more she'd been
noticing the way he was looking at her. Watching her when he thought nobody
was paying attention. She'd gotten a real charge out of 'accidentally'
giving him peeks down her cleavage, or chewing on a pencil like she was
distracted by business thoughts. Shades of high school all over again.
Then, tonight, he had done a glide-by
and finally mustered the courage to look in her window. She'd already been
swaddled in a thick terrycloth bathrobe but wasted no time trading it for
the skimpy little wrap. The rest had all been for his benefit. His, and
hers, because putting on the show made her hot and wet and slippery all
Part of it was the anticipation,
and the thrill of not knowing what he'd do. Would he merely watch? She
certainly wouldn't have minded masturbating for him, knowing the effect
it would have to be having on his raging young hormones. Or would he have
been bold enough to knock and come in?
Now she'd never know. Goddam Gabriel
had gone and stuck his nose in. A few minutes later and it might not have
mattered. She could have invited Angus in, blacked out her windows, undressed
him, and given him an education the likes of which he had never imagined.
All while sating her own need for a good stiff cock, and she was sure his
would be. A good stiff gargoyle cock, young and randy, ready to go again
Why, she could have kept at him
until dawn, and let the sun catch him in a state of arousal, and spent
the rest of the day pleasuring herself on that permanent erection.
"Gabriel, you insensitive bastard,"
she grumbled. He couldn't let anyone else have their fun. Probably thought
she would ruin his baby brother.
Well, in fairness, she probably
would have … but would Angus complain? Not judging by the goggle-eyed
way he'd been staring at her.
"This isn't over," she said to
her reflection. After so many years, it was still hard to believe that
the gorgeous blue goddess in the mirror was her. "Gabe can't watch-dog
him every second of the night. Sooner or later, it'll happen. That young
stud will be mine, all mine, and I won't need the subliminals to get him,
"Exercising?" Gabriel asked, in
a mild tone that belied the anger in his eyes. "Strange place for chin-ups,
if you ask me."
"I didn't ask you. Let go of me."
Angus wrenched his arm from his brother's grip.
It was fairly easy; that was the
hand that had once been severed, and it had never fully regained its original
strength. Still, the facility with which he freed himself surprised Angus.
He was getting more powerful than he realized.
Taller, too … once
he was on his feet, bristling with overblown indignation to mask the embarrassment
he felt, he was almost eye to eye with Gabriel. It hurt a little to stand
at his full height, after his tail-bruising encounter with the railing,
but he stood tall.
"What did you think you were doing?"
"I didn't do anything wrong,"
Angus said. "I was just –"
"Looking," Gabriel said. "Looking
at her. That's how it begins, isn't it? Looking."
"Well, what if I was? I'm not
"I don't care for your tone –"
"And I don't care for yours! You
aren't my sire, and you aren't the leader of this clan. You've no right
to boss me around!"
"I am your brother, and your elder,"
Gabriel said. "Your teacher, or had you forgotten?"
"No," Angus said bitterly. "How
could I, when you remind me every single night? But what you forget is
that I've been your teacher, too. Ebon didn't know everything about
this world. I grew up in it!"
"Showing me how to play video
games hardly equates," Gabriel said. "I've taught you skills that you need
to survive. How to track, and hunt, and –"
"Like we need those things here,"
Angus shot back. "We do more shopping than hunting, and you know it."
Gabriel's eyes flashed. "I've
tried to teach you what it means to be a gargoyle."
"That changes. It isn't like it
was in 10th century Scotland, for cripe's sake! This is the 21st century.
Wake up, Gabriel. Shake the gravel out of your head and look around. We
don't live like that anymore."
"Our clan is different –"
"Bullshit!" Angus shouted. "Maybe
the ones in the Yukon lived like savages, but even you admitted they were
throwbacks. Look at Goliath's clan! Broadway's got a TV show, Elektra's
a political aide, Angela was a model before she went all rookery-mom. Times
"None of that is the point," Gabriel
said. "What matters is that you have no idea of what you're doing, spying
on Godiva like that. She's dangerous, Angus."
"Oh, come on!"
"She is. I've seen her watching
you, waiting for you to be old enough that she might snare you in her web."
"Really?" He felt absurdly flattered
and puffed up by this. "She's been noticing me?"
"Angus! Don't give in to her.
She hardly has your best interests at heart."
"What is your problem, Gabriel?
My personal life is my business, so butt out, okay?"
"No. It is not 'okay,' and I shall
not butt out. Not when it comes to Godiva. She is poison, don't you see
"You're jealous," Angus said.
"That's what this is about. She dumped you, and you can't stand to think
that maybe she'd be interested in me."
Gabriel sputtered. "She …
I … you have it severely wrong, little brother! I came to my
senses and escaped her, she did not break with me!"
"She only wishes to use you like
a toy, and discard you at her whim."
"You survived it. So can I."
"Angus! I am in earnest. She is
not a true gargoyle –"
"Neither are Mom and Dad, anymore."
"But they were. Godiva
never was. She is a soulless automaton, concerned only with sexual pleasure."
"So you should not fall victim
"Curse you, Angus, I am trying
to help," Gabriel said, his voice rising.
"You're trying to keep me a hatchling,
not let me grow up." Angus matched him in volume. "You couldn't hack it
as leader of a clan, but you got off on having a little brother to idolize
you. I'm grown up now, Gabriel. I can make my own decisions."
"Not in this. You are blind to
"You know," Angus said, "come
to think of it, there is one thing you taught me that still comes
in handy in the year 2011."
He punched Gabriel in the face
with all the force he could muster. The blow, taking Gabriel completely
off-guard, crushed his nose and rocked his head back so hard that his skull
cracked the thick glass of the balcony door.
Angus was almost as surprised
as Gabriel. He hadn't, not down deep, really expected the punch to land.
A terrified apology rose to his lips but he bit it back. Not even when
Gabriel wiped blood from his face and stared at it incredulously, then
shifted his gaze to Angus, did he relent.
"Angus," Gabriel said. "I'm only
doing this for your own good. Do you need to have sense beaten into you
before you'll see?"
"Go ahead and try," Angus said,
dropping into a combative stance and raising his fists.
"Is this how you want it?"
"It's the only way it can be."
Angus couldn't believe it had
come to this so quickly. He did idolize Gabriel, that was the truth,
and had always admired him. It was mortification and frustrated lust that
had led him to say those things. Anything to cloud the issue, anything
to take the focus away from the fact that he'd been ogling Godiva like
a horny adolescent and was ashamed to have been caught.
He didn't want to fight Gabriel.
But since the battle was on, Angus was in it. Trouble was, so was
Gabriel, and he fought with the cool detachment of a warrior while Angus
was ruled by his hot blood.
Both of them were roaring and
spitting, two sets of eyes blazing phosphorous white. Their bodies caromed
back and forth between rail and sliding glass door.
Angus, despite his raging emotions,
was conscious of the fact that Gabriel should have cleaned his clock within
seconds. He had seen the seasoned warrior take on one full-grown male after
another during that ill-fated visit to Bea's clan – thinking
about Bea, whom he'd tried to forget, her sweet face and curious nature,
brought a new burden of hot guilty shame to him – and Gabriel
should have had no trouble with Angus at all.
Unless he was holding back, not
wanting to hurt his baby brother …
Angus roared even louder and redoubled
his efforts. And still, when Gabriel had a clear opening, he let it go
by. He was taking it easy, and that only infuriated Angus all the
It was, perhaps, inevitable that
they should go over the rail and plunge, still struggling, toward the glass
skylights of the dining room below.
They smashed through a skylight
into a dining room of wooden timbers, white linen, fox-hunting paintings,
and Elizabethan costumes in display cases.
A table set for sixteen broke
their fall. It also smashed to splinters, and threw a messy hail of food,
champagne and cutlery at the wedding party who'd been about to take their
seats. The hostess, who wore apple green brocade with a corset and ruff,
screamed. So did the wedding party, and diners at other tables.
Getting up, panting and feeling
battered all over, Angus looked at his brother. Gabriel was extricating
himself from the wreckage of the table. Their eyes met and locked.
The hostess, seeing this, screamed
again and backpedaled. There was a general stampede toward the dining room's
"Rrraaagh!" Angus cried, and ran
headlong at Gabriel.
He wasn't sure what happened after
that. They had reeled around the room, punching and kicking and breaking
furniture, but the details were lost in a blinding white haze. Angus only
returned to his senses when a cold metal hand clamped down on his shoulder
and forcibly parted him from Gabriel.
"Boys!" Coldfire's voice was like
a thunderclap. She shook them, holding them apart, her robotic fingers
mercilessly digging into their flesh. "Stop it at once!"
Angus froze. He had no choice.
She was pinching a nerve and he was afraid that if he moved even a little,
she'd cripple him.
"What is the meaning of this?"
Coldstone demanded, stalking toward them through the ruins of the dining
room. His cyborg eye glared scarlet. The panel had retracted from his forearm
and his blaster, set to a jolt that would kill a human and shock a gargoyle
into unconsciousness, was extended.
"Explain yourselves," Coldfire
said, giving them another shake.
"Ah, ouch, Mother, let go," Angus
said, twisting to try and loosen her vise grip on his shoulder. "We were
He couldn't finish. There was
nothing he could possibly say to help this situation.
"Look at this," Coldstone said,
indicating the room. "Look at yourselves. You've disgraced this hotel,
and your clan. You are warriors, brothers. This is not how I expect you
"We had … a disagreement,"
"I should think so," Coldfire
said. "Over what?"
"Over … well …"
Gabriel didn't look at her, and though her golden mask of a face could
not change expression, somehow a light of understanding went on in her
"Over a female?" she asked. "Godiva,
"He treats me like I'm a hatchling,"
Angus said, blushing under his mother's scrutiny and apparent disappointment
in him. "But I'm not!"
"Neither are you yet an adult,"
Coldstone said. "The responsibilities of an adult must be demonstrated
before the privileges are earned."
Angus was astonished –
not to mention dismayed and unnerved – to find himself getting
angry at his father, too. "Is it because I haven't killed in battle? Well,
I've got news for you, Pop! There aren't any damn Vikings anymore, remember?
We don't live like that, having to defend our home against barbarians.
A hatchling doesn't become an adult on the blood of his enemies."
"That is the gargoyle way," Coldstone
said grimly. "Some things have not changed."
"Not fair!" Angus yelled. "What
about Gabriel, then, huh? He was fooling around with the girls on Avalon
long before there was even anybody to fight! Nobody told him he wasn't
an adult then!"
"We are not talking about Gabriel's
status," Coldstone said.
"It's the same thing!"
"It is not," Gabriel said.
"Enough," Coldfire said. She turned
to Angus. "You are attracted to Godiva?"
He blushed again. "I …
um … well, you know …"
"Yes," she said dryly. "I rather
believe I do. She has something of an effect on males."
At this, she sent a sidelong look
at her mate, and Coldstone immediately busied himself surveying the debris
that littered the dining room. He cleared his throat.
"However," Coldfire went on, stroking
Angus' hair with a distracted motherly gesture, "I do not believe she is
right for you, son."
"Oh, but it was okay for Gabriel?"
"Your brother had prior experience
of loveplay. Am I not right, Gabriel?"
"Mother, please!" Gabriel protested.
"Am I not right?"
"You, Angus," she said, "would
do better to find your way into that realm of adulthood with a female closer
to your own age. One who is not so … so …"
"Predatory," Coldstone said.
"Jaded was the word I sought,"
Coldfire said. "However, that will do as well. You should find your own
way before you become a notch on her bedpost. You should be with someone
you care for, who likewise cares for you. There is no greater joy. When
you are in love with someone --"
If she was going to give him 'the
talk,' Angus hoped that the floor would open up beneath him. It had been
bad enough when Mother Eibhlin had felt she should sit him down and tell
him about the birds and the bees. He wasn't sure which of them had been
the more uncomfortable.
"Aw, Mother," he said. "I know.
You don't have to tell me. Please, don't tell me."
"Angus," Gabriel said, eyes downcast.
"I owe you an apology. I overreacted."
"Hear me out," Gabriel said. "I
was trying to protect you. I understand how you might resent that, but
I know what she is like."
"Yeah, and that's what I want
to find out," he groused.
"Listen to your brother," Coldfire
"I can see why you'd be tempted,"
Gabriel continued. "Part of it, well, is lack of other options. We do not
see many other gargoyles here, let alone young eligible females."
Angus kept silent. The last thing
he should do right now, he knew, was mention that he wasn't nearly as picky
about species as some people. He could only cringe at the reaction he might
get from his parents and brother if he ever let that bit of knowledge slip.
Why, when pop star Kellina had stayed at the Coventry …
He felt dizzy just remembering.
If only he'd had the guts to talk to her. He'd written her a poem, intending
to have it delivered to her suite with a dozen long-stemmed roses, but
tore it up in a frenzied fit of embarrassment long before anyone else could
Kellina … Bea …
"It is only reasonable," Gabriel
was saying. "Perhaps the best thing would be for you to have a chance to
get to know some other gargoyles."
"How?" Coldstone asked. "The females
of Goliath's clan are all spoken for, and need I remind you, Gabriel, that
there is a death-sentence hanging over your head, placed there by the one
other clan, primitive though they may be, that we had thus far managed
to find? Despite our visible presence here, we have not yet been contacted
by many others. Unless you intend to go to searching for them –"
"I think that is what Gabriel
is suggesting," Coldfire said. "We have perhaps been selfish, my love.
We have made a home here and been happy ourselves, but we have neglected
the futures of our sons. We have forgotten their needs. Oh, how I wish
matters in the Yukon had come to a better end!"
"You just want to get me away
from Godiva," Angus accused Gabriel.
"And you," Coldstone said to his
mate, "just want them to find mates and raise a brood of hatchlings."
"Is that so wrong?" Coldfire asked.
"Our brother Goliath has grandchildren now. Should I not be envious? You
saw him at the hatching, my love. When Angela presented her tiny daughter
into his hands, he wept."
Coldstone made a gruff snort.
"I saw. I knew it was a mistake to visit."
"I would not have missed it for
the world," she said.
Angus and Gabriel, their feud
forgotten, shared a rueful look. Coldfire had been taking every excuse
to mention the hatching, which they had attended the previous spring as
guests. Angus had merely been bored. See one squashy baby gargoyle cracking
shell, seen them all. It had been harder for Gabriel, watching his rookery
sisters with their mates and probably thinking about all the rest of the
ones left behind on Avalon.
He felt suddenly sorry for Gabriel,
and like a heel for the way he'd been acting toward his big brother. Gabe
did have the best intentions. He didn't mean to be an overbearing,
controlling, bossy pain in the ass.
Coldfire, meanwhile, had gotten
sidetracked and was cooing again over how adorable the hatchlings had been,
Angela's Kathe with her lovely maroon skin, the web-winged pair born to
Aiden and Lexington, round little Malcolm, and the unheard-of quartet that
Hudson had sired on Delilah. Such a shock that had been to all there
assembled, none of whom until that moment had known of the clandestine
mating. But the moment little Aramis, first-hatched of the brood, thrust
his tiny fist through his shell, then ripped it away and sat staring about
proudly, there could have been no doubt in anyone's mind whose son he was.
Coldfire received weekly letters
from Angela, always packed with pictures and anecdotes. She never missed
a chance to read these aloud to her clan, and papered the wall of her office
with the photographs.
"But, all that aside," she finally
said, "this is perhaps not the best environment for our sons. They do need
the chance to be with other gargoyles, flesh-and-blood ones. We may have
lost touch somewhat with their needs, my love."
Understatement of the decade,
but Angus would sooner gouge out an eye than say so aloud. He loved them,
he did, but they could be hard to deal with.
Gabriel looked taken aback. "You
… do you wish us to go away?"
"Was that not your plan?" she
"I hadn't given it that much thought
yet," he said. "Leave the hotel? I suppose that we could."
"Where would we go?" Angus grimaced.
"Not living in the wilderness again! You know how miserable that is, Gabriel.
