Future Imperfect

Future Imperfect
Christine Morgan (vecna@eskimo.com)
comments welcome
Author's Note: the Gargoyles characters belong to Disney, the others
are mine. Parts of this story could be considered a sequel to "Ever
	Aiden Ferguson sighed and rubbed her eyes. Neat as it was
being a sorceress, there were times when she wished her homework
consisted solely of math problems and essays.
	A teddy bear, a threadbare old thing named Gizmo after that
long-ago movie about gremlins, sat on her desk as if he weighed a
hundred pounds.
	Once again, she focused her will upon Gizmo and uttered the
Latin words that were supposed to lift him effortlessly.
	And once again, Gizmo sat like he'd taken root.
	Deciding that a break was in order, Aiden wandered to the
window and looked out at the midday sun gleaming humidly on the
murk of Manhattan. Normally, the view from Castle Wyvern was the
best in the city. Today, she was looking down at the top of a pall of
brownish smog, which was marginally better than being trapped
beneath it but still just not all that picturesque.
	Maybe, she thought, that was part of the problem. Magic was
something that should be done by moonlight. The atmosphere was all
	She glanced back at Gizmo. It wasn't his fault. He wasn't
purposefully being a pain in the butt. It was the levitation spell that was
escaping her grasp. Possibly because it was the one she wanted to learn
most of all. After all, once she'd learned to lift objects, it was a short
step to lifting herself, and from there to flight.
	To fly! To leave the earth behind! To keep up with Lexington
without having to be lugged along like a bag of groceries!
	If she could take the first step.
	She closed her eyes and tried to imagine her feet leaving the
floor. She had flown countless times in her dreams and could almost
recall the way it felt.
	The room seemed cooler. She thought of a book she'd once
read about a telekinetic girl, tried to make her mind _flex_ in that way.
	Something happened, very weak and strange, followed by a
soft thump.
	Aiden opened her eyes.
	Gizmo was lying on the floor, his shiny black eyes gazing at
the ceiling.
	She stared at him, wrapped her mind around him, and
whispered the Latin words again. Even as she did so, the bear rose
smoothly. He bumped against the underside of her chair and she
dropped him. But she'd done it!
	Encouraged, she mustered her strength to try again. Gizmo
drifted upward, missing the chair this time, and hovered at eye level.
	Someone knocked on her door. Down went Gizmo, and Aiden
spun around with her heart in her throat. "H-hello? Come in?"
	David Xanatos peeked in. "Aiden," he said warmly. "Busy?"
	"Just my studies," she said.
	"Good, good." He let himself in and leaned casually against
the wall. "How's it going? I haven't had a progress report lately."
	"Why ... is Owen disappointed? Did he want you to talk to
	"Aiden, you worry too much," he laughed. "Owen is nothing
but pleased with your progress, but he explains in such technical terms
that I don't understand half of it. Don't tell him I said that, of course. I
just nod wisely and pretend to get it. So I thought you could tell me
	She relaxed. "Oh. Well, so far it's been mostly research and
mental exercises. I've only just started learning real spells that don't use
Hecate's Wand."
	"Real spells? Such as?"
	"I can make light, change the color of fabric --" she got the
idea that he was barely holding back a derisive laugh and stammered on
rapidly, "-- ignite a candle, give simple commands to animals, do
illusions, and levitate objects. Almost."
	"Excellent! Owen tells me you've been a most diligent student.
What about the wand? Have you used it much?"
	"No, not much," she said, blushing guiltily as she remembered
how she'd used it to turn herself and her schoolmate Birdie into
gargoyles for a night.
	"Has Owen had you handle any other magic items?"
	She shook her head. "But he's told me about some. The
Grimorum, the Eye of Odin --"
	"Has he mentioned anything called the Phoenix Gate?"
	"No, but Goliath did once."
	Xanatos arched an eyebrow. "Did he? What did he say?"
	"We were watching a video. Star Trek First Contact. And Lex
and Brooklyn were having an argument about whether time travel
would be possible. Goliath said that the past couldn't be changed, that
anything somebody did in the past would be what they were supposed
to do anyway, do you know what I mean?"
	"Yes." He motioned for her to go on.
	"So then Lex was wondering about the future --" she broke off.
During that conversation, as soon as Lex had mentioned the future,
Goliath had given him such a dark and strange look that it sent shivers
through her, and did again now. "Anyway, Goliath said that the future
wasn't set, that it _couldn't_ be set. He was real vehement about it."
	"What then?"
	"Then Patrick Stewart was hanging from a pipe in a tank top,
and Angela said that he was awfully studly for a fifty-something balding
Shakespearean actor, and that sort of changed the subject."
	"Hmm." Xanatos stroked his beard thoughtfully. "What do you
think, Aiden?"
	She blushed again. "Well, I think he's a _lot_ sexier than
Captain Kirk --"
	"No, no," he chuckled. "Not that. Although Fox would agree
with you, though she for some reason prefers the First Officer to either
captain. What do you think about time travel?"
	She considered. "Well, who'd want to know the future
anyway? What's the point? What if you knew the day you were going to
die, or saw horrible things, and couldn't change them?"
	"But what if you could change them? Prevent them from ever
being? Forewarned is forearmed, after all."
	"I guess that would be different," she said slowly. "I read a
book once about that. A man traveled to the future, saw what happened,
and then went back to change things, make them better. That would be
all right."
	Xanatos' pocket chitter-beeped and he pulled out his pager.
"Uh-oh, I was supposed to help Fox bathe Alex. Can you believe it
takes two of us, both blackbelt martial artists, to get that kid clean? I
don't know how Owen does it. I hope he's enjoying his weekend off."
He got up. "We should chat more often. If that's all right with you."
	"Oh. Sure!"
	He headed for the door, then stopped and reached into his
jacket. "Almost forgot! Since Owen's away, I was wondering if you
could look at this. Maybe translate it? There's no rush, but as long as
you're here ..."
	"Of course!" She took it, not caring what it was, dead mouse,
shrunken head, didn't matter. This man had been unfailingly generous
and supportive, and she could never thank him enough.
	"Thank you, Aiden." He left the room, and only then did she
look at the dry, crumbling object he'd given her.
	It was a tube about a foot long, wrapped in flaking and peeling
gold-dyed leather. The ends of the tube were capped with ivory, inset
with spiral designs made from polished blue stones.
	Aiden examined it, and finally figured out that one of the ends
came off. She removed it carefully, smelling dust and age, half-
expecting the whole thing to fall apart in her hands. A spider tumbled
out onto her wrist.
	She yelped and skittered backward, dropping the tube and
scrubbing frantically at herself, before she realized the spider was a
brittle, ancient husk.
	The tube lay on the floor, luckily unbroken. A roll of
parchment protruded, jarred partway out by the impact. It wasn't nearly
as deteriorated as the tube, but the ribbon around it had faded to a
washy pink and the edges were yellow and curled.
	"A scroll?" she murmured. She slid it the rest of the way out.
The ribbon snapped as she tried to untie it, but she was able to unroll
the parchment without tearing it.
	Her fingers tingled as they often did when she was handling
Hecate's Wand. There was magic here, strong magic.
	Thin script slanted across the scroll. The language was Latin,
the letters smeared and close together. He wanted her to translate it?
With a pile of dictionaries, a bottle of aspirin, and a lot of time, maybe!
	Still, she thought, it beat driving herself nuts over this
levitation thing.
	So, picking up Gizmo, Aiden flopped across her bed and
started trying to puzzle out the scroll.
		*		*
	Lex yawned and stretched, the last of the stone dust sifting off
his wings.
	"Whew," Broadway remarked, breathing deep of the New
York air and grimacing like he wished he hadn't. "Smoggy tonight. You
can barely see the moon."
	Brooklyn shook his head. "That's one thing I'll never get used
to. All the pollution. Think the humans will ever get a clue?"
	"'Tis the price o' progress." Hudson massaged his leg, grazed
by a bullet the night before.
	"How is it, old friend?" Goliath asked, concerned.
	"It's healed well, but I'm looking forward to a quiet evening.
Who be on patrol tonight?"
	"Not me!" Lex jumped down.
	"Sure, rub it in," Broadway groused. "Some of us are going to
be out there facing danger while you're making out with Aiden."
	"Yeah, like you didn't spend all last weekend trying to get a
home run with Birdie!" Lex shot back.
	"Making out? Home run?" Goliath frowned. "What are you
talking about?"
	Brooklyn grinned. "Sex! The old hide-the-carrot! They've got
a bet as to who gets lucky first!"
	"If you please!" Angela chided. "There are ladies present!"
	"Where?" Brooklyn waxed wiseass.
	"Oh!" She took off after him, whipping her tail indignantly.
	"We do not!" Lex and Broadway yelled after them, belatedly
but in unison.
	"Lads!" Hudson scolded. "And lassie too! This be no joking
	"You and I will patrol," Goliath said to Broadway. "With
Owen away, more of us should stay around the castle."
	"See you later!" Lex sprang down the stairs, Hudson's
ponderous tread behind him.
	"Now, as for ye," Hudson called after him, "ye'd do well to
behave yerself. I know ye care for Aiden, but human ways aren't as
	"Jeez, Hudson," he began, sure that he looked as chagrined
and miserable as he felt.
	"I'd just not be a proper elder if I didna give ye caution and
advice in these matters."
	"Yeah, thanks! Advice taken!" Quick as he could, not wanting
a lecture or (even worse!) "the talk" from Hudson, Lex bounded down
the hall and up to Aiden's door. It was standing open just a bit, giving
him a glimpse of her back as she hunched over her computer.
	He eased the door open enough to slip through. She was
unaware of his presence, her slim fingers flying over the keyboard, the
blue monitor light glowing softly on her beige-blond hair. He crept up
behind her, noted that she was hammering away on her term paper for
sociology class, and leaned in close to blow in her ear.
	She jumped, hit a stutter of letters, and whirled to face him.
"Lex! You scared me half to death!"
	"Gotcha!" He kissed her on the nose.
	"Just a minute," she giggled. "I'm almost done with this page."
	"You go right ahead." As soon as she had turned her attention
back to the computer, he wrapped his arms around her waist from
behind and buried his face in the nape of her neck.
