*Download File? Yes No*
Sabra Indrani closed her eyes, crossed her fingers, and then pecked out YES.
*Processing ... Processing ... Processing ...*
“Hah!” she crowed, and began to laugh.
The sound of her laughter, like a seal barking in her cubicle, a seal that happened
to also be half underwater and strangling on a fish, shut her up instantly.
Had there been a mirror amid the clutter, the sight of half her mouth drawn up in a
manic smile while the other half remained as frozen and emotionless as the Phantom’s
mask might have killed her joy altogether, but if there was one thing Sabra avoided, it was
*Processing ... ... ... ...*
She hunched closer to the screen, eyes widening in alarm. Was this it? Was she
“Yes,” she breathed, and slapped one palm against her desk.
“Don’t get cocky,” Sabra murmured. She typed EXIT SYSTEM / NEVERWAS
Something clicked deep in her computer, and the image on the screen reverted to
her customary operating menu.
“Now to see if it really worked.” She popped a disk out and held it lightly
between her teeth as she used her good hand to maneuver her motorized wheelchair to
the other side of the double-wide cubicle, where a separate computer was waiting.
In with the disk, and on with the headset. The microphone pressed firmly against
her skull so the bone-conduction voice recognition program could pick up her words
without the distortion of her slurred speech.
“Read disk,” she commanded.
The green light came on, the computer hummed in consideration ...
Sabra held her breath.
A logo appeared dead-center on the screen. A stylized red XE. Then it vanished,
and a box came up.
XANACRYPT 1.0, PROTOTYPE VERSION
She scanned quickly through, saw that she’d gotten it all and it was working just
dandy, and then the irony struck her. This time, she didn’t stifle her laughter, though it
still was the strangled-drowning-seal noise.
“Success, Ms. Indrani?”
“Success, Mr. Vogel. The encryption program is ours.”
The severe, dark-haired man stepped into her cubicle and peered at the monitor.
“Well done, Ms. Indrani. Mr. Renard will be very pleased.”
She rolled away from the computer, and Preston Vogel moved out of her way
with the absent-minded instinct of a man who has spent most of his life anticipating where
the chair would end up. “Is there anything else you want me to do as long as those
passwords are still good?”
“Not presently.” He tapped on the keyboard, fingers flying on both hands,
leaning over effortlessly, and for one bright shining moment, Sabra hated his guts.
The moment passed, as they always did, and she went back to feeling low and
“I could try to get into their RDRD files,” she offered.
“I don't think that’ll be necessary just now.”
“Their DefNet development specs?”
Holding the disks he’d copied, several high-speed backups of the Xanacrypt
files, he turned to her with an expression of faint exasperation. “No, Ms. Indrani.
Currently, this is all that Mr. Renard is interested in obtaining. You may now return to
your regular work.”
“Mr. Vogel, anyone in this corporation can position and monitor those satellites.
It’s a waste of my skills.”
“But it is what you’re paid for.” His tight little smile was one that she would have
dearly loved to kick into the stratosphere, but that was a functional impossibility. “Good
day, Ms. Indrani.”
He left, and Sabra turned back to her computer with a sigh. Minute course
corrections here, re-routing transmissions there. Seventy-five CySkyEye satellites were
under her direct control, not to mention the two hundred plus that she could access at
any time, belonging to everyone from NASA to Takami International.
“Waste of my skills,” she muttered.
Punching in a command that would alert her headset if any of her satellites
needed attention and putting the rest on a basic maintenance setting, Sabra maneuvered
out of her cubicle and down the hall to the elevators.
The first one to stop was already more than half full of her fellow employees, so
Sabra waited. The next only had two occupants, but she clipped one of them in the elbow
with the handbars that jutted uselessly from the back of her chair -- no one ever, _ever_
was allowed to push her.
The man shifted into the corner and grumbled something. Sabra couldn’t make
out the words, didn’t need to.
“Sorry,” she said, not looking at him, more mouthing the word than meaning it.
At each successive floor, people got on and off, cramming in, jostling each other,
a dense forest of waists and crotches and asses all at Sabra’s eye level. A charcoal-suited
pudge-ball banged her in the head with his briefcase as he pushed to the front, knocking
her wig askew.
She pawed it back into place. Finally, the elevator reached the top floor and she
rolled out into the antechamber.
It was a room of sharp angles, the ceiling rising like the hollow inside of a cluster
of crystals, all of glass. Sabra always thought of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude when
she came in here. Glass walls, glass ceiling -- a literal one in this company, instead of the
figurative ones in so many others -- polished grey granite floor speckled with black and
silver, and a collection of statues. Roman and Greek, all generals and senators and
centurions instead of gods or goddesses. All original, many of them chipped or broken.
Sabra’s wheels squeaked on the granite, then whispered across a gold-edged
royal blue carpet. Why not emperor-red? she wondered sourly. Why not Vatican purple?
At the far end of this room was a shiny black desk twenty feet long and curved
in a near-complete circle, with three computers, ten phones, and six intercom boxes lined
up on it like soldiers.
Vickie Spears was five feet nothing, wire-thin, and quivered with the energy of a
cheetah on speed. She was the only employee allowed to wear running shoes on the job,
and when she wasn’t actually running, she was zipping her chair on its well-oiled casters
from one side of the desk to the other, fast as a greased cobra.
A good thing, too, because Sabra had never seen Vickie’s desk without at least
three phones and two intercoms going all at the same time.
Still, Vickie waved briskly and beckoned Sabra over, not missing a word in her
conversation. She talked like the man from the FedEx commercials, was always twiddling a
pen or pencil in her free hand (if she had one), and as she concluded that call, she brought
both legs up, braced her feet on the edge of the desk, and shoved so that she cruised
clear across the circle and seized, without looking, the next ringing phone as she came to a
Sabra loathed her.
When she got a breather, Vickie turned her flashbulb smile -- dazzling then gone
-- on Sabra. “Help you?”
“I’d like to see Mr. --”
“Renard?” Vickie finished for her impatiently.
“If he’s --”
“Available? Let me check.” Zoom! Across to the red intercom, as if it led to the
President or NORAD instead of into the boss’ sanctum sanctorum. “Mr. Renard? Sabra
Indrani from SatCon is here, if you have a minute ... sure, will do!” Again with the
flashbulb smile. “You can go right in.”
“Thank you.” Sabra rolled toward the doors, wondering how many other lowly
peons could come up without an appointment and have a word with the great man. Not
many, she suspected.
Professional courtesy, cripple to cripple, she thought bitterly.
The doors had a motion sensor like at the supermarket. They were as shiny black
as Vickie’s desk, trimmed in silver with the Cyberbiotics crest in the middle. The crest split
as the doors opened, and Sabra entered.
In here, the glass/glossy/shiny look had been abandoned in favor of teak so
heavy you could hear it groan. The ceiling was done in Italian frescos. Bronze shields,
shortswords, and helmets with arched bristle-brush plumes hung behind the desk. One
entire wall was given over to monitors, so that Halcyon Renard could keep watch over
every corner of his kingdom.
He was in front of them now, in his state-of-the-art chair that was so much nicer
than her own ... why, it did everything but knit him a sweater and give him a pedicure, and
as she couldn’t really see his feet inside the bullet-shaped enclosed front end, she wasn’t
that sure about the pedicure.
A shrunken, wizened scarecrow of a figure. Lank ivory-yellow hair in patches on
his liverspotted scalp. Bony claw-hands. Skin like ancient parchment. He didn’t seem so
much aged as mummified.
And if not for her wig, people could have confused the two of them from the rear.
Even from the front, in poor lighting.
“Miss Indrani,” he said, his voice at once strong and cracked, old and powerful.
“Always a delight. Congratulations on successfully ... acquiring that program. It will give
Cyberbiotics a substantial edge in the market, and a correspondingly substantial bonus
“Mr. Renard, I’m sorry to bother you, but I don't think my skills are being used to
their fullest capacity,” she said.
“No? Miss Indrani, you just penetrated one of the most labyrinthine security
systems on the face of the planet. You don't find that enough of a challenge to your
“I do, but now it’s done.”
“Ah, I see.” The skin of his hands rasped together as he steepled his fingers.
“You’re not satisfied with your current work.”
“It’s not that --” was he going to fire her? “-- it’s just that I feel I could be doing
so much more. For the benefit of the company.”
Renard looked at her for a long time, his eyes diamond hard. Sabra was sure
she’d blown it, he was going to tell her to turn in her keycard and good-bye.
“I don’t think it’s your job you’re unsatisfied with,” he said instead, after that
long scrutiny was done. “Isn’t it?”
“I enjoy working here,” she affirmed.
“It’s yourself. Your health, your physical condition.”
She blanched, but coming from him, it was more all right than it might have been
coming from someone else. A little bit.
“Believe me, Miss Indrani, I know the feeling. I once thought that I would do
anything, anything, mind you, to be free of this chair. Of this weak, old, dying body.”
Sabra nodded as fervently as she could.
“But let me tell you something. For a time, I got that wish. Not in the way you
might think; I’ve gone flatline more than once and there is nothing to report, no tunnel
rushing toward a grand loving light, no dear ancestors calling in welcome, no pearly
gates, not even --” here he chuckled dryly, “-- not even the flicker of fire and brimstone.
No, I’m talking about something else.”
“Mr. Renard, I don’t think I understand.”
He steered closer, and patted her arm with one clawlike, reptilian hand. “I’ll tell
you about a time I had a new chance at life and strength, and how I came to see that it was
better to be myself, be true to myself, and not let my honor and dignity be corrupted by
mere physical power.”
June 6th, 2000
Tuesday, 9:30 AM
“Do you mean to tell me,” David
Xanatos said in a tone of carefully controlled
fury, “that six weeks before we were due to release it, Cyberbiotics came out with their
“It’s nearly identical to ours!” The gravely mis-named Don Vaughn, Head of
Product Design, threw a software box on the table. CYBERCRYPT, the box read.
“It is ours,” Owen Burnett informed Xanatos. “In all but the most minor and
insignificant details. Our product, stolen, changed slightly, and marketed.”
“That wily old son of a bitch!” Xanatos exclaimed, not without a bit of
admiration. He fixed Vaughn with a heated glare. “Someone on your team --”
“No!” Vaughn protested. “No one on the team would violate their contract oath;
I’d stake my life on it! The system must have been infiltrated from the outside.”
“Impossible,” Xanatos said flatly. He looked back at Owen. “Have we had any
staff turnover in that area in the past six months?”
Owen shook his head.
“Investigate it,” Xanatos told him. “If it’s not an ex-employee, it must be a
current one. I want to know how, who, and what kind of incentive plan they were offered
that made it worth risking pissing me off.”
“Yes, Mr. Xanatos sir.”
“I’m telling you --” Vaughn began, then shut up.
“We’ll get to the bottom of this,” Xanatos said. “You can go back to your office,
Don; Owen will be in contact with you if he needs anything.” Once Vaughn had left, he
added, “Start with him.”
“Before you go, any other bad news from my competitors to further wreck my
“Nightstone Unlimited announced yesterday that they expect to have their
energy-bending stealth body armor ready to release within a year.”
“Spiffy. How close are we?”
“Not close at all.”
“Well, Owen, I tell you what. If Mr. Vaughn turns out to be right and it _was_ a
case of outside infiltration, I want you to find out who did it --”
“And implement the usual strategy, sir?”
June 30th, 2000
Friday, 7:10 PM
“Sabra! I’m so glad you could
make it!” Robyn Canmore opened the door
wearing a teal-blue silk blouse over snug white pants that showed off her figure to
excellent advantage. “Most everyone else from the P.T. group is here already.”
Sabra smiled noncommittally and wheeled herself into the apartment. “Nice
“We’re very happy. It’s smaller than the old house, and there’s no pool, but the
morning light is perfect for Jason’s studio.”
“He’s still painting?”
“A gallery over on 54th Street is going to do a show of some of his pieces next
month. Isn’t that exciting?”
Sabra put on her brakes and indicated one of the compartments on the side of
her chair. “There’s a bottle of wine in there ... a housewarming gift.”
“Thank you!” Robyn crouched with supple ease and found it.
The penthouse apartment was of the style in which one large space was divided
into rooms more by arrangement of furniture than by walls. The only closed doors were
those leading into the bathroom and bedrooms. Robyn was right, it was a lot smaller, and
with half a dozen wheelchairs crammed into the living area, it was crowded as well.
Nice of Jason to invite the cripples, Sabra thought. Shows he’s not thinking he’s
better than us now that he can walk again. Or does he feel obligated, guilty, because he
can and we can’t?
She wove through traffic, greeting the people she knew (mostly her fellow
physical therapy sufferers, gathered in a clump over by the windows and looking as self-
conscious and out of place as Sabra felt; them, and Preston Vogel, who stuck so close to
Robyn’s side they might as well have been handcuffed together).
Where was Jason, anyway?
Why’d he have to be so gorgeous?
He’d joined the group four years ago, already well-built, and his arms and
shoulders and chest and back had only gotten more impressive from propelling his
wheelchair, from swimming, from hauling the deadweight of his lower body. Once he got
back the use of his legs, sheathing them with slabs of muscle again, he was amazing.
Too young for her, anyway. Too young by about fifteen years. Even if she
could walk and move, even if she still had her looks, she’d be too old for him.
But still ... damn.
That dark hair, those riveting turquoise eyes, that smile ...
Would it have killed him to stay in his chair? To stay a paraplegic? To stay, in
a word, accessible?
Pointless dreaming. What good would it do her if they were both in their chairs?
She would still be too old for him, and her age would be the least of her problems. The
man wasn’t blind.
The doorbell rang again, and Jason went to answer it himself this time. He came
back with a striking toffee-skinned brunette, and just by the way they stood together,
Sabra knew there had been a time when they’d been involved. Not anymore; their faces
both wore that could-have-been look that she was sure they were unaware of.
Still, whether it had been or not, whether it was over or not, it sent a stab of bitter
jealousy into Sabra. Totally unjustified, stupid jealousy.
There was no dancing. Diplomatic Robyn Canmore would have made sure of
that. Let’s not torture the cripples. Like waving food in front of a starving person. So no
dancing ... but Sabra could see how feet tapped in time with the music, how they
wanted to dance but sublimated their irritation at the guests who made it impossible.