I like being near civilization, being able to get a pizza or a hamburger
from time to time. I don't like having to live on what I can catch, kill,
skin, and cook."
"What of Avalon?" Coldstone ventured.
"You speak of it often."
"No," Gabriel said. "No, I am
not ready to return to Avalon."
"And even if he was," Angus said,
"it doesn't sound like there's any spare girls on Avalon. Didn't they all
"Perhaps London," Coldfire said.
"Or Ishimura. I am certain that Ohta and Hoshi would gladly recommend you
to their former clan."
"If they are not in dishonor for
leaving," Coldstone reminded her. "Remember, we do not know their full
Coldfire sighed in exasperation.
"Are you trying, my love, to sabotage every suggestion? There are
many other clans now announcing themselves, and new rumors springing up
all the time. Where was it, California, that a small town elected a gargoyle
as their chief of police? And did we not hear from some of the hotel guests
that there was a preserve in Montana for gargoyles?"
"The zoo, you mean," Angus said.
"That's what it sounded like to me."
"I had the impression it was more
akin to the tribal lands, the reservations," Coldfire said. "But either
of those places are not far from here. It would surely be easier than traveling
to England, or Guatemala, or Russia."
"You are eager to be rid
of us," Gabriel said, half-laughing.
"I only want you both to have
a chance at happiness," she said. She looked fondly at Coldstone and added,
"We were fortunate enough to have a second chance, and we know too well
how fleeting and precious love is."
"And she wants hatchlings to dandle
on her knee," Coldstone said.
"I think your hopes are rather
high," Gabriel said. "My luck with mates has not been what I'd call good."
"I guess I don't mind traveling
some," Angus said. "As long as it's not living off jackrabbits in the middle
of nowhere. Meeting other clans would be fun."
"Before any such decisions are
made," Coldstone said with a sudden severe glint in his red eye, "you both
have a good deal of cleaning up to do, as well as tendering your apologies
to the guests."
"Oh." Angus looked around. Splintered
tables and chairs, shards of crystal and china, spilled food, gravy soaking
into the carpet … disaster from wall to wall. He groaned.
"We'd best get started, then,"
"Why, that cunning bitch," Godiva
She was in the security control
room, having just observed the entire conversation on the monitors. She'd
listened in disbelief as Coldfire had neatly orchestrated a way to get
not one but both of her precious sons out of the temptress' vile clutches.
"Marry them off and get some grandbabies,
to boot," she said, sneering at Coldfire's serene golden features. "You've
been just waiting for a chance like this, haven't you?"
It was not a news flash to Godiva
that Coldfire didn't trust her. That helpless touch of jealousy was there,
of course, a factor in it. No female of any race was ever going to fully
trust, like, and be bosom buddies with the likes of Godiva. There would
always be the competition – not that it ever was a competition;
who could possibly compete? – and the instinctive cat-claw spite.
Coldfire couldn't help that, robot or not, any more than the males could
help their drooling gazes.
But this, well, she was pretty
serious, wasn't she? Ready to give up her sons, send them away, all to
save Angus' virtue.
Godiva was tempted to seek the
boy out right now, this very night, and take him on a sexual tour of the
world. She'd educate him so thoroughly that there would never be a single
thing he could do with a female that he hadn't learned first from her.
Then, if he still wanted to go, fine. She'd win anyway.
A nice idea, but she doubted she
would have the opportunity. It would be close to morning by the time the
two of them finished cleaning up the mess they'd made of the dining room.
And she wouldn't put it past Coldfire to have their bags packed and push
them out the door the second they cracked out of stone tomorrow night.
Well, fine. Maybe this would be
even more fun. Let young Angus go away with the image of her seared into
his mind. Imagination was a more powerful and pervasive thing than memory.
He would always be wondering what it would have been like, and eventually,
when they met again, she would reel him in.
All the better if he did go off
and find some sweet little she-garg. A gentle, shy, girlish one. Then Godiva
could steal Angus away from her, or better yet, seduce the female first
while Angus watched.
So many tasty possibilities!
The best, though, would have been
for her to reach Angus and Gabriel while they were in the very throes of
fighting over her. She could have easily turned their anger to lust, and
convinced them to put that energy to better use.
Both of them at the same time
… oh, how nice that would have been! Because they would have
each been trying to outdo the other, their competition in battle turning
to competition in bed. And she would have been right there to gleefully
reap the benefits.
What a pity. Well, she would have
her turn. She could wait. It wasn't as if she was going to get old and
ugly and undesirable. Not her, not Godiva.
The outward marks of the beating
they'd inflicted on each other had faded with a good day's sleep, but Angus
knew that Gabriel was still peeved for a bunch of reasons. Almost getting
his tail kicked by his baby brother –or so Angus tried to convince
himself, still embarrassed by the sense that Gabe had gone easy on him
– not the least of which.
Baby brother. Sheesh. They'd been
conceived at the same time. Just born a world and a few centuries apart.
It could have been Gabriel's egg that got left behind on the skiff. Only
the luck of the draw had made it be Angus'. By rights, he should be of
a generation with Gabriel.
Didn't matter, though. He was
growing up now and none of them could stop him.
He would go along with this idea
to visit Montana, if only to make his parents happy. It'd be something
new, even if it didn't pan out.
And he did have to admit, for all its light and splendor, he was getting
a little bored with Vegas. It was more flash than substance, a city with
no real sense of permanence, all tourists and come-and-go and new hotels
rising like phoenixes from the ashes of the old.
So, when the arrangements were
made, Angus didn't object. He packed a few changes of clothes and the essentials
he couldn't live without – wireless mini computer with onboard
phone and microdisk player, portable game console, two-pound bag of peanut
M&M's, baseball with bat and mitt, his most prized trading cards.
He debated longer about the things
he didn't want his mother to find if she went through his stuff while he
was away – signed glamour shot of Godiva, an old issue of Playboy
magazine that featured Fox Xanatos, half a dozen naughty graphic novels
about demonesses. After some consideration, he slit the underside
of a chair and stuffed the incriminating objects up inside, then taped
the slit shut again.
Gabriel turned up at the appointed time and place far more sensibly
equipped. He had camping cookware, a skinning knife, tools, and the like.
Angus groaned and went back to fetch his outdoor gear.
Eventually, they were ready to
go. A small farewell party, hosted with less than her usual good humor
by Godiva, was held on the Coventry's private rooftop patio. Angus stuffed
himself, because he just knew that once they were on their own, Gabriel
would go back to that 'you eat what you kill' mentality. This could well
be his last real meal for months.
Money. He dashed back to his room
and took the wad of bills out of his desk drawer. At least he'd be able
to get a hamburger or something.
It was nearly midnight by the
time they'd finished saying their good-byes. Angus suspected that Coldfire
would have cried if she could. Coldstone was all brusque and encouraging,
like a coach who had to miss the big game because of a broken leg. Hoshi
and Ohta wished them well.
Godiva gave Angus a hug that,
seen as how they were all under the watchful eyes of the rest of the clan,
she probably honestly did intend to be more like the hug of an auntie.
Except that there was no physical way to hug Godiva without being in ample
contact with her curves, and Angus was loathe to let go. Her perfume seemed
to curl around him like it did in cartoons, caressing his face, making
his feet float up off the ground as his eyes went half-closed and dreamy.
She set him back from her far
too soon, though not soon enough by the way Gabriel was glaring. Angus
stifled another burst of annoyance.
Nothing was said, however, and
moments later they were settling their packs over their shoulders and testing
the range of motion of their wings. The open Nevada night was waiting.
In the direction of their destination, the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia in
her throne spiraled endlessly around the winking white fire of the North
"Good journey," Coldfire said.
Although her voice was carefully modulated, electronically-generated, there
was a catch in it. She even hitched in a breath, and dabbed at dry optical
receptors. "Good journey, my sons."
"Remember," Coldstone said. "Clan.
High Country, Montana
A protest was going on outside
of the entrance to InGenUity's compound. To either side of the large metal-beam
gate, fences stretched in a curve to enclose the hilly wooded grounds,
the research buildings, the main hotel, and the gigantic dome of the game
The protestors had been there
for several days, and by now they had it down to a routine. When darkness
fell – and no darkness was quite as complete and solid as that
out here in the open wilderness of Montana, the stars cutting the black
with points of brilliance – they turned on the headlights of
cars arranged in a semi-circle. This illumination, added to the blue-white
luminescence of the perimeter lights of the compound, let their signs remain
clearly readable at all hours.
Those wishing to sleep would retire
to one of the several motor homes, ramshackle older vehicles all, most
with Greenpeace and Save the Whales and various human and animal rights
advocacy groups advertised on their bumper stickers. Six heavy-duty plastic
portable toilets and a portable handwashing station were near a makeshift
shower. For mealtimes, picnic tables and benches had been set up underneath
a communal tent. There were camp stoves, open fires, ice chests, and hibachis
arranged along one side.
The activists were prepared to
stay as long as it took. Some had been here for weeks, marching and chanting
in front of the gates, waving their signs at the security cameras, and
earnestly explaining their cause and their message to whatever representatives
of the media turned up.
There hadn't been many of the
latter, and no response from InGenUity at all, but the protestors carried
on with undiminished spirits. These were people who thought nothing of
living for six months on a tiny platform perched high in a redwood, or
enduring grueling conditions to wash sea-birds caught in oil slicks, or
brave being tear-gassed and shot with rubber pellets while closing down
city streets in protest of a scheduled execution. By contrast, the siege
of InGenUity was a cakewalk.
Liz Dorsett, reporter incognito,
mingled with the activists. That, she knew, was how they preferred to be
known. Activist, active, action. A positive, forward-going sort of term.
Protest, they said, was full of negative connotations.
With her perpetually unmanageable
mass of auburn hair, tanned skin, work-hardened hands, and lean, rangy
body, she knew she fit right in once she donned the proper wardrobe. Brown
denims, hiking boots, a paisley shirt in earth-tones with a few swirls
of coral and turquoise, a utility belt, and a battered canvas pack made
her look at home among the assemblage.
She kept the Chapstick-sized digital
camera and tape recorder concealed. She was here for the real story,
not what the activists or InGenUity wanted to present. People, no matter
which side they were on, got too conscious when they knew they were in
the company of a reporter. The truth came out when they thought they were
alone among their own kind.
This was the easy half. Getting
into the compound for the other side of things was going to be tricky,
especially now. The place was closed to tourists and day-trippers while
the lawyers prepared to battle it out in the courts. No one got in. The
employees had been mostly evacuated, from the hotel's lowliest chambermaid
on up to the science team.
Only a minimal staff remained
inside, mainly security thugs and a few of the zoologists, paleontologists,
psychologists, and geneticists. The compound director was still in there
too. Sort of like the captain of the Titanic, except that Dr. John
Leister had decided to keep his family with him.
Leister was the one Liz really
would have given her eyeteeth to interview. Rumor had it that he was related
to as well as protégé of the infamous Anton Sevarius, pioneer
in the field of genetic mutation and manipulation.
In the meanwhile, she circulated
among the activists as the informal shifts began to change. Dinner was
being served in the mess tent, primarily a vegan menu. It struck Liz as
kind of crazy that the same people who knocked down the walls of slaughterhouses
with bulldozers to rescue cattle were also the ones decrying the alternate
food source of 'vat meat' as an unnatural abomination.
She had asked about it once, just
once, and the answer she'd gotten had been so incredibly weird that it
had left her blinking stupidly for several minutes.
"Vat meat is nothing but pornography,"
the woman she'd asked had told her. "Just as pornography fosters sexism
and violence against women, vat meat fosters carnivorism and violence against
That brief and bewildering conversation
had taken place a few years ago, at a protest outside of a vat-meat processing
plant outside of Seattle. In what she thought was the only possible rational
response, Liz stopped for a huge dinner at Black Angus and then went home
and read the last half of a paperback titled The Erotic Adventures of
Joan of Arc .
Avoiding the topic of food as
it pertained to lifestyle choices, she got a bowl of lentil soup and several
thick slices of whole-grain bread. She was dying for a steak, a rotisserie
chicken, or a slab of pork roast with mushroom-wine sauce.
The spectacular sunset had taken
the last of the day's token effort at warmth with it, and the bone-numbing
cold of a Montana autumn was already creeping in. Liz knew that in some
parts of the state, there would already be snow on the ground. If the fishscale
clouds in the east made good on their threat of an approaching weather
system, they might get snow here, too.
Not that snow, unless it was a
blizzard of newsworthy proportions, would make much of a dent in the attendance
outside the gates. They had campfires, and Gortex sleeping bags, and plenty
of them saw nothing amiss in burning fuel to run their car heaters while
they were out protecting the environment and the rights of all living things.
Liz chewed on her bread, thinking
that it would be much better with a few nice slices of rare roast beef,
some Swiss, and plenty of good tangy mustard. She watched the patterns
of the camp.
The activists ranged from a couple
in their eighties to a baby that had been delivered in the back of a vintage
VW van by a midwife just three days ago. Some of them had real, nine-to-five
lives in the world of corporations and bank accounts. Others lived in converted
school buses and made their living through the sale of handcrafted pottery
Dinner hour was the liveliest
time of day around the camp. Kids ran around in the chilly twilight, resisting
directions to put on coats, or get ready for bed. The young singles used
it as an opportunity for courting. People collected around the fires with
their meals, and talked animatedly.
Edgy for no reason she could pinpoint,
Liz wandered around trying to see if anything peculiar was going on. There
had been remarkably few confrontations. With no employees coming or going,
no television cameras, the activists had no one to shout at.
Still, something was about to
happen. Her reporter's instincts told her so. Something big.
She found a spot where she could
drink the last of her soup in relative privacy, while keeping an eye on
the gates. The swing shift protestors, fewer of them, marched around in
the glare of the headlights.
At times like this, she couldn't
help thinking of her brother, Jim. He felt every bit as strongly about
certain issues as did the people here, but no one would ever catch Jim
Dorsett out protesting. As intensely private as their father before him,
his method of dealing with issues of environmentalism and protecting wildlife
was to have slowly but steadily bought up unspoiled acreage and forbidding
any building or development.
It had come as a great surprise
to Jim when the people of the nearest tiny Montana town had spontaneously
and overwhelmingly voted him for mayor. He hadn't even been running for
the office. Liz had written a piece on it, probably the largest majority
vote ever given to a solely write-in and undeclared candidate.
They had even changed the name
of the town from Binker's Hump to Dorsett, over Jim's protests. The reply
from the constituency was that they had suffered Binker's Hump since the
1880's and a change was long overdue anyway.
She shook off a grin at the recollection
of her brother's flustered reaction. Good old Jim. Spent his life avoiding
politics, and ended up mayor. She knew just what he'd tell her if he could
see her out here. No amount of rhetoric or emotional appeals ever changed
a person's strongly-held conviction. That was why he'd decided when he
was only a teenager to save his breath and take action in his own offbeat
Nothing moved beyond the high
gate of the compound.
Didn't Leister care? Wasn't he
interested in defending his point of view? Or did he figure that it was
a lost cause? Couldn't convert people like these, according to Jim Dorsett.
They were firm and snug in their beliefs. Fanatic, even.
Liz wondered, and not for the
first time, if it would be possible to sneak into the compound. But she
was a reporter, not a super-spy. She didn't have a miniature grappling
hook and fifty yards of cable hidden in her belt buckle, or a heat-trapping
bodysuit to defeat infrared, or anything of the sort.
As she was standing there, a crust
of bread in her mouth, the compound suddenly came alive with alarms and
spotlights. The harsh sirening bray elicited cries of shock from the activists,
and the pillars of blinding white sweeping to and fro absolutely dwarfed
the perimeter lights and the car headlights.
The crust of bread lodged in her
throat as Liz gasped. She hacked it up, spat the half-chewed wad aside,
and snatched the digital camera into her hand. She aimed it at the sky,
every nerve intent in the hopes that what she'd seen hadn't been a mere
trick of the shadows.