	"Now, how can I concentrate with you doing that?" she sighed.
	"You can't, not if I'm doing it right." He nibbled her ear.
	She squirmed delightfully in his arms. "At least let me save the
	"Okay, okay." He backed off for a minute, then grabbed her
again and crowed, "Study break!"
	Aiden squealed as Lex hauled her out of her chair and over to
the window seat. They fell in an untidy pile, her more-or-less on his lap,
his tail wrapped around her waist, and started making out like the pair
of hormone-crazy teenagers they were.
		*		*
	"You're sure she won't mind watching him?" Fox asked, trying
without much success to pry her hairbrush out of Alex's little fist. The
toddler pealed merry laughter and got away from her, but his sturdy legs
carried him right into his father's reach.
	David Xanatos swept the boy up and divested him of the
hairbrush, tossing it back to his wife before hoisting Alex onto his
shoulders. "Why would she mind?"
	"Up high! Up high!" Alex cheered, tugging on his father's hair.
	"It's only for a couple of hours," Xanatos added. "You and I
should both be at the meeting."
	Fox frowned. "Are you sure about this, David? It seems so ...
so medieval!"
	"It's a wonderful idea. The Grandmaster and I both think so.
Owen agrees."
	"Oh, well, if all the men approve," she said archly. "Then I
guess it doesn't matter what Cordelia and I think."
	"Of course it matters! She's going to be there too, you know.
And I wouldn't miss my chance to see Owen acting the attentive papa-
to-be. I can hardly wait to see how he handles the delivery room! Oh, he
was so calm and cool when Alex was born, but we'll see how impassive
he is when it's his own daughter!"
	"I though the ultrasound was inconclusive. What makes you
think she's going to have a girl?"
	"A hunch. That's why we're only looking into it," he said in his
most reassuring tone. "We haven't signed anything yet."
	"But what about Alex? What about his opinion?"
	"Fox. Darling. We've always wanted nothing but the best for
him. He's our future, our immortality. We must do what's right."
	"Yes, but is this it? I don't want him to be unhappy."
	"Would I do anything to make my son unhappy?" He tumbled
Alex off his shoulders, turning him upside down and tickling him until
the boy was giggling helplessly.
	"No, I suppose not," Fox sighed. "Let's ask Aiden."
	"Ast Aayyyden!" Alex parroted.
	"It's only for a couple of hours," he repeated. "And, my dear,
it's not as if I'm not considering this from all angles. I'll make sure it's a
good idea before I do anything irreversible."
	"I have my ways," he said with a cryptic smile.
	"You'd better. It's our son's life we're talking about." She
followed him down the hall, Alex running ahead of them.
	Alex reached for Aiden's doorknob with both hands. It twisted,
and the door swung open, spilling him onto his hands and knees.
	Aiden and Lexington sprang guiltily apart. Aiden hastily
adjusted her blouse. Lex used his hind foot to scratch behind his ears
with faked nonchalance, reminding Xanatos of a cat caught in an
awkward moment and resorting to grooming.
	Fox hid a smile. "Aiden? Sorry we didn't knock."
	"That's okay! We were just studying!"
	"Studying," Xanatos murmured, amused.
	"Stuyying!" Alex scrambled to his feet and ran to Lex.
	"Hey, Alex!" The gargoyle caught the boy's hands and jittered
him briskly back and forth.
	"A-a-a-a-a-a!" Alex chortled, looking like he was in one of
those exercise machines that were supposed to vibrate the pounds off.
	"We were wondering if you'd mind watching Alex for a few
hours?" Fox asked.
	"Sure! Of course! I'd be happy to!" Aiden cast her eyes
desperately around the room, looking for anything to take her mind of
the embarrassing situation.
	Xanatos couldn't resist needling her a bit more. "If you're not
too ... busy ... with your studies, that is."
	"Awex stay Aayyyden an Yexiton?"
	"You sure are!" Lex said. "Doesn't that sound like fun?"
	"Wide? Wide, pweese?" He tugged hopefully at Lex's
	Casting a wary look at the parents, Lex lowered himself to all
fours and crouched low to the ground. Alex clambered onto his back,
holding onto his belt. Steadying the boy with his tail, Lex loped
carefully around the room.
	"It doesn't look like you'll have too much trouble," Fox said.
"We'll be back by eleven, maybe midnight."
	Xanatos grinned. She would have agreed to the guillotine in
that moment, anything to get them out of the room. "Good night, Alex.
You be a good boy, okay?"
	"Yes!" Alex responded brightly.
	"His bedtime is nine-thirty, no matter what he may tell you,"
Fox said. "Here's our pager number, in case of an emergency."
	Aiden accepted the piece of paper. "Have a nice time!"
	"Yeah," Lex seconded. He lifted Alex off his back and held
the boy up for farewell kisses from his folks.
	"Bye-bye!" Alex waved.
		*		*
	Aiden sank into her chair. The sleek helicopter had vanished
into the murky night, the sound of its rotors had faded. Mr. and Mrs.
Xanatos were officially gone. "We're doomed!"
	"Why?" Lex slowly bounced Alex on his knee, chanting. "This
is the way the ladies ride! This --" (speeding up the bounce) "-- is the
way the gentlemen ride! And this --" (faster, so that Alex's fine red-gold
hair was flying in a halo around his face) "-- is the way the huntsmen
	"They're going to tell my parents!"
	"Aiden, they didn't catch us doing anything bad! Nobody was
undressed or anything."
	She clutched defensively at her blouse. "Not for lack of trying
on your part!"
	He shrugged and grinned. "Can I help it if those bra hooks are
more complicated than a new computer program? So from now on, we
just need to lock your door."
	"That didn't help with Brooklyn," she reminded him.
	"Well, he shouldn't have been hanging around outside your
window, the horny peeper."
	"What, we need to pull down the shades, too?" she said, and
sighed. "Oh, Lex, we're never going to be alone. There's always going
to be somebody around to snoop or spy or just barge in."
	He deposited Alex on the bed and distracted him with Gizmo.
"So ... you do want to be alone?"
	She dropped her eyes and pinked. "Well ... don't you?"
	"You know I do!" He put his arms around her. "Yeah, all this
sneaking around and stuff is fun, but ..."
	"Yeah." She turned her head to meet his kiss.
	"Maybe after Alex goes to sleep?" he breathed hopefully.
	"If his parents came home early, though! And caught us
	"They were young once. They've got to understand."
	"Hudson was young once too," she pointed out. "Want him to
come walking in?"
	"No!" he said immediately. "Okay, I see your point. What are
we going to do? Can't very well go to your place."
	She nodded. "No boys allowed in the dorm, even if we could
get rid of Birdie."
	"We could borrow a car."
	"I'd be scared to death to drive in the city! And a car, that
doesn't seem very romantic." She rested her forehead against his. "I
guess we just have to wait."
	He made a low rumble of frustration.
	"See?" Alex cried proudly.
	Aiden looked. "Alex! Put that down!"
	Triumphantly holding the scroll case overhead, he ran for the
door. "Get! Get!"
	"Alex! Give it to Aiden, please?" she coaxed.
	He trailed a stream of giggles as he raced down the hall.
	"What was that?"
	"Something Mr. Xanatos wanted me to look at." Aiden went
after Alex. "It's old, and it's magic!"
	Lex was right behind her, then passing her. Alex looked back,
saw them chasing, and squealed happily. He cornered with agility
astonishing in such a little kid, taking Lex by surprise. Lex doubled
back and nearly collided with Aiden.
	"That way!" she gasped, pointing to the nursery.
	By the time they got there, Alex was crawling under a table.
One of Lex's hind claws caught on the leg of Alex's new big-boy bed
and he sprawled across it. Aiden plowed into a litter of blocks. Her feet
shot out from under her and she landed on her rear on top of a Big Bird
toy that began shrilly singing the alphabet song.
	Alex tugged one end of the scroll case off and peered inside.
	"Don't touch!" Aiden pleaded, kicking up a wake of blocks as
she scrambled to her knees.
	Lex, quicker, had recovered and was worming under the table.
He emerged with Alex and the case. "Fighting Vikings was easier than
	"Majk!" Alex said, reaching for the case.
	"Yes, magic, that's right." Aiden slid the scroll out and saw
that it was undamamged. Her body sagged in relief. "Good. He didn't
hurt it."
	"What is it, anyway?"
	"Some sort of magic scroll."
	"Like the ones MacBeth tried to steal?"
	"What? MacBeth wouldn't!" she cried, indignantly defending
her second-favorite teacher.
	"No, really! The Scrolls of Merlin, or something like that. Ask
Broadway, he knows all about them. Except I don't think they were
really magic. Stories. About King Arthur. We met him once." Lex
plopped Alex onto the changing table. "I think it's p.j. time for you,
mister! It's almost nine o'clock."
	"Vee-oh?" Alex wheedled.
	"What video do you want?" Lex asked.
	"Gargo vee-oh?"
	"Gargoyle video?" Aiden translated. "What's that?"
	Lex flushed. "It's something Brooklyn and Broadway and I
made. See, I found copies of all the surveillance tapes Xanatos had, of
us fighting the Steel Clan and Demona and the mutates and our other
enemies. We edited it, added music, stuff like that."
	"What, were you going to send it to Bob Saget?"
	"How'd you guess? Hey, ten thousand bucks is ten thousand
bucks! But Xanatos found out and didn't think it was such a good idea."
	"Well, no, not if it proves that he's been involved with you for
all these years."
	"Gargo vee-oh!" Alex insisted. He complied with getting into
his pajamas and settled down in front of the entertainment center with a
cup of juice and a stuffed gargoyle.
	Lex put in the tape and adjusted the volume.
	Aiden looked askance at him. "Rock You Like A Hurricane?"
	"Brooklyn chose the music!"
	"Kind of a bad pun, don't you think?"
	"It gets worse." He sat beside her and gestured toward the
scroll. "Can I?"
	"You're not going to make me chase you all over the castle, are
	"Hmm. Sounds like fun!"
	She kissed his cheek and handed it over. "Isn't this a little
violent for a kid?" she asked, watching a robot blow up vividly as
Goliath plunged his claws into its metallic guts.
	"Aw, he loves it. Look!"