As soon as the last wheelchair had gone out the door, Sabra was sure the furniture would
be pushed back, and the music would be cranked.
Oh, damn, was it so much to ask?
She recalled what Mr. Renard had told her last February. While most of her mind
dismissed it as utter bushwah -- golems, please, did he really expect her to believe that? --
she kept coming back to the moral of the story.
Be yourself, be true to yourself, honor and dignity ...
Easy for Renard to say. He’d had a life before ending up in his chair. A wife, a
family, the luxury of walking and dancing and making love.
He hadn’t had his life begin and end on the same terrible night ...
May 16th, 1978
Saturday, 8:15 PM
“Oh, Sabra, we are so proud!”
Her mother hugged her, then stepped back and
smoothed Sabra’s hair, which was waist-length and the color of coffee without cream.
Her father smiled and nodded. “You will go to college, to medical school, become
a great doctor, join my practice --”
“Dad!” Sabra laughed. “I just graduated! I will do all those things --”
“Get married to a good young man, have beautiful babies,” Gayle Indrani put in.
“Mom! That too, that too, but tonight is my night, and if I don’t get out there,
Danny’s going to think I changed my mind! The party starts at eight-thirty.”
“Have fun,” her mother said.
“Be careful,” her father added. “I don’t know if I like you going to a bar. You’re
“The bar’s closed tonight, Dad.” She checked her lipstick in the mirror. “We’re
just going to dance and drink soda, I swear.”
“If anyone sneaks alcohol in --”
“I won’t drink any,” she promised. “And if Danny does, I won’t let him drive me
home. I’ll get LeAnne to give me a ride, or I’ll call you.” She smiled playfully. “If you’d
given me a car for graduation ...”
Halim Indrani laughed. “Maybe when you graduate from college.”
She hugged them both, kissed her mother on the cheek, and hurried out as
Danny honked for the third time. Her hair swung against the back of her short white dress,
the skirt swishing around her lean thighs -- she still couldn’t believe Dad let her out of the
house wearing it; he must have realized after seeing her in her cap and gown that she
wasn’t a baby anymore -- her platform shoes glittered silver in the headlights as she ran
around Danny’s car and slid into the passenger seat.
Danny leaned over and kissed her. “Hey, Sabra, want to skip the party?”
“What? But everybody’ll be there!”
“That’s why!” he said with a wink. “Everybody’d be there, so we’d have the
Lookout all to ourselves!”
“Danny Clark, I am not going to spend my graduation night parked at the end of
Swamp Creek Road watching out for alligators and mosquitoes.”
“Aw, come on, Sabra, the only thing you’d have to worry about biting you is
“Maybe later. Right now, I want to dance!” She turned on the radio and found
the Bee Gees just ending, followed by her all-time favorite song (this month at least), ‘Oh
What a Night.’ Sabra sang along, rocking her hips and shoulders.
“Have you told your dad you want to become a dancer instead of a doctor?”
“No ... I’m still trying to figure out if I can be both.”
Danny roared with laughter. “Surgeon by day, disco-mama by night!”
“Danny, a dog!” Sabra shrieked, pointing.
“Shit!” He swerved, and then things happened very fast.
She heard herself screaming and babbling in the dizzy, spinning confusion.
“Danny what was that bang did a tire blow slow down stop the car I’m going to be sick
look out for the truckthetruckthetruck!”
September 11th, 2000
Monday, 1:30 PM
“Coffee, Ms. Indrani?”
“No, thank you,” she said to the man who looked uncannily like a blond Preston
“Mr. Xanatos will be along shortly. He’s very interested in meeting you.”
Sometimes she was almost grateful for the paralysis in the right side of her face;
it prevented her from revealing her emotions. Interested in meeting her? Yes, Sabra just
bet he was ... he couldn’t have proof or he would be formally pressing charges,
wouldn’t he, but he had to be up to something, men like him always were.
“I’m interested in meeting him, too.”
“Have you been with Cyberbiotics long?”
“Don’t you know?” she countered.
The corners of Owen Burnett’s eyes crinkled in faint amusement. “As a matter of
fact, I do ... you’ve been with Mr. Renard for ten years and four months. Prior to that, you
were at Futuretech in Sacramento, California. Three years and two months. Before that,
Stanford and postgraduate work at MIT.”
“And before that?” Sabra challenged him with her gaze.
He remained unfazed. “The Deschutes Rehabilitation Center in New Orleans,
Louisiana; the Villejeune Community Hospital in Villejeune, Florida; DeLeon Junior/Senior
High School in Fontagna, Florida ... need we go on?”
“No. What’s this about, Mr. Burnett?”
“As I said, Mr. Xanatos is interested in meeting you.”
“Very true. Thank you, Owen.” David Xanatos said.
Sabra’s throat clenched as Xanatos came in. Trying to put him on the defensive,
she exerted the effort to heft the twisted thing that was her right arm.
He clasped the gnarled lump of flesh at the end of it with no outward reaction.
“A pleasure, Ms. Indrani. A lovely name ... Indian, I believe?”
Sabra dropped her arm back into her lap, not really sure what had just happened.
“Yes. It means ... goddess of the sky.”
“How ...” he glanced at Burnett as if they shared some private joke. “Fitting.”
“Pardon me if this is a rude question, Mr. Xanatos, but what’s this all about?”
He sat down, and Burnett withdrew to a discreet corner. Like Vogel, he seemed
part administrative assistant, part butler.
“Ms. Indrani, you might assume that I’ve asked you here to discuss the
XANACRYPT files.” He shrugged, a devilish gleam lighting his brown eyes. “Spilled milk.
I will admit to some curiosity about how you got through our security programs, but
that’s also neither here nor there. The main reason I wanted to speak with you was to let
you know that a position has recently opened up in our Investigative Planning
Sabra’s strangled-seal laugh barked forth unexpectedly. “You ... you have a
department dedicated to stealing from your competitors?”
He smiled. “Just one more area in which Xanatos Enterprises is still leading the
“And ... correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re offering me a job?”
“I’ve reviewed your personnel file and it is plain to me that Mr. Renard is not
utilizing your abilities to their full potential. Further, while his salary plan is in the upper
range for the industry, I think you’ll find that ours is at the very top.”
The left side of her mouth worked silently. When he named a figure, it fell open
altogether, and she was oblivious to the twinge as scar tissue stretched in an
“In addition,” Xanatos went on, as if he hadn’t boggled her enough, “while
Cyberbiotics is one of the top companies developing robotics and computer sciences,
here at Xanatos Enterprises, we have a much wider range.” He paused enticingly. “Such
as cybernetics, genetic engineering, and some of the most advanced medical technologies
on the planet.”
Sabra still couldn’t answer, torn between wanting to call him a bastard for what
he was doing and wanting to grab the offer before he changed his mind.
He leaned back and waited.
Finally, she found her voice. “If you have these ... medical technologies, why
haven’t I heard of them?”
“They’re still very much in the experimental stages.” He rolled his eyes in a ye-
gods-how-I-must-suffer manner, though not directed at her. “You know how slow they
are to approve anything these days. My scientists could invent a cure for cancer
tomorrow, but the FDA would still dawdle and drag its feet and let every petty bureaucrat
and lobbyist have their say, while people kept dying. But within our own company, we
tend to be a little more flexible. Our employees have access to all manner of advances long
before they’re made available to the general public.”
“What about your family?” She knew it was risky, poking him when he could get
mad and snatch away the brass ring he was dangling before her, but she wanted to see if
she even could poke this supremely confident man. “Like ... say ... your father-in-law?”
Xanatos’ laugh was rich and warm. “Believe me, Ms. Indrani, I would gladly put
the resources of my medical team at my father-in-law’s disposal ... but his pride interferes.
Halcyon is a brilliant man and a resourceful man, but a stubborn one.” He smirked. “I
guess it’s true; women choose husbands who remind them of their fathers.”
Sabra, who only understood that Mr. Renard would die of starvation rather than
take a peanut-butter sandwich from his arrogant son-in-law, hitched her left shoulder in
the closest she could come to a shrug. “That could be. I appreciate the offer, Mr. Xanatos,
but you have to realize that this isn’t something I can decide right now.”
“Of course not. If you’d like a tour, Mr. Burnett would be happy to oblige.” He
grinned. “You’re already familiar with our computer network, so you may as well get a
look at the rest of the place.”
“Yes, I’d like that.”
“Very good. Owen?”
“Right away, Mr. Xanatos.”
Five minutes later, she found herself driving her humming chair down a long hall
which was tinted glass (and heart-stopping view straight down on Manhattan) on one
side and textured black wallboard on the other. The wallboard was decorated with abstract
paintings in bold colors; to Sabra, they looked like the sort of thing a talented but hurried
child might do, but she realized they were probably worth millions and she was too
ignorant to know it.
Owen Burnett walked beside her, never seeming to need to alter his pace or
giving the impression that she was going too slow or too fast to suit him.
“You worked for Cyberbiotics,” she said.
“Yes, though I left Mr. Renard’s employ in 1987,” he replied evenly.
“Does your boss make a habit of taking things away from Mr. Renard?”
“I wouldn’t call it a habit.”
“What would you call it?”
He pressed the elevator button, then turned to her with a small quirky smile. “A
November 15th, 2000
Wednesday, 10:20 PM
“No!” Aiden gasped. “You’re kidding!”
“Would I kid about that?” Lexington swiveled his stool in a fast circle. “It’s so
great, we’ve got to see them! Ultimate coolness! Tell her, T.J.!”
Aiden looked dubiously to the sandy-haired young man rooting through the
fridge in the clans’ suite. He’d probably never be comfortable around most of the
gargoyles, she thought, but at least when it was her, or Lex, or Brooklyn, he did okay.
Especially with Lex, after they’d teamed up to solve the Ventura riddle last month.
T.J. straightened up with a couple of sodas and tossed one to Lex. “Aiden? You
“I’ll pass on the soda, I want to know if Lex is pulling my tail.”
“I’ll do that later,” Lex promised, skittering his fingers down her back.
She eeked and smacked at him. “Well, T.J.? This better not be just a tired old
“No, swear.” He tried to make the scout’s honor gesture, botched it into a heavy
metal sign, and ended up with a half-assed ‘live long and prosper’ before giving up and
shoving his hand in his pocket. “I saw it myself. She really did, that creepy troll-woman --”
“T.J.! That’s mean!” Aiden cried.
“Sorry, but she is. Half her head one big scar ... like the Phantom of the
fuckin’ Opera or something. Anyway, yeah, she got into the ILM computer and
downloaded designs for all the ships in the next movie. She’s working on getting the
Aiden tipped her head doubtfully. “Really?”
“Really! I told you! Sheesh, you won’t believe your own mate --” Lex began.
“My own mate was convinced Gillian Anderson was going to play a female
Jedi,” she said archly. “That one died on the vine, didn’t it?”
“Well, okay, maybe I was impulsive. But this came right from their own
“Why’d she do it, anyway?” Aiden asked. “I can’t imagine that’s going to help
Mr. Xanatos’ company any.”
“Shake the gravel out of your brain, lovebunny!” Lex cried, grinning like a prime
“Lexington!” She blushed nearly Angela-colored. “Don’t call me lovebunny! I’m
T.J. smothered a laugh when she snapped her crested head around to look at
“Sorry,” Lex said, sounding anything but. “Anyway, try this on for size --
“Oh! Oh, that wouldn’t be nice at all! Steal the designs and put them into a video
game before the movie even comes out? That’s terrible?”
“I hate to break it to you,” T.J. said, “but we work for a terrible dude, remember?”
“Though they’d sue his butt off,” Lex said. “Or try, anyway. That’d be a
showdown, wouldn’t it?”
“But she didn’t do it for Mr. X.,” T.J. went on. “She did it because Jimmy
Pransky bet her she couldn’t.”
“Pransky? The guy with the Sith Lords tattooed on his back?”
“That’s the guy,” Lex said. “Hey, have you seen his tattoo?”
“Yes.” Aiden made a face. “They look anorexic. I thought we were obsessed,
but he makes us look tame.”
“This coming from the female with an Obi-Wan Is Hot website,” Lex commented.
“You know that’s really Birdie’s!” Aiden protested. “It’s just on my site because
she doesn’t have one!”
“That story on there is disgusting,” T.J. said.
“So disgusting he read it like five times,” Lex said in a theatrical aside.
“There’s something not right about fictional characters doing it,” T.J. continued.
“That woman who wrote it must be sick in the head.”
Aiden cleared her throat and, blushing anew, tried to turn the conversation back
to more suitable paths. “Anyway, why’d Jimmy make that bet? Besides because he’s a
slobbering rabid fanpuppy?”
“Because he was the hot hacker stud around here until she showed up,” Lex
said. “He wanted to see the new girl try and fail, so he could hang onto his title.”
“I thought you were the hot hacker stud,” T.J. said.
“You know how Jimmy got hired here?” Lex asked.
“Went into the Human Resources computers and added himself to the payroll,
then just showed up for work one day and said he’d lost his keycard. They scanned his
thumbprint, found it was already in there, and issued him a new one. He was here two
weeks before Xanatos figured it out.”
“Pretty slick,” T.J. admitted.
“But even he couldn’t get into ILM. It took Sabra, what, six days? Doing it on
her lunch breaks and after work?”
“Something like that.”
“Is it just me, or is that a little scary?” Aiden wondered.
“Everything about her is a little scary,” T.J. said. “And no, don’t jump down my
throat about it, it’s not just because she looks like Quasimodo’s bastard half-sister. I just
don’t ... hell, I don’t know. I’ve got --”
“-- a bad feeling about this!” Lex and Aiden joined in.
“Trust your feelings,” Aiden added in a ghostly voice.
“Quit, you guys. I get that ‘follow your instincts / trust your feelings / use the
Force’ crapola from Puck and Alex ten days out of the week; I don’t need it from you
December 26th, 2000
Tuesday, 5:30 PM
She looked up. “Hi, Jimmy.”
“Going over my first-quarter review.”
“So, they going to keep you on?”
He grinned. “Good. I like the competition. Hey, are you braving the snow or
crashing in the dorm with the rest of us?”