There! Caught for a split second
in one of the waving beams. A winged shape, twisting in mid-flight to avoid
being pinned in the hot white glow.
She lost it almost as soon as
she saw it, and swore.
Activists were swarming, babbling,
pointing. Someone yelled, "Gargoyles!" and others took it up in an excited
din. Most of them had probably never even seen one, except on television.
Liz, who had met a couple of them
just last year when her assignment took her to the National Barbecue Cook-Off
in Amarillo, was still just as thrilled by the sight of the graceful forms
gliding in and out of the flashing beams. There was something about them,
something so wild and wonderful, that uplifted the soul.
The people of InGenUity obviously
didn't feel the same way. Moments after the spotlights captured the first
gargoyle, the perimeter stun-lasers opened fire.
A collective horrified "No!" went
up from the activists, and they were spurred into action. They charged
the gates, some of them foolishly attempting to climb and getting zapped
for their pains when they hit the electrified grid about halfway up. Others
leaped into idling cars and gunned the engines, maybe thinking they could
ram through the sturdy construction.
Keeping her camera trained on
the action, Liz distanced herself from the mob and sought higher ground
so she could see what was going on. The lasers seemed to be automated,
possibly triggered by motion sensors that would be tripped by anything
larger than an eagle, or they were being controlled from the interior.
Two gargoyles, both males, she
judged. They appeared to have been caught off guard by the sudden explosion
of lights, sirens, and laser blasts. They were reeling in mid-air, unsure
which way to go.
A larger gun went off, firing
not a laser or a bullet but some sort of capsule at them. The capsule's
shell cracked apart and a weighted net blossomed out. One of the gargoyles
dodged it, but the other was ensnared. At once, the net turned into a sparking
sizzle of energy, shocking the gargoyle into limp unconsciousness. He plummeted
into the compound.
The other one made an anguished
cry and started to dive, but another launched capsule opened above him
and he had to go into a muscle-wrenching series of evasive actions to avoid
being caught. More lights were coming on all over the compound, and voices
of men barking orders could be heard.
The gargoyle hovered briefly,
torn in indecision.
Someone among the crowd of activists
couldn't wait. A car roared at the gates, horn blatting. People scrambled
out of the way. Liz caught it on tape, the car slamming into the unyielding
gates like a crash test, front end crumpling, rear end rising off the ground,
doors popping open. It made no appreciable difference to the gates, but
while some protestors were hauling the dazed body of the driver out, others
were climbing on top as if meaning to scale the wall that way.
A chatter of gunfire –
actual gunfire, not stun-lasers – brought Liz's attention back
to the gargoyle with a snap. He wheeled away from the compound and the
line of armed men on one of the exterior balconies. He was headed away
from the camp and the commotion, descending on the opposite side of the
Liz didn't stop to think. She
went at a dead run back to the camp, where she jumped onto some teenage
kid's ATV and took off cross-country. The terrain was rugged, bouncing
her so hard that she thought her teeth were going to fall out, and each
time she topped a rise she was sure the ATV was about to go nose-first
into a deep gully, flip over on top of her, and break her neck.
She did plunge into one gully,
plowing through a stream and sending up fans of water that soaked her to
the knees. She was through it and chugging up the other bank before she
was fully cognizant that she hadn't crashed.
The log, though, was another story.
Seeing it too late to change course,
Liz braked. Too slow. The front of the ATV met the hoary old wood with
a bang and the ATV slammed to a halt. Liz was thrown up and over, yelping,
wishing for a helmet and thinking that she still had two movies out from
Blockbuster and what meager estate she left probably wouldn't cover the
Scrubby ground rushed up at her.
She hit hardpacked dirt and was rolling downhill at a sickening speed.
Her body bumped and thumped over rocks, patches of rough grass, and through
spindly bushes that gave way with a splintering like fragile bones. The
tangy, junipery scent of crushed leaves surrounded her.
She reached the bottom of the
hill amazed to be alive. Her tongue was bleeding from where she'd bitten
it when her jaws clacked together. One elbow was scraped raw. Twigs and
leaves were caught in her clothes, her hair.
Liz groaned as she sat up, taking
mental inventory. Her first panicked impulse was to check the digital camera,
which she'd thrust through her belt when she'd gotten on the ATV. It was
still there, its little light still on. A wave of relief went through her.
That wave of relief ended immediately
when her tangled mass of hair was seized, and she was yanked to her feet
by something large and strong.
Jeannie Leister covered her mouth
with both hands and gasped.
"There he is," her father said
in a tone of grim satisfaction. "There's the bugger."
On the monitor, the forest looked
eerie, an alien landscape. The infrared cameras turned the trees into shadowy
monoliths, and anything larger than an ant stood out in glowing auras of
green, yellow, orange, and red varying according to body heat.
The gargoyle was yellowy-orange,
with brighter patches over his head and chest, and duller greenish ones
on the membranes of his wings. Every now and then, when the net sparked,
an eye-watering flash of white would wink on the screen.
"Gargoyle," the security officer
observed. "Healthy young adult male. What the hell's he doing here?"
"I suppose," John Leister said,
drumming his long agile fingers on the desk, "that we should ask him. Take
your team, Mr. Patterson, and bring him in before he's found."
Patterson, the security officer,
nodded. "What about the other situation? The kids?"
Leister massaged the bridge of
his nose. "One problem at a time, please, Mr. Patterson."
"Well, sir, but we haven't resolved
that one –"
"Yes, yes, I am quite exceedingly
well aware of it. However, those children are perfectly safe within the
park and of little consequence to tonight's concern. Unless you are feeling
in such a particular need to prove your testicular fortitude as to launch
an assault at night, when their advantages still outweigh yours?"
"No, sir," Patterson said, but
Jeannie could tell that he didn't mean it. She knew that he and her father
had been going around and around about this ever since the incident. Patterson
wanted to lead a military action.
"When you only have a hammer,"
her father had told her when she'd asked about it, "everything looks like
a nail." Jeannie didn't fully grasp that, but she got the general idea.
Patterson snapped his fingers
and three other men, their carbines slung over the shoulders of their night-camo
jumpsuits, fell in behind him.
"They're not going to hurt him,
are they, Daddy?" Jeannie asked.
Her father gave her an absent
smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. He was a fair-skinned man with
brown hair that rose from a sharp widow's peak, his features angular and
well-delineated. His voice, especially when he was gloating over the success
of his projects, was richly accented and brimming with a smugness that
bordered on sumptuousness.
"Of course not, poppet," he said.
"Why would they hurt him?"
"They were shooting at him," she
said, crossing her arms on her chest.
"Nonsense," he said, ruffling
her hair. "They were shooting at the other one when the conventional defenses
failed to bring him down."
She shied away from the hair-ruffling.
She was fifteen, too old for that sort of thing. It wasn't like she was
a baby anymore.
Dr. Leister turned back to the
monitors. The gargoyle hadn't moved, still lying splayed on the ground.
At the peripheries of the scene, smaller red-orange shapes scurried through
the darkness. Little nocturnal mammals, their high metabolisms burning
like many tiny torches in the night.
Jeannie repeated Patterson's question.
"What's he doing here?"
"Poking his nose in," Leister
said with a shrug. "These creatures often do, I'm told. They have a distinct
aversion to science."
"Maybe because everyone wants
to study them in a lab," she said. "That'd give me an aversion."
"Let's not start this again,"
he said, sighing. "Isn't it enough that our work is hampered by those do-gooders
outside? I don't need similar dissension in my own home."
"Well, maybe they're right," Jeannie
said, and instantly wished she could take it back. She had his full attention
now, his eyebrows arched in disbelief. "I mean … I mean …
well, it's the law, isn’t it? They have rights. The law says
"The law," Leister said, and snorted.
"Oh, yes, the law. Need I remind you, poppet, that the law as written only
applies to, and I quote, 'gargoyles, enhanced or mutated humans, and magical
sentients of the race generally known as faerie'? That is the law.
It does not apply to our work here."
"Because the President didn't
know," Jeannie blurted. Oh, her mouth was really going to get her in trouble
tonight. She'd probably be grounded for …
Her thoughts derailed. Grounded?
From what? She was already a prisoner inside the compound, not able to
go to the movies or the mall or anything. She, and Mom, and Sam, all trapped
here with Dad in his self-imposed exile. What else could he do? Take away
her TV privileges?
But her father only chuckled.
"Loophole is as loophole does. Until and unless the laws regarding laboratory
animals change, we are perfectly within our legal rights."
"They’re sentient, though,
"Oh, of course," he said.
"Then it's wrong!"
"The world isn't that clearly
divided, poppet. There are compelling arguments for the sentience of many
other creatures. Is there a functional difference between an ape that can
communicate with sign language, and a deaf person? Dolphins show reasoning
ability and abstract thought. The Francis Project has its dogs that are
as smart as any human. But they are all still animals, aren't they?"
"Well …" Jeannie floundered.
"Well, maybe there shouldn't be a difference. Maybe if something
is smart, and can think, and communicate, maybe that means they're not
animals any more."
"Which is precisely what those
dolts outside would like us to believe," Leister said, smiling fondly at
her. "But they're also the same people who feel that cloning is wrong."
Jeannie said nothing. If she'd
had antennae, they would be quivering now. This was dangerous territory
and she knew it.
"They'd eliminate every trace
of that scientific discipline if they could," he said. "No matter how much
good it's done for mankind. Organ and skin banks for transplant and burn
patients, food enough to combat worldwide hunger, reversing extinctions
… cloning has been a boon."
"Yes, Daddy." She didn't want
to fight with him the way Mom sometimes did. It freaked her out to think
about it too closely. She liked to pretend that her family was as ordinary
as anyone else's. Thinking about their origins was too much like …
well … imagining her parents 'doing it.'
"They'd get rid of all of us,"
he said quietly. "Don't think you'd be excluded by virtue of being a cute
and innocent little girl. From where they're standing, poppet, you're just
as much a monster as I am."
"I know, Daddy."
"And just as much an experimental
life form as our subjects," he added, indicating one of the other monitors
trained on the lair. The motionless figures, two large and two small, showed
up muted yellow as they slept. A third large one, upright, was tinged more
with the orange of an active metabolism. "But do you think the rights they'd
seek for those creatures would in any way apply to you?"
"I guess not."
He smiled again, and held out
an arm to her. "Come here, poppet. Give your dear old Dad a hug, and then
go to bed."
"I want to see what happens,"
Jeannie protested as she stepped close and let him embrace her. "With the
"No need for you to worry about
that. Mr. Patterson will find out what he wants here, and in all likelihood,
he'll be shown to the exits and sent on his way."
She frowned. "You'll let him go?"
"Why wouldn't we? We're not interested
in their kind here, and if we held him against his will, it would be
breaking the law. Just our luck that those idiots outside probably
saw the whole thing."
He added this last in a muttered
undertone, convincing Jeannie that if the incident hadn't been witnessed,
they would certainly be keeping the gargoyle.
"What about the other one?" she
"All the more reason to find and
release the first," Leister said. "You have no idea the damage those brutes
can do when they think one of their own is being mistreated. The sooner
we get him out of here, the better. Now, shoo."
Reluctantly, and with a final
backward glance at the monitor, Jeannie went. She returned to the family
apartment. Mom's door was closed and the faint sound of her ladylike snores
came from beyond it.
Sam's door was ajar with a reading
light on, but when Jeannie peeked in, she saw her brother asleep with a
comic book on his lap and more stacked on his bedside table. Horror comics.
Immacula the Vampire Nun. He had his room papered with posters of
the cartoon character.
He was small for his age, thin,
and in the dim glow of the reading light, the cast on his left arm had
a spectral luminescence. His bones, purged of a debilitating birth defect,
were nonetheless brittle. His hair was dark instead of medium-brown like
the rest of the family, and when open, his eyes were hazel instead of grey-blue.
People sometimes asked if he was adopted. Jeannie never knew whether to
laugh or not.
Adopted. It was kind of funny,
If only they knew.
Gabriel's fist, poised and ready
to deliver a punishing blow to the woman, hesitated as he got a better
look at her. Ordinary clothes instead of a camo jumpsuit. No weapon.
He relaxed his arms, lowering
his fist and setting her feet on the ground, though maintaining his grip
in the springy mass of her hair. Her hands came up and he expected an ineffectual
tugging at his superior strength.
Instead, she pressed down hard
on his fist, pushing his fingers against her skull, hurting him, causing
him to automatically loosen his hold. At the same time, she bent down,
forcing his less-than-optimum wrist into a painful contortion.
His clutch loosened further, and
she twisted away from him with a quickness that left only a few errant
strands of hair caught in his talons. She shook the wild mane back from
her face and looked up at him, jaw set, fists raised.
"I was coming to help you, buddy,"
she said, "but so help me, I'll kick your butt if I have to."
"Who are you?" he asked, eyes
"Liz Dorsett. Freelance reporter."
"Reporter?" Gabriel's eyes narrowed
further. He'd attended a few press conferences and media events, first
with Senator Harmond, and later at the Coventry, and his estimation of
reporters was not much above his estimation of the people who'd just been
firing at him.
"You want to make something of
it?" this scrapper shot back.
Then, all at once, he couldn't
contain a grin. She reminded him of some of his sisters. Tough, brusque,
and no-nonsense. Defiant even though she had to be aching from the spill
she'd taken. Ready to mix it up with him though he was a head taller and
twice her weight. And not above hitting below the belt, he rather suspected.
"You aren't with them?" he asked,
jabbing a thumb toward the compound.
"Not hardly. But speaking of them,
we'd better beat feet before they come to collect us."
"I cannot leave without my brother.
"Fell in," Liz said. "They got
him in some sort of electro-net. I saw. You can't help him if they get
you, too. We can talk about a plan somewhere else. Now, you could seek
refuge at the activists' camp, but you'd be mobbed. I say we make for the
woods until we figure out what to do."
"Why should you help me?"
"Chalk it up to my crusading nature."
She glanced at the walls, where the spotlights were still sweeping back
The gates hadn't yet opened to
disgorge an army, but they had to have seen him go down. Sooner or later,
they would be fanning out to search.
Liz turned from the compound to
Gabriel. "Is that hill high enough for you to get lift?"
"Yes, it –"
"Good enough for me. Quick like
a bunny, okay?" She headed up the slope, and Gabriel had little choice
but to follow. At the top, she sized him up and then said, "Well?"
"Well, are you going to pick me
up or do I have to climb you like a tree? In case you didn't notice, I
don’t have wings of my own." Nonplussed, he picked
her up. She slung her arms around his neck as if she'd done this a hundred
times before, and slapped him amiably on the shoulder. "You're a strong
one, aren't you?"
"You're light," he countered.
"Oh, you're just saying that."
"No, truly –"
"Flirt later," she said, and winked
at him. "Glide now."
He obediently opened his wings,
bent his legs, and with a single powerful bound was airborne. Liz stifled
a cry, not of fright but a whoop of excitement, and let go with one arm
to aim a small device at the receding ground.
"Hold on," he said, alarmed.
"Were you planning to drop me?"
"No, I –"
"You do your job, and I'll do
mine. By the way, what do I call you?"
"Uh, Gabriel," he said.
"Like the archangel. Of course.
Don't look now, but we've got company."
He looked anyway. A flying shape,
an Ultralight craft of some sort, was taking off from the roof of the compound.
They were giving chase.
"We were doing no harm," he said,
anger filling him. "We only came seeking others of our kind, and this is
how they greet us? They capture my brother, shoot at me, and now would
challenge me in the skies? I've a mind to take the battle to them!"
"Much as I'd like to get eyewitness
footage," Liz said, "I think I'd rather you set me down first."
"What have we done to them? What
is this place?"
"I can answer the second one,
when we're not about to be gunned down anyway."
"Let them try," Gabriel said grimly.
"Um, no, I don't think so," she
said. "Let's not let them try, how about?"
"I will have my brother back,
whole and well."
"Yes. Absolutely. So long as we
don't get killed."
"You trusted me to glide. Trust
me to fight."