	True, Alex was rapt and attentive. Whenever he saw a
gargoyle, he would call out: "Yexiton!" or "Bookwin!" or "Gwithe!"
	Lex gingerly handled the scroll. "Have you figured out what it
	She shook her head. "It's hard to read, and I haven't had much
luck translating it. I think it has something to do with time, though,
because there are some words -- here, tempos, see?"
	"Better not mention it to Goliath," Lex said. "Remember how
weird he got about the Phoenix Gate?"
	"That look he gave you ... it still gives me the willies."
	"I know!" Lex rubbed his arms as if he'd gotten goosebumps.
"I asked Angela about it, and she said that he'd passed out on their way
home from Avalon, and woke up talking about a terrible nightmare,
something that he had to keep from coming true. I wonder what he saw.
She said he got rid of the Phoenix Gate right after, just hurled it into the
	"It must have been something bad. We're probably better off
not knowing."
	"Are we? But maybe if we knew, we could prevent it."
	"You sound just like Xanatos."
	"Yeah, but what if this scroll does show you the future? Maybe
you should try it."
	"I wouldn't know where to begin," she said. "It's not like I
could just raise it overhead and cry *invoco*!"
	"Then again," she muttered as golden light beamed from the
ends of the scroll, "maybe it is!"
	The last thing they saw was Alex turning to them with an
expression of mild surprise as the world turned inside-out.
		*		*
	Aiden had a truly, truly massive headache.
	Opening her eyes was like trying to raise two rust-clotted
portcullises. She could practically hear them grinding. Even once they
were open, she wasn't sure if they were, because all she could see was
	Her stomach flipflopped, as if dinner was having second
	She raised a hand to her brow and poked herself in the eye
with the scroll she still held. "Ow!"
	A mumble in the darkness.
	With her other hand, Aiden reached toward the sound and
encountered a taloned foot covered with smooth leathery skin. It
twitched under her fingers.
	"Lex?" she whispered.
	Another mumble, interrogative.
	Setting the scroll carefully beside her, Aiden pushed into a
sitting position. She'd expected it to hurt and she wasn't disappointed.
She held onto her head as if she could keep it from exploding. Dust
tickled her nose and she fought off a sneeze.
	"Aiden?" Lex groaned.
	"Yeah," she said softly, massaging her temples.
	"What happened?" She heard him shift and move, then felt
him touch her arm.
	"I was stupid." She blinked, seeing his shadow now against
pale light through the window. "Cast a spell or something."
	"Where's Alex?"
	White-hot fear pierced her. "He's not here?" It instantly gave
way to relief. "Oh, good!"
	"I don't see him. This looks like the nursery, but it's --
changed. Different."
	The sneeze escaped, sending red daggers through her head.
She moaned miserably.
	"Dusty, too," Lex added. "Just a little bit."
	"You don't think ..." she began.
	"That this is the future?" Lex finished.
	"Mr. Xanatos is going to kill me!" She winced as she spoke
too loudly. "Then again, maybe that'd be a blessing."
	"Are you okay?"
	"My head feels like a bass drum and I think I'm going to throw
up." She leaned weakly against him. "Oh, boy, do I feel awful. It's
fading a little, though. What about you?"
	"I'm fine now. I was dizzy at first. Stay put, I'm going to take a
look outside."
	She slumped while he got up. She saw him move closer to the
window. Then she heard him gasp.
	"What? Lex, what is it?"
	"I -- I can't describe it. You've got to see."
	She forced herself up and staggered to his side. When she
looked out the window, her headache was almost forgotten in a wave of
	The city below them was a twinkling jewel box but also dense
with greenery. Atop every roof, every skyscraper, gardens and orchards
grew. Bridges and catwalks connected the buildings. From the Aerie
Building itself, superstructures extended down to form the outline of a
pyramid, capped by the castle.
	The sky overhead was crystal-clear and brilliant with stars.
The air smelled and tasted as fresh as it must in the uncharted
wilderness high in the Rockies. Not a sign of smog, not a hint of
pollution. The river was shining like glass.
	A hush lay over the night, but not the hush of motionlessness
and desertion. Vehicles, hovercraft or aircars, sleek and silent and swift,
zipped along the avenues. No traffic jams, no honking and swearing,
just a ballet of technology.
	They could make out the tiny shapes of people, strolling along
the bridges and through the parks, moving with an unconcerned air
instead of the defensive scuttles or I-know-judo struts that so often
characterized the city's inhabitants.
	"Deja vu!" Lex said. "This is how I felt when I first woke up
here and saw the city below!"
	"It's so clean, so quiet!" Aiden grasped his hand. "We really
did it, Lex! This is the future!"
	"Come on, let's go look around. Let's find the others."
	"Are you nuts? We can't let anybody see us!"
	"Why not? When we get back, we'll tell them first, and then
they won't be surprised."
	She looked at him for a long time, her headache resurfacing.
"Uh-huh. What if we meet ourselves?"
	"They'll, I mean, we'll, remember us."
	"What if we don't meet them? What if we find out we died?"
	"Aiden, we're here. We've got to do something."
	She held up the scroll. "We can go back."
	"When your head's better, maybe. You're in no shape to cast a
	"True enough, but that's no reason to go snooping around."
	He sighed in exasperation. "We can't just sit here in the dark.
We'll have to chance it. Besides, with the monitors, they might've seen
us already. Xanatos could come busting in any minute. Maybe not,
probably not, because he was always more worried about keeping
anybody from getting in than in keeping track of them if they _did_ get
in. I keep telling him that's his Ulysses' Heel --"
	"Achilles," she corrected.
	"Whatever. But he always just crosses his arms, raises his
eyebrow, and tells me that he has complete confidence."
	"Let's go," she said, weary of the argument.
	Lex crept to the door, listened for a long while, and opened it.
The hallway was not filmed with dust like the nursery but was shiningly
	Xanatos had, upon moving the castle, replaced the torch
brackets with electric flambeaux made to resemble torches. Those had
in turn been replaced with flame-shaped glass filled with seething,
roiling fire. The fixtures gave off flickering light but hardly any heat
and no smoke.
	"Weird," Lex murmured.
	"Yeah." Aiden gave one a closer inspection. "I'd almost say
there's magic involved."
	The sound of voices brought them up short. Lex froze for a
moment, then grabbed Aiden and hustled her behind a tapestry. They
pressed flat against the wall, trying not to breathe too deeply.
	An argument was getting closer. They could make out an
unfamiliar female voice.
	"-- can't believe it!"
	"You've seen the documents," a man who sounded remarkably
like Owen Burnett said. "They are all in order and legally binding."
	"It's absurd!" she raged.
	"It's tradition," he replied reasonably. "Your parents went
through the same thing."
	"They knew each other, and they knew about the agreement.
They didn't just wake up one day to be told they were betrothed to total
	"Janine, try to calm down."
	"Why didn't you tell me about this before, that's what I'd like
to know? No, wait, I do know! Because I would have had time to fight
it then. No court in the world would deny me my inheritance when they
learned of this ridiculous arrangement! But you waited until it was too
late! So now, if I refuse, it all goes to you! The old wicked-uncle ploy!
Well, it's not going to work!"
	The argument had stopped just past their hiding place. Lex
inched the tapestry aside enough to give them a view of the two people.
	The woman, Janine, had white-gold hair and high cheekbones,
slightly pointed ears, and an arrogantly breathtaking beauty. Her eyes
were dark, flashing. Xanatos eyes. She was wearing a close-fitting
garment of black and green. Aiden guessed her age at about twenty.
	The fifty-something man resembled Owen Burnett in more
than just voice. He was tall, with hair so blond it was almost colorless
and eyes like a thin sheet of ice over a deep winter pond. His clothes
were severe and impeccably styled.
	"Janine, I assure you, I have no interest in seizing your money.
I am only interested in carrying out your parents' wishes. It's the way
things are done these days."
	"To the devil with that!"
	The pale man sighed. "Why are you being so unreasonable?"
	"Unreasonable!" she shrieked. "You want me to marry a total
stranger by my birthday or else I lose everything, the castle, the
corporation, everything. And you think I'm being unreasonable?"
	"You could at least meet him."
	"This is not a fairy tale! I am not in need of Prince Charming
to come along and save me! I've kept this company going, made it even
greater than my father and grandfather before me! Don't you think I'm
	"You know that I do."
	"Then get rid of that contract!"
	"I cannot."
	She uttered a snarl of pure fury and punched the tapestry. Lex
ducked one way and Aiden ducked the other, and Janine's fist passed
between them to smack the stone wall.
	"Is this how you were raised to behave?"
	"So what if it is?" She whirled on him.
	"All I know is that I recommended a proper English governess.
What possessed your mother to hire that little Texan spitfire, I'll never
	Janine thrust a warning finger in his face. "Not one word
against Nana, not one word!"
	"I care about you, Janine. You are my sister's child. I see
Patricia in your features, in the tilt of your head. You're all I have left of
her, and of Alex, who was a good friend long before he became my
	Lex jerked and turned wide knowing eyes to Aiden. She knew
what he was thinking. Alex's daughter. That put them maybe fifty years
into the future, maybe even more.
	"If you care so much, you won't make me do this! Together,
with our lawyers, we can find a way around it!"
	He slowly shook his head. "I am sorry. Your grandfather
drafted the contract himself, and there has never been a mind, a genius,
to match his."
	"There has to be a way," she hissed. "What about
MacLachlan? Does he agree?"
	"He does, and what's more, he'll be arriving momentarily."
	Janine went ballistic. "WHAT!!!???!!!"
	Lex and Aiden cringed together like Hansel and Gretel in the
	"You invited him here?" she spat venomously.
	"In truth, he contacted me. I hoped that if you met, you would
be more inclined to --"
	"To what? Sell myself like a whore for what is rightfully mine?
And how dare he call you instead of me directly! I don't need a _man_
looking after me!"
	"He's not an ill-favored fellow --"
	She came within an eyeblink of clobbering him. She knew it,
he knew it, and their unseen observers also knew it.
	"Get away from me, Sebastian," she said in a deadly tone. "I'll
find a way to beat this, and when I do, you're out on your ass."
	"You cannot fire family, Janine."
	"I can try."