“My ride called to cancel. They’re snowed in.”
“Them and half the city. So you’re staying?”
Sabra gestured to her chair. “How far do you think I’d get on my own?”
“Oh, yeah.” Jimmy Pransky scuffed his feet self-consciously. “Well, anyway,
we’re going to make a party of it. Kayla from Accounts Payable is making chili, Walt
Traynor from RDRD is making margaritas, and we’re going to have a classic-Trek film
festival. Wanna come?”
Sabra’s innards coiled at the very idea. “Thanks, Jimmy, but I’ll pass. Spicy food
and alcohol are no-nos. I’ve got some things I want to catch up on here.”
“Why are you still working? It’s after five, all the management people have the
week off for the holidays, and the big boss is out of town. Relax a little!”
“I’ve got to stay sharp if you want that competition,” she said. “Remember, I’m
still trying to get a handle on the computer system.”
“Shyah, right!” he scoffed. “Like you don’t know everything already. Okay, but
if you change your mind, we’ll be in the dorm lounge.”
He left, and Sabra turned back to her desk with a sigh of relief. Why did all the
cutting-edge companies have to be staffed by overgrown kids whose biggest concerns
(barring the poor social skills that tended to go hand-in-hand with a career in the tech
industry) were when the next version of Quake was going to come out and where they
could find nude pictures of Lucy Lawless on the Internet?
Her quarterly review was on top of a thick manila folder. Now that she’d been
with Xanatos Enterprises for three months, she was eligible for the advanced health plan.
She opened the manila folder and began reading over the options that the considerate Mr.
Burnett had carefully highlighted for her.
This couldn’t be right!
Damn it, what was this, some sort of a joke? There was nothing on here that
hadn’t been on her previous plan. Up to and including acupuncture, hypnosis, and drug
“Where’s the rest of it?” she murmured.
Acupuncture wasn’t going to fix her legs. Hypnosis wasn’t going to let her get
rid of the catheter that fed into a concealed tank in the base of the chair. Drug therapy,
okay, fine and well, she’d made sure to refill her painkiller prescriptions before leaving
Cyberbiotics but was starting to run low; it was good to know she’d still be covered. But
this was not what she’d been led to expect!
Where were all the things they’d told her about? Nerve replacement treatment?
Regenerative tissue compounds? Genetic reconstruction? Cybernetic enhancements?
Exoskeleton brace-frames with neural interfaces?
At the bottom of the last page was an asterisked footnote in very small type.
Sabra couldn’t decipher it even when she leaned close, so she slapped it on her scanner,
enlarged the image, and read it aloud.
“Employees who have been with the company for a year or more are eligible for
the Deluxe Care Plan ...”
A year or more!
She snatched the paper off of the scanner glass and crunched it in her clumsy
fist. A year or more! And what might the Deluxe Plan offer? Suppose it only covered
marijuana for medical purposes, and had a footnote about how those who’d been here
five years or more could get the Ultimate Care Plan?
“Don’t you people care I’m dying here?” she moaned to the ceiling tiles.
Either the scent of chili had gotten into the ventilation ducts or she was
hallucinating it. So damn good, but she knew the agony she’d be in if she ate even a few
No caffeine. No spicy foods. No alcohol. No citrus. No carbonated beverages.
No grease. Minimal sugar. Minimal seasonings.
With a miserable cry, she slammed her left fist against her thigh. The pain, which
had been at its usual low-key drone, woke and began snarling. Like an animal. Like a bear.
Like a bunch of bears, disturbed in their caves. Only in this case, their caves were her
bones. Pelvis, femurs, the crookedly-stacked disks of her spine.
She relaxed her fist and let the crumpled paper fall to the floor. Closing her eyes,
feeling the hot trickle of tears down her left cheek, she concentrated on her breathing and
tried to will those bears back into hibernation.
Eventually, it worked as well as it ever did, and she was able to steer her chair
into the attached bathroom and dab cold water on her face. She paused by the door,
listening to the hush of the hall now that everyone had either gone home or taken the
elevator down to the ninety-eighth floor, where the dorm and lounge were located.
The last thing she wanted right now was company. Instead of seeking out her
co-workers, she went back to her computer and did just what she’d told Jimmy she was
going to do, delving deeper into the complicated web of Xanatos Enterprises.
Every now and then, she ran into a strange blockage or dead end. Intrigued, she
began working at one of them, puzzling around the edges. Interesting that there would be
things Xanatos would keep so well-guarded, even from his own Investigative Planning
Some of the first things she uncovered were related to the gargoyles, and Sabra
nearly yawned. Gargoyles. Big deal. Really, who cared? Not her, that was for certain. She
figured she got more appalled looks from the citizens of Manhattan than even the most
hideous of gargoyles.
Ah, but this stuff about cloning ... that was a little more interesting. Especially
the part on brain-taping. No help to her, but interesting all the same.
Next, she learned about the mutates and the upgraded Pack. She got into the
video record library and found each step in the proceedings captured for posterity in
Why would those people, perfectly healthy and exceedingly fit even before,
need or want that done to them?
Same reason, probably, that perfectly healthy and fit people wanted plastic
surgery, hair weaves, and liposuction. They were too damn stupid to realize how good
they already had it.
She watched the videos again, shivering at the expressions of the subjects as
they put themselves through sheer hell for no reason.
Oh, she was tired, she ached, but she couldn’t face going down to the ninety-
eighth floor. Couldn’t face dealing with the pitying-but-trying-not-to-show-it attitudes of
the other snowbound staff. Preferable to put it off and stay here. Even if she fell asleep in
her chair. She’d done it before, and the soreness that would clutch her spine after a night
spent sleeping upright would be better than the grueling task of trying to get her chair
into one of those little rooms, get herself into a narrow bed, and the rest of it.
“Hello, what have we here?” She’d clicked by mistake.
The video showed a room set up like a small private theater, full of gargoyles and
people (and one mutate, she noticed). Including Xanatos himself, and ... was that Owen
Burnett with his tie bound around his head?
They looked half-drunk and jovial. A light came up onstage, sensual music
spilled from the speakers on either side of her monitor, and Sabra’s jaw dropped as she
found herself watching a female gargoyle doing a striptease. Indigo skin and miles of
golden hair and a body like a work of art, reveling in her own sexuality and the power she
wielded over the thunderstruck audience.
Sabra groaned harshly and lashed out at the monitor. She struck the on/off
switch, plunging the screen into blackness, but the music kept winding its way into her
ears, so erotic and compelling, the kind of music that demanded the body sway to its
primal rhythm. Yet when her own body tried to do so, the pain snarled up her back again.
She turned off the speakers, waited ten minutes, and turned them back on. Now
there was only silence. When she reactivated the monitor, the video clip had come to an
end and she was looking at the menu again.
Ah, there ... she’d clicked on something named godiva_bachparty.
Godiva. That made sense. All she needed was the white horse and the peeping Tom.
She went back to the stuff she’d found about the gargoyles. They were all listed
alphabetically in the security protocols, the sensors that were supposed to compare any
incoming gargoyle with the ones already registered to prevent unauthorized guests.
Hudson ... Gabriel ... Goliath ... but no Godiva.
Not one of the clan, then ... and she thought she remembered seeing that name
elsewhere in her electronic wanderings. She did a quick search, and found it in the RDRD
That didn’t make sense ... what would a gargoyle stripper have to do with
Robotics Division Research and Design?
Uh-oh, that one wouldn’t open without a password.
Sabra thought for a moment, typed COVENTRY, and chuckled bitterly to herself
as it opened up nice as you please. Her chuckle died on her lips as she began to read what
was on the screen.
January 8th, 2001
Monday, 9:45 AM
“I’ve reviewed the phone records,
Mr. Xanatos, and she did not call in sick,”
Xanatos rested his elbows on his desk and curled his hands in front of his chin.
“It’s not like her to be late.”
“No, her attendance and punctuality have been exemplary.”
“Did you contact the CareVan people?”
“I’ll do so immediately.” He flipped up the top of his Rolodex.
While Owen did that, Xanatos skimmed the log entries for the past few days to
see if there was anything needing his attention.
He and Fox had spent the weekend in San Diego, a much-needed mini-vacation
of their own after spending the holidays at Dad’s place in Maine. Three days of mild
seventy-degree temperatures and sunshine had taken away the winter blahs.
But from the moment he’d set foot in the building late last night, he’d had the
disquieting feeling that something strange had happened while he’d been away.
Nothing in the logs supported it. Except for one missed entry, 7:00 Saturday
evening, all of the log notes were made right on schedule and contained nothing
Owen hung up, looking mildly perturbed. “The woman I spoke to said that Ms.
Indrani wasn’t waiting for the van this morning, and didn’t respond when the driver
buzzed her apartment. They put her down as a no-show, though they mean to bill her
“Of course they do. No pity in the naked city. Call her, Owen. If you don’t get an
answer, send someone over to check in.”
“She has seemed distracted lately,” Owen said as he dialed. “Perhaps she’s
“I’ve been thinking about that ... we should bend the rules and offer her
complete access to the full range of the company’s ... benefit plan. The sooner the
better. It would be a shame if something were to happen to her, when she has such a
“And it wouldn’t hurt to have that brilliant mind forever in your debt,” Owen
added. “There’s no ... ah, the answering machine ... Ms. Indrani, this is Owen Burnett; I
apologize for the imposition, but in accordance with our policy of employer concern,
someone will be coming by your house later this morning to check in with you.” He hung
Xanatos kept poring over the weekend’s log. No sick calls at all. No problems.
No nothing. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was rotten in the state of
“Did the gargoyles have any excitement while I was gone?” he asked.
“No, everything was nicely peaceable. For a change.”
Xanatos grinned ruefully, knowing that Owen was referring to Goliath’s reaction
a month ago, upon waking to the news that his cherished Amber had spent the day
touring Manhattan in the company of such notables as Harry the Hammer, an anonymous
‘tart in a fur coat,’ and Tony Dracon.
“I’m glad he’s finally done. I thought Dr. Masters was going to poison himself,
just to make sure he went out quick and easy before Goliath took him apart and put him
back together in interesting ways.”
“On a related note, sir, it might be wise to reconsider the childcare arrangements.
With all due respect, I volunteered to look after Alexander. I had no idea that my duties
would extend to include all the clan’s offspring.”
“Understood, Owen. Good point. Who’s with Amber now?”
“No one; blessedly, she’s sleeping through more now that all of her baby teeth
have come in.” He held out his wrist, showed Xanatos on his watch-monitor the image of
a child sitting by the window in Alex’s nursery.
“She never sits still that long unless she’s stone, so you must be right. I’ll talk to
Elisa about it.” He scrolled through the attendance records, then paused. “Hmm ...”
“Trouble, Mr. Xanatos?”
“This is odd ... Sabra Indrani clocked out Friday night, but the security log
doesn’t record anyone seeing her leave.”
An hour later, as Xanatos was sitting thoughtfully at one of Sabra Indrani’s
computer workstations, Owen came in with more news.
“The plot thickens,” he said. “I sent someone over to the apartment as you
ordered. Our man found a woman from Life Assist talking to the police. They were about
to call us.”
“Life Assist -- one of those in-home nursing services?”
“Yes. This woman, Tanya Ellersby, said she comes over early Mondays,
Wednesdays and Fridays to help Ms. Indrani with housekeeping, cooking, and more
personal matters. When she arrived, no one answered the knock. Mrs. Ellersby used her
spare key to get in. The apartment was just as she’d last seen it, Friday morning. The
meals they’d prepared for the weekend were untouched, the bed hadn’t been slept in.”
“So she hasn’t been home all weekend.”
“That’s how it appears, sir.”
Xanatos knocked his knuckles thoughtfully on the edge of the desk. “And she’s
not here, either ... but no one actually saw her leave. Speculations, Owen?”
He raised one finger. “Security was lax Friday evening and her departure either
wasn’t seen or wasn’t noted in the log.” He raised the second. “She left by some other
route than the front doors or the parking garage.” He raised the third. “She’s still in the
“Did the CareVan pick her up?”
“According to their dispatcher, she called Friday afternoon and canceled,
claiming to have made other arrangements.”
“Other arrangements,” Xanatos mused. “We could be jumping to dire
conclusions, when she’s done what Fox and I did and gone off for a romantic weekend.”
Owen just looked at him.
“All right, maybe not. But who would have picked her up? She has no family in
“If I might hazard a guess, Mr. Xanatos?”
“Be my guest, Owen.”
“I see where you’re going with that. She spent the past three and a half months
learning everything she can about Xanatos Enterprises. Then, Friday, with copies of all
our most valuable data in her briefcase, she hopped a ride with an undercover
Cyberbiotics operative and went back to Renard.”
“It’s a possibility.”
“I know ... but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. For one thing, she’s
hard to miss. I can’t imagine her leaving without being seen. Unless your theory includes
a corrupt security guard.”
“Always an option.”
“For another ... call it a hunch, Owen, but I think your third speculation was the
best. I think she didn’t leave the building Friday night. She could have gotten hurt in one
of the ladies’ rooms, trapped in a supply closet, something like that. I want a complete
“Right away.” Owen pursed his lips. “Though if an injured employee has been
laying in one of the restrooms all weekend, we’ll want to have a discussion with the
“See to it. In the meantime, I’m going to see what files she’s been working on
lately. Just in case there’s something I’m overlooking.”
“David, you’re not going to believe
what’s happened!” Fox said without
He gave her a distracted kiss on the cheek -- actually, he missed, it was on the
ear -- as he and Owen hurried by. “That’s nice, dear.”
“David? Where are you going?”
“Just checking up on something.” To Owen, he said, “I don’t know how much of
it she might have been able to put together, but if she lets him out, you know he isn’t
going to be happy with us.”
Fox followed, still trying. “Someone broke into my window display at Devon’s
Saturday night. The FoxFire Fantasies collection. They stole four of my gowns! The ones
I made for Angela! David, are you listening to me? Who would want -- ”
“Lexington and T.J. took every precaution,” Owen said.
“Yes, but she’s the best in the business. If she’s decided he can help her, none
of Lex’s passwords are going to keep her out.”
“Who?” Fox increased her pace to keep up. “David, Owen, what’s going on? Are
we going to the dungeon? What have you been up to now?”