Without waiting for her response,
he soared high as if attempting a loop-the-loop. At the very apex of the
circle he was describing, he executed a half-roll. Liz didn't contain her
whoop this time.
"An Immelman!" she crowed. "Very
Gabriel didn't know what she was
talking about, but had no time to ask. The maneuver had brought them up
and around so that they were in a head-on course toward the Ultralight.
It was, he saw, a two-man craft. The one at the back controlled the flight,
while the one at the front handled the weaponry.
"I'll need my hands," he said.
"That was why I wanted you to
set me down. What should I do, jump?"
"Here." He boosted her over his
shoulder. "On my back."
"Oh, boy." But she scrambled willingly
enough, between his widespread wings, and straddled the small of his back.
Her fingers curled through his belt. "This is extreme even for me, I hope
"Just don't wriggle about too
much," Gabriel said, his teeth clenched.
"Don't worry, I don't want to
"It isn't that. You're …
a gargoyle's back … just hold still."
He dove toward the craft, but
even the wind rushing in his fan-shaped ears at the increased speed didn't
prevent him from hearing her snicker in understanding. Strange woman.
The gunner saw Gabriel bearing
down on them, and turned his weapon so that the inky bore of it was like
a tunnel with no light at the end. A ball of reddish energy spat from it,
sizzling and crackling.
Gabriel cried a warning to Liz
and veered sharply to the side. He felt her legs squeeze his waist tight,
her bottom pressing against the base of his tail.
The energy ball whizzed past,
missing his left foot by inches. They had gone over the Ultralight, which
was even now coming about. Gabriel didn't want to give them the chance
to get off another shot. He skimmed it, raking with his claws at its wings.
They were made of a much sterner stuff than they looked. He barely rent
it. So, changing tactics, he seized the framework and dropped his entire
weight on top of the craft. It went into a clumsy fall, and he could hear
the shouts of the men hanging beneath.
A red blast tore a hole through
the wing. Gabriel whipped his head back just in time to prevent himself
from being struck full in the face. The energy ball streaked skyward, but
it left a nice fist-sized aperture through which Gabriel promptly put his
His knuckles met flesh and bone
with a crunching sound. The gunner went limp, his weapon spinning away
toward the Montana countryside. The other man began frantically yawing
and pitching, hoping to throw Gabriel off.
Gabriel obliged, pushing free
with a strong kick. The downward thrust flipped the Ultralight entirely
over as gargoyle and passenger were propelled straight up. The body of
the gunner flopped bonelessly in his harness. His trailing boots hit the
pilot in the head, bloodying his nose.
The craft, fluttering in a death-spiral
like a crippled moth, seesawed toward the ground. Its engine blatted and
snarled, but the pilot was unable to regain control.
Gabriel gave chase, catching up
to it before it could crumple itself against unforgiving rock. He slowed
its doomed plunge enough to ensure a rough, but not fatal, landing. The
mangled apparatus tumbled to a stop, wings bent.
Liz slid from Gabriel's back as
he landed. She was breathing hard but her expression was one of a rodeo
rider or extreme sports nut.
"That was great!"
He ignored her for the nonce,
hurrying toward the wreckage. The pilot was still moving, groaning weakly
and fumbling with the catches of his harness. Gabriel ripped the straps
loose and hauled the man up by the front of his jumpsuit, shaking him the
way a terrier might shake a rat, stopping just shy of spine-snapping force.
"I want my brother back!" he roared
into the dazed, bleeding face. "I will have Angus, unharmed, or you'll
not live to regret it!"
Patterson was almost hoping they'd
try something, even though every message from Control had it that they
were still snug as bugs in a rug at their lair.
Lair? Shit. Fortress, that's what
it was. They had gone and developed a bunker mentality that surprised all
their handlers. No one had seen that coming. Up until the incident with
the kids, there hadn't been a hint of trouble. The subjects did what they
did, never seemed to care if they were being monitored or even ogled by
tourists. Then along come the kids, and everything went to hell in a handbasket.
The park had to be closed. What
else was there to do? Even without lawsuits looming like juggernauts on
the horizon, there wasn't much money to be earned when the star attractions
were holed up in their lair like it was the eve of World War III at NORAD.
No one was going to pay the exorbitant admission prices to go on a nature
There was no danger, yet Patterson
still felt the possibility perking through his veins. There could be,
that was the thing. At any moment, it could all go drastically wrong. He
wished it would. He wanted to test himself against one of them and show
the world that a man, an ordinary, non-enhanced, non-cybernetic everyday
Joe born to mundane parents instead of being hatched in a lab, was worth
his mettle against anything that the scientists could dream up.
No such luck. Not even with the
It was lying in a heap where it
had fallen, still wrapped in the shocknet. Patterson approached warily,
anticipating the moment when it would leap up, having been playing possum.
It would shred the net, utter a mighty bellow, and fall on him and his
men like the wrath of God. Then they'd see what they were made of!
He was breathless for it, tingling
for it, as he gingerly prodded the gargoyle with the toe of his combat
The net sparked a little. That
Patterson kicked harder. Still
"Come on, damn you," he muttered.
The gargoyle lay there. It wasn't
even a very big one, compared to some of the males he'd seen on television.
It was a fit specimen, though. Not a tub of lard like the blue one who
did the cooking show. Not as rock-hard-chiseled a wall of muscle as the
one Patterson remembered from a talk show – Goliath, that one
had been – or the gargoyle who'd sung with Scarlet Angel. But
still, in good shape. Enough to give a man a real test.
If, that was, the stupid fucking
thing hadn't been out cold.
Or faking. It could still be faking,
trying to psych him out.
He was aware of the rest of his
team and their edginess. None of them shared his feelings. They didn't
like being out here in the dark, no matter what Control said. All
of them were expecting, and not in Patterson's looking forward to it way,
that at any moment the ground would start to shake and the bushes would
be trampled under and slavering death would thunder in on them.
Again, no such luck.
Just to make absolutely sure
the gargoyle wasn't faking it, Patterson fired a round into the dirt
beside its head. The non-silenced report echoed through the night, startling
the birds and small animals into a flapping, scurrying frenzy. His men
jumped with such perfect synchronization they might have been a dance troupe.
The gargoyle didn't budge.
Patterson was convinced. And disappointed.
"Okay, bag him up," he said, still
covering the blue-grey male just in case.
The retrieval team hurried to
their job. Some of them were looking reproachfully at Patterson. They'd
blame him if anything woke up and came to investigate.
Bring it on. He could handle it.
He'd show Leister that it didn't take a clone to do a man's job.
Within minutes, which probably
seemed like a lot longer judging by the identical expressions of anxiety
and dismay on the rest of the team as they waited to be attacked, the retrieval
guys had the gargoyle secured. It took the efforts of six to hoist him
into the back of the truck, and then they were off.
"Weird," Liz said.
Gabriel didn't look up. He was
studying the map of the compound's buildings that his prisoner had sketched
in the earth. The trouble was that the Ultralight had been dispatched before
anyone had informed these men what the plan was involving Angus. So, helpful
though he'd been before passing out from shock, the pilot hadn't known
precisely what would be going on, or where Angus might be.
"Did you look at them?" Liz went
He finally tore his attention
from the map, where he'd been scowling over what looked to be a fairly
impressive array of security precautions. Thanks to Coldstone and Coldfire,
who had designed the Coventry's entire security systems, he had a decent
idea of what he was confronting here, and it did not fill him with confidence.
"Our two friends here." She pointed
from one unconscious man to the other. "If you can get past the gross physical
damage you did to the gunner's face, I swear he's the spitting image of
the other guy. Think they're twins?"
"I neither know nor care."
"They look familiar, too," she
"My concern is how to find and
free my brother."
"Okay, okay." She came over and
hunkered down over the lines drawn in the dirt. "Look at this place. Like
a prison. Hardly the innocent research facility and hotel complex they
advertise to the public. Makes you wonder what they're doing in there."
"What are they doing in
there?" Gabriel asked. "We came here, Angus and I, because we'd heard rumors
that there was a clan of gargoyles living in this area. We never expected
fences, or men with guns."
Crouched like that, with her forearms
resting on her knees, she reminded him again of his sisters. All she'd
need was a pair of wings caped about her shoulders, and a tail tracing
a cursive shape behind her, and …
And what was he thinking, anyway?
Liz exhaled. "It's a long story,
and I hate to be the one to break it to you, Gabe, but you won't find gargoyles
here. Not in the sense of the word that you're thinking of."
"What will I find?"
"Excuse me?" His brow ridge rose
in a quizzical arch.
"Dinosaurs. Or, at least, that's
how they started out. This part of the U.S. is home to a bonanza of dig
sites. Paleontology. Fossils. And, not too far from here, one of the finds
of the century. Most dinosaur remains are nothing but calcified bone and
a few fossilized imprints of tracks, skin impressions, and nests. About
twenty years ago, they discovered a mud flat where the bodies of several
species had been preserved, remarkably intact."
Gabriel rumbled impatiently in
his chest. "What has that to do with gargoyles?"
"I'm getting there. You need the
history first. Where was I?"
"Preserved in the mud."
"Right. Prior to this discovery,
there was a company called InGen that had developed a way to clone dinosaurs
from blood cells obtained from mosquitoes encased in amber. Don't frown.
I know it sounds complicated, but bear with me. InGen was able to successfully
clone thousands of dinosaurs, mostly in Costa Rica. Then, well, one thing
and another and dinos got loose and people were killed and the company
was about to go under in a storm of legal troubles."
"Go on," he said.
"Along comes Gen-U-Tech, a company
with similar ideas about cloning and similar financial troubles. They merged,
and started InGenUity. One of their leading geniuses was Anton Sevarius."
He growled as he recognized the
name. "I know of him and his work."
"Yeah? Most people think they
do, but honey, they don't know the half of it. Sevarius was cloning humans
long before those crackpots in the early Oughts, though it's never been
proven. He also did a little gargoyle cloning."
"Yes," Gabriel said, thinking
of Manhattan. "And at least once, combining the two."
"Oh, really?" Liz looked interested.
"I'll have to ask you about that some other time. But to get back to the
story, here's InGenUity, merged and struggling. They take Sevarius' ideas
about gargoyle evolution – he put forth the theory that your
kind descended from dinos the way humans descended from apes –
"Not unreasonable, I suppose,"
Gabriel said. "Several of my rookery siblings had physical features I have
only ever elsewhere seen in dinosaur books." He traced with his hands a
curving crest and horns like those boasted by Ophelia and Laertes, and
"So, what they decided to do at
this nice new facility was to clone dinosaurs, and subject them to something
that Sevarius described as 'accelerated evolution.' It seems that in his
previous clone-growing attempts, he'd found a way to speed up the growth
of the developing clone. By increasing that process several million fold,
the idea was that they'd be able to see what happened to a life form over
millions of years."
"Total Island of Dr. Moreau
stuff, to be sure," she said. "But apparently, it worked."
"He created gargoyles?"
"Not exactly. At least, not the
way I understand it. You turn to stone, right?"
Gabriel instinctively looked to
the east, but night still held firm sway. "Yes, with the dawn, and awake
"Healed, if you'd been wounded."
"That part, they couldn't duplicate.
No one could explain how it is that gargoyles, true gargoyles, turned to
stone or healed. So, what InGenUity had was a bunch of creatures, accelerated
dinosaurs a lot like gargoyles, but not gargoyles. I've heard
that they don't even all have wings."
"Nor do we, not entirely," he
said, and briefly explained about Boudicca and the gargoyle beasts.
Liz waved that off. "What I'm
getting at is that you came here looking for gargoyles, but the creatures
living in this park aren't. They have similarities, but they're
not the same."
"Akin to us, you mean."
"In a few key ways, I guess,"
"Yet they are kept here, behind
walls, under armed guard?"
"Yeah. And things have just gotten
a whole lot trickier." She started to brief him on the Harmond Bill, but
since Gabriel and Elektra had helped to draft its original version, it
was his turn to wave her off. "So, see, that's the problem. If they were
gargoyles, they'd be protected by the law and couldn't legally be kept
"As it should be."
"But that's not all of it," she
said. "A couple of days ago, the creatures in the park attacked a family.
Now the pressure's on to settle this one way or the other. If they're recognized
as sentients under Harmond's law, InGenUity can't keep them here against
their will, so InGenUity loses out. If they're not, then this attack will
classify them as dangerous animals, just like any pit bull that mauls a
postman, and they'll have to be destroyed."
"And InGenUity loses out," Gabriel
"Screwed either way. That's why
they're stonewalling. They've got the relatives of the attacked family
threatening to sue, and protestors massing at the gates, and whichever
way they turn, it doesn't look good."
"They cannot hide their heads
and pretend nothing is happening," Gabriel said.
"That's exactly what they're trying
to do, as far as I know," Liz said. "It's hard to say for sure when nobody
from InGenUity is talking."
"And now they have my brother.
What will they do with Angus?"
"They can't keep him prisoner,"
she said. "He is protected by the law. Then again, so are you, and
they didn't balk at opening fire on you in front of witnesses. I don't
know what they'll do. That's where my crystal ball goes blank."
"You are a sorceress?"
"Figure of speech."
Gabriel stayed as he was, hunkered
down with his head braced in his hands. "Not gargoyles, then," he said
after a lengthy pensive pause.
"But does it matter? These dinosaur
creatures are thinking beings, are they not?"
"In a sort of primitive, uneducated
way, yeah, that's what I understand. But remember, they did attack a lady
and her kids."
She shrugged. "InGenUity isn't
releasing the security camera footage. Or the family. They're claiming
that the injuries sustained are too serious to allow a transfer to a hospital.
They say the trip to the nearest decent medical center would take too long
even by chopper. So nobody knows."
"Except perhaps the staff," Gabriel
said, looking at the two unconscious InGenUity employees. Liz was right.
They did bear a striking resemblance to each other.
"I think those two are going to
need a hospital stay of their own before you'll be able to get anything
coherent out of them," Liz remarked dryly.
Music trickled softly into Angus'
mind. He even knew the tune. It was an old one, the sort that Godiva liked
for the discotheque. How she danced to it, swaying so sweetly with her
tail … can't have you, don't want nobody baby … can't
have you, oh-ho-oh, ah, something-something-something …
He swallowed and raised eyelids
that felt heavy as portcullises. What he saw made no sense. He was inside.
That wasn't right. He'd been outside with Gabriel, gliding through the
night sky, seeing the complex of walls and buildings ahead and the semi-circle
of cars, tents, and trailers outside of the gates.
And then … nothing.
The music, its static hiss proclaiming
it to be coming from a radio at the edge of reception range, did not fit
with his surroundings. Instead of a glitter ball, neon edging on mirrored
dance floor tiles, and flashing multi-colored lights, he was looking up
at a ceiling of off-white acoustic paneling. It was oddly distorted, and
Angus needed several seconds to realize that he was seeing it through a
pane of glass, or Lexan.
His fogged mind cleared and he
sat up, or tried to. Heavy belts secured him, wrists, ankles, and chest,
to a tilted slab like something out of a monster movie. He felt a cap of
sensors on his head, and the cold invasion of a needle in the crook of
Afraid now, he strained against
his bonds and found them his match. He was strapped down in a clear box,
which was in turn bolted to the floor of a room that spoke of hospital
wards and laboratories. To his left, he saw other Lexan boxes, and ranks
of equipment he couldn't identify. They lurked in the gloom like artifacts
of some unknowable civilization.
To his right, through a half-open
door that looked designed to withstand the deep-sea pressures to which
a submarine hull might be subjected, was a smaller but brightly lit chamber
housing two rows of conventional hospital beds. The privacy curtains were
pushed back by all of these, and all but one were empty.
The bed that was occupied held
a woman. One of her legs was in a cast and elevated by a pulley. The arm
nearest to Angus was likewise encased in plaster to the shoulder, and held
up and out by a metal brace. Her bandage-swathed head was turned slightly
toward him and the sight of her face left him cold. She had been badly
beaten, horrifically so, her skin so bruised that her natural complexion
was beyond determining.