	With a placid little Owen-esque bow, apparently unruffled by
her threats and her temper, the man called Sebastian turned and left.
	Janine watched him go, her entire body shaking as if she was
longing to unleash her fury on the next moving target she saw.
	Once again, Lex and Aiden's eyes met. Now was not the time
to make any introductions. They held their places and their breath until
the woman stalked away.
	"Wow," Lex said quietly. "Xanatos' granddaughter."
	"Owen's granddaughter too," Aiden said.
	He goggled at her. "What?"
	"That man, Sebastian. I'd bet anything that he's Owen's son.
And that his sister is Owen's daughter. Owen's, and Miss St. John's,
from my school."
		*		*
	The security systems control room was much as they
remembered it, except that there were voice-sensitive controls in
addition to the keyboards, the monitors were hologramatic globes, and
the chairs were sleek and exciting, spaceship-y.
	"Cool!" Lex enthused. He hopped into one.
	"How does it work?"
	His hands flew. "An electronic card, like a key card, would go
in here, and then the computer would identify the user by voiceprint. I
bet my voice is already in there."
	"But we don't have a keycard," Aiden pointed out.
	"There's got to be a way around that," he muttered. "Some sort
of override ..."
	"There's the castle exterior," she said. "It looks the same. I
don't see any of the clan, though."
	"Probably on patrol, or in their quarters. Hey, I wonder if
we've got a rookery! Eggs, hatchlings, wouldn't that be great?"
	She peered from one monitor-globe to the next. "I don't see
any gargoyles at all. Look, isn't that your quarters? But the furniture is
all covered up, and it's so dark and gloomy!"
	"Yeah ... where is everybody? And look at this date: 5-23-57.
We're sixty years in the future!"
	"Lex, this isn't right," Aiden said, feeling a chill. "Let's just get
out of here and go home, before we find out something bad."
	"If there's something bad to find out, we need to know so we
can warn the others," he argued.
	Aiden bit nervously at the ball of her thumb and let him go
back to fiddling with the keyboard. He soon cried out triumphantly as a
panel flipped open to reveal a palmprint scanner that was designed for a
three-fingered, clawed hand. He wasted no time slapping his hand on it.
A faint green light crawled back and forth.
	"Greetings, Lexington," read one of the screens.
	"Yes! Score!" he cheered.
	"There's a car coming," Aiden whispered, gesturing to one
monitor-globe that showed the underground parking garage. A vehicle
that looked absurdly like a Star Wars landspeeder was slowing to a halt.
"I bet it's Janine's fiance."
	Lex spared a quick peek, then went back to the computer. His
expression of thrilled discovery and exploration gradually darkened into
a worried frown as scene after scene flashed by. "This is weird. I can't
find anybody!"
	"Let's just go home," Aiden said, arms wrapped around herself
to ward off a chill.
	He fiddled some more, his frown deepening. "This is _really_
weird. The last entry I can find from myself is almost thirty years ago."
	"Lex, come on. Please!"
	"Let me at least see what that entry was --"
	Aiden touched his arm. "Someone's coming!" She pointed to
one of the globes, which showed the hallway outside the control room.
A figure, so gleaming with tech widgies that it had to be either a cyborg
or a robot, was approaching the door.
	"Damn it!" Lex leaped out of his chair, seized Aiden's hand,
slammed the palmprint scanner, and bolted toward an empty corner as
the monitor globes winked out.
	"What are you doing? We're trapped!"
	His claws scrabbled over the bottom row of stones. "Come on,
come on," he said urgently to the wall. "Aha!" One of the stones sank
in, and a whole section of the wall slid aside with a grating grave-
robber's noise.
	"A secret passage?"
	"Hurry!" He pulled her into darkness and closed it behind
them just as they heard the click of the outer door opening. Lex leaned
against the wall and pantomimed relief, wiping his brow.
	"*Luminaros*," Aiden breathed. A wavery shimmer formed
between them, condensing and solidifying into a glowing sphere about
the size of a tennis ball. The faint light revealed a dusty, narrow passage
curving away in both directions.
	"Computer," said someone or something that sounded exactly
like David Xanatos. "Access main security program, authorization
Coyote XIII, code Gamma Six. Implement -- "
	"Coyote! Crud! Let's get out of here," Lex hissed.
	"Which way?"
	"Follow me." He hurried along, her right behind him, and the
silver witchlight bobbing over her head.
	They went up a narrow throat of stairs. She could feel the
enormous weight of the castle pressing in on her. Thousands of tons of
solid stone ... "Lex?"
	"I'm getting totally claustrophobic."
	"It's okay. This ends up at the main hall. Just a few more
	"Uh-huh." Aiden shuddered so fiercely that her teeth chattered.
	Lex paused and wrapped her in his arms and wings. "We're
fine. Don't worry. Gargoyles protect, remember?"
	She rested her head against his chest. "We're just so far away!
From everyone!"
	He stroked her hair. "Hey," he said, "at least we're finally
	Aiden laughed through her fear. "Guess so."
	"Wanna make out?"
	"Not in this dingy secret passage." She kissed him swiftly on
the cheek. "Let's go."
	A few minutes later, they were in the gallery overlooking the
grand hall. Draperies, bearing colorful coats of arms, dangled over the
edge of the gallery railing. Below, the large round firepit had been
replaced by a glass bubble, within which churned bright flames.
	Aiden doused her witchlight. "What now?"
	Before Lex could reply, the double doors slammed open and
their unknowing hostess Janine stormed in.
	A man followed Janine. Not her uncle Sebastian, this one was
closer to her own age. His garb was even more strikingly odd than hers,
but went better with the room, because he wore a bodysuit of tiny metal
rings sewn to black leather, and a fancy breastplate. A cloak swept
grandly from his broad shoulders, and to top it all off, a plumed helm
was tucked under one arm.
	He was exceedingly handsome, with thick coppery-mahogany
hair and a short, well-trimmed beard. Even from this distance and angle,
Aiden could see that his eyes glinted as steely as his armor.
	"There must be some mistake," he was saying, in a voice richly
textured and vaguely familiar.
	"There certainly is!" Janine snapped. "You are not welcome
	"The documents in my possession indicate otherwise."
	"It was in error!"
	He tilted his head and smiled, a rather charming smile. "You
admit making an error? That is unlike you, from your reputation."
	"Don't play with me, MacLachlan! We are not living in the
Middle Ages!" Janine raged, glaring hatefully at his garb and the hall's
furnishings. "No matter what it looks like! The days of arranged
marriages are centuries past!"
	"You're being awfully hostile to someone you've only just
met," he observed.
	"He looks familiar," Aiden whispered to Lex.
	"I was just thinking that. But we couldn't know him; he can't be
more than twenty-five."
	"He almost ..." she hesitated, not wanting to sound foolish,
"almost reminds me of a young MacBeth."
	"I'm hostile to anyone that shows up uninvited in my home,
expecting to marry me! I will have my freedom!"
	He chuckled. "You're prepared to pay quite a bit for that
privilege, I understand."
	"Better than giving it up to you!"
	His chuckle turned into a full laugh. "My dear girl --" she
almost went for his eyes right then, but restrained herself with visible
effort, "-- I am not an opportunist after your money. I've quite a
substantial amount of my own, thank you."
	Her shoulders shook from tension. "I wouldn't care if you were
the heir to the Gates-Spielberg fortune! _I_ am Janine Xanatos! The
blood of the fey flows in my veins! My great-grandmother is Titania
Queen of Avalon herself! No mere man, no matter how rich or how
handsome, deserves me!"
	"Jeez," Lex whispered, appalled at her evident conceit.
	MacLachlan's laugh rolled forth again. Janine blanched at this
clearly unexpected reaction, and began fuming even more visibly.
	"At least you consider me handsome," he said. He placed his
helm on the table and began unfastening the buckles and straps of his
	"What are you doing?" she scowled.
	He removed the breastplate and began stripping off his shirt.
"I've something to show you."
	"You're not impressing anyone," Janine said scornfully.
	"He's impressing _me_," Aiden murmured, earning a poke in
the ribs from Lex.
	"I'll call security," Janine threatened, dropping into a martial-
arts pose. "And until they get here, I'll amuse myself kicking your butt
from one end of this hall to the other!"
	"Humor me for just one moment more," he said, shedding the
last of his garments except for a woolen loincloth.
	"Think we should help her?" Lex made ready to spring over
the railing, but Aiden held him back.
	"Wait. There's something weird about him," she said. "Like
	MacLachlan stood straight and tall, the firelight dancing
hungrily over his muscular body. Janine paused in her threats long
enough to give him an admiring once-over, but that didn't stop her from
sidling closer to the high table. Aiden and Lex both knew that Xanatos
was in the habit of keeping weapons concealed here and there about the
house, and presumably his granddaughter was no different.
	She reached for the table, and stopped, her mouth hanging
	MacLachlan changed. He bent double, face contorted. His legs
drew up, elongated like something out of a werewolf movie. Except
that, instead of sprouting hair, his skin tinged toward blue. A tail
extended from beneath his loincloth. His hands, now altered, clawed at
the air. And from his back, talon-tipped wings unfolded.
	"Oh, gosh," Aiden said in wonder.
	Janine was still just staring, her expression and Lex's curiously
	"You see, I am no 'mere' man," he explained. "I am Moray
MacLachlan. The blood of kings, immortals, gargoyles, and sorcerers
flows in _my_ veins."
	Aiden looked to Lex, seeking understanding.
	Lex's color had gone positively yellow. He was gawping like a
fish. He managed one unbelieving word, "Demona!" and then his eyes
rolled up and he pitched over in a dead faint.
		*		*
	Janine stopped moving toward the weapons cabinet cleverly
hidden in the high table. "This is impossible," she said, her rage
temporarily snuffed. "All of the gargoyles went to space. The Xanatopia
Orbital Colony. Almost thirty years ago."
	"Not quite all of them. My mother would have never agreed to
that little relocation plan. She saw it for what it truly was, a way to get
rid of the gargoyles without having to fight them."
	"No, that's not true! My father was trying to help the
	"And in the process, won himself the gratitude of the entire
city -- no, entire world, once he'd ferreted out the other clans and
shipped them off too!"