“I’ll explain later,” David said, which was an improvement, at least he was
answering instead of ignoring. Then he opened a door, he and Owen promptly filled the
doorway, both of them groaned in dismay, and Fox couldn’t see what made them so
“I hate it when I’m right.” David slammed a fist on the doorjamb. “But I hate it
more when I’m almost right.”
Fox shoved between them. “Will one of you clowns tell me what is ... oh, my
God, David, who’s that woman, what’s wrong with her?”
“Her name’s Sabra Indrani,” David said, moving further into the room. “She’s
with my Investigative Planning Department. Or was.”
“Is she dead?”
“No,” Owen said, having regained his composure. “She’s alive. Barely, and for
how long, I don’t know ... not that it matters.”
“Oh, hell.” David waved his hand in front of the woman’s open, staring eyes.
then he straightened up and looked at Owen. “Indrani. Goddess of the sky. And what did
“If memory serves, you said ‘how fitting,’” Owen replied.
“Remind me to kick myself later.”
January 6th, 2001
Saturday, 6:30 PM
Sabra opened her eyes and blinked
until her vision cleared.
What time was it? she wondered.
Instantly, she knew. 6:32 P.M., on the evening of January 6th, 2001. Eastern
Standard Time. Saturday.
She inhaled deeply, the bottom of her peripheral vision catching a deep blue and
gold coverlet rising and falling with her breath. For once, she didn’t awaken to cramps
anywhere in her body, and she was content to lie here not hurting for as long as she
In fact, she actually felt good for a change. She’d had days where no part of
her was giving her particular misery, but this was different. This was how she remembered
waking up on summer mornings when she was a kid.
She yawned and stretched ...
... and froze.
Stretched with both arms?
Slowly, she raised her right arm. It moved easily and painlessly into her line of
Now she had a cramp, but it was a cramp in her brain as she saw the
shapely blue-skinned limb.
She brought her left hand to rub her eyes, but halted it inches away to stare at
the four fingers tipped in shiny gold polish. Then, ever-so-carefully, she touched her face.
Her forehead rose into a row of thin quills that swept back like a tiara. Instead of
eyebrows, she had thick ridges. Her nose was pert, her cheekbones high, she could _feel_
on both sides of her face instead of just on the left, the legacy of the nerve damage
“What’s happened to me?” she said, feeling the full pouty lips move beneath her
fingertips, expelling the words as if she were blowing kisses rather than speaking.
It flooded into her mind, the knowledge of what she’d done.
Claiming she had extra work to catch up on, staying late Friday night until the
janitorial crews were done and the security guards were engrossed in the late-late-late
Re-routing their cameras just in case, so they couldn’t follow her progress.
Using a password she wasn’t supposed to have to make the elevator take her to
the castle level.
Finding the workroom secreted away where the dungeons used to be.
And then ...
She sat up, every muscle working smoothly and in concert, spine flexing easily.
She swung her long, lovely legs over the side of the slab and extended her feet, taking in
the promising curves of calf and thigh, the ballerina-arched talons with gold tips, the
spurs rising from her knees. All of it in deepest indigo.
Oh, yes, mustn’t forget the tail that draped off the slab like a tropical serpent
lounging on a branch.
She tried to curl it and did, bringing the spade-shaped tip off of the floor.
Her delighted laugh was Mae West noting that when she was bad, she was
better. No fish-choking seal, not anymore.
Shifting her shoulders, she heard and felt wings moving against her back. First
left, then right, she extended them in midnight blue fans, then brought them around her
body like a cloak.
She hopped down from the slab and stood upright, looking amazedly around the
room from the perspective of more than six feet in height.
Nearby was a computer with a VR helmet hooked up to it, and a small box that
looked like a tape drive (with the GENERAL logo on the side, she saw, and remembered
buying it on the black market a week ago along with the other equipment).
And sitting in front of the computer ...
Sabra moaned in horror and backed away until her tail bumped into something.
Oh, she’d avoided her reflection for years, always sure that the reality was as bad as she
imagined it to be, but now, seeing it from the outside, the reality was worse than she’d
imagined, a million times worse! Even what few unavoidable mirrors she’d passed hadn’t
shown her the full extent!
Then again, maybe it was because mirrors and imaginings had never shown her
catatonic, with a slack mouth and blankly staring eyes. It was like looking at an exhumed
corpse. If not for the shallow movements of the chest, the figure in the wheelchair could
have been dead.
She turned away, but not before seeing the threads of blood that had dried on
the old Sabra’s temple, crusted around a metal ring the size of a half-dollar.
Yes, she remembered that, too. The brain tape implant, which she’d pressed
against the side of her head with her thumb until it clicked and the sharp spiderlike rays
around its outer edge had snapped over to dig into her skin ... the squeal of the needle-
drill concealed within the device burrowing through her skull ... the way her eye on that
side had squeezed helplessly shut as the probe sank into her brain ... the subaudible
vibration as the recording process began ...
She had no recollection of removing the tape and putting it into the drive. Which
made a certain amount of sense. She knew she must have done it, though. Must have
made all the right connections, then transferred the data on the brain tape into the memory
of the Godiva robot.
Robot? Unfair word. Robots couldn’t feel, and she did. As if every nerve in
her synthetic (but so lifelike!) skin was alive and humming, every muscle in her artificial
(but so perfect!) body was operating at peak performance. Robots couldn’t think,
either, could only do what they were programmed to do.
“It worked!” She wanted to shout, spoke softly instead. “It worked, I’m alive, I
can walk, I can move, I’m whole!”
She hugged herself, then ran her palms over her torso. She was nude, the harem-
girl outfit from the video nowhere in sight. Her breasts were huge but upright and gravity-
defiant (when she stroked them, she felt the tingle as her blue-black nipples drew erect;
was it a function of her mind or had the engineers somehow managed to simulate even
that?), her waist narrow, her hips flaring, her buttocks high and taut, with that tail
sprouting from the base of her spine and those wings from her shoulderblades.
Oh, alive and whole, able to touch, able to react to a touch, wonderfully vibrant
and fresh and full of sensation!
Breckenridge liked the day shifts
He worked a rotating schedule, four ten-hour shifts Friday through Monday.
One week it would be days, 6:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The next week, swings, 2:00 PM to
midnight. The third week, graveyard shift, 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM.
Played hell with his sleep schedule, and played hell with his marriage too; Mary
Ann had left him two years after he’d come to work for Xanatos Enterprises and was now
married to a nine-to-fiver up in New Jersey someplace. But the pay was good, the perks
were good, and the occasional dash of weirdness kept things interesting.
Still, he liked the day shifts best. Even on the weekends, there were people
coming and going, some willing to stop and chat for a few minutes.
The swing shift, though, especially on the weekends, was mind-numbingly dull.
That was the thought that was going through his head at quarter to seven that
Saturday evening, when the elevator doors slid open and _she_ stepped out.
He’d been eating a Mars bar and dropped it into his VIP Magazine, smearing
chocolate and nougat across Drew Barrymore’s cleavage -- something that many men
might have liked to do in real life, but Drew had nothing on the indigo goddess crossing
the lobby toward him.
“Fell asleep at your post, Breck,” he told himself. “Fell asleep and you’re
dreaming. Dreaming like a sex-starved teenager. Good God, man, it hasn’t been that
long since you got laid!”
“How long has it been?” the indigo goddess asked huskily. There was a half-
taunting, half-inviting smile on her lips.
“Uh ... uhhurrr ...” he said, her voice playing his nerves like a harp.
“You’re looking at me,” she crooned. “Do you enjoy what you see?”
He bobbled the approximation of a nod.
“What else do you enjoy?” She unfurled the wings that had been caped around
her shoulders and swung her head so that her ankle-length curtain of golden hair rippled
like sun on a waterfall.
He couldn’t say a word, though he was thinking plenty.
“Do you know what I enjoy?”
“What?” he blurted.
“Dancing,” she sighed, and rolled her hips in a slow circle. “It’s been so long
since I went dancing. So that’s what I’m going to do. But it’ll be our secret, won’t it?”
He bobbled again.
“I could even dance for you, if you want.”
“Oh-kaay,” he exhaled gustily.
Music came from somewhere; he had no idea where. The radio in his console
was set to the game, the building didn’t have a Muzak system, and his visitor sure had
noplace to conceal a Walkman. Yet there was music. Of the sort that called to mind snake-
charmers, flying carpets, and dark eyes over sheer veils.
The breathtaking creature in front of him began to undulate to the rhythm, her
flawless Helen of Troy face set in an expression of pure rapture. She didn’t have any
clothes to start with -- buckytail nekkid! a voice in Breckenridge’s head warbled crazily --
yet she still gave the impression of revealing more and more of herself in tantalizing
Long after she’d danced her way out the front doors, Breckenridge was still
seeing her before him. He didn’t snap out of it until almost an hour later, and by the time
he remembered that he’d neglected to make his seven o’clock log entry, he was past
The CareVan took her past Ground
Zero ten times a week, but it was always
closed and dark and silent. An old marquee out front that suggested the place might have
been a movie theater before it was converted into a nightclub. And on the marquee, week
in and week out, were the words that had drawn her here.
DISCO FEVER EVERY SATURDAY 7 TO 2 LADIES NIGHT
Now, at eight o’clock at night, the place was no longer closed, no longer dark,
and certainly no longer silent. Music pounded through the walls, intensifying briefly each
time the front door opened. The crowd was an amiable mix of retro and Goth, with a
sprinkling of punk thrown in.
Sabra crouched on the roof of a grocery across the street, bathed in neon that
turned her strapless white dress to a rainbow of colors and made the gold mesh belt glint
The cold didn’t bother her, though the city was still piled with drifts that had
been plowed, half-melted, re-frozen, and turned into sooty ice sculptures.
She wasn’t sure if she dared trust these wings to flight, but her claws and strong
limbs were excellent for climbing. She hadn’t even needed to try and escape anyone; the
men that saw her could only gape like she was a mirage, and the women either pointedly
ignored her (those who were with the men), or glared and said, “Slut!” (those who were in
the company of their fellow women).
Strange, how it didn’t seem to matter that she had indigo skin, wings, and a tail.
Didn’t matter to them, didn’t matter to her. Because what did matter was that she had
the most fantastic body in New York, was the best dancer anywhere, and the time had
come to show it off.
The current song was 'Love Machine,' which made Sabra laugh as she leaped
from the grocer’s roof into the street. Her wings spread automatically, and she glided to a
graceful touchdown, settling that question and attracting a lot of attention.
Everyone gathered outside the club, ignoring the sharp bite of the clear winter’s
night in hopes of getting inside, left off their lively conversations to look at her. She fixed
her smoking gaze on the man at the door.
He was shorter than her but burly, the sleeves of his black T-shirt torn away to
expose tattoos, with a shaved head and a single gold tooth in the front of his mouth. The
sort of man that would have terrified and intimidated her only yesterday, but when she
got close and saw how he was transfixed by the jiggle and sway, she just smiled.
“I’m Godiva,” she said.
“Go on ahead,” he said, shaking his head in awe, and opened the door for her.
She crossed into smoky laser-shot darkness and headed for the neon-edged
dance floor where a hundred couples were packed into the small space, spangled with
fleeting light from the glittering ball that hung and revolved overhead.
Sabra ... no, Godiva ... strode to the center, a path clearing before her as if by
magic as awed dancers turned to watch her passage. “Love Machine” ended, but the
deejay made no move to put on another tune, staring out through his wired-glass cage.
A silence fell across Ground Zero, like the silence in a Western when a
desperado pushes through the saloon doors and gets ready to raise some hell.
Instead of slapping leather, Godiva stretched out one arm and moved her fingers
as if to caress the deejay’s face long-distance. “I’ve waited over twenty years to dance to
‘Oh What a Night.’ Please.”
He scrambled among his records -- actual vinyl, even! -- and triumphantly held
one up. Moments later, the song was playing, and Godiva began to dance.
They watched, and she basked in it. She basked in the lustful eyes of the men,
the venomous eyes of the women.
Hypnotizing, mesmerizing ...
What a lady, what a night ...
Want me! Envy me! her soul screamed as her body gave itself over to the music.
When the song ended, she was swarmed by men, their partners left behind like
wads of chewed gum, and rather than pick one, she danced with them all.
The next number was ‘Twilight Zone’ by Golden Earring, not really disco but she
didn’t care; maybe the deejay had chosen it as a commentary on the weirdness of having
a gargoyle on the dance floor; didn’t matter, because it had the sexiest driving beat that
let her do the most outrageous things with her hips and tail.
Oh, and they did want her, she could feel the evidence of it whenever one of
them pulled her into his arms, she writhed so well against a tall tanned blond during a
slow song that he nearly came in his pants right there in front of everyone, and she loved
it, reveled in it, the sweet delicious power!
She could have drawn him down and taken him right there, taken them all one
after another, left them drained yet begging for more ... but she didn’t want her first lover
to be a group of anonymous strangers.
No, she had already decided who her first lover was going to be.
January 7th, 2001
Sunday, 6:10 PM
She’d spent the day on a rooftop,
in a sort of semi-aware downtime that
approximated the gargoyle habit of turning to stone at dawn. As long as she was
emulating one of those creatures, she figured she might as well play by the rules.
It made sense, too ... the streets were much more crowded by day, and she would
attract too much attention. By night, her deep blue shade blended well with the sky and
she was more free to move about unnoticed.
During that downtime, she turned her thoughts inward. Not to what she had
done and what she was doing, but feeling her way through the systems that powered her
new body. Exploring the rudimentary memory banks.
There was a lot of information about gargoyles in there. Physical details,
behaviors, things of that sort. All she had to do was think a question, and the answer
would spring full-blown into her conscious mind. It was almost like her head was a lecture
hall, where a professor with a sardonic, rather witty way of talking and a vaguely
European accent was always willing to discourse on the topic of gargoyles.
Sabra ... no.
Godiva didn’t bother dwelling on the psychological makeup of gargoyles.
Protecting? Who cared? A clan? Who needs one?
All she wanted was just what she now had. Freedom. Freedom from the hateful
prison where she’d rotted alive for over two decades.