At the foot of the bed, incongruous,
was a stuffed skunk.
The sound of the radio was coming
from somewhere beyond the next room. At first, Angus could hear nothing
else but his own rapid breathing. He wondered if he'd been hurt, and that
was why he was here. But he did not feel injured, a little battered and
scraped up maybe, and there was a peculiar jumpiness to his nerves. Nothing
that would require hospitalization, not when a day's sleep could put almost
anything to rights.
Then he wondered if he had hurt
someone else. If that poor woman had sustained her wretched condition at
No. Impossible. He would never
do that. He wasn't that sort of –
A memory of himself and Gabriel
pummeling one another through the dining room flashed back to him. Angus
quailed. What if he had? What if that had been the first sign of
some explosive temper, and he'd gone crazy?
He refused to believe it. What
had happened with Gabriel had been irrational, maybe, but understandable.
He couldn't have been responsible for that woman, and if he had, how on
earth could he have forgotten?
The sound of voices distracted
him from his awful Jekyll-and-Hyde ponderings. He saw their shadows on
the wall in the other room, two men by the look and by the sound.
"— with the gargoyle,"
one of them was saying. "If it held steg it'll hold him."
Steg? Angus shook his head, sure
that he had misheard something, because it made no sense.
"I'm hardly worried about containing
our unwelcome guest," the other man said, his voice a sort of silkily nasty
purr. "It's what to do with him. We can't keep him, Mr. Patterson,
and we can hardly let him go."
"It's those hippies that are the
problem," Patterson said. "They all saw us take him down. Our word against
theirs, but if one of them had a camera, we're sunk."
"Never mind cameras," the silky-nasty
voice said. "What about the other one?"
Other one! Gabriel! Angus's heart
lurched with hope.
"Our team hasn't reported back
yet," Patterson said, with a grim tone. "We haven't been able to raise
them on the communicators, either."
"Oh, dear. We'd better assume
the worst, then." The owner of the silky-nasty purr sounded entirely unmoved.
"I thought these gargoyles weren't
killers," Patterson said.
"They're hardly ruthless murderers.
That seems a trait uniquely reserved for our own species. However, when
cornered or provoked, they can be violent. But never mind that, Mr. Patterson.
The issue of importance at the moment is crowd control. Witnesses lead
to lawyers, and I've had more than my fill of lawyers these past few days
thanks to Ms. Carpenter's dried-up spinster aunt and ex-husband. You know
that as soon as they get wind of these new developments, they'll be back."
"But, Doctor, we can't contain
them. Some have already left. And even if we rounded them all up, there's
no knowing how many of them have already made calls."
"I must grudgingly admit that
you're right, Mr. Patterson. We'll be neck-deep in reporters, lawyers,
and other meddlesome pests by daybreak no matter what we do."
"If you don't mind my saying –"
"Oh, but I do. I do mind. You're
the only one on my staff that I don't have that certain … rapport
with, Mr. Patterson. I only kept you on because of our agreement with InGen.
But since you've begun, you may as well finish. Enlighten me with whatever
brilliance your luck-of-the-draw IQ might have come up with that our genetically
superior and better-trained brains have failed to see."
"We've got to cut our losses while
there's still time," Patterson said. "Get rid of the gargoyle. He doesn't
matter, and he'll just add an element of hostage drama. The Rights Committee
will have their spokes-goyle, what's her name, Elektra, out here by tomorrow
night. She'll be on all the networks making us out to be the bad guys."
"Aren't we?" murmured the doctor,
"Without the gargoyle, they lose
that angle. As for the Carpenter woman, have the chopper take her to Billings.
She's stable enough."
"Thank you so much for
your assessment of her condition. I wasn't aware you had been to medical
"Damn it, Dr. Leister, I'm trying
to help. We've got to think of a way –"
"You aren't paid to think, Mr.
Patterson. You're hired muscle, nothing more."
"Then listen to me or I'll bash
your fucking teeth in, how about that? You can clone-grow a new set while
you're waiting for the lawyers to break down your door."
"I doubt the bloodsucking vultures
would allow me that much time," the doctor said. "Very well, go on."
"We send her to the hospital and
let them take care of her, get her aunt and ex off our backs."
"Yeeeess?" drawled the doctor.
"And what about her children? That is still our main snag."
"Let me take a team in and get
the kids. Once they're all out of here, we're back to where we were."
"I hardly think that our dear
Steg, Ptera, Trike, and Galli will stand back as you waltz in, Mr. Patterson.
They seem to have developed quite the protective parental instinct when
it comes to those ill-bred little brats."
That word again, and now Angus
realized it had to be a name.
"So we take them out," Patterson
said. "This project's causing us more trouble than it's worth anyway. Sooner
or later they're going to pass that law, and then where will we be?"
"More trouble than it's worth?"
The doctor's voice rose in ire. "How would a barely-evolved shaved ape
like you have any idea of what this project is worth? The strides we've
made, the research value alone, not to mention the patents –"
There was a cough, and the sound
of a man taking in breath between his teeth as he fought to calm himself.
Angus, eyes wide by what he was hearing and what he was interpreting it
to mean, listened all the more intently.
"Never mind," the doctor said.
"I'd hardly expect you to understand."
"Why, because I'm not one of you?
Not even one of your cookie-cutter drones? So I don't have an identical
brain structure to the rest, does that make me stupid?"
"I'm sure it's as much a function
of upbringing as genetics," the doctor said. "Now, if you're quite finished,
Mr. Patterson, I have a good deal of work to do."
Patterson, a well-built man in
night camo with lampblack on his cheeks, came striding into view. Angus
barely had time to shut his eyes into slits and feign unconsciousness.
He picked out a Bowie knife on one hip and a laser pistol on the other,
as well as numerous pockets and compartments in the man's clothes. Patterson's
face, which could have been on the cover of Soldier of Fortune magazine,
was tight with barely-contained rage.
He stalked past the woman's hospital
bed without so much as a look, and came into the room where Angus was being
held. The young gargoyle felt his skin creep as those hard, mercenary eyes
passed over him.
"Upbringing," he muttered as he
continued without slowing. "Don't talk to me about upbringing, you
freak, your family makes Ozzy and Sharon look like Ozzy and Harriet."
He was gone like a gust of winter
wind, out through another door at the far end of the room. Angus had a
brief glimpse of a dark hallway beyond before the door slammed shut with
a hollow metallic gong.
"Well, well, such is the price
to pay when dealing with evolutionary throwbacks," Leister said from the
other room, chuckling. He moved to the woman's bedside, affording Angus
a clear look.
After all the talk of genetic
superiority, Angus was expecting some sort of seven-foot-tall superhuman.
Instead, he saw a fairly ordinary-looking man in his thirties, with light
brown hair and a naggingly familiar profile. He wore a white coat over
charcoal slacks and a turtleneck sweater, sported a stethoscope, and hummed
a bit of Beethoven as he examined the battered woman.
"My, we are mending nicely, aren't
we?" he said as if she could hear him. "Far better than might be expected,
for someone who should have been dead. That was quite a thrashing you took.
Not that you didn't deserve it. Stupid cow."
He clucked his tongue. "Tsk. Well,
some people shouldn't breed. Most people, really. In fact, almost all of
them. Ninety-nine percent, give or take. Well, at least you won't repeat
the mistake. I've seen to that, at least."
Angus suddenly felt weak and dizzied.
Had they … had he been … it was too terrible to imagine.
He hadn't even had a chance to use it yet!
Leister fussed with the pulley
that held the woman's leg, and adjusted her I.V. "It's amazing, really,
how many people who know better should insist on having children. And then,
why, they don't even like them. Case in point. Though, if I had your shabby
genes to pass down, I wouldn't care for the end result either. Especially
now that I've met your ex-husband. Half a loaf is better than none, but
honestly, Nell – may I call you Nell? Thank you – the
two of you barely had a quarter of a loaf between you."
He finished his adjustments, straightened
the blanket that covered her torso with a sort of prim attention to wrinkles,
and made a note on the clipboard hooked over the footrail of the bed.
"There you are, all set," he declared.
He rolled his head on his neck and yawned. "I must say that Patterson,
ape though he may be, was right about one thing. We'll be awash in the
unwashed come morning. So, if you'll pardon me, I'm off to get some sleep.
I don't need much, you understand. I function perfectly well on three hours
a night. It's all part of having an efficient metabolism. I'll have the
missus look in on you in a while."
Angus waited expectantly for Leister
to follow Patterson, but the doctor exited by another means and once again
the hospital unit was quiet.
Ethan Carpenter felt someone pinching
his arm. He mumbled and rolled over, trying to snuggle deeper into his
pillow. Finding no pillow, only dry prickly grass, he woke up wondering
where he was. Then, seeing the confines of the cave around him, he remembered
and tears stung his eyes.
The pinch came again. He turned
his head and there was Cissy, eyes huge and dark in the dim light that
filtered through the screen of brush at the opening of the cave and rose
from the banked bed of embers in the firepit.
"I wanna go home, Ethan," she
"Shh!" he hissed, tensing. On
the other side of him, a large shape stirred, heavy body rustling in the
grass that lined the floor. When all was quiet again, he dared look once
more at his little sister.
Cissy's face was puffy, partly
from crying and partly from the furious slaps she'd gotten from Mom. A
few bruises looked like ink smudges on her cheekbones. She was still in
the same clothes – they both were – but otherwise fairly
"Let's go," she pleaded softly.
"Let's go home."
"We can't," he said. "They won't
let us go, you know that."
"Where's Mommy?" Cissy hiccuped,
and Ethan was afraid she was about to turn on the waterworks.
"I don't know."
"Did they kill her?"
"I don't know," he said
again. In his heart, though, he did. Mom was dead. They had killed
her. There was no way she could have survived.
Cissy hadn't seen. She had been
taken first, Galli darting in with unbelievable speed to scoop her up and
bear her away on long, limber legs. Ethan had been rooted to the spot by
the sight of what had come crashing out of the bushes to attack Mom, but
just as he'd mustered his wits to try and go to her defense, it had been
his turn to be lifted bodily off the ground.
His last glimpse of his mother
had been of her on her knees, hands raised in supplication. He hadn't even
been able to hear her screaming above Steg's roars and Ptera's enraged
Now they were in the cave. Prisoners.
"They can't leave us here,"
Cissy said. "Won't somebody come? Park rangers or something?"
"I hope so."
Ethan, who had read up on InGenUity's
site after Mom suggested they spend their vacation touring it, had thought
that the entire grounds were covered by cameras. Someone must have seen
what happened. If not the actual attack, at least they must have seen Mom
and gone out to get her.
He imagined her still there, on
the path. Cold. Alone. Covered with bugs that ran in and out of her slack
mouth and laid eggs in the corners of her blank, staring eyes.
A shiver wrenched him, making
the large form beside him stir again.
Maybe Mom wasn't the greatest.
Maybe things had been pretty rough around the house since Dad left. Maybe
she yelled too much or was too quick to give them a smack. But he didn't
want her to be dead. All the times he and Cissy had been bad, or angrily
said, "I hate you, Mom!" came back to haunt him. They hadn't meant it.
If she was dead, if that
worst of worsts had happened, someone must have found her by now. Park
rangers, like Cissy had said, or other hikers. They would have checked
the entrance records and realized there were a couple of children missing
in the park. They'd search.
And soon enough, he and Cissy
would be warm and safe, with people again. Sleeping in beds instead of
on heaps of dried grass. Eating chicken nuggets, ice cream, and hot dogs
instead of rabbits and wild pigs stripped of their hides and toasted on
long sticks over a campfire until they were charred but still running with
Cissy had refused to eat until
this morning. Her stubbornness had prompted Galli to take drastic steps.
Holding Cissy firmly on her lap, Galli had chewed a hunk of meat into a
gooey pinkish wad, then spat it into Cissy's mouth. That had been the end
of any pickiness or hunger strikes.
By the cave opening, Steg rose
and stretched. The armored plates along his back rippled. He walked hunched-over,
tail swinging behind him, and shook Ptera by the shoulder. She yawned elaborately,
her elongated beak opening so wide that Ethan could have stuck his whole
head inside. Her movements as she struggled to her feet and elbows were
She and Steg butted heads affectionately,
and then Ptera went to take her turn on watch. Her wings jutted back from
her triceps at an angle. She reminded Ethan of an origami bird. When she
reached the tree that guarded the entrance, she used the hard hooks of
her foreclaws to pull herself up. Only then, perched on a stiff branch
with her wings folded and her crested head peering alertly out into the
night, did she seem graceful.
Steg lumbered to the spot she
had vacated, and eased his massive body down into the straw. He made a
rumbling, weary sigh as he got comfortable.
"Maybe we should talk to them
again," Cissy whispered.
"It won't work," Ethan said.
He had tried. They could speak,
these strange dinosaur-people, but they couldn't be argued with. Galli
had told him with a firm and seamless logic that he and Cissy had been
rescued by the clan, and had therefore joined it.
"But we have a family," he had
"A female who harms her young
has no right to them," Galli had said.
"What about our dad?"
"A male who cannot protect his
offspring has no right to them either."
Like it was Dad's fault, when
he hadn't even been there! Ethan had tried to explain how Dad lived in
another house, but the concept of divorce went right over Galli's head.
"You are part of our clan now,"
she had said. "You are ours. We have saved you, and you are ours."
He was in no hurry to get into
that debate again. But what else could they do? He and Cissy couldn't stay
here if they wanted to, and they didn't want to. Living in a cave with
talking dinosaurs might have been neat in an adventure book, but not in
real life. Ethan missed his room, his computer, his friends, even school.
And Mom. How could he or Cissy
ever feel safe here after what happened to Mom? So what if the dinosaur
people had been kind and gentle so far? They were still holding him and
Cissy against their will.
"Let's go," Cissy said. "Please,
Ethan. We can sneak out –"
"She'll see us," he said. Ptera
had eyes like a hawk. Nothing, not so much as a field mouse, could get
by her without being seen.
Cissy began to cry. Galli sat
up, moving with all of the grace that Ptera lacked, and stroked Cissy's
hair with a hand of three long fingers and a disproportionately short thumb.
Shuddering, Cissy tried to stop
"There, now, little one," crooned
Galli, lifting Cissy into her lap and rocking. She rocked on her haunches,
her tail supporting her.
Trike, on the other side of Ethan,
snuffled and stirred again. He rose to one elbow, his horns casting shadows
against the sweep of bone that rose around his head.
"Anything wrong?" he asked, his
voice a bassoon.
"A bad dream," Galli said, rocking
with Cissy. "The poor thing."
Ethan met Cissy's eyes. She had
stopped crying and sat there in Galli's arms like a big doll, thumb in
her mouth. He hadn't seen her look so miserable since Dad moved out. Above
her, Galli's neck was a swanlike curve leading to her dainty head with
its weirdly human features and cap of fluffy blond feathers.
Soon, lulled despite herself,
Cissy drifted off. Galli kept holding her, humming a low but pleasant sound,
her eyes half-closed and dreamy. Ethan couldn't remember the last time
Mom had done that, rocked either of them to sleep.
And now she never would again.
"I never thought I'd hear myself
say this," Liz Dorsett said, "but maybe our best chance is with the protestors."
Gabriel looked at her, his dubiousness
already apparent. "How so?"
"There's no way we can bust into
that place by force," she said. "If we make a media circus out of it, bring
political pressure down on them, they'll have to release your brother."
"Will they?" He gazed at the compound
lights in the distance. "Or will they deny that Angus was ever there? It
would be my word against theirs."
"But it'd be harder for them to
prove he wasn't there. Like with weapons inspectors. They go in
and look, look, look, until they find. If they find nothing, well, it's
just assumed that the stuff was too well-hidden. The inspectors could prove
there is something, while the other side can't prove there isn't.
Like the Loch Ness monster."
"Which does exist," Gabriel said.
"Or so my sister Angela says, and I have no reason to disbelieve her."
"That's beside the point." She
joined him in looking at the compound.