	"It wasn't like that!"
	"How would you know? It was before either of us were born,
but _I_ have the truth of it from my father."
	"Are you calling mine a liar?" she bristled.
	"Oh, please," he laughed. "Falsehood is an even more
longstanding Xanatos tradition than this betrothal business. My father
may have been a practiced deceiver, but was at heart an honest man. He
was there the night your father convinced the gargoyle leader Goliath to
take his clan away."
	"For their safety!"
	"I'm sure that's how it seemed."
	"Goliath agreed to it!"
	"Because it was the only weak moment of his entire life. He
was standing over the slaughtered body of his beloved mate, unable to
save her or their child. His oldest friend was so much dust blowing
away into the darkness. And his hands were wet with the blood of his
own son, my half-brother."
	"It was a terrible, terrible thing. My father only wanted to
	"By conveniently getting rid of all the gargoyles, just at a time
when the city was at its worst. I've seen the old newscasts. You must
have as well. Riots in the streets. Quarrymen and Hunters overpowering
the police. Every citizen a raving paranoid time bomb. Your father
'captured' all of the gargoyles and sent them into space, and was hailed
an instant hero."
	"The orbital colony was the only place they would be safe!
Anywhere else on the planet, they would have been tracked down,
smashed to rubble!"
	MacLachlan nodded with condescending wisdom, making her
hand itch to strike his handsome face. "I'm sure that's how he presented
it to Goliath. Who was, at least according to my mother, always a
gullible fool when it came to dealing with humans."
	Janine made a single harsh gesture. "This is all ancient history.
The gargoyles are fine. I get regular reports from a spy satellite that are
	"Completely falsified," he interrupted smoothly. "Your
satellite has been in their control for almost twenty years, and they've
been feeding you phony information."
	"Oh, how would you know?" she sneered.
	"Because I've been in contact with them. Their leader's mate is
my half-sister. Despite our admittedly dysfuctional family, we share a
basic sibling bond. Angela trusts me." He laughed softly.
	"Even assuming you're right, why are you telling me?"
	He didn't answer right away, something that always annoyed
her no matter who did it. Instead, he moved leisurely to one of the
tables and stroked the glossy surface. "Remarkable place, this castle. It
calls to me, rings like a bell in my mixed blood."
	She clenched her jaw and her fists, determined to wait him out
and not repeat her question. She was used to having everyone around
her speaking carefully, cringing from her volatile nature. This man --
this _creature_ -- was unfazed. Of course, if he'd been raised by the
infamous Demona, he was accustomed to displays of temper.
	"Yes, a very worthy place," he continued. "A shame to see
anything happen to it."
	"Just say whatever you want to say and quit trying to bait me,"
she said, managing to convey just the right tone of impatience and
	He turned to face her, smiling slightly. "The gargoyles plan to
attack. Soon. Possibly even tonight. They want their home, their world,
back. And they're not going to care how much fey ancestry you have if
you intend to stand in their way."
	Janine laughed. "And just how do the gargoyles expect to
carry off a successful attack? They have no spacecraft, and this castle,
no, this _city_, is completely defended."
	"That may be what your reports say," MacLachlan said, "but I
assure you, it isn't so. Even now, craft made from cannabalized sections
of the colony are on their way to Earth. As for the defenses, well, tell
me this: who designed them?"
	"My grandfather."
	"All by himself?"
	"No, he had a garg ... oh! You can't mean --" She left the
sentence unfinished as she sprinted for the door.
	MacLachlan sprang into her path. "Not so fast."
	She didn't miss a step, driving her fist at his jaw. "And you've
come to delay me long enough for that little green goblin to override
my security systems!"
	He deflected the blow and used his tail to whip her feet out
from under her. "I'm here to help you!"
	Janine landed and bounced back up like she was made of
springs and Silly Putty instead of flesh and blood. "Why?"
	"Various reasons. Firstly, I'm none too eager to see a return to
the old days. If the Quarrymen revive their order, it's only a matter of
time until they find out about me. I've enough enemies already without
having to deal with those irrationally prejudiced fools. Secondly, you
realize that if the gargoyles do return, eventually they'll find out that
you've barred the way to and from Avalon. And they'll take it into their
heads to meddle."
	Janine stared at the glass fire bubble in the center of the room.
Her face felt like that bubble, clear as glass and seething with flame
inside. Her heart, on the other hand, was a tiny icy knot of dread.
	MacLachlan relentlessly kept on. "Do you think your parents
and grandparents, not to mention my own illustrious mater and pater,
will be pleased when they find out who's been holding them on
	"But -- why help me?"
	"There is no love lost between my mother and myself. My
father is a good man, but with his long life and experience, he'll never
consider me to be an adult. Further, once they return, they'll quite
reasonably want to reclaim what is theirs. I'm sure you can understand
	She was silent. She could understand, all right. Xanatos
Enterprises was hers now, but how long would that last if her father, or
worse! her grandfather returned from Avalon?
	"They might have failed against Oberon," she finally said.
	Moray scoffed. "Don't count on it. His time was past a
milennium ago. But even if by some miracle you're right, would you
think Oberon himself is going to be pleased with you? Either way, if
you ever lose control of that blocking spell, _someone_ will be coming
back. And you can't keep it up if you're needing all your resources to
defend yourself and your castle from rampaging gargoyles, can you?"
	"No," she admitted. "I couldn't. Not for long."
	"I can help you protect the castle." He grinned slightly. "In a
way, it's as much my ancestral home as it is yours. Partnership makes
sense, marriage makes more. And has ... other benefits."
	Her gaze was drawn up as he moved closer to her. "Benefits?"
she repeated.
	He lost his talons in the white-gold blaze of her hair. "Think of
the children we could have. All of the bloodlines, all of the powers. The
heirs to a new world."
	She turned her head just enough to let his smooth inhuman
skin brush against her cheek.
		*		*
	"I am not going to sit here and watch this!" Aiden whispered,
trying to hide her eyes and tug at Lex all at the same time.
	"It's no different than Brooklyn peeping in your window at us,"
he pointed out.
	"Brooklyn never saw anything like that!" she hissed. "I will
never be that ... athletic! Besides, I thought you wanted to warn the
gargoyles! The only way we can do that is to get to the control room
while they're ..."
	"Busy?" He raised his head slyly again, just enough to give
him a glimpse of the proceedings below. "They sure are! That table is a
lot sturdier than it looks!"
	"Okay, okay." He led her into the secret passage. "We do have
to warn Angela. If she trusts MacLachlan, and he's using that to help
Janine, it could be death for my clan. And this little green goblin, for
one, isn't going to let that happen!"
	"So you did hear that."
	He snarled. "Goblin, my foot!"
	She summoned another witchlight. "But, Lex, maybe it's better
if we don't get involved. This isn't our world. We can go back, and
maybe stop any of it from happening."
	He paused. The silvery light made him look haggard, or maybe
it was the sudden pain evident on his face. "Elisa and Hudson, dead.
Goliath must've been crazy with grief. We have to stop that, if we can."
	"Great!" she said, relieved. "I've got the scroll --"
	He put his hand over hers. "But first, we've got to help my
clan. Even if this will never be, I can't turn my back on them."
		*		*
	The predawn sky over Manhattan exploded in light. Red
match-heads trailing cometlike tails streaked across the fading backdrop
of stars.
	The people below observed the spectacle with only mild
curiosity. They'd seen some unusual things centering on the Aerie
Pyramid in the past.
	It wasn't until some of the craft opened to disgorge dozens of
armored gargoyle-shapes that their curiosity turned to alarm.
	And alarm turned to panic when bolts of heatless death and
destruction began spewing from the other craft.
		*		*
	The floor beneath them first jumped, then dropped like an
elevator with cut cables. There was a new silence, the absence of a quiet
but pervasive hum that they hadn't even noticed until it was gone. The
building shuddered again.
	"Direct hit!" Lex cried. "The defenses must be down already!"
There was a peculiar mix of horror and pride in his tone, as if he knew
that he, or his future self, was partly responsible.
	"They're going to destroy the castle. Lex, please!" She grabbed
him by the shoulders and made him look at her. "Lex, we can help more
by going back, going home."
	He grabbed her as well, and they waltzed clumsily in the
shaking, seesawing corridor. "Not without doing something!"
	Barely a yard ahead of them, the passage caved in with a belch
of dust and grit. Heavy stones slammed the floor. Aiden and Lex were
thrown backwards, landing scraped and bruised. They froze, staring
wide-eyed at each other, realizing that if they hadn't stopped when they
did, they'd be so much squish under the pile.
	The ceiling over them groaned and shifted.
	The hum started in again, deeper, and the bombardment
stopped. The ceiling held. For the time being.
	Aiden tried to speak and only a whimpering squeak came out.
Lex recovered faster, but then, he was a gargoyle warrior and had been
in lots more life-or-death emergencies than one bookish teenager from
Irvine. He helped her to her feet.
	"Can't go that way," he judged after one look at the stone-
clogged passage. "Come on, back to the main hall! We can loop around
and get to Xanatos' office."
	"I can access the security systems from there. I know his
	"Lex, that was sixty years ago!"
	"It's worth a shot." He pulled her out of the way just as another
block crashed down, fast enough to avoid being killed but not quite fast
enough to escape unharmed. A crumbling chunk of masonry struck
Aiden's head.
	Aiden collapsed limply into Lex's arms.
		*		*
	Janine Xanatos swore and struck the control panel with the
heel of her hand. "He's countering my every move! How are the
	MacLachlan consulted his monitors. "Seventy percent
remaining. The gargoyles have suffered only minimal damage."
	"There are too many of them!" she said. "They must've been
breeding like rabbits out there! I thought the entire gargoyle population
numbered less than a hundred!"
	"We've got twice that onscreen right now. This attack is worse
than I anticipated!"
	"The magbots!" Janine cried, issuing more commands. "Let's
 see how they do against both science _and_ sorcery!"
	"Sorcery!" He whirled to face her hopefully. "Can't you use
sorcery to stop them?"
	"I don't dare. My spell blocking Avalon --"
	"What good is that if you die?"
	"If I die," she said grimly, "the spell holds always. A defense
against my meddling uncle. He's never agreed with me, and would stop
me if he could. But I'm onto him. I know his tricks."