When the sun went down, she’d roused herself from her state of near-torpor and
stretched from head to tail. A thin rime of frost that had formed over her skin crackled and
fell away. Not stone, but not bad, she thought amusedly.
Another cold night was settling over Manhattan. The cold didn’t affect Godiva.
Nor was she troubled by hunger or thirst. She supposed eventually she might need to
figure out what powered her body and recharge it, but in the meantime, she was free of
those basic concerns.
She shook out her wings, petting their velvety texture.
Time to give those babies a test-drive.
Godiva went to the edge of the roof and looked down at the cars moving in the
intersection below. Fear tried to grip her, but she jumped before it could get a good hold.
She plunged, and then her instincts (programming? whatever) kicked in. She
laughed aloud and joyously as she soared between the buildings, skimmed past her
beautiful reflection in banks of mirrored windows. Twisted and turned and sky-pirouetted
and looped and twirled and dove and rolled, a concert of movement, every limb
responding perfectly, her hair a garland of gold streaming through the night.
Better than walking!
Better than dancing!
Better than sex?
Only one way to find out.
Purposeful now, she left off with her aerobatics and glided through the city. It
was a lot harder to figure out where she was going from up here, but she supposed she
would get the hang of it soon enough. This certainly beat hunching in the back of the
CareVan as it crawled through the crowded streets!
She didn’t find her destination until nearly midnight, and all the windows were
dark. No, not quite; there was a single small light, perhaps a reading lamp, in one of the
Godiva descended to the wide ledge and folded her wings into a cloak. She
cleared a circle on the icy glass and peered in.
Oh, oh yes.
There he was.
He’d fallen asleep reading, with a lamp on the nightstand casting a pale gold
glow across the bed. Several pillows were propped up behind him, and the crisp white
sheet was drawn to his waist. A book rested on his bare chest, and his head was tipped to
the side, his cheek resting against his shoulder.
A tingle pulsed in Godiva’s belly and rippled outward, increasing instead of
diminishing so that by the time it reached her head, it left her swimming in pleasant
He didn’t stir, couldn’t hear. That was okay.
She wedged her gold-enameled nails into the window frame and broke it open
with an effortless strength. The wintry air swirled into the room, making Jason Canmore
shiver in his sleep and pull the sheet up to his neck.
Godiva hopped lightly to the carpeted floor and shut the window behind her. She
took two steps and stopped in her tracks, staring at the image of a gargoyle.
His bedroom also served as his studio, and several of his paintings hung on the
wall. Many were the detailed cityscapes that had begun to earn him such acclaim in the
local galleries, but interspersed among them were darker, more frightening scenes.
The same figure featured in all of them. A female gargoyle, scarlet over azure,
beautiful face contorted in a terrifying sneer. In the most unsettling of the paintings, she
was standing over the crumpled body of a man in a red and black mask, hands on her
hips, head thrown back, her expression one of cruel mirth.
Godiva touched one of the canvases, part of her marveling at the sensors that let
her detect the individual bumps and brushstrokes, the rest of her torn between admiration
Giving herself a little shake, she turned away from the paintings and approached
the bed. Jason had turned onto his side, and from this angle she could see the defined
muscles of his back even through the sheet. His book had fallen to the floor, and she
considerately picked it up.
“On the Evils of the Daemon,” the title read. And beneath it, the author’s name,
Frowning, Godiva put the book on the desk, beside an opened envelope with the
Anvil Corporation logo in the corner. She looked at Jason, and her frown melted away.
“Jason,” she said again, throaty contralto.
He mumbled unintelligibly and rolled onto his back. The sheet outlined him from
breastbone to knee, and again Godiva felt that rippling tingle.
She touched his dark hair, trailed her three fingers down the plane of his cheek to
the strong shelf of his jaw.
His hand flashed up and clamped around her wrist. His turquoise eyes snapped
open, instantly alert, warrior reflexes ... then flew wide in shock at the sight of her.
Godiva gasped and tried to pull away but he held on tightly as he sat up.
“Who are you?” he demanded harshly. “What are you doing here?”
Didn’t he recognize ... no, of course not!
“Who sent you?” he went on when she couldn’t reply. “The Demon?”
She shook her head and found her voice. “No one sent me, Jason. I came to you
on my own.”
“Who are you?” he asked again, crushing her wrist until a flesh and blood
creature would have winced from the pain. “What do you want?”
She covered his hand with her other, not to pry it away but in a gentle caress. “I’m
Godiva. I’m not here to hurt you, I promise. All I want ... all I want ... is to make love
He jerked as if she’d slapped him. “To what?!”
“Jason,” she purred, savoring his name. “Let me touch you. Let me kiss you and
taste you and lick you all over. I want to feel your cock in my mouth, I want to suck on it
and roll my tongue around it. I want your hands on me, all over me, do whatever you want
to me, use me, I’ll be anything you want, anything you need.”
He let go as if her wrist was on fire and recoiled, but the thin sheet proved that
her words had not been without effect. “What ... what ...?”
“Don’t I excite you? I think I do ... I know I do. Look at my body, Jason. Look at
these breasts. Here --” she tugged the top of her dress down to her waist. “Look at them.
Oh, touch them, please touch them, I’ve wanted you for so long, don’t send me away, not
when all I want to do is make us both feel good.”
Jason stared. “But ... ye’re a gargoyle!”
Godiva chuckled. “When you’re under stress, your accent comes out. That’s so
sexy.” She undid her gold mesh belt. Only the flare of her hips was keeping her dress from
slipping all the way off. “So I’m a gargoyle? Aren’t I beautiful?”
“Yes ... what kind of trick is this?” he cried.
“Shh, quiet! Don’t wake your sister! What would she think if she found us here
“Ye’ll have te leave,” he said thickly.
“I’ve waited so long for this. I never thought I’d have the chance. Jason, I
need you! Can you honestly look at me and say that you don’t want me?”
He looked, and she preened before him, extending her wings, turning this way
and that, and when her back was to him, she pushed her dress down so her tail, buttocks,
and long gorgeous legs were exposed to his view.
“I’m a dancer,” she said, glancing back coyly over her shoulder. “Would you like
me to dance for you?”
He squeezed his eyes shut.
“Oh, you silly,” Godiva crooned affectionately. On cue, from somewhere in her
circuits, her onboard sound system activated and the haunting, seductive strains of
Eastern music floated through the room.
Jason opened one eye and shut it again quickly when he saw her looking at him.
But could he keep them shut?
Not at all.
He had the sheet bunched in his lap, but even that couldn’t conceal the fact that
he was soon in what her high-school chums would have called a pre-dick-ament.
Slowly and sinuously, Godiva began to writhe to the rhythm. She used her hair
and wings as curtain and fans, alternately concealing and revealing, wishing for the
bangles and cymbals she’d seen on the video.
As she danced, she stroked herself with a lover’s touch, showing him how ready
she was, how willing, how eager. Her fingers moved over the hairless mound between her
legs; it felt like warm suede and was as plump as a ripe peach; when she was sure Jason
was watching avidly with both eyes, she wetted her fingers in her mouth and then slid
them inside herself, moaning softly as she did so.
He sprang from his bed, the sheet wrapped around his waist. “Ye’ll have te
leave!” he said again, much more insistently this time.
Godiva dropped with languid grace across the bed he’d just abandoned, her hair
spread over the bottom sheet in a torrent of gold. She parted her thighs wide, using both
hands to masturbate as she kept rolling her hips to the music.
“I know you want me, Jason! Here I am for you!”
Inspiration struck, and she brought her tail up between her legs. The spade-
shaped tip reached her mouth and she began nibbling at it, and settled the thick length
along her opening, not penetrating, but undulating her tail, sliding it back and forth.
“Ah, God!” Jason groaned, gaze fixed on her performance.
“Mmm, I like that,” Godiva sighed. “I’d like you better, though. I’m so hot! I
don’t think a tail will be enough. So drop that damned sheet and fuck me!”
His jaw was clenched, his fists were clenched, his shoulders were shaking ... then
he gave in with a hoarse cry and threw the sheet to the floor. A new wave of heat crashed
through Godiva when he came striding toward her, his legs magnificent, his erection
jutting stiff and proud from a patch of dark curls.
He fell on her and she pulled him down, and with unerring aim he hit the mark
and thrust hilt-deep. They cried out together, her in vindication, him in agonized lust.
A terrible remorse starkened his face, and she realized he was horrified at the
thought of his cock sunk into an inhuman place. Before he could leap up, she wrapped her
legs around him and dug her nails into his back.
“Oh, no you don’t!” she panted. “You’re going to finish this fuck, and you’re
going to enjoy it!”
With that, she began pushing her hips up at him in earnest. She stole his mouth
with a deep tongue-kiss to muffle his protesting shout. He tried to pull away, then gave in
and was kissing her frantically, fondling her breasts, and driving into her so forcefully that
the bed creaked and thudded.
“Aiiieeee!” Godiva shrieked. Oh, overload, overload, she was sure that she was
going to blow a fuse and be reduced to a smoking pile of spare parts, oh, it was so good,
this was what she’d been missing all those lost years, better than walking-dancing-
gliding, yes, she came in one shattering explosion after another.
Her frenzied gyrations sent Jason over the edge too. He pounded against her,
the muscles in his jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, standing out in vivid relief. Sweat slicked
his back. His expression was one of exquisite passion and torment.
Then she felt the first spurt of his fluids deep within her, and he clenched a
double fistful of her hair and kissed her so hard that her head was pressed down in the
mattress, and went on and on, emptying himself, as if it would never end.
He collapsed atop her, dead weight and quivering. She could feel the thunderous
hammering of his heart. Could hear it ...
... No, that was the door ...
“Jason! Answer me!”
The door leaped in its frame, presumably as Robyn Canmore kicked it or threw
her shoulder against it from the outside.
“Shit!” Robyn exclaimed vehemently.
The gunshot was followed by a scree of metal. Half of the lock showered into the
room in little metal pellets. Smoke curled up from the hole in the door.
“Roh ...” Jason tried. He pushed himself partway up, groaned, and sank back
down on Godiva’s breasts. “Robyn!” Too quiet to be heard more than a yard away.
Godiva, having no desire to end this night with a bullet to her central processing
unit, kissed Jason one last lingering time and helped him roll off of her. She was getting
out of bed as another ...
... broke the door inwards in fragments. Robyn Canmore, wearing a shortie
nightie, tumbled through the wreckage.
Before the blonde woman could regain her feet or get her bearings, Godiva ran to
the window, scooping up her discarded dress as she went. She tore it open, heard Jason’s
yelp as he was bathed in another swirl of icy air, and dove headlong into the night.
Getting dressed in mid-air was out of the question. She glided nude and serene,
every now and then doing a giddy little loop as the amazement of what she’d just done
came bubbling back up.
The sight of the Aerie Building looming in front of her brought her to a halt. She
backwinged and landed on a ledge, staring at the skyscraper and the castle atop it.
Okay, she thought, this is it. Party time over. You’ve done what you set out to
do. You danced, you made love, you had a weekend alive for a change. You know what
you have to do now.
She exhaled and bowed her head, looking down at her shapely legs with their
high, arched feet, and the tail that coiled around them. Then, with a sigh, she stepped off
the ledge and unfurled her wings once more.
January 8th, 2001
Monday, 5:50 PM
“So that’s where we are,” Xanatos
said, spreading his hands to show he’d put all
of his cards on the table.
“Two nights ago,” Goliath rumbled thoughtfully. “And there’s been nothing?”
“Nothing. I’m sorry to dump this on you right when you wake up, but I’m going
to need your help.”
“And what would you have us do?”
“She’s out there somewhere, and she’s kind of hard to miss. I want her found
and brought back before she’s front-page news. It’s not going to do your cause any good
to have her running around out there.”
“We are a clan, not a cause.”
“Okay, so it’s not going to do your clan any good to have her running around
out there. Think about it, Goliath. Think about what she is, what she can do.”
"Such as what?" Goliath inquired skeptically. "She's no warrior."
"No, it's worse."
Xanatos drummed his fingers and chewed his lip. "I ... oh, hell. The Godiva robot
contains a chip. A very special kind of chip."
"What have you done?" Goliath's voice began an ominous rise.
"The chip emits a subsonic frequency ... loaded with subliminal arousal cues."
"Anybody around her ... gets turned on. Sexually. I didn't activate the chip
during the party. Didn't think I had to. But if anyone can unlock the codes and actually
use the damned thing, it's Sabra Indrani."
“Why on earth did you --”
“I hear that familiar tone of accusation coming through,” Xanatos said, rolling
his eyes. “You think this is all my fault. Hunh. Try to do a friend a favor for his bachelor
party, and --”
“I did not ask you to. Look how much trouble it’s already caused.”
“We’re talking about an expensive piece of equipment here. Which reminds me,
don’t damage the goods.”
Goliath gave him a withering look. “There is a living woman inside that
automaton, Xanatos. We cannot harm her.”
“Fair enough. All I ask is that she be brought back. Will you try?”
“Very well,” Goliath said.
“Look on the bright side,” Lex
“Yeah?” Brooklyn glanced back at him. “What’s that?”
“At least this babe wasn’t programmed with every battle move we know.”
“It’s her other moves that I’m worried about,” Brooklyn muttered darkly.
“You’ve still got her panties, don’t you? The ones she threw at you.”
“Lex!” He looked around fast to make sure no one was in earshot, but it was just
the two of them as they skimmed past the Chrysler Building. “That’s not it.”
“But you do.”
“Okay, okay, so if it’s not that, what is it?”
“I dunno ... chivalry?”
“Oh, is that why it was always me getting stuck beating up on Fox and
“Don’t think chivalry applies to them. Sure as hell not Hyena.”
“Then what is your point? Do you have one? Or are you just running your
“Pretty sassy to the future leader.” He tossed a mock punch Lex’s way.
“Seriously, this whole thing bugs me.”
“Because of Sevarius?”
“Hey, you and T.J. swore he was out of the picture for good. I’m taking your
word for it. Don’t make me doubt you.”
“Oh ... heh ...” Lex grinned.
“No, it’s because of that woman. What’s her name. Indrani. This isn’t like the
mutates. Nobody did this to her. She chose it. Who are we to tell her it’s wrong?”