They had come another half-mile
from it after more fruitless attempts to get information out of their captives,
in case the cavalry rode in on more powered hang-gliders. From here, everything
seemed to be business as usual. No formations of aircraft, no armored columns,
no black-clad mercenaries spilling out into the night armed with stun grenades.
Gabriel was shaking with barely-restrained
emotion as his eyes fixed on the walls. Liz knew that every instinct in
his body was demanding that he charge on in, knock heads and take names,
and do whatever it took to free his brother. She credited him for keeping
his cool this long. Being able to pummel the stuffing out of a couple of
the bad guys had helped take that initial frustrated edge off.
What a ride that had been! She
had been simultaneously sure she was about to die, and brimming with feelings
She had thought, based on her
limited experience, that gargoyles were primal creatures lacking in artifice.
That opinion hadn't changed, but she was aware of hidden depths in Gabriel,
turmoil that couldn't be fully explained away by the abduction of his brother.
He had been through trials and suffering she couldn't begin to comprehend
and was now hanging on by a thread.
The last thing she wanted to do
was snip that thread by making him the center of a media frenzy, but since
no Navy SEALS or super heroes were volunteering to help out, she didn't
think they had any other choice.
"These people don't want publicity,"
she said. "Not positive, not negative. They like to be left alone with
their experiments until they are ready to come forth. Putting the
screws to them will force them to react. We can get the help we need."
"Not just reporters, though you
could give us a little credit. I'm talking about politicians –"
A wry smile surfaced. "I have
known a few politicians."
"Yeah, well, most of them aren't
worth the tissue-thin planks they build their platforms on, but some of
them actually get things done. There's a gargoyle, a
female, who works for Daniel Harmond. I bet we could contact her, enlist
"Yes, Elektra," Gabriel said.
"But this is something that I need to do. I cannot go begging for
"Pride before a fall, Gabe."
"It is not pride. I am responsible
for Angus, and here only a few nights after we left our clan, I've lost
him. If I cannot get him back –"
"Funny, it's still sounding like
pride to me. There's no shame in getting help when you need it. Look at
what we're up against."
He had turned half away from the
compound to look at her, so Liz grasped his chin and swiveled his head
around. The odd bony spurs along his jawline felt softer than they looked,
covered as they were with his leathery skin in a way that reminded her
of antler-fuzz on a young buck.
"I'd say," she said, with a little
tremble in her voice that didn't belong there, "that we need it."
The hospital wing was quiet again,
the only sound being the low melody issuing from the radio. Angus had been
listening long enough to know that the station played only tunes from the
last third of the last century, oldies.
The left wrist strap was almost
cut through. The ragged end of the right dangled from its cuff. He had
bent his hand at a painful degree in order to saw at it with his claws,
finally successful. Reaching across his body, he'd gone to work on the
left. If he was allowed a few more uninterrupted hours, he might be able
to free his ankles and his chest and get out of here.
As if the very thought had summoned
an interruption, Angus heard a door open and someone enter the room where
the beaten woman lay in her drugged slumber. The radio was turned up, Elton
John singing about crocodiles, na-nanananana.
Footsteps, purposefully hushed.
Coming toward him.
He put his arm back at his side,
tucking the frayed end of the strap under his forearm and hoping that he'd
get no more than a cursory inspection.
A shadow appeared in the doorway,
followed closely by its owner. Angus, prepared for Dr. Leister, or Patterson,
or another scientist or security guard, couldn't keep his eyes from flying
wide open in surprise.
His visitor was a teenage girl,
wearing a fleece-lined jacket over black corduroy overalls, a plaid flannel
shirt, and low-topped hiking boots with thick waffle soles. The outfit
prevented him from getting much of a look at her figure, except to inform
him that she was indeed a girl, of average height and build. Her medium-brown
hair was tied back in a ponytail, and she possessed large, clear, blue-grey
eyes that seemed more gratified than surprised to land upon a gargoyle.
An instant later, those arresting
eyes filled with dismay, and she was hurrying into the room with no more
regard for stealth. She reached the side of the Lexan enclosure, set her
palms against it, and made an unhappy noise.
"He told me they wouldn't do this,"
she said. "He told me they'd let you go, that they wouldn't keep you here."
"He must have lied," said Angus,
moving his legs to show how they were strapped down. He did not move his
arms, keeping his secret.
"But why?" the girl asked.
"Why keep me here? I don't even
know where I am!"
"Did you answer their questions?"
"No one's asked me any," he said.
"You're the first person who's spoken to me."
"He said he just wanted to know
what you were doing here, and then you'd be free to go. We can't hold you
here against the law."
"That's good to know. Who is 'he,'
and where am I, anyway?"
"My father," she said. "John Leister.
My name's Jeannie."
"I'm Angus." He didn't know why
he should so instantly and instinctively trust this girl. Maybe it was
because she was about his age, and cute, and her shirt was unbuttoned just
low enough that he could see a hint of cleavage …
"From the Scottish or Gaelic,
meaning 'strong,' right?"
"Yes. How'd you know that?"
"I'm good with languages and linguistics.
We each got a different gift … well, that doesn't matter. What
are you doing here?"
"Not much at the moment," Angus
said, shifting his feet again. "And you still haven't told me where I am."
"High Country Science Center,"
"Okay. I remember that part. We
were looking for gargoyles. We saw a fence, buildings, forested grounds.
But I don't remember anything after that."
"It's the electroshock," Jeannie
said matter-of-factly. "It messes with short-term memory. The defense systems,
you know? They brought you down."
She nodded, and suddenly her open
gaze turned cloudy.
"What, Jeannie? Did something
happen to Gabriel? Tell me!"
"There was another gargoyle,"
she said. "I know the security team fired on him, and some men were sent
out after him, but I haven't heard anything else. I'm supposed to be in
bed. How I'm supposed to sleep with this going on …" She made
a gesture of futility.
"So Gabriel isn't here?"
"I don't think so."
Angus sagged against his tilted
slab. "Good. But I don't understand. We … it sounds stupid said
out loud, but we came in peace."
A ghost of a smile flickered and
was gone. "Yeah, it kind of does."
He told her how they had heard
of gargoyle sightings in the vicinity, then listened in amazement as she
– seeming to trust him on short acquaintance too, though probably
not because she thought he was cute – told him about the dinosaurs
and the accelerated evolution project. It made sense of much that had confused
him in the overheard conversation between Leister and Patterson.
"Steg, Ptera, Galli, and Trike,"
"The project's four successes,"
she said. "How'd you know their names?"
"I guess I heard them when I was
coming around." He felt guilty for hedging, but if this girl didn't realize
what a human monster her father was, Angus certainly didn't want to be
the one to break the news.
"They've been living in the park,"
Jeannie went on. "The tourists come, and take nature hikes, and sometimes
they'll see Ptera fishing, or Steg and Trike hunting, or Galli gathering
eggs, fruit, and nuts. We don't have them in cages or anything. They have
the run of the park. But then, a couple of days ago, everything went wrong."
"That woman," Angus said. "They
attacked her, and took her children."
"It wasn't like that!" Jeannie
cried. Angus' alarmed look must have gotten through her distress, because
she lowered her voice. "I've seen the tapes. They did attack her,
yes, all right, but do you know why? Because she was beating her daughter.
A little girl, no more than five, and this grown woman was slapping her
around and yelling at her. Child abuse, you ever hear of child abuse?"
"So they intervened?"
"Right. Steg and Ptera dealt with
the woman while Galli and Trike carried the kids to safety." She turned
to regard the bruised and malformed face of the woman in the bed. "Maybe
what they did was extreme, but they didn't jump her for no reason, out
of the blue. They were protecting the children."
"They are like gargoyles,
Jeannie massaged the bridge of
her nose, then seemed to realize what she was doing and self-consciously
dropped her hand to her side. "In some ways, not in others. I've spoke
to them. I like them. I don't think it's fair that they're kept here. They
should be able to live wherever they want, not in a zoo for tourists to
gawk at. Given a chance, I think they could be as good and noble as any
gargoyle, even if they don't turn to stone."
"You should speak out," Angus
said. "Tell the world."
"Oh, no, I can't. Who'd listen
"I would. And I'd bet I could
get you in to see Elektra."
"But this is my father's work,
and … and … there are other reasons I wouldn't dare.
Our family can't afford to be looked at too closely."
"Why?" He smiled. "I like to look
He was astonished to hear himself
say so, though it was true. He did like to look at her, and talk
to her. She was cute, yeah, but also funny in her serious way, down-to-earth.
Normally, circumstances would have demanded that he not trust her. Yet
somehow, he did.
She blushed. "Stop."
"I mean it."
"I look just like my parents."
He almost told her that she was
lots prettier than her father, but caught himself in time. He didn't want
to mention having seen Leister, or heard what he said to Patterson and
the Carpenter woman.
"Nothing special about that,"
Jeannie added dolefully. "I wish I was like Sam. At least he's different.
I wouldn't even mind the brittle bones, if I could be different."
"You're fine how you are," Angus
"Oh, you don't understand. You
wouldn't understand." She leaned her forehead against his enclosure and
sighed. "You know who you are."
"Sure. Don't you?"
"Just a … copy, a carbon
copy." A tear ran down her smooth cheek and fell onto the fleecy lapel
of her jacket, where surface tension held it in a glimmering bead. "Nothing
unique or special at all."
"You mean you're a clone?" Angus
gasped, more of what he'd overheard making sense to him now. He studied
Jeannie, noting the strong resemblance between her and John Leister. "You're
a clone of your father?"
"It's a lot sicker than that,"
she said. "You don't want to hear it. My parents … ugh. It's
"I think I know a little about
having weird parents," Angus said, and told her about Coldstone and Coldfire.
Jeannie took a deep breath. "My
mother and father were born in 1990," she said. "They're twenty-one years
"That's impossible! You, you can't
be more than sixteen!"
"Fifteen. Mom and Dad, see, they
were a result of this cloning project. A scientist made a bunch of clones
of himself. Mostly boys, but a few girls too … a slight adjustment
of the DNA code was all that took. And then, to see how well it had worked,
he put some of them through a process that sped up their growth, so they
reached adulthood in just a couple of years."
Angus dredged his memory and came
up with a name. "It was Dr. Sevarius, wasn't it? Anton Sevarius, the geneticist."
"Most of the clones were allowed
to develop naturally," Jeannie said, and laughed bitterly. "Naturally!
Anyway, they grew up and learned and developed like other babies. The ones
who'd been accelerated were given intense subliminal learning to let their
intellects keep up with their bodies. I also heard that at least one of
them was implanted with a copy of Sevarius' own mind, but I don’t
know if that's for real or just a rumor."
"You're not going to tell me that
you're a clone of Dr. Anton Sevarius!"
"I said I wasn't, not really!
But … but my parents both are."
Angus reeled in his restraints.
"Your mother and father are the same person?"
"No! Well, yes, genetically, but
… they …" She thumped her forehead against the Lexan
again. "They're both clones. Mom was altered to make her female, and they
were both aged to maturity within two years. Then, well, someone wondered
what would happen if they had a baby together."
"By the Dragon," Angus said, incredulous.
"That's how I was born. So my
DNA is the same as theirs, but I wasn't cloned. Not in a lab. Not
the way people think of it."
He could only goggle at her.
"I know how disgusting that sounds,"
she said. "Believe me, I know! So I'm an experiment, too. The only other
thing that's been done to me was the Pandora virus, so it's not like I've
been accelerated or given any other special brain enhancements or anything."
"Virus? What virus?"
"Pandora," she said. "I told you
I was gifted with languages. Mom has a talent for music. Give her any instrument,
any musical score, and she can play it like a pro on the very first try.
Dad is a mathematical whiz. The scientists wanted to see how the virus
would affect people with identical genetic structures, so they exposed
some of the clones to it, and decided to do me, too."
Unthinkingly, Angus raised his
hand to rub his eyes. "Wow. So they – oops."
"You're trying to get loose!"
"Well, yeah," he admitted. "It's
kind of what you do when you wake up locked in a cage."
"I should be helping you, not
telling you all this crap," she said. "I'm sorry. Here, I'll get the controls."
"I don't want you to get in trouble."
"You shouldn't even be here. They
were supposed to let you go. Dad said that they would. You could have escaped
by now if I hadn't started jabbering. I'm so sorry, Angus. It's all my
"Quit it, Jeannie, I like talking
"It's just that you're about the
only person I've ever felt like I can talk to," she said as she
opened a drawer and withdrew a cluster of keys on a neon green plastic
coil. "Practically everybody who works here, except for Mr. Patterson,
are clones too."
"Yeah. I never met him, but I
guess he had a pretty big ego." She took the keys to a cabinet and sorted
through them, looking for one that fit the lock.
"I guess," Angus said.
"Well, except there is Sam, my
"Oh." He couldn't keep his nose
"Not like that," she said hastily.
"Not the same way I was born. Sam's a clone, too, just not of Sevarius.
I think the original Sevarius had a son who died of some bone disease,
so Sam was made from cell samples. They tried to cure him of the disease
when he was a baby, and it mostly worked. His bones are real weak, though.
He can bump into a table, you know? And snap. Still, at least he's his
own self. There was only ever one person just like him. So it's like he
had a twin brother once, that was years older."
She opened the cabinet and brought
out something that looked like a multiple-outlet power strip with cables
trailing out both ends. She plugged one into a wall socket, and the other
into the base of the box that contained Angus.
On closer inspection, he saw that
the long rectangular box did not have outlets in it, but keyholes. Jeannie
inserted a key into the first one.
"You don't have to do this," he
said. "I can break out."
"This stuff's expensive. I'd probably
get in more trouble if they found out I could have helped you but didn't,
and you smashed it all instead."
That had a puzzling sort of logic,
so Angus let her use the keys. As she turned the final one, there was a
humming sound and a vibration, and the sides of the Lexan box detached
from the ceiling, slid out a few inches, and rose straight up.
Their arrival among the activists
was every bit the nine day's wonder that Liz had predicted. Gabriel instantly
found himself an island in a surging sea of attention. A barrage of questions
came at him from all sides.
And yet, he felt no malice here.
Curiosity, a plethora of that, and it sometimes bordered on the rude or
ghoulish as everyone clamored to get their pet theories about gargoyles,
no matter how outlandish, proved or disproved. And excitement. No one was
left sleeping. Children, some of them infants no larger than loaves
of bread, were thrust at him so they could see, touch. Dozens of hands
of all sizes groped at his wings, his facial spurs, his tail. One inquisitive
lady, high on marijuana and dandelion wine, even made a grab for his loincloth,
but Gabriel was able to block that intrusion, at least.
Through it all, Liz remained fixed
on their goal. She rallied the leaders of the group, and explained the
situation to them while Gabriel was fending off requests to take people
The activists had observed the
initial shoot-out and Angus' fall, as well as the chase by the powered
glider. Upon confirmation of what they had in their hearts believed all
along – that the InGenUity scientists were villains –
they agreed with alacrity to help however they could.
So it was that within minutes
of their arrival, the protest was in full swing. Every available light
came on, every available sign was hoisted, and the crowd commenced marching
back and forth in front of the gates, loudly demanding that the gargoyle
inside be turned loose.
Liz dragged Gabriel aside, grinning.
"They may have some funny ideas," she said, "but you've got to hand it
to them, when they get worked up about something, they put on a good show."
"I am not concerned with their
ideas or their show," Gabriel said. "I only wish to see Angus returned
"Next step is to get in touch
with the Rights Committee," Liz said, bringing out her phone. "I know you
object, you've got some big macho need to do it all on your own, but humor
"Yes, very well," Gabriel said.
She consulted her watch. "Damn.
They won't be open this early. It isn't even four o'clock on the East Coast
yet. I'll see if there's a night operator, and maybe I can sweet talk someone's
home number out of them."
"If I may?" Gabriel plucked the
phone from her hand. He paused with his large talon over the miniscule
keypad, scowling. His first tap depressed the one, two, and four at the
"Maybe you should let me," Liz
said, and laughed.