	"Do you?" MacLachlan murmured, and returned his attention
to the controls.
		*		*	
	The whole castle being tossed, a ship on a stormy sea. Another
block of stone, a four-foot cube, smashed down so close on his heels his
tail was almost pinned and crushed. Through the windows and
arrowslits, he could see the hovering and soaring attackers, bristling
with laser light.
	He could also see the growing light in the eastern sky.
	They made it to Xanatos' office, with its panoramic view,
although the effect was spoiled since the glass was all blown out and the
metal framework looked like the snaggletoothed jaws of a monster.
	He lowered Aiden and chafed her hands anxiously.
	"Aiden? Aiden, come on, wake up! I'm sorry, you were right,
we should have gone back right away. This isn't our fight. This isn't our
future. We can prevent this. All of it. As long as we can get home.
Aiden? Can you hear me?"
	She didn't move. Blood was matting her hair. He held back
panic, reminding himself that all head wounds bled a lot. Something
about capillaries in the scalp. No reason to panic. Yeah, sure.
	He fearfully searched for a pulse, and uttered a shaky sigh that
was not quite a sob when he found it slow and steady. She was
breathing shallowly.
	"It'll be okay," he said. "They can't keep it up much longer. It's
almost dawn!" He paused, cocking his head, expecting to hear the
cessation of the attack. It only kept on with greater ferocity.
	He glanced out the window again at the hovering gargoyle
forms. Their posture seemed all wrong to him, there was something
here that he just wasn't seeing. Something more than the encroaching
	"Why don't they leave off?" he wondered aloud. "They'll be
helpless by day ... no time to get to a safe place to roost before --"
	The outer wall blew inward. Lex threw himself over Aiden,
gravel and small stones pelting his back. A beam creaked, low and
ominous, and the ceiling seemed to tilt overhead.
	No other choice. He gathered her up again and leaped through
the hole in the wall. His wings slowed them enough to turn a deadly fall
into a bruising one as they landed in the rubble-strewn courtyard. It was
thick with greenery, although most of the trees were now scorched
skeletons wreathed in flame.
	Lex crawled/dragged the two of them to an unfamiliar
fountain. It was miraculously intact, and the marble statues looked
weirdly like Oberon and Titania, ringed by a trio of identical women.
	He dipped his hand in the water, warm from the fire but not
hot, and splashed Aiden's pale face.
	She sputtered and looked blearily up at him. "Lex?"
	He couldn't speak for a moment, just clutched her to his chest.
	"Lex!" Alarmed this time. Her gaze was fixed skyward.
	He looked, and saw against the pink-gold sky one of the ships,
the size of a large helicopter, zooming in for a close run at the castle. A
rapid-fire series of projectiles, too fiercely bright to look at directly,
streaked from its underside and etched a wide line of destruction.
	"Use the scr --" he started, and the entire castle wall came
		*		*
	Aiden felt like every limb had been wrenched off and put back
on crooked. Incredibly, her headache was gone. Or maybe just shamed
inconspicuous by the variety of new pains.
	A man's face, vaguely touched with concern, moved into her
view. "You'll be all right," Sebastian said, wringing out a damp cloth
and putting it on her forehead. "Nothing broken. Drink this."
	He held a cup to her lips. She had to drink it or let it spill down
her chin. It smelled like Strawberry Quik and something else that made
her magical senses tingle. She sipped it and felt cool, soothing relief
spread instantly through her battered body.
	"Thank you!" she gasped. "What is that?"
	"Who are you?"
	"Aiden Ferg --" she began, and shut herself up in a hurry.
	Sebastian's fine brows knitted briefly. "What did you say?"
	"Um --" she cast about desperately, "Morag! My name is
Morag!" It was her middle name, pretty horrible, and because she kept
it secret from everyone, even Lex, nobody would know it in any
timeline! A good plan!
	A good plan, but too late. The son of Owen Burnett missed
nothing, just like Owen himself.
	"Aiden Ferguson?" he said, frowning. "That is extremely
unlikely, if not impossible."
	She could not meet his gaze so looked around. One of the
castle bedrooms. Still and silent. The attack had stopped. A few items
had fallen from shelves, the window was cracked, and a hole in the wall
was covered with a tacked-up blanket.
	Late afternoon sunlight slanted along the floor, and her chest
tightened in alarm. "Lex!"
	"So," Sebastian said thoughtfully. "The plot thickens."
	"Please," Aiden begged, sitting up on the narrow sofa. "I have
to find my ... friend. He might be hurt!"
	"He'll heal with the coming of dusk. I took the liberty of
bringing him inside, though. I could not chance Janine or Moray finding
him." He gestured to a grey mass in one corner.
	It was Lex, that much was certain. His body was frozen in a
defensive pose, but he didn't look damaged.
	"My name is Sebastian St. John-Burnett," he said. "And I think
you have some explaining to do."
	"I can't!" Aiden was about to cry, not knowing what to do. She
wanted to trust this man, son of her teacher, but could she? Did she
have a choice? He had healed her, so surely he couldn't mean her any
	He merely watched, waiting patiently.
	She tried to think of something to say, and then realized that
she was no longer holding the scroll. A well-pit of despair opened up in
her soul. She had lost her only way home!
	"My name is Aiden Ferguson," she said. "He's Lexington.
We're not of this time."
	"Obviously. You are clearly from the past."
	"Why? How can you tell?"
	He permitted himself a small smile. "Because the Aiden I
knew was a gargoyle."
		*		*
	"I shouldn't be seeing this," Aiden said, fiercely tempted. "This
isn't my world!"
	"If you cannot return home, this becomes your world by
default. In which case, it behooves you to assist me. To do that, you'll
need to know." Sebastian nodded in satisfaction at the computer.
	The screen flickered into readiness while Aiden tried to recall
if she'd ever heard anybody use 'behoove' in real life.
	Sebastian's fingers danced on the keyboard, seeming to hardly
touch the keys. In moments, he had called up what he was looking for.
The screen went dark, with a small flashing box at the bottom corner.
Letters and numbers were in the box: 10-22-27 LIVU/rec.
	"October twenty-second," she deciphered, "2027? What do the
letters mean?"
	"Lexington Internal Video Uplink," Sebastian replied.
	"What?" she turned to him, unnerved, but he directed her
attention to the screen, where an image was fading into view.
	It was the grand hall of Castle Wyvern, decorated for some
sort of party. She saw Goliath, looking not all that much different, and
did some quick math. Thirty years in the future, he would've aged only
fifteen, which put him still in his prime. There was a woman beside
him, and it took Aiden a moment to recognize Elisa. She had changed,
but not as much as she should have. She only looked to be in her early
forties, her dark hair slightly touched by grey.
	The camera panned past an attractive twenty-something
couple. The man had to be Alex Xanatos, because he looked exactly
like his father except with his mother's firegold hair. The woman, a cool
platinum beauty, had to be his wife, Sebastian's sister Patricia.
	Next up were Brooklyn and Angela, she sitting in a rocker and
he leaning over her shoulder to tickle the chin of the tiny gargoyle
cradled to her breast. The hatchling had his red skin and backward-
curving horns, and Angela's sable hair and petite nose.
	"Oh, how sweet!" Aiden gushed.
	"Their daughter, Kathe," Sebastian said.
	The view shifted upward and slid slowly across a banner.
Aiden read it aloud. "Happy Hatchday, Luke and Leia. Luke and Leia?
Who are they?"
	A swift pan, as if in answer to her question, and her jaw
dropped. There, coming into the room, were two hatchlings, older than
Kathe, about the size of five-year-old children. Their eyes lit in delight
as they saw the festive decorations and pile of gifts.
	Both were built like Lexington, with wings that stretched from
wrist to ankle, slit to thread belts through. One wore a loincloth, the
other a skirt and halter. Their skin was a different shade of green, that
Lex's, more greyish and less olive. The male had an unruly tumble of
light brown hair, the female had ringlets curling on either side of a
pterodactylian crest that swept back atop her head. And there, behind
the youngsters, was an older grey female who --
	The view dipped, losing sight of her and trying to focus on the
two little ones, who were swarming about with their mouths moving
	"That was me!" Aiden exclaimed. "Wasn't it?"
	"And those are your children," Sebastian said calmly. "Luke
and Leia."
	She laughed out loud, then sobered. "My children. But I'm not
a gargoyle."
	"But you are a sorceress," he countered. "And you did once
possess Hecate's Wand."
	"Wait, wait." Aiden rubbed her temples. "When will I ... did I
... change?"
	He considered briefly. "2004, 2005, I'm not precisely sure. I
was very young at the time, too young to really remember Aiden as
anything other than a gargoyle, and Lexington's mate."
	She mulled that one over for a while. "The wand?"
	"Given to my sister Patricia, also a human sorceress, after her
lack of magical protection nearly led to her death. If not for Elisa Maza
and Matt Bluestone, she would have been murdered by her kidnappers.
In thanks for the rescue, Alexander gifted the two detectives with the
lifespans of gargoyles."
	"So that's why Elisa doesn't seem old enough! You mean, she's
	"No," he said sadly. "They declined that gift after witnessing
MacBeth's long sorrows. Had they accepted, she would still be alive
	Aiden swallowed a sob, trying to remind herself that Elisa was
fine and well in her time. "How did she ... will she ... die?" she asked,
not really wanting to know, but if they could get home and somehow
prevent it ...
	"A year after this recording," he said, motioning to the screen,
where the young gargoyles were diving into their presents with glee,
"she, Hudson and Bronx were killed by a renegade gargoyle of the
Avalon clan."
	"Oh, no! That's terrible!"
	"Goliath slew the renegade, but he could not bring back Elisa
or their unborn child. It wasn't long after that he yeilded the leadership
to his second. I show you this because it is really one of the last happy
moments the clan enjoyed here. As happy as it could be, all things
	"Where's Broadway?" she asked, having seen all of the others
except Lex, who she assumed was handling the video camera.
	"He died two years before this recording, trying to rescue
Angela's first egg from the Quarrymen. It was in that same battle that
Lexington was maimed."
	"Maimed!" She glanced hastily at Lex to make sure he was
still all right. "But then, how ...?"