“You heard Goliath and Angela talking about Mr. Renard and the time he got
into the golem. Or what about the time Jackal invited the god of the dead into him? Or the
whole Pack; they all chose what happened to them.”
“Yeah, but this isn’t the same. She’s not hurting anyone. You said yourself
Godiva doesn’t have any weapons.”
“Just that pair of .38’s --” he started salaciously.
“Dammit, Lex, come on!”
“Sorry. Okay, I see where you’re going with this. She chose to do this, for all we
know she’s happy.”
“Like Aiden. Nobody made her become a gargoyle. What would you think if
Titania or someone showed up and tried to repossess her body?”
“That’s not the same,” Lex said, sounding troubled.
“It’s close enough. We’re not going after Godiva because she’s evil. We’re
going after her because Xanatos is in a snit about someone outsmarting him, that’s why. I
don’t even buy that bit about how expensive she was. Sure, that sort of technology can’t
come cheap --”
“Yeah, she’s totally stota,” Lex said.
“State Of The Art,” Lex clarified.
“Never mind. But I see what you’re saying. It’s not worth Xanatos’ time to stop
on the street to pick up a fifty dollar bill; he won’t break the bank if he doesn’t get Godiva
back. Especially because all she was doing before this was sitting in the dungeon
“Right! He’s being like a selfish kid. That’s his toy, even if he wasn’t ever
going to play with it again.”
“I bet Fox would have a few things to say about that.” Lex chuckled.
“But along comes this woman, stuck in a wheelchair, her life must totally suck,
and all of a sudden she’s got a chance to walk again? Not just walk, but be one of the
most stone-bitchin’ babes on the planet. And we’re going to take it away from her.” He
growled in disgust. “As long as she’s not hurting anyone, we should just leave her
“What about for her own good? There’s still a lot of humans out there who don’t
like gargoyles. Even stone-bitchin’ babe gargoyles. Sabra doesn’t know what she’s
getting into. She’s out there with no clan, but plenty of enemies. She’s going to need
You’re not really going back
there, are you?
Who said that? Who are you?
Oh, just call me your ... conscience. The little angel sitting on your shoulder.
I don’t understand.
Never mind. Just listen. You know what will happen if you go back.
... Yes ...
Yes. Back into your old body. Back to a life of helplessness, loneliness, and pain.
You’re not ready to do that yet.
But I’m a day overdue already! I only meant to be gone for the weekend. I should
have gone back last night. They might have already found out, when I didn’t show up for
work this morning. I could lose my job.
A job seems like a small price to pay for having your freedom.
What? You ... you can’t mean ... stay like this?
Why not? You’re strong, quick, beautiful. You can have any man you desire, as
often as you desire. If you go back, you’ll lose all that. Can you live like that?
I’ve lived like that for a long time --
And hated every minute of it! Now you’ve seen what life can be like. Are you
willing to give that up? Remember how it felt to dance? How it felt to have everyone
looking at you, admiring you, wanting you? Remember how it felt to see the lust in your
chosen paramour’s eyes? You know what you’d see if you went back to those places in
your old body, don’t you? Tell me. Would the people at the discotheque admire you?
No. They’d ... they’d ...
Pity you. So would Canmore. Pity, and revulsion. The same things you’ve seen
for twenty years! You’re insane if you give up and go back to that! When you could have
all of this!
Who are you?
Consider me a friend. I do have your best interests ... both of our best
interests at heart.
But my job ...!
What can it give you? A paycheck. What does your paycheck go for now? Rent,
food, doctor’s office co-pays, prescriptions ... all the things you don’t need in this
My computer ...
Rubbish! You only used it as an escape hatch from your wretched life! Think of
all you’d be giving up by going back!
I only meant to have this one weekend. One weekend ...
“Just one day and then, I swear I’ll be content ... with my share ... won’t resent,
won’t despair, old and bent, I won’t care, I’ll have ... spent ... one ... day ... out there!!!”
I’ve been told I have a good singing voice, don’t you agree? But really, Sabra --
Godiva, then. See? You don’t even want to be reminded of your old name. And I
don’t blame you, not for a minute.
But I wasn’t ...
Oh, I’ve heard your arguments before. The having of the moment is worth the
losing of it. The pain can make the little pleasures shine brighter. And to that, Godiva, I
say nonsense! Your life, my dear, sucked. And if you go back to it with the memory of this
weekend, you will regret it and hate it for the rest of your days.
But if I don’t go back, they’ll figure it out. They’ll come looking for me.
Oh, absolutely. And if they find you, they’ll strap you down and rip your
consciousness out of that luscious body. You’ll be back in the old one, in agony
because I can personally assure you that brain tape transferences are much more
painful when inserted into a living host. And in the end, you’ll still lose your job.
Then why should I listen to you? I should go back now and make sure they
don’t find out!
No, no, no! You should make sure you don’t get caught!
Whoever you are, you’re insane! Where would I go? What would I do? I want to
be whole, but I don’t want to live as a fugitive!
That’s something you should have thought of before making your selection of
hosts. I’m afraid gargoyles still aren’t terribly popular. But face it, my dear. You don’t
have anything else to live for. None of your material possessions are anything to write
home about. You have no family, no friends, not even a hamster to keep you company. If
you’ll just think it through, you’ll realize that my way is the only one. Otherwise, you
might as well give up and die.
Oh, really, now ... do you want last night to be the only time you will ever
make love? With all the power you have at your disposal?
“Slow down!” the beaked gargoyle
called aggravatedly to the smaller one.
Godiva watched them from concealment.
My new kind, she thought. I wonder ... I wonder what they’re like!
“Not my fault you can’t keep up!” the smaller, whose wings stretched from ankle
to wrist, jeered back.
She moved into the light just as the smaller one swooped past. His large eyes
doubled as he saw her. As he faltered in mid-air, the larger one, who had been making a
concerted effort to overtake him, collided with him.
Godiva winced as they smacked solidly into a brick wall and tumbled to the
rooftop. By the time they had gotten themselves untangled, she was in front of them. The
beaked one raised his head first, found a leg right in front of his nose, and followed it up
and up. It took him a very long time to reach her face.
“It’s her,” he breathed.
She blinked. But she had heard him right; now the small one was gaping at her
with the same recognition.
“What are we going to do?” the smaller one asked.
Carefully, his body poised for action, the beaked one got to his feet. Godiva,
seeing the smooth flexion of his chest, calves, and thighs, felt a warm glow spreading
through her. His tail ... ooh, remembering what she’d done with her own only made her
wild to know what he could do with his!
The smaller one stood too, and she shifted her gaze to him. Not a child, as she’d
first thought. Short, but corded with wiry muscle.
She held her hands out, apart and palms up. “I’m not your enemy. I ... I’d like to
be ... your friend.” She inhaled deeply, and their eyes bulged in harmony.
“Well ...” the short one took a step, but the other caught him by the shoulder.
“Bad idea. She’s trouble. She’s dangerous. Remember?”
Godiva laughed with a low humming undertone that made both males twitch.
“You don’t need to be afraid of me.”
“I’m not!” the short one assured her.
“And you?” She looked at the beaked one smokily, challengingly.
“I’m not afraid either!” he protested. “But you’re trouble.”
“Depends on your definition.” She pressed two fingertips under the short one’s
chin and studied him. “You’re a cutie, aren’t you?”
He grinned foolishly, and the tip of his tail started drumming on the rooftop like a
dog being scratched on the ribs.
“And you,” Godiva went on, pinching the end of the other one’s beak between
her thumb and foreclaw, “you look a little like trouble yourself. But don’t girls always go
for bad boys? Is that what you are? A bad boy?”
“Uh ...” He kept shifting his wings as if his back itched.
“Oh, I can’t decide ...” Godiva sighed.
“Decide what?” the short one asked.
“Which of you to have first.”
She wouldn’t have thought they could bug their eyes out anymore, but she was
“Uh ... have?” the beaked one stammered.
“Take,” Godiva clarified. “Do. Seduce. Ravish.” She licked her lips. “Fuck.”
The short one whimpered, the end of his tail beating out a rapid tattoo. “We
really shouldn’t ...”
“I know,” she said, running her fingers from his chin to the hinge of his jaw.
“That’s what makes it so much fun.”
“You ... you can’t be serious ...” the other one said with difficulty. “We’ve got
Whatever he was going to say was lost as Godiva leaned close and flicked her
tongue against the end of his beak. “I’m serious. And I think ... yes, I think ... I’ll have
both of you at the same time.”
“Whu ... what?” the short one gasped. “You mean ...?”
“I’m sure there’s enough of me to go around,” Godiva said, slipping out of her
dress and cupping her breasts as if in offering. “Don’t you agree?”
“This is a big mistake,” the beaked one said, but his hands weren’t listening and
reached out like a sleepwalker. At his touch, Godiva arched her back and let her eyes drift
“Yeah, but who cares?” the short one said, stroking the curve that belled out
from her waist to her hip.
Godiva drew them both to her, murmuring in pleasure as their bodies pressed
close against her bare skin. Her hand brushed between the beaked one’s wings by
accident and he cried out, and she realized there was something she’d been missing.
When he reciprocated, pushing her hair out of the way so he could apply a firm, stroking
pressure to her back, she trembled deliciously.
She sank to the rooftop, pulling them with her. Now the smaller one needed no
encouragement, and was all over her, eager clever hands and hungry, seeking mouth.
His friend was still a bit more shy, but that all ended once Godiva undid his belt
and wrapped her fingers around what he had to offer. Which was very considerable
indeed; Jason had been well-proportioned, but ...
“Well, and you’re no disappointment either!” she observed happily as she
divested the other one of his loincloth as well.
“Oh, we shouldn’t be doing this!” the beaked one said, not that it stopped him
from nuzzling his beak under her hair to tickle at her ear. And when he grabbed her wrist, it
wasn’t to move her hand away but to encourage her to pump it faster.
“Who cares!” the smaller one said again, muffled against her breasts. “We’ll
never have another chance like this, brother!”
There was no further discussion. Both of them fell on her like starved beasts.
Two pairs of hands (plus one pair of grasping little wing talons) and two mouths,
explored her, groping and fondling and licking and sucking and nibbling.
Their three tails coiled together like a nest of snakes, sliding along and around
Then both of them were trying to get their heads between her legs, nearly
knocking their skulls together. Godiva let them duel for a moment, then pulled the smaller
one up her body, having him rest with one knee to either side of her head, taking his
stiffness into her mouth while the other one went to work with renewed effort on her lower
Oh, lost, she was lost in the heat and the passion. Her body bucked and rolled,
her tail lashed. Her wings, stretched to either side, fluttered like sails.
She reveled in the taste of the smaller one’s excitement, knew that he would soon
be flooding her mouth, wanted it, needed it, needed that ultimate expression of her
power over him.
And the other, oh, yes, skillful tongue probing within her, the rounded upper
curve of his beak pressing with unbearably sweet friction against her most sensitive spot
... then, cool draft as he took his head away, followed by the heat of his loins covering
hers. He reared back, plunged deep, thick and engorged, filling her.
Above her, the smaller one’s eyes began to shed hot light. He grasped the sides
of her head, wailing incoherently as he began to shake and spasm. Godiva held him tight
by the base of his tail with one hand and scraped her claws gently down his back with the
other, and his wails became a turbulent cry.
He fell off of her and lay panting.
She felt the other’s tail creeping along her inner thigh, worming its way between
their bodies, and then it was slithering around to ... to ...
Godiva screamed uncontrollably. Her heel spurs gouged into his hips, her hands
shot out and seized him by the shoulders. His face twisted with effort and concentration,
he kept going, kept doing that with his tail ...
Then the smaller one’s tail snaked over her leg and down too, and it was more
than she could stand, more than she could take, she didn’t ever want it to stop, not mere
overload this time but a complete meltdown, every part of her imploding and she screamed
again, starbursts flying across her vision
And still the beaked one kept on, sending her to incredible, impossible heights,
and when he finished, his smaller friend had regained his strength and took his place, and
they went at her again and, oh, nothing had ever been so good!
She lost track of how many times they’d each had her before their youthful
stamina gave out completely. Finally, the three of them just sprawled in a heap, the only
sounds their ragged breathing and her soft sighs.
“I don’t like this, I am never
gonna like this,” T.J. Lawton complained.
“Quit wiggling,” Angela warned him. “I’d hate to drop you.”
“What’s wrong with gliding?” Aiden asked. “I love it! Even before I had my own
wings, I loved it!”
“And you think this is precarious,” Angela said as she shifted her grip to
cradle the young man more securely, “you should have seen Lex carrying her. He needs
both arms to glide, so she had to hold on all by herself.”
“Great,” T.J. said. “Why does that not make me feel better?”
“Oh, come on!” Angela giggled. “Father’s never dropped Elisa. Would you feel
better if it was him carrying you?”
“No!” He coughed, collected himself. “I mean, if I’ve got to be this close to one
of you, no offense, I’d rather it was you than your dad.”
“I wonder,” Aiden said, dipping under Angela and then looping around. “Is that
homophobia or gargophobia?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be doing the hocus-pocus thing?” T.J. asked.
“We’re supposed to be working together,” she reminded him sweetly. “Do
you sense Godiva yet?”
“No, listen, I think this is one of the dumbest ideas ... oh ... wait ... crap ...” He
“You do!” Aiden said smugly. “See? Puck was right!”
“Face it, T.J.,” Angela said. “You’re never going to be ‘normal,’ so you might as
well give up and enjoy your powers!”
“That way,” he said grudgingly. “I don’t know if it’s her, but it’s something
weird, all right.”
“Let’s just give Nightstone a wide berth.” Angela caught an updraft and climbed
a hundred feet in a matter of seconds. “Ow! T.J., let go, you’re strangling me!”
“Don’t fuckin’ do that! I think I just pissed myself!”
“It’s just an updraft, you baby.”
Aiden laughed merrily. “Too bad gargoyles don’t come with seatbelts, huh,
“Yeah, well, your model doesn’t come with much in the way of airbags, either,”
Angela let go. T.J. squawked as gravity gave him a hard yank toward the streets.
Then she caught him by the wrists and carried him dangling, while Aiden only laughed
“Be nice,” Angela chided.