"Very well." He rattled off the
number, and she punched it in, then held the phone to her ear.
Gabriel reached, and Liz turned
away, listening. His keen ears picked up the ringing, and then a click,
and a youthful voice. "Wyvern Clan residence, Amber Maza speaking," it
Liz' jaw came unhinged. Gabriel
couldn't help waggling his brow ridge at her sardonically as he took the
phone from her now unresisting fingers.
"When you said you knew Elektra
…" she whispered, and shook her head with a rueful grin.
"Hel-lo, is anyone there?" Amber
asked. In the background, Gabriel heard Goliath's bass thunder. "Who is
"It's nobody –"
"Amber? Amber, it is Gabriel."
"Oh! Hi, Gabriel! You'll never
guess what we did tonight."
"Let me speak to him," Goliath
"In a minute, Daga, gee! I'm talking.
Gabriel, are you there?"
"Yes, Amber. Might I please speak
"First you have to guess what
we did tonight."
Liz was leaning close enough to
listen in, and looked like she was biting the insides of her cheeks to
keep from busting out laughing. She had a hand on Gabriel's arm to steady
herself. He was unsettlingly aware of her touch.
"I can't guess. You'll have to
"Amber, give your father the phone,"
Elisa said in the background.
"It's not for him," Amber replied
loftily. "Gabriel wants to talk to 'Lektra."
Gabriel could just imagine the
parents of the willful girl exchanging a weary yet loving glance. Amber
was eleven, but thanks to her half-gargoyle heritage, she aged slower than
a human child while being smart and stubborn beyond her years.
He heard Elisa say, "I'll go get
her," and then Amber was telling him how they had taken the hatchlings
swimming for the first time that evening.
"Kathe was so funny!" she said.
"She was afraid of the water, and Brooklyn was holding her while he waded
in, and she kept climbing on him higher and higher until she was standing
on his beak hanging onto his horns, and screaming the whole time, so loud
that Bronx ran to hide."
"I hope that the others had a
better time of it," Gabriel said. As always, there was a wrenching pang
in his gut when he heard about the darling antics of the hatchlings. It
never failed to remind him how he had lost his own dear mates.
"Oh, they did," Amber said. "Aramis
got up the ladder while nobody was looking, and he jumped off the diving
board, and he went right to the bottom."
Eventually, the phone was handed
off and Elektra's cool satin voice was in his ear. "Gabriel! How fare you,
brother? We had heard that you and Angus departed Coventry. Where has your
adventure taken you?"
"Our adventure is the very reason
I'm calling," Gabriel said. "I hate to disturb you, sister, but there has
been a slight complication."
If his job and his life were going
to come crashing down anyway, Ryan Patterson wanted to go out on top. He
didn't want to be the focus of a flurry of attention, microphones shoved
in his face, floodlights searing his eyeballs, snake-tongued reporters
wanting to know how come no action had been taken on behalf of the Carpenter
He knew that he'd be the one whose
ass was thrown to the wolves. Anyone else asked, all the way up to Leister
himself, would say that it had been a security decision, and that it should
be taken up with the compound's chief security officer.
And so, they would come to him.
Touting the old wheeze about how the public had a right to know. He wondered
just when it was that the public's right to know had turned into a burrowing
termite frenzy bent on boring out every single detail.
"After Kennedy," he said to himself
as he disengaged the alarm and eased open the outer door. An eddy of cold
air swirled around him. "After Vietnam."
Yeah, that was it. Back in those
days, private lives were private. Sacrosanct, even. Political figures and
movie stars were admired with the "can do no wrong" awe that people had
once afforded to royalty or the clergy.
Now, less like termites than like
the flesh-stripping ants that could reduce a corpse to a skeleton in a
matter of hours, the reporters would glean every scrap. And the dirtier,
the better. Political office, multiple Academy awards, a crown, or a priest's
collar … didn't matter. All the better, really! People just
loved to sink their teeth into a juicy story of some high figure's
ignominious plunge from grace.
Not that Patterson regarded himself
as a high figure. He was just a grunt, a rent-a-cop, but once he was named
as the responsible party for losing those kids, the television and papers
would make him out to be the laziest dumb-ass since the airport screener
who fell asleep on the job and let three bomb-carrying hijackers waltz
onto Flight 515, the one that plunged into the 2006 Super Bowl at a cost
of over sixty thousand lives.
Sixty thousand people versus the
two snot-nosed brats of a minimum-wage trailer trash child abuser …
it was nowhere near the same scale, but Patterson could already see the
headlines in his mind.
He slipped through the door and
closed it carefully. If he was going to take the rap for this, he was at
least going to try to do something about it. Alone. Lucky him. But there
was no one else he could trust. Here he was, supposedly the commanding
officer of the security force, but the men under him owed more loyalty
to Leister by virtue of their shared background.
Clones. God, how they bugged him!
It would have been worse –
unbearable – if they'd had identical personalities as well, but
the similarities were strong enough to let Patterson believe that some
traits were just inborn. The smarminess, for instance. None of them had
it as bad as John and Joanna Leister, but ninety percent of them had some
degree of it.
The glass eye of a camera looked
down at him from a tree. Patterson moved past it, staying on course. He
had disabled the ones that covered a narrow stripe of the park, a path
that would let him get to the cave unobserved. Provided he didn't stray
too far from his projected route. A few malfunctioning cameras out of so
many, especially with all the other distractions going on outside, would
hopefully go unnoticed long enough to let him do this.
He didn't like being out here
alone. The park, so benign by day, took on a different and foreboding character
at night. Each pool of shadow seemed to lurk. Each rustle of leaves might
have marked the approach of something deadly. More than once, he stopped
with his heart pounding in his ears, sure that he was being followed.
The harrowing journey was only
half a mile from the building to the hills that housed the dino sapiens'
cave. It might as well have been five miles, ten, across a minefield. Patterson's
nerves were vibrating like guitar strings. If not for the absorbent layer
inside his camo jumpsuit, he would have been wringing wet with sweat. But
his hands, on the stock of a double-barreled trank gun, did not betray
him with even the tiniest tremble.
The hills were slopes of grass
and bushes that gave way abruptly to rearing crags of weathered Montana
granite. The scientists had been intrigued when the dino sapiens established
their communal lair, though the paying tourists had been in for some disappointment
when the very creatures they'd come to see decided to hole up in a den
and leave them nothing to look at but ordinary local wildlife.
The entrance was concealed by
artfully-used bushes. If not for the infrared camera, placed high in a
tree and angled to peer through the branches, there wouldn't have been
any way to see what was going on inside.
Patterson crept closer, unable
to shake that feeling of being followed. He looked back several times,
always expecting to see inhuman eyes in the darkness, but never did. Soon
he was within sight of the dead tree that guarded the entrance.
Ptera was perched on a branch
of the tree. With her wings wrapped around her body, she could have easily
passed for the pterodactyl whose DNA had provided the building blocks for
her design. Her more humanoid torso and surprisingly shapely legs were
hidden by the membranes of her wings, and in silhouette the crested, beaked
outline of her head was purely dinosaurian.
Her coloring did her a small disservice
from this angle. She was pale down her front, a sort of streaky light blue
and grey useful to a flying hunter whose prey would be looking up against
the sky. From the back, or from above if she was flying, other predators
might have a harder time spotting her with her brownish hide blending into
the landscape below.
But by night, in the moon and
the glow of the perimeter lights, her paler front stood out against the
dark hues of the rocks and trees.
When he sighted through the infrared scope, she erupted into a brilliance
of yellow and orange. Patterson aimed carefully, hampered by those concealing
wings. He didn't want to lodge a needle through the wing membrane. It had
to be seated in solid flesh.
A neck shot, then. He centered
the crosshairs below her collarbone and to the right of her sternum. Didn't
want to hit bone, either.
Trank her, lob a sleep-gas grenade into the cave, count to ten, and
rush in with his respirator on. Seize the kids. In and out. Neat. No fuss,
no muss, no bother.
He gently started to squeeze the
Patterson's feet were swept out
from under him. He was flung forward, jerking the trigger as he fell. He
hit the loamy forest floor with a jarring thump and lost the trank gun.
Reacting with trained speed even as his brain was collecting signals of
pain from various bruises, he rolled onto his back and drew a standard
It was whacked out of his hands
and demolished by something that looked and felt like a leather-covered
iron shot-put. Patterson recognized the young male gargoyle standing over
him, snarling, the tail that ended in a hard bony knob swinging warningly.
Carefully, slowly, Patterson raised
his hands. He was aware of the trank gun lying in the grass just a few
inches from his shoulder. A moment's distraction, and he could spin, grab
it, and fire the second dart. The gargoyle would be impossible to miss
at this range.
But a girl detached herself from
the woods and snatched up the trank gun before Patterson could move. He
gaped at her.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Patterson," the
girl said. She held the gun at arm's length, nose wrinkled, as if she was
holding something nasty.
Patterson felt like a total sucker.
He had been being followed. That'd teach him to listen to his gut
The wild shot, the only one he'd
managed to get off, had missed Ptera but not gone unnoticed by her. Patterson
could hear the shrill note of her call as she alerted the others. They
would be on him in seconds.
He took a deep breath. It would
have to be the gas grenade. He could hold his breath and make a run for
it. His hands lowered, as if he meant to settle them harmlessly into his
"Oh, no you don't," said the gargoyle,
and his tail flashed around again.
The solid ball at the end of it
collided violently with the side of Patterson's head. He pitched sideways
into a black silence.
"Oh, my," Liz Dorsett said. "Oh-my-oh-my-oh-my."
"What is it?" Gabriel asked.
While he had been on the phone,
she had gotten online to see if she could turn up any more interesting
tidbits about InGenUity or its parent companies. She tapped on the liquid
plasma screen, her fingertip indenting it in a ripple.
Gabriel bent over her shoulder,
his long red-gold hair tickling as it brushed the side of her face. "The
men we fought. From the hang glider."
"What you're looking at is a photo
of Anton Sevarius," Liz said. "Circa 1985, when he appeared before the
National Board of Science and Research to present his ground-breaking paper
on theoretical human cloning."
"Not so theoretical, as it turned
out," Gabriel said. "Those men could be his sons."
"No, honey, those men could be
his clones," Liz corrected. "Mad scientists like Sevarius have a fatal
flaw, a mental block. They're the megalomaniacs who think nothing of experimenting
on themselves with their unproven formulas – did you ever hear
of Eric Leben? Norman Osbourne? I could list off a dozen others easy. And
cloning oneself, that's even less risky."
"I have not had good experience
with clones," Gabriel said.
She looked at him. "Yeah, okay."
"Ventura – well, no
matter," he said. "So these men are clones of Sevarius. I had heard something
to that effect when I was living in Manhattan. But how does it help us
"I'm still working on that. If
nothing else, it should stir things up with our friends out here. They're
anti-cloning, for the most part. And it is still technically illegal. America
hasn't slipped that far down the slippery slope yet. It's okay to do organs,
blood, skin. Human parts. Not the whole."
"Can we use that against them?"
"Not with any sort of immediacy."
She closed her laptop and slung a companionable arm around his neck in
a half-hug. "I know you don't want to sit on your tail and wait through
months of accusations, rebuttals, legal actions, appeals, misdirections,
He exhaled wearily and tipped
his head so that the bony ridge of his brow rested against her forehead.
"No. I want to do as Ebon and I did at the Institute those many years ago.
I want to storm the place and flatten anyone who stands in my way. These
scientists, who think themselves so above the rest of the world that they
can toy with lives … they are all the same! When they see their
own kind as test subjects, how can they possibly be expected to treat those
of other species as anything but animals?"
"You don't have to convince me,"
"But what do we do?" he
asked, with a note of helpless ferocity. "They are as many-headed as a
hydra, and as well-defended as Avalon itself!"
"Don't you dare give up, Gabe."
"That's the spirit. Come on. I've
got a plan."
Liz chuckled. "Not a very original
one, I'm afraid. How do you feel about busting through the gates?"
"With what, a battering ram?"
"Kind of," she said.
She pointed up the hill, to the
largest of the school buses that had been converted into a motor home.
Its outside was covered with painted flowers, peace signs, various Grateful
Dead insignia, pot leaves, and other such Age of Aquarius emblems.
"That?" Gabriel compressed a soliloquy's
worth of doubt into one word.
"Hey, take away the wooden bead
curtains, the bean bag chairs, and the black velvet Jimi Hendrix wall hangings,"
Liz said, "and underneath that psychedelic paint job is a tank.
Solid steel framework. Durable construction."
"You intend to crash that into
"Thought I might, yeah."
A slow, reluctant grin spread
across his face. It transformed him incredibly, taking away the gloomy
brooding anger. "All right, then."
The meeting at the cave made Jeannie
think of a chemistry experiment. It was a mixing of several volatile elements
which, put together the right way, could make something good. But shake
it at the wrong time, and kaboom.
They stood in a ring around Patterson's
sprawled body, staring at each other. Angus was the object of intense fascinated
scrutiny from the dino sapiens, and he was quick to return the favor. Especially
quick when it came to Ptera, Jeannie observed, and was startled by the
sinking sensation she felt.
Well he should look admiringly.
Ptera was the closest in shape to a gargoyle among them, with her pterodactylian
wings. He wasn't shy about admiring Galli, too, who was golden-cream and
graceful on long ballerina's legs. But the displeased glowers from both
Steg and Trike soon cautioned Angus against ogling too openly.
Either of the big males could
have flattened him and stomped him like a vat of grapes. Steg was the larger
of the two, his maroon-plum skin thick with diamond-shaped plates. His
tail, wide and ending with four ivory spikes, was held aggressively off
the ground as if he was eagerly anticipating the moment when he could drive
those spikes into Angus' face.
Trike, the more peaceable of the
two, was nonetheless standing protectively near to Galli, snorting hot
gusts through the slitted nostrils in the armored beak that curved down
over his mouth. His long horns promised a grisly impalement if Angus made
one wrong remark.
The Carpenter children were huddled
together like waifs, pinned between Galli and Trike. Jeannie was relieved
to see that neither of them looked hurt, or any the worse for wear. Scared
and cold and hungry, but okay.
And then, there was her. Despite
the fact that her every previous interaction with the dino sapiens had
been friendly, they couldn't help associating her with her parents, or
the security team.
She had just finished relating
how she had helped Angus escape from the hospital ward, and how they'd
seen Patterson sneaking out and followed.
"I think we should all go," Angus
said. "This place is no good for you."
Galli cocked her head prettily.
"This is our home."
"It's a prison," he said. "A zoo.
Haven't you ever wanted to live on your own, by your own rules? Haven't
you ever wanted freedom?"
"To fly?" Ptera asked wistfully,
gazing at the brilliant stars.
"To fly, run, hunt, swim …
to do whatever you want," Angus said. "As long as you let these people
keep you here, you're giving them the right to do whatever they want to
you. This man Patterson, I heard him earlier, he was ready to exterminate
your entire clan because he thought you were too much trouble."
Steg snarled and raised one elephantine
foot over Patterson's head. Angus jerked in alarm.
"No, don't," Jeannie pleaded.
"Don't kill him."
"He would have done it to us,"
Steg said. "What had we done to warrant it?"
"Now, look, wait," Angus said.
"If you want people to like you instead of fear you, then you can't go
around stepping on their heads. Or beating them half to death. That's what
caused a lot of this. The woman, their mother. People think you attacked
her and stole her children."
"She was hurting the little one,"
Galli said, crouching to put her arms around Cissy Carpenter. "What sort
of monster harms her own?"
"So we took them," Trike said.
"They are ours now." His hand, nearly the size of Ethan's head, settled
onto the boy's shoulder.
"It doesn't really work that way,"
Angus said. "Not in the human world."
"The world you'd have us join?"
Steg asked with an ominous growl. "You said we could live by our own laws,
the laws of the strong!"
"Hey, we've all got to bend and
compromise a little," Angus said. "Their world has its bonuses. Do you
guys like living in a cave? There's a lot you're missing out on.