	"Cybernetic implants. His natural healing was not enough to
repair the damage, but enough to keep him alive. Barely. Thanks to
David Xanatos, he was able to regain full mobility. Improved, actually,
in many ways."
	She tried to put the images out of her head. Lex, maimed,
made over by robotics. Broadway dead. Elisa ... Hudson ... Elisa's baby
... "What happened to Angela's egg?"
	"It was of the same hatching, the same breeding season, as
yours. There was what you might call a custody dispute. Angela's
mother Demona believed only she could properly care for it, since she
was a true-raised gargoyle while Angela had been brought up by
humans. But the Quarrymen interfered, and while they could not kill
Demona, they did destroy the egg."
	Aiden fell silent again. Sebastian, seemingly oblivious because
this was all history to him, continued.
	"Angela decided to breed again the very next year. It was too
soon, she hadn't fully recovered from the first breeding. She nearly died
herself, and rendered herself barren bringing Kathe's egg into the
	"All that pain and sadness," Aiden murmured, dabbing her
eyes on her sleeve and wishing vainly for a Kleenex. "No wonder they
agreed to leave! But what about Owen? Mr. Xanatos? Fox? Where are
	"Another long story. Many years ago, shortly after the death of
my mother --" he broke off as Aiden gasped harshly.
	"Miss St. John?"
	He patted her twice on the shoulder, a remarkably expressive
gesture of comfort for someone like him. "I forget, this is all new to
you. I am sorry."
	She sniffled. "That's okay. Go ahead."
	He nodded. "My mother died in 2022. Patricia and Alexander
had been honeymooning on Avalon for the past four years, although it
was only a matter of months to them. When they returned for her
funeral, Alexander's parents decided that it was time to take their
second son Jason to Avalon. His powers had proved to be beyond even
the Puck's abilities to manage. My father chose to accompany them
nonetheless. And then, I don't know why or how, David Xanatos
challenged Oberon himself for rule of the island."
	Aiden's gasp this time was not in sudden anguish but in
mingled shock and admiration for Xanatos' audacity.
	"In 2045," Sebastian went on, "a trio of women appeared to
summon my sister, her husband, and MacLachlan's parents. I was left
behind, partly because my power has never matched either of theirs,
and partly to look after the business and Janine, who was still a child.
Patricia held Hecate's Wand, a weapon made to defeat Oberon. I
expected them to triumph and return, realizing that it might seem
months or years yet to me because time flowed differently. But I hadn't
counted on Janine. When she was only seventeen, she used her magic to
block Avalon. Trapping them."
	"How? She's just one sorceress, against all the faeries and
Hecate's Wand and Puck and everybody."
	"True. If you imagine the way between here and Avalon being
like a door, with one person struggling to hold it against several
stronger people, it is impossible. But Avalon is not so simple. Janine is
a unique creature, both fey and a sorceress, drawing upon the power of
	"But ... like you said, time is different over there. Maybe they
haven't even tried to come back yet."
	"You may be right. But eventually they will, and Janine gets
stronger each day. I was never able to overcome her by myself. It would
take more magic than I possess to break her spell. She holds it always,
even when she sleeps."
	"Are there really sorcerers among the gargoyles? Aside from
Demona, I mean?"
	"Possibly," Sebastian shrugged. "But that is where it gets
	"What do you mean?"
	"The gargoyles," he said, pressing a button to freeze on an
image of a now-very-elderly Hudson beaming with grandfatherly
indulgence at the hatchlings, "never went to space. In fact, there _is_ no
Orbital Colony. There is a modest space station named Xanatopia, but
only Renardian androids are stationed there."
	She stared at him. "The attack, though!"
	"Do you really think the gargoyles would attack? Why? What
would it gain them?"
	"Well, their ancestral home. And maybe revenge, if they did
think they'd been shuffled off to space to get rid of them. Goliath's very
big on revenge."
	"The ancestral home that had seen so much suffering?
Revenge, at possible devastating cost? Goliath no longer leads, and
Brooklyn learned the value of life over revenge after losing so many of
his clan. Besides, they simply are not, and never were, in space."
	"Then where _are_ they?" Aiden was past confused and into
frustrated, her head spinning trying to keep track of what was and
wasn't and might be.
	"Their _true_ ancestral home. The Isle of Carroch."
	Now she just looked blankly at him.
	He smiled patiently, in that instant reminding her forcefully of
his father. "Avalon is not the only mystic island out there. Carroch is
the birthplace of the gargoyle race. But, you see, their true destination
couldn't be known."
	"Sure, because people like Quarrymen might try to hunt them
there, too."
	"Very good. Not even Demona knew the truth. The rift
between her and the clan had begun to mend, but after she was
indirectly responsible for the loss of the egg, even Angela's heart
hardened toward her. She, like the rest of the world, believed the
gargoyles to be out of reach. Now, what conclusions can be drawn from
	Aiden thought it over, and then glanced at the blanket-covered
hole in the wall. "The gargoyles aren't behind the attack! But then ...
who is?"
	He smiled slightly. "We are."
		*		*
	Lexington stretched, half-convinced that it had all been a
dream until he saw the strange room, felt the residual tenderness in his
now-mended aches and pains, and realized that the attack was underway
	He saw Aiden and sprang to her side. She was lying on a bed,
a blanket pulled up to her chin. Her head was bandaged but her color
was good and her various scrapes and bruises were faded to pale. She
seemed to be sleeping.
	His fists clenched. He had promised to protect her, and had
failed. She'd been hurt, needing someone else to save her from the
wreckage of the courtyard and tend her wounds.
	"I'll make it up to you," he vowed. "I'll stop the --"
	He broke off, eyes widening as sudden realization hit him. He
bounded to the window and looked out at the gargoyle shapes. The
flying, hovering gargoyle shapes.
	No gargoyle moved that way.
	"They're not real! They're machines!"
	He slammed the door loudly on his way out.
		*		*
	Aiden woke with a start. She hadn't meant to fall asleep, just
doze a little until dusk so she could explain everything to Lex.
	But Lex was gone!
	She jumped off the bed and hurried to the door.
		*		*
	"I've got the force field on full --" Janine Xanatos was saying
as the door to the control room burst open. She spun and brought up a
pistol in one fluid movement. "You!" she shrieked at Lexington, and
	He dove to the side, but an invisible force slammed him
against the wall, snapping his left wing strut and punching a hole
through the membrane.
	Even through his vivid pain, he couldn't miss the expression of
complete shock on MacLachlan's face as he turned to take in the
	Lex was down but not out, and not even down for long. He
folded his mangled wing tight against his side and launched himself at
Janine, coming in low under the gun and shouldering it upward just as
she fired again. The ceiling burst, showering them with crumbled
	Janine's chair crashed over. Her head struck the edge of the
control panel.
	"A gargoyle?" MacLachlan said. His tone was testing,
disbelieving. He made a gesture, half-reaching. Lex kicked out and
caught him under the jaw. Taken by surprise, MacLachlan's eyes flared
	The battle was on, gargoyle against gargoyle.
		*		*
	"Lex, no!" Aiden cried from the doorway. "Don't --"
	The Coyote robot, its metallic skin reflecting oddly in the glow
of blazing gargoyle eyes, leveled its arm at Lex. A panel slid aside, a
lethal-looking device rose up.
	Aiden skidded across the floor, found Janine's gun, and
pointed it at the robot. She winced in anticipation of bone-jarring recoil
as she pulled the trigger, and felt nothing but a small twinge. If not for
the way the robot flew backward, a sparking smoking hole in its side,
she would have thought it a misfire.
	The robot's weapon went off, missing Lex by inches and Aiden
by less, a searing little deathbolt that blackened the collar of her blouse.
	The two males, heedless of any of this, were still tusselling.
Lex, smaller and hurting, was faring poorly until MacLachlan's foot
came down on a loose litter of broken stone. He didn't fall, but flailed
for balance, freeing Lex from his grip.
	Coyote got up and Aiden fired again, but this time she missed
by a mile. She hit MacLachlan in the leg, driving his knee sideways in a
manner nature never intended. It made a gruesome cracking sound. Lex
cried out in wordless triumph and leaped at him.
	Janine came out of nowhere, wrenched the gun from Aiden's
grip, and let her have it upside the head. For the second time in as many
days, she was knocked out.
		*		*
	"Aiden!" Lex reached for her, too late.
	He found himself face to face with Janine, whose eyes were
narrowed into deadly slits. Behind her, MacLachlan was steadying
himself on the control panel, mouth drawn down in a grimace of pain.
	Janine put the business end of the gun right between Lex's
brow ridges. "Call off your gargoyles, goblin-boy!"
	The building lurched and shimmied under a fresh assault.
"Never mind that!" MacLachlan ordered. "They've brought down the
force field again, but we can still turn them back! You'll have to use
your magic!"
	"You know I can't do that, or else Avalon is free!"
	"We don't have time to worry about that!"
	Another blast, loud as a thunderclap, made the floor buck like
a bronco. Janine was hurled one way, Lex the other. MacLachlan's
injured leg gave way and sent him sprawling. More chunks of ceiling
fell in on them.
	Janine swore and fired at Lex again. He rolled and she blew up
more of Coyote instead. A quick tail swipe sent shards and hooks of
gleaming metal at Janine, who raised her arms to shield her face. One
jagged piece sheared through the barrel of her gun. It flared weird light
and exploded.
	MacLachlan was changing, blurring into human form, and
incredibly, healing as he did so.
	"They're not my gargoyles!" Lex said. "They're not gargoyles
at all!"
	"Liar!" Janine shrieked, shedding bits of metal like a dog
shaking off water after a bath.
	"No! Ask him!" Lex cried, pointing at MacLachlan, everything
making sense now. "They're machines, robots! He's controlling them!
He's tricked you!"
	"It's true," MacLachlan said, drawing himself up straight and
tall, almost as formidable a figure of a man as he'd been as a gargoyle.
"You've been deceived, my dear."
	Lex gaped at him, stunned by his ready admission of guilt.
He'd expected denial, and clearly so had Janine.	
	"You bastard!" Janine was a banshee in her fury. Emerald light
framed her dark eyes, her hair was whipped by a fey wind.