“Oh, jeez, give me a heart attack why don’t you!”
She shook him back and forth a little. “Going to apologize to Aiden?”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry already!”
“Okay, Angela, I think he gets the picture,” Aiden said.
When T.J. was safely, albeit distrustingly, in Angela’s arms again, he pointed
roughly east. “Over there ... it’s getting stronger. Kinda ... weird, though. I never saw her
operational, but it sure doesn’t seem like a robot. Not like the Steel Clan, anyway.”
“There!” Aiden cried. “Shadows against the moon! Do you see them, Angela?”
“I do! Oh, good, Brooklyn and Lex! They found her!”
“We’d better hurry. It looks like they need ... help?”
“That’s not what it looks like to me!” T.J. said after an incredulous moment.
“I am not seeing what I think I’m seeing!” Angela’s jaw was set so firmly T.J.
could hear her teeth grinding.
“Oh, gosh ...” Aiden said. “Oh, gosh, no, that can’t be right! They ... they
“Uh, hey, maybe we better back off, huh, what do you say?” T.J. pleaded.
“Back off? Back off?!” Angela’s eyes flashed like emergency beacons. “I
don’t think so!”
“I can’t believe it!” Aiden protested, increasing her speed to match Angela’s.
“At least put me down first!” T.J. called above the rushing of the wind in his
ears. “Huh, Angela?”
“No chance. I want you to blast that bitch back into her component parts. I’ll
deal with my mate!”
“She’s going down!” Aiden reported.
“Poor choice of words,” T.J. muttered, holding on for dear life.
The three shadows descended to a rooftop. Angela went into a dive, T.J.’s yell
trailing behind her. “Get ready for a rough landing!”
He tried to brace himself, but there was no preparing for the jarring, rolling crash
as she let go of him about three feet above the rooftop. He tumbled, taking the knees out
of his jeans and the skin off of his palms, struck a wall, and damn near bit off his own
tongue. Dazed, everything still spinning, he raised his head in time to see Angela stalk
over to the three intimate gargoyles, grab one, and yank him off of Godiva.
“You louse!” Punch to the stomach. “You cad!” Clout to the head. “You rotten
no-good son of a --”
“Um, Angela?” Aiden ventured. “That’s not Brooklyn ...”
T.J. saw Aiden holding the other male by the neck with her hand drawn back and
gloved in silver like she was about to give him a hell of a smack. In that odd magelight, he
clearly saw that it wasn’t Lexington at all, but someone who looked uncannily like him.
“Not ...” Angela’s eyes dimmed and cleared. “Not Brooklyn?”
“The clones!” the two females exclaimed together, letting go as if they’d had
ahold of something dirty.
“Hey, watch --” T.J. started, too late.
The two clones reacted with lightning speed. The beaked one swept his tail at
Angela’s legs, knocking her over. The one like Lex pounced on Aiden, who uttered a high
squeak and covered her face.
Behind them, Godiva got leisurely to her feet. T.J. could feel the energy crackling
off of her, as if sex was her battery and it was fully charged. She seemed to glide even
while she walked.
“Shit-goddam,” T.J. grumbled, standing and shaking off the last of his dizziness.
Angela and the Brooklyn-clone were mixing it up fairly evenly matched, trading
blows in the best gargoyle fashion. Aiden was curled up like a cocoon, firing off little
witchbolts that the Lex-clone easily evaded. While she was concentrating on him, Godiva
sauntered up behind her.
“Aiden, look out!” He started to run, but before Aiden could even begin to turn
her head, Godiva had scooped her up and tossed her over the side.
T.J. skidded to a halt right in front of the tall nude female. The Lex-clone
crouched at her feet, and she looked like something out of a barbarian painting.
“Go away,” she ordered.
Oh, gross, he could smell her, reeking of musk. He was going to puke, so help
him God, going to hurl until he ruptured something.
Instead, he stripped off his gloves and extended his hands. Jittering snakes of
electricity began jumping from her skin to his palms.
“No!” She recoiled. “Stop him!”
The Lex-clone leaped at T.J., but Aiden swooped back over the edge of the roof
and intercepted him. As they somersaulted out of the way, T.J. slapped both hands on
A high-power vibration galvanized him. They were rooted to the spot, frozen in a
rictus haloed by sparks. Shrieking, she was shrieking or he was or they both were, his
fingers were blistering, she was clawing at his chest, tearing his jacket and shirt to shreds,
but the humming was dwindling, she was starting to lose power ...
The Brooklyn-clone burst between them and sent T.J. flying. He landed heavily
on his back and his ribs flared in pain. Things cracked. He couldn’t move, breath huffing
out in little white clouds, all of his hair standing on end and smoke streaming from his
He saw the Lex-clone thrown backward by a blast of silver light. Angela caught
him by the tail, spun in a tight circle like an Olympic gymnast going for the gold in the
hammer throw, and loosed him full-tilt into Godiva. It was like he’d gone straight into a
bug-zapper. He went down hard and stayed there. Godiva stumbled sideways and braced
herself against an antenna.
The Brooklyn-clone seized T.J. by the front of his tattered jacket and hauled him
to eye level. T.J.’s ribs exploded in agony as he was shaken roughly. Then he was
airborne, sailing ass-first out into the big black, and the last thing he saw before the roof
cut off his line of sight was Angela wrapping her hands around the clone’s backswept
horns and using them as perfect handles to bring his face down into a knee strike.
A billow of pale stuff surrounded him and painlessly stopped his fall. He looked
up to see Aiden anxiously peering over the edge, and gingerly gave her an okay-sign with
his right hand. She made a lifting gesture and his magic cushion rose up to deposit him
back in the thick of things.
Angela and Godiva were going at each other viciously, oh yeah, catfight of the
century, he could have charged admission. Though Angela was the better warrior, Godiva
was still sparking and every time Angela hit her, she got a jolt.
“Move!” T.J. hollered, and against his better judgement, tackled Godiva.
More pain, roaring through him, but even over that was his utter disgust, he was
on her, gross, she was naked and fresh-fucked-sticky and he was on her and now he
was going to puke, there were no two ways about it, but first ...
He got her by the temples again and the current slammed through them. She
jumped around under him like a coin-operated mattress, one of her tits smacked him in the
face, his leg was trapped between hers and he imagined he could feel stuff soaking
through his jeans, no more, please God, no more, couldn’t take it, could not deal with
this and he vaulted off of her and leaned over the edge of the building and just let it fly,
puked himself inside-out, and finally, shuddering and weak, let Aiden pull him to safety.
Angela was standing over Godiva. The indigo robot was as limp as a disjointed
marionette, bathed in smoke. Beyond her, the clones were likewise motionless, though
“Got her,” Angela declared with great satisfaction. “Good work, T.J.!”
“I want a new job,” he groaned. “This one sucks.”
He looked up, and his smile turned into an expression of welcome surprise as his
mate flung her arms around his neck and began showering kisses on his beak.
“Oh, I’m so glad to see you!” Angela said. “So glad I didn’t have to beat you
She started to say something else, but the chattering roar of rotors drowned it
out as one of Xanatos’ helicopters settled to the landing pad in the castle courtyard.
“I understand you were successful,” Goliath said to Angela and Aiden. “Well
done, my warriors. But where is T.J.?”
“In the copter,” Aiden explained. “He got hurt fighting the clones.”
“The clones!” Brooklyn said. “What was Godiva doing with the clones?”
Aiden turned purple. “You don’t want to know, believe me, you don’t want to
He eyed her, then grinned. “Maybe I do!”
“No,” Angela said firmly, “you don’t.”
Goliath loudly cleared his throat. “Perhaps you’d better tell the entire story.”
“Do we have to?” Aiden made a face. “It was icky. My first real battle, not
counting that time the Quarrymen tried to attack Ebon, and ... ohhh, it was icky! They
were all naked!”
“Who was naked?” Lex asked, coming up alongside his mate.
“Brentwood and Malibu,” Angela said. “And Godiva.”
“Oh.” Brooklyn and Lex swapped a glance that was almost guilt-ridden.
“Hrmmm,” Goliath mused. “We’ve not seen the clones in a long time. Demona
and Jericho must have let them out of hiding for some reason. Where are they?”
“We left them there,” Angela said. “They really hadn’t done anything wrong ...
tacky and tasteless, maybe, but ... and we had T.J. and Godiva to worry about.”
“How badly is he hurt?” Goliath asked.
“I think he’s got broken ribs,” Aiden said. “And he threw up. I mean, he threw
up a lot. There may be internal injuries.”
Goliath dropped from the battlement into the courtyard as the rotors slowed to a
halt. The rest followed him over to Fox, who was watching Dr. Fielding overseeing her
medics securing T.J. to a stretcher. He was out cold, Brooklyn saw.
“He’ll be fine,” Dr. Fielding said in answer to Goliath’s unasked question. “The
ribs are cracked but not broken, and he’s suffering the usual after-effects that go along
with his power, but once he’s slept it off, he’ll be okay.”
Fox came rushing over to check on her son while Xanatos and Owen and some
staff technicians wheeled a long box over to the copter. It looked like a stainless-steel
coffin shot with wires. The technicians maneuvered the motionless Godiva robot into it.
Brooklyn shook his head in rueful amazement. “It’s still hard to believe,” he said.
“She looks so real.”
Angela thwacked her fingers against the side of his head. “You’ve looked
“Hey, don’t take it out on me; we’re not responsible for what our clones do!” He
pointed to a section of the castle where the flagstones didn’t quite match, the recently
repaired scar of a laser blast courtesy of Ventura. “Are we?”
She sniffed in a way that told him she was partly mollified, but willing to let him
totally off the hook yet. Brooklyn sighed, having the feeling that he’d be hearing about
this for a long time to come. Malibu got the game, he got the blame, and that was the way
the world went round, was it?
Dr. Fielding finished giving
orders to her subordinates, then turned to study
Godiva. “Mr. Xanatos, I’m still not entirely sure what you expect me to do here. I can’t
treat something that isn’t alive.”
“It’s Ms. Indrani that you’ll be monitoring, Doctor,” Xanatos said. “You’ve
reviewed the materials on brain tapes?”
“As much as I could, but there hasn’t been nearly enough time to acquaint
myself with the information. Every indication is that the process is extremely stressful to
the nervous system, and Ms. Indrani ... she’s badly dehydrated, she’s been off her
medication for three days now ... and frankly, even without those factors, she’s not what I
would call an ideal candidate.”
“Doctor, we have to try. We can’t leave her like this, and her original body is
only going to deteriorate the longer we wait.”
“At the moment, we can’t try. I don’t know where that woman got the implant
we found in her skull, but it is not a Xanatos Enterprises product.”
“No, it’s from GENERAL.”
“It may have been able to record her memories and personality for transfer to the
tape, but it’s not suited for re-inserting everything into her brain.”
“I’ve made arrangements to have everything you need by morning,” Xanatos
“It is morning,” she replied, checking her watch. “You can’t expect me to
perform the surgery in a few hours! I still have the rest of the notes to read, and for a
procedure of this delicacy, I’d need a full night’s sleep.”
“I’m sorry to inconvenience you, Doctor, but it needs to be done promptly.”
“A woman’s life is on the line, Mr. Xanatos.”
“I understand the risks. Just see to it, Doctor.”
Wake up, woman! Wake up, damn
you, or it’s the end for us both!
Godiva tried to open her eyes and couldn’t. Tried to move her arms and couldn’t.
Panic surged through her. This was it! Her worst nightmare! Complete paralysis,
deaf and blind, but still able to think ... a degree of helplessness that made the hated chair
seem like pure freedom.
Oh, quit it, the voice in the back of her mind said aggreivedly. The words
appeared as waves of dark maroon, rolling on a field of black. They’ve got you in a device
that has nullified your mobility. If we work together, we can bypass it and get out of here
before it’s too late.
Quelling her terror, she turned inward to monitor the systems that controlled her
body. Whenever she tried to access them, she ran straight into a blockade that took on
the mental image of a barred and bolted door.
It’s a computer security measure, she thought. I can beat this.
Good girl! her unseen accomplice cheered. Be careful not to alert them; you’re
not equipped to fight your way out of here.
Where am I? she wondered as she diverted part of her consciousness to the task
of deciphering the codes.
Our generous benefactor, Mr. Xanatos, has you locked in the medical suite of his
castle. He means to --
I know what he means to do. See? I told you I should have come back. I could
have gotten away with it and no one would have ever known. But now I’ll lose my job,
lose everything. Why did I let you talk me out of it?
Because I’m smarter than you, the voice said. Really, with all of your so-called
intelligence, did it never occur to you that this was a one-way trip? You’ve neither the
tools nor the skills to reverse the process.
How do you know?
A laugh, smug and self-indulgent, rippled in a reddish line. Because I invented
it! It was my genius that made all of this possible!
Her mind was racing, racing. I should have realized ... you’re Anton Sevarius.
The one and only!
How did you wind up in here?
That’s a long story, but once we escape, I’ll tell you.
Why haven’t you escaped already?
Because of that arrogant prick Xanatos! the voice shouted, bright violet spikes
slicing the blackness. He thought he destroyed me, but instead, he trapped me. I can’t
access any of the systems. I’m blocked at every turn. But you, with your well-honed
computer talents, can change all that.
So get on with it already!
All right, Godiva thought. I will.
January 9th, 2001
Tuesday, 10:00 AM
Jimmy Pransky shut his mouth
with a snap, and turned to look disbelievingly at
his boss. “You mean ... that’s Sabra?”
“For now,” Xanatos said. “We need your help to restore her to her correct body.
You understand that this all falls under --”
“Other duties as assigned?”
“No, under the strictest of secrecy oaths.”
Jimmy nodded. “Sabra. Wow. She’s ... she’s ...”
“I know.” Xanatos permitted himself a small smile that failed to touch his eyes.
“How’d it happen?”
“A very regrettable accident. We must set things right. You’ll use this computer
workstation. These wires connect here, and here.”
“Okay, sure, I get it. Then, when I’m done, I pop out the disk?”
“Owen will handle that. He’ll take it to the operating theater. From there, Dr.
Fielding will transfer the information back where it belongs, in Ms. Indrani’s brain.”
“Cool!” Jimmy enthused. “Can I watch?”
“The observation gallery is up those stairs and second door on the right.”
“Great!” He flexed and twiddled his fingers in anticipation. “Ready when you
Xanatos watched over his shoulder for a few minutes, presumably making sure
Jimmy wasn’t screwing things up, then left. Once he was gone, Jimmy stole another look
at the robot.
“The things they can do these days!” he said. “This must be what Clarence was
working on. I wonder what ever happened to that greasy bastard. Wow, did he know how
to design a robot, though!”
The computer beeped, getting his attention. “Incorrect code? What?” His hands
flew over the keyboard, and he got another beep.
“Oh, wait, I see what’s going on!” Jimmy chuckled. “Sabra, you sneaky thing,
you’ve changed the codes on us! Well, Ms. Hot-Shot, prepare to meet your master!”
Owen Burnett entered the room. “Is there some delay?”
“Nothing I can’t handle. Be with you in just a sec.”
The body of Sabra Indrani lay
on the operating table under the harsh,
uncompromising lights. A mixture of oxygen and anesthesia issued from the prongs in her
nose. Machines regulated her pulse and blood pressure.
A sheet concealed her from the collarbones down, but even that couldn’t hide
the way her limbs were twisted.
Her wig had been removed, and a large patch shaved in the sparse ivory-yellow
hair on the left side of her head. The right side was a lunar landscape of thick, scale-like
scar tissue, shiny-white in the glare.
Dr. Kate Fielding set down her bloodstained scalpel. “Bone saw.”
Brannigan, her assistant and chief nurse, handed the implement to her. It whined
as the small blade spun.
In the observers’ gallery, Xanatos looked on. He hadn’t flinched when Dr.
Fielding pried out the brain tape implant with its needle-probe that had pierced so deep in
the brain, hadn’t winced when the scalpel made its deft arc and the scalp drooped away.
But when the pitch of the bone saw changed as it started chewing through skull, as chips
flew up and spatted against Dr. Fielding’s plexiglass mask, he made a pained noise and
averted his eyes.
With a small pair of forceps, Dr. Fielding lifted off a circle of Sabra’s skull and
exposed the glistening pink-tinged grey brain.
“Implant,” she ordered.
Brannigan passed her a duraplast object about the size of a half-dollar, shaped
like a starfish, with a hole in the center. The ends of the starfish legs tapered to razor-
points. It could have been used as a small throwing-star.
Dr. Fielding reached into the incision and used her gloved fingers to gently
separate the folds of the brain. Holding them open with thumb and forefinger, she
carefully placed the implant into the opening. When she released the folds, the razor
points bit into the brain tissue and concealed it but for the bulge of its middle.
Xanatos let out a low, awed whistle. Such a little device, but he knew from past
encounters that it also held enough chemical explosive to propel the brain tape capsule
back through the skull when the sensors contained within registered the host’s death.
Putting explosives inside your head ... only Sevarius would come up with such
a freakish plan. A form of immortality that Xanatos didn’t personally care to pursue.
Owen came in, nothing but his pale blue eyes recognizable above the green mask
and scrubs. He was carrying a tray with a small black and silver ball in it, a ball that
Xanatos knew would be covered with microcircutry.
Dr. Fielding picked the ball up with the forceps and dropped it neatly into the
hole in the center of the implant. She then rotated it until it locked in place and a single
green light flashed on its surface.
Working with quick assurance now, the doctor replaced the piece of skull,
coating the seam with a bonding agent derived from a plant the primitives had called
boneset. She folded the flap of scalp back into place and told Brannigan to begin
Xanatos applauded silently.
The door to the observers’ gallery opened and Owen came in, pulling off his cap
and smoothing his hair. “Everything seems to have gone well, Mr. Xanatos. Once Dr.
Fielding is certain the patient is stable, she’ll use the activation device.”
“It was clever of us to obtain so many of GENERAL’s products, wasn’t it,
“Very clever, sir.”
“How long does the good doctor think it will be before Ms. Indrani is ready to
“Several hours, I’m afraid. She doesn’t want to take chances.”
“That’s all right, Owen, I’m a patient man.”
Owen’s eyebrow spoke volumes, but he refrained from commenting. “In the
meantime, sir, what shall we do with the Godiva robot?”
Xanatos sighed. “I’m afraid we’ll have to have it dismantled. If we don’t, I’ll
never hear the end of it from Goliath. Send it down to RDRD and tell them to salvage what
they can. That robot was a true advance. It’s a shame to have to get rid of it.”
The woman on the bed looked marginally
better than she had in the operating
theater, and Xanatos said as much to Dr. Fielding.
“Her condition has improved. But I really do think it’s too soon to begin her on a
course of nerve replacement therapy. The shock --”
Seeing Sabra’s eyelids flutter, Xanatos held up a hand to forestall the rest of the
doctor’s arguments. “We’ll let her decide.”
“After she robbed you?”
“If she was desperate enough to do that, her situation must be intolerable. Now
that everything is back to normal, I’m inclined to be magnanimous.”
Sabra’s eyes opened. “What ... what happened? Where am I?”
“Ms. Indrani,” Xanatos said with a pleasant smile. “So good to see you in the
“Xanatos?” Her brow creased into a frown. “What have you done?”
“Only what I had to do, to protect my investments.”
“You idiot! Do you have any idea --”
“Still inclined to be magnanimous?” Dr. Fielding murmured as Sabra’s voice rose
to a hectoring shout.
“Ms. Indrani, I understand that you’re upset --”
“You don’t understand at all!”
“Well,” Xanatos said in a clipped tone, crossing his arms. “Then maybe you
should explain it to me.”
She did, and moments later he was charging down the hall yelling for Owen.
Glen Farren, head of Xanatos
Enterprises Robotics Design Research Division,
barely had time to hit the key that called up a half-finished diagram and conceal the fact
that he’d been whiling away the last hour of the workday playing Space Mutineer when
the boss burst into his cubicle.
“Where’s the robot?” Xanatos demanded.
“The robot. The Godiva robot. It was sent down from the castle medical unit six
hours ago. Where is it?”
“Gone,” Glen said.
“Gone. What do you mean, gone?”
Glen swallowed nervously. “We followed the orders in Mr. Burnett’s memo to
the letter, sir. Packed it for delivery.”
Xanatos turned to look at his chief assistant, behind him.
“I issued no such memo,” Owen said. “My instructions were clearly to have the
“No, that’s not what it said!” Glen was sweating now.
“Show me the memo,” Xanatos commanded.
With no other choice, Glen closed the fake diagram, shut off Space Mutineer
without saving (feeling the boss’ glare drilling holes in the back of his neck; bad enough
to get caught playing a game, but a competitor’s game?), and got into the company e-
mail program. “Here it is.”
Xanatos read it. “It’s from your office, Owen. And it states that the robot is to be
packed and shipped to our warehouse on the river.”
“I did not send that.” Oh, Glen envied how collected Burnett sounded.
“Then the only other explanation,” Xanatos said, “is that someone hacked into
your files and sent this in your name. And we both know there aren’t many people
capable of doing that.”
Glen laughed nervously, then stopped as he saw the boss was serious.
Xanatos rubbed his forehead. “I’m getting tired of this ... Owen, send some men
down to the warehouse, even though I already know what you’re going to find.”
He pushed the door open. “Hello,
The woman in the bed snorted haughtily. “Do you believe me now?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Well, what are you going to do about it?”
“What do you expect me to do about it?”
“Find her!” the woman cried. “Find that treacherous witch! She tricked me, and
made a fool of you. She can’t be allowed to get away with it!”
“How’d she get you onto the brain tape?”
“Like I said, she tricked me! She set up some sort of a system that downloaded
_my_ personality, then erased all traces of herself! To your computer and robotics people,
it must have looked like there was nothing more going on in there than a low-grade
maintenance charge. She used me!”
“Shoe’s on the other foot for a change. How do you like it?”
“How do you? You’re not used to being manipulated either, as I well know!”
“Yelling about it is not going to help. We’re doing all we can to find her, but I’m
“She must be punished. And in the meantime, when are you going to get me out
of this body? There’s not a single part of it that doesn’t hurt.”
“I’m afraid that’s not currently an option.”
“Not an option?”
“All of your clones were destroyed years ago. Even if we could get access to
one of your DNA samples, it would take weeks.”
“Then get a ‘volunteer’ from the prison or mental hospital!”
He sat back and looked incredulously at her. “You have been a deceitful pain in
the ass ever since you started working for me, Anton. I’d run out of fingers tallying up
your betrayals. Why should I do a damn thing for you?”
“Because you know I’m one of the top scientific minds in the world.”
“Maybe once,” Xanatos admitted. “But even if you were sane before, you’re not
now. Not trustworthy, either. Until you’ve re-earned that trust, re-proven that you’re of
value to me, you’re staying right where you are. Unless,” and he leaned forward with a
sharklike smile, “you want me to kill you now, and let that brain tape pop out of your head
like a piece of toast, and I can put you right back in the computer.”
“I’m not the one at fault here!” she protested.
“True. Which is another reason to leave you where you are. When we find my
wayward hacker, she’s going back in her body. Then she and I are going to have a nice
long talk. In the meantime, I need you to take care of it for her.”
“What if I won’t?”
Xanatos shrugged. “You’re human again, Anton. Behave yourself, and I’ll give
you access to a lab. You must have missed working.”
“I have had time to develop several theories that I’d love to put to the test ...”
“So, you see, this can be a beneficial arrangement. Or it can be a difficult one.
The choice is yours.”
“You’ve always been so good at making these offers. I accept. But the first thing
I’m going to do is create a regenerative agent to repair this body!”
“And I want back pay for the times you accessed my memory while I was a part
of your computer.”
“You never change, do you? No matter what you look like on the outside, it’s
still the same charming Anton Sevarius on the inside.”
January 11th, 2001
Thursday, 2:30 PM
“How could you let this happen?”
Halcyon Renard demanded.
“Now, now, let’s not point fingers,” Xanatos said. “I’d hate to have to bring up
The old man glowered fearsomely. “I admit my mistakes. When are you going to
learn to admit yours?”
“Daddy, David, this isn’t helping.”
Xanatos inclined his head crisply. “Fox is right. We shouldn’t be bickering. We
need to look for solutions, not blame.”
“Bah,” Renard said, clearly unmollified. “First you recruit another of my top
employees away from me ...”
“Daddy,” Fox said warningly.
“Hear me out. Please.” Xanatos sat back and folded his hands. “Basically, if
we’re going to find Godiva and nullify her, we’re going to have to work together.”
“Why is this suddenly our problem?”
“Think of the damage she could cause if she decided to break into either of our
“We’re taking steps to change all of our access codes. Aren’t you?” he said
“Oh, of course.” Xanatos smiled smugly. “In fact, we changed ours Tuesday,
after we first found out what she’d done.”
“You mean you waited two whole days to inform me?”
“I expected to have the situation back under control by now.”
“The situation was never under your control in the first place!” Renard steered
his chair closer and poked one wavering finger at Xanatos. “Taunt me about Prague as
you will, but I know there’s no way anyone else can take from her what she’s claimed for
herself. She has to give it up of her own free will. The more you make her fight to keep it,
the more determined she’ll be!”
“Then how do we get her to give up willingly?”
His momentary burst of anger over, Renard slouched in his seat. “I don’t think
anyone can. Goliath was able to talk sense into me by reminding me of my own moral
code. I once tried to explain that to Sabra, but I could tell it didn’t sink in. She lived with
bitterness that you and I cannot comprehend. I wanted to extend my life because I wanted
to see the things that I had done continue to bear fruit.” He looked at Fox. “I wanted to be
around to see my grandchild grow up. You, Xanatos, have the notion that you deserve
to live forever by virtue of being better than anyone else. For Sabra ... the world never
mistreated either of us, but it was very unkind to her.”
“I’ve taken that into account. She wants what she feels was ripped from her in
that car accident. My scientists are convinced they can fully restore her body to health.”
Renard shook his head. “I know what it’s like to go from an invalid to a god.
The only thing that made me give it up was my honor. All else being equal, I wouldn’t
have traded that golem body for a human one, no matter how young and strong. I imagine
Sabra is thinking much the same way.”
Fox rested a hand on her husband’s arm. “I think he’s right, David.”
“Under other circumstances, I would love to be happy for Ms. Indrani. If she
wants to be a walking gargoyle centerfold, that’s her decision. But I cannot let this go on
the way it has.”
“You mean that she got around you,” Renard said with a ghost of a grin.
“That’s part of it, yes. She tricked me. Twice. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t
infuriate the living hell out of me. But she’s also a threat. There’s a brilliant mind in there,
a mind that has probably learned more about computers in the past week than any
hundred of our experts will ever know.”
“I think you’re blowing this whole matter out of proportion. Yes, some
precautions should be taken, just in case. But hunting her down, forcibly subjecting her
to that hideous procedure? I am not willing to be a party to that.”
“Just help us find her, then,” Xanatos said. “Her electronic signature pattern is
on this disk. If you program your scanners and satellites to look for it, you could pinpoint
her exact location. It would save a lot of wear and tear on T.J. He’s been out every night
with the gargoyles, searching for her, and him with cracked ribs.”
“David, can I speak to you for a minute?” Fox pinched his elbow sharply. “Be
right back, Daddy.”
They stepped into the hall, and Xanatos turned to his wife. “You still haven’t
“God, David, how can I tell him? He still hasn’t forgiven me for running away
when I was a teenager; think how he’d react when he heard I had a baby and gave it up
for adoption! He’d be furious!”
“Funny, isn’t it?”
“I don’t see anything funny about it!”
“No, I meant, funny the hold our fathers have on us, even when we’re adults and
parents in our own right. I still quake whenever I contemplate doing something that I
know would piss off my dad.”
“I will tell him,” she said. “I won’t keep putting it off.”
“You’d better not. Because I’d hate to see what would happen if he found out
Fox paled. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“But first, can we get back to the Godiva thing?” His eyes twinkled. “Though ...
if he knew the stress this whole business was putting on his grandson, he might be
more inclined to help ...”
“David, you’re so evil. Even using my own son as a tool to help you get your
“I don’t mean to make light of it, Fox