A lot more to life than eating what you can catch. Believe me, I know.
My brother's tried to teach me that philosophy, but I'd rather have a big
bucket of the Colonel's finest or a double-meat pizza any time."
Ethan Carpenter's stomach rumbled
so loudly at that that they all heard it, and laughed. "Pizza," the boy
moaned. "Pepperoni and olive pizza!"
"We will not return them to a
cruel mother," Galli said. "Not for all the … the pizza there
"What about what they want?"
Jeannie asked. "Cissy and Ethan. Shouldn't they have a say?"
"I don't wanna stay here," Cissy
said. "I wanna go home!"
"Is our mother all right?" Ethan
asked. "I thought … I thought she was dead."
"Not dead," Angus said. "Badly
hurt, and in the hospital, but not dead."
"I've seen the security tape,"
Jeannie said. "It seemed obvious to me that you were trying to protect
them. But it's not our decision. There are laws, social workers …
um, their dad, maybe. They can't stay here in a cave. It's not their home."
"It shouldn't be yours, either,"
Angus said. "Come on. We can all get out of here together. Jeannie's right.
There are people who can help, and make sure that the kids end up somewhere
safe. The law's on their side. But right now, it's not on yours. If these
scientists wanted to, they could take you away and do anything they wanted."
"Let them try," Steg said. His
cracking knuckles sounded like cherry bombs.
Angus shook his head. "They wouldn't
come openly. They'd have darts or grenades, like this guy. They'd knock
you out from a distance and then you'd wake up like I did, strapped to
"He's right," Ptera said. "Haven't
they already? We're prisoners here. Maybe you three can forget, because
there are fields to run in and river mud to roll in, but try to fly! I
have! All that glorious sky above, and what happens? I get netted, or shot
down, or blasted with sounds that split my ears! This isn't home. This
is a cage."
"How, then?" Galli demanded. "We
cannot ask them to let us out."
"They should be included in that
law," Angus said to Jeannie. "So they don't turn to stone. They still protect.
I've always been taught that's what it really means to be a gargoyle."
"I agree with you," she said.
"But we can't wait for that,"
he went on. "They'd be dead by then."
"Yeah," Jeannie said. "Yeah, probably."
"So we break out." Angus looked
at Steg and Trike. "Have you tried?"
"No," Steg said.
"Do you want to?"
Trike looked at Galli. She was
clutching the children and her eyes were large and brimming with despair,
but she nodded. So he nodded as well. "We do. We need to be our own clan."
"Where will we go?" Ptera asked,
and there was not hopelessness in her voice but wonder. "Anywhere we like?
Anywhere at all?"
"Well, you should find someplace
to call home," Angus said, "but the world's a hell of a lot bigger than
it looks from behind four walls."
"Show us what to do," Steg said.
"We can't leave the little ones,"
"There are a bunch of other humans
right outside," Jeannie said. "They'll take care of them."
With it decided, the clan hurried
to gather their few possessions. Angus knelt and stripped Patterson of
all useful tools and weapons. Midway through, he looked
up at Jeannie. "What about you? Will you stay, or leave?"
"I … I don't know.
"Betrayed your father?"
Mutely, she nodded.
"If it helps, I think you did
the right thing. And not just 'cause you saved my butt."
"Thanks," she said.
"The people outside –"
"Would hate me once they knew
what I was."
"No, Jeannie, they couldn't."
"I can't stay here and I can't
go to them," she said. "I want to go with you."
"Please, Angus! So I've only known
you for a couple of hours. You're my friend! Trike, Galli, Steg and Ptera
are my friends too. They'll need someone to help them out there.
You can't do it all, not during the day. And don't tell me I'm too young.
I may be only fifteen but I've got a genius-level IQ, a nearly eidetic
memory, and I speak twenty languages. I'm not useless!"
"I would never dare say you were,"
he said. "What about your family?"
"What's one more genetic duplicate
more or less? They can always make another." She meant to say it lightly,
but a sour taste of bile rose in her throat anyway. Still, she knew it
was true. If she was ever going to have a chance at being herself,
she had to get away.
"I just don't want you to do something
"If I regret it, it'll be my own
Angus smiled. "Okay. I give."
Joanna Leister was at the most
delicate stage of genetic manipulation. The control unit for the microscopic
scalpel was clamped over her temples, the instrument itself so tiny and
precise that it would be a machete if directed by human hands. It responded
instead to nerve impulses in her brain, so that she was nearly operating
Utahraptor DNA. They had
cloned raptors before, and tried to accelerate them, but the results had
been so unmanageable that all of the specimens had to be destroyed. The
stockholders, particularly those who had come from InGen with the merger,
were especially sensitive about the idea of raptor-like monsters running
By fusing the raptor DNA with
that of other species – Maiasaurus and Pteranodon –
she was hoping to create an all new life form with the intelligence of
a raptor, strong parental instincts, and wings. It had taken her far longer
than seven days and seven nights, but the effect was much the same. God
on a microscopic level.
She was guiding the microscalpel
carefully along the aggression gene when Adam-9 burst into the lab. Her
startled gasp equated to a mental tic that sheared the DNA strand in half.
Disgusted, she whirled on her stool and ripped the controller off her head.
"How dare you interrupt my work!"
"We have a problem," Adam-9 said.
Looking at him was like looking
at a younger version of her husband, or a younger male mirror of herself.
All of the Adams were like her brothers, the Eves her sisters, but they
were the ones who had been allowed to age at a normal rate. Only the special
cases, like herself and John, had been given actual names instead of numerical
"We had better, to justify this
"The captive gargoyle has escaped,
Patterson is missing, the security cameras around the dino cave and in
a path leading to it have all been deactivated, the dinos themselves are
with the gargoyle and on the move toward the gate, and it looks like the
mob outside is getting ready to do something."
"Oh," Joanna said, neatening the
lapels of her white lab coat. "I suppose that is sufficient justification.
Can you elaborate on the 'something' that the riffraff protestors are up
"They've moved all the cars away
from the gate," Adam-9 said. "Leaving a wide, cleared area."
"Hmm. So the gargoyle is leading
his very-distant cousins in rebellion. Rather Braveheart of him."
She caught a flicker of his expression, and since they were all so alike
she could read him like a book from the oversized-print section of the
"And the daughter is with them."
"What?" She came off the stool
at that, her elbow striking the expensive and fragile piece of machinery.
It tipped over and made a brittle clinking sound as parts inside it broke.
"The computer projections did
speculate a 5% chance of developing rebellious tendencies in the twelve-to-sixteen
stage," Adam-9 pointed out.
"I am fully aware of the computer
projections," Joanna said coldly. "And for your information, it was only
4.853%. Go wake John, and send a security force to stop them leaving."
"What about the protestors?"
"First things first. Now, go."
He went, and Joanna stalked to
the operations center. She knew that Adam-9 would have no reason to lie,
and it was flatly impossible for him to have mistaken someone else for
Jeannie, but she had to see it with her own eyes.
Sure enough, there on the monitor
was her wayward poppet. Walking side by side – and hand in hand
– with the young male gargoyle who had been apprehended earlier
in the evening.
"How adorable," she said, lip
curling. "You like him, Jeannie? Well, no daughter of mine is going
to mingle our genes with that! Not if I have anything to
say about it."
What footage! Oh, every network
in the country was going to line up and pay big bucks for this!
Liz, over the scene in Gabriel's
strong arms, kept her camera trained on the action below. They weren't
over the compound, but had a good angle down into it as the army of Sevarius
look-alikes confronted the small group of dinosaurian creatures.
"Angus!" Gabriel tensed as one
of them was revealed not to be a dinosaurian at all but a gargoyle, blue-grey
with white hair and a baseball cap.
"No!" Liz cried as she felt him
shift and prepare for a dive. "It won't do him any good for us to just
get snagged by the defenses."
He saw the sense in that, thankfully,
and did not plunge them into the heart of the melee. And melee it was;
thanks to the ample illumination provided by the perimeter floodlights.
She got a perfect zoom shot of a triceratops goring, and then flinging,
a camo-clad body. Add a
red cape, a few roses and some shouts of "Ole!" and they could have been
ringside at Pamplona.
Gabriel dipped and gave the pre-arranged
signal to the driver of the bus. The man, a grizzled but hale old dude
with a prospector's seamed, bearded face, wouldn't let anyone but himself
behind the wheel, even if the object was to ram his treasured antique head-on
into a fortified gate.
He floored it, eliciting a farting
billow of blue smoke out the tailpipe and a surprised scream from the old
engine. The bus lurched forward like a placid rhino suddenly goosed into
fury with a hot poker. It thundered down the gentle hill, gaining speed,
the psychedelic flowers on its sides seeming to streak and run in a bad
Liz shifted her lens from the
fight inside the compound to the onrushing bus. She panned over the heads
of the activists, standing well back on both sides of the cleared space
in front of the gates.
"The old fool is going to get
himself killed," Gabriel said.
"God, I hope not. We made him
wear his seatbelt."
"Once you found his seatbelt."
Liz winced. "And that baby rolled
off the assembly line about thirty years too early for airbags."
No one inside was aware of what
was happening until the charging bus hit the gate with a din like doomsday.
Metal screeched and squealed. The nose of the bus accordioned, the windshield
shattered, the balding front tires exploded in twin bangs.
The locks and bars held, but the
hinges gave way. The bus pushed the gate five yards back from the wall
before stalling out with a final choppy death-rattle. Smoke, steam, and
various automotive fluids spurted from the crumpled hood.
The fighting inside came to a
sudden standstill as all eyes snapped around to see the gates topple over.
Dinosaur and human shapes alike raced out from under it as the heavy gate
slammed into the earth. A tall, lanky, bearded figure stumbled unsteadily
out of the bus, grinned at what he had done, and leaned against a painted
peace sign to wipe blood from his forehead.
Then, chaos. Activists plunged
wildly through the gap, waving their signs, reminding Liz of a hit-and-run
'liberation' that she had witnessed once at a factory that manufactured
and animal-tested groundbreaking new drugs. Most, still holding onto their
"it's violence we oppose " stance, ran past the InGenUity security
staff without stopping. Others leaped into the fray, wielding signs that
read "All Life Is Precious" like clubs.
The other combatants, the dinosaur-creatures,
were briefly stunned into motionlessness by the unexpected allies. The
gargoyle, Angus, called to them and waved his arm. When they still seemed
lost, he clambered to the top of a boulder and took off, bearing a girl
in his arms and exhorting the rest to follow.
Another winged shape, a humanoid
pterodactyl, responded first and soared in a high, giddy spiral before
arrowing through the gap to freedom. Next came one built like a featherless
ostrich, carrying a child and speeding out with long, almost floating strides.
The triceratopian male that Liz
had noticed before picked up a little boy onto his broad shoulders and
lumbered out. The last, even larger, was laying about on all sides with
a heavy tail. He was amid a heap of groaning bodies, which he then stomped
over on his way to the exit.
"Angus!" Gabriel shouted.
They glided to meet each other,
and Liz just had to laugh.
"It's like a poster from some
50's monster movie," she said through gales of mirth. "Or The Rape of
the Sabine Women. Unhand us, you brutes!"
"Who's she, and what is she talking
about?" Angus asked.
"Later," Gabriel said. "Let's
get out of here."
They regrouped with the others,
and after quick introductions and the handing-off of the Carpenter kids
to a matronly woman who had remained outside with several of the activists'
children, they were ready to go.
"Pile everybody into my truck,"
Liz said, tossing Angus the keys. "I have to make a call first."
"What are you doing?" Gabriel
"Hey," she said as she dialed.
"You've got your lofty political connections, I've got mine."
Two Weeks Later
The first serious snow of the season
had finally hit them, blanketing the ranch with three feet of white powder.
Under the glow of the moon, it had an otherworldly radiance that made Gabriel
achingly homesick for Avalon. Not that it ever snowed in Oberon's realm,
of course. But there was a sort of glow about the place.
Aside from that, he was happier
and more content than he had ever expected to be. The long log and stone
building that had originally housed a dozen ranch-hands was more than large
enough for the clan, and the main house had a selection of sturdy places
where he and Angus could comfortably roost.
He heard a window sliding open
behind him but did not turn. His attention was out in the meadow, where
Angus and Ptera were making snowball strafing-runs at the snow fort that
Steg and Trike had built. Galli, her aim exceptional, peppered the gliders
from the turret, while Jeannie Leister, bundled up in a parka gleaned from
a trunk of Liz' old clothes, loaded a snowball the size of a bowling ball
into a wooden trebuchet.
The counterweight dropped. The
wooden arm swung up and over, launching its cargo on a high trajectory.
Gabriel would have sworn that the angle was wrong, but Jeannie had judged
it better, and the ten-inch sphere hit Angus squarely.
"Nice to see them having fun,"
Liz Dorsett said from his elbow.
"Nice of your brother and his
family to open their home to us," he said, finally turning.
She was wearing a quilted plaid
shirt over a turtleneck, and her incomparable wild hair struggled against
a stocking cap. The cold had brought a flush to her cheeks.
"Well, Jim's a nice guy," she
said. "Most everybody around here is. I told you that you'd like it here,
after a little getting used to."
"I never doubted you," he said,
though it was not entirely true. When she had initially proposed the plan,
he'd been dubious. A small and close-knit town? How would they react to
such a group in their midst? But everyone, from Liz's older brother to
the townsfolk, had reacted with a warm, welcoming enthusiasm.
"You miss your folks?"
"Somewhat, yes," Gabriel said.
"So maybe they'll come join you.
Or maybe you'll get bored with our rustic lifestyle and hunger for the
bright lights of Vegas. Time will tell, Gabe."
"I suppose it shall."
A scream and a spate of girlish
giggles drew his eyes back to the meadow. Angus had dived at Jeannie and
was chasing her toward the trees, pelting her with one point-blank snowball
after another. Just as his ammo gave out, he tackled the girl and they
tumbled together in a small blizzard of disturbed snow. They ended up with
Jeannie sitting on Angus' chest, and, laughing, she leaned down to kiss
"You're still worried about her,"
"It would bring a problem to your
brother, harboring a runaway."
"That wasn't what I meant. What's
the matter? Don't you think she's good enough for Angus?"
"Our mother will be disappointed,"
he hedged. "She had it in her mind that we'd go off and discover a clan
of eligible females, settle down, raise hatchlings …"
"But what do you think?"
"I like Jeannie very much," Gabriel
said defensively. "She is a fine and clever girl, and Angus seems most
taken with her. She is far better company for him than … well,
never mind. I just cannot imagine that her parents will let her go without
Liz only looked at him, arms crossed,
one eyebrow raised.
"Perhaps they are moving too fast,"
he admitted grudgingly, when that silence and raised brow dragged it out
of him. "They are both young, and have led sheltered lives."
"So you've appointed yourself
"No, I –"
"You're not jealous, are you?"
"That may be it." He spoke softly,
barely a whisper, but the wind was not strong enough to snatch the words
away from her ears.
"Uh-huh. Know what you need to
do, Gabe?" She grasped him by the shoulders and pivoted his body until
he had to face her, then jabbed one gloved forefinger into his chest. "You
need to quit stressing about everybody else and think about you for
a change. No more brooding over the past. It's a new day. A new night.
Whatever. If you spend the rest of your life concentrating on what was,
you're going to miss out on a lot of opportunities."
He was silent a moment, studying
her eyes through a veil of loose wind-whipped strands of hair. "What opportunities
might these be?" he asked.
Liz grinned. "Do you think it's
absolutely vital that you stand here and keep watch over them all night?"
"I know a great steakhouse in
town. We'll start there, and see what opportunities develop."
"Very well," he said, with a smile
of his own in return. "It's a deal."
"No, honey," Liz said, tucking
her arm through his. "It's a date."
InGen – Michael Creighton, Jurassic Park
Eric Leben – Dean R. Koontz, Shadowfires
Norman Osbourne – Stan Lee and Marvel Comics, Spiderman