	Pressure was growing in the air, an electric weight, a pre-
thunderstorm denseness. The walls were buckling, whether from
Janine's gathering of power or the destruction from the robot attackers,
Lex didn't know. Didn't care. He scooped up Aiden and ran for it.
		*		*
	"Lex?" she mumbled, stirring.
	"It's okay. I've got you. We're getting out of here," he assured
	"No! Office!"
	"Aiden, there's no time! The gargoyles are really robots,
controlled by MacLachlan!"
	"I know --"
	"And we're going home! Where's the scroll?"
	"I lost it! I had it in the courtyard, but then --"
	He stopped and stared at her in horror. "We're stuck here?"
	"Lex, we've got to help Sebastian! Quick! Mr. Xanatos'
	"What are you talking about?"
	"Please, Lex!" She clutched him imploringly.
	He looked at her like she was crazy, but had no real choice.
She was still too weak to manage more than a fast stagger, and a large
purple knot was rising on her head where Janine had hit her, so he slung
her inelegantly over his shoulder and bounded on all fours up the wide
curving flight of stairs.
	"There you are!" Owen's son said as they appeared in the gap
where the door used to be. He was seated at the desk, busy with the
computer that had unfolded from its surface.
	The room was a harsh landscape of tumbled stones and
toppled beams. Behind him, through the huge hole in the wall, they
could see the shimmering wall of the force field. It flashed each time a
beam or blast struck.
	"We need the password," Sebastian added, rising and gesturing
to the chair. "We're going to entirely shut down all power to the castle
and the pyramid."
	"What? That's nuts!" Lex cried. "The robots out there --"
	"We're all on the same side," Aiden said. "Help him, Lex!"
	"I don't get it!"
	"I thought you explained it to him," Sebastian said to Aiden.
	"There wasn't time!" Aiden twined her hands nervously.
	"If you cut the power, the defenses will go down," Lex
insisted, trying to drive home that point.
	"Yes, I know." Sebastian was unperturbed. "That is exactly my
intent. Now, please hurry. The shielding spell I placed on MacLachlan
will not last long against Janine's full wrath."
	"Wait! What? You mean --"
	"Just do it, Lex!" Aiden pleaded.
	He threw her another look, but swung himself into Xanatos'
chair. "What if it's been changed?"
	"Then we'll think of something else." Sebastian produced what
Lex at first took to be a cellular phone, but as he unfolded it, it turned
out to be the smallest computer he'd ever seen. The keyboard was tiny,
the keys little black nubs, the screen as he switched it on a hologramatic
display generated in midair. "I'm signaling the robots to stop their attack
... now!"
	At once, the ships and armored figures ceased firing. They
hung in midair.
	"Okay, I'm in!" Lex said, having torn his longing gaze away
from Sebastian's cool little toy long enough to try Xanatos' password.
"It worked!"
	"If I might presume to ask your assistance?" Sebastian
inquired politely of Aiden.
	"Sure," she agreed. "What?"
	"Energy is energy, be it generated by science or sorcery. Once
the power is off, Janine will be deprived of a substantial source. She's
been drawing her power from the castle for so long that I don't think she
is really aware of it anymore. We just have to give MacLachlan enough
time to provoke her into using up her own energies."
	"What can I do?"
	He rested his fingertips on her temples. "Concentrate as if you
were going to cast a spell, but let the power flow to me. And you,
Lexington, shut down the generators. All of them. Even the reserves."
	Lex nodded, his fingers poised.
	"Now!" Sebastian ordered.
		*		*
	Once again, green fire shot from Janine's outstretched hands,
and once again it deflected from an invisible bubble encompassing her
erstwhile fiance.
	He didn't wait for her to try again, but lunged. She sidestepped,
kicking and missing, and whirled to face him.
	"You lied to me!" she spat.
	"Indeed." He hurled Coyote's severed head at her.
	She batted it aside. "And seduced me!"
	"Most thoroughly," he agreed.
	She summoned the stone of the floor to rise up in snaky
tendrils, but they could not gain purchase on that sheilding bubble.
"Why? Damn you, why?!"
	"It was the only way to break your spell on Avalon and free
my parents," he said.
	"Well, you failed! I know your game now! I'll destroy you!"
Computer consoles, chairs, bits of rubble, and pieces of Coyote flew up
in a poltergeist whirlwind and advanced on him.
	"Is this the best you can do?" he scoffed. "I thought you were
the most powerful sorceress in all the world. Of course, when you're the
only one, that does lower the standards of greatness, doesn't it?"
	Her lip curled in a snarl worthy of a she-gargoyle. The
whirlwind flung objects at him, but they were shunted aside.
	"In fact," he said, circling her, "you're only slightly better at
magic than you are at lovemaking!"
	In response to her outraged shriek, the suspended items
shattered explosively. A hail of shrapnel flew out, leaving them both
	"I'll show you how good I am at magic!" She flung her hands
skyward, threw back her head. "If I have to bring down this castle to do
	At that moment, the lights went out and plunged them into
silent darkness.
		*		*
	Aiden, drained and exhausted, stumbled to the wreck of the
window and peered out. She saw the lightless superstructure of the
pyramid extending into an equally lightless city. It was a blackout
covering all of Manhattan.
	"Good idea," Sebastian complimented Lex. "Her reach might
have been long enough to draw power from the city itself."
	Below, next to a faintly glimmering fountain, Aiden saw
something. Something that looked like a yellowing roll of parchment.
	"Can MacLachlan handle her?" Lex asked.
	"She'll tire herself quickly. He was well-chosen, for he's the
only being I know that could best her physically."
	The motionless craft and armored gargoyle-shapes suddenly
dropped from the sky.
	"Oh, no!" Aiden cried. "It's Janine! You didn't turn off the
robots, and she's using their energy!"
	The castle began to shudder. Already weakened, the towers
tilted toward each other and began to crumble. The pyramid structure
shook itself to pieces. Every remaining window in the Aerie Building
burst as the skyscraper itself took on the croggled shape of a stubbed-
out cigarette.
	"No!" Sebastian started for the door, and the floor gave way
beneath him.
	Lex threw himself forward, howling as he landed on his
damaged wing. His hand closed over nothing but thin air. Aiden
	Sebastian was gone.
	The section under Lex tipped and he slid toward the abyss. He
scrabbled backward, his claws scraping trenches in the stone. Aiden
grabbed his foot and hauled him to safety. Temporary safety, for the
entire floor had a loose and shaky look.
	"The window!" Aiden said, torn between tears and hysteria.
	"I can't! My wing!"
	A beam came down, smashing Xanatos' desk in two and
caving in more of the floor. Another beam followed, this one landing
crosswise on the first beam so that its underside was mere inches above
their heads. The hole in the floor was expanding outward at an alarming
	"Okay, I'll try!" Lex panted.
	"No, wait!" Aiden composed herself and leaned way out,
peering intently into the courtyard. She clenched her fists, knowing
there was no way this would work, she'd never be able to relax! But she
had to! What was the good of having magic if it only worked in the
classroom or the lab? It had to have field applications!
	She concentrated, murmuring Latin words, reaching out with
her mind.
	A weird sensation passed over her. It was as if she was blindly
feeling her way over jagged, broken stones and smoldering grass. And
then over dry, brittle paper.
	She seized, and lifted. There was resistance, and then a heavy
shift, and then the stomach-feeling of an elevator. She heard Lex gasp
and start to say something, then shut himself up so as not to distract her.
Good boy.
	The castle yawed to the side and Aiden nearly fell headlong
into the courtyard. She paid it no mind, trusting to Lex to steady her,
which he did.
	The scroll rose to her waiting hand.
	The wall beneath them buckled outward.
	Aiden held tight to Lex and called, "*Invoco!*"
		*		*
	"Yexiton? Yexiton?"
	Lex opened his eyes to find little Alex standing on his chest,
poking him worriedly in the nose. He coughed, dislodging the boy, and
when he moved to catch him felt tremendous agony flare in his arm and
	"Oh, right, how could I forget?" he muttered. "Your daughter
shot me!"
	"Yexiton owie?" Alex asked.
	"Yeah. Big owie." Lex gingerly folded his wing. "Aiden?"
	She was draped across his legs, the scroll loosely clasped in
one hand. They were both covered with grit and dust and blood, but
they were back in the nursery. He glanced at the television screen,
seeing that the video hadn't progressed more than a couple of minutes.
	"Ayyden an Yexiton all gone," Alex told him. "Wite back
	"Yeah," he said again. He rolled Aiden onto her side, freeing
his legs, and checked her. Out cold, but alive. Her skin was a pallid
grey, and there were brownish circles under her eyes.
	He removed the scroll from her hand and sighed.
	"Majk." Alex pointed.
	"Oh, no you don't. Now I know how Goliath felt! Nobody's
going to use this again, either!" He shredded it with his claws and
stuffed the pieces back into the case, which had lain undisturbed on the
couch. When the lid was back on, he tucked it securely through his belt
and got unsteadily to his feet.
	Aiden opened her eyes. "Lex? Did we make it? Are we
	He knelt beside her. "We're home."
	"I never want to do that again," she said weakly. "Alex?"
	"He's okay. But you need a doctor."
	She nodded. "Last time we get to babysit, I bet." With that, she
passed out again.
		*		*
	"I really don't think I approve of this, sir," Owen remarked.
"She is _my_ pupil, after all."
	"Relax, Owen. She'll be fine. I think my little test was quite
worthwhile. She's bound to have a lot of valuable information for us,
even if none of it ever comes to pass."
	"I'd rather you had consulted me first," he persisted.
	Xanatos clapped him on the shoulder. "Next time, I will."
	Owen raised an eyebrow. "Next time?"
	"After all," Xanatos grinned, "it's our children's future we're
talking about. We'll want to make sure it's a good one."
	"Yes," Owen agreed. "I suppose we must, at that."
	"We'll be just one big, happy family. Tell me, Owen. Have you
decided on a name yet?"
	"Cordelia wishes to name the baby for her uncle. Patrick, if a
boy, or if a girl --"
	"Patricia," Xanatos finished. "Excellent!"
		*		*
The End.

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Future Imperfect  / Page Copyright 1997 - Tim Morgan / vecna@eskimo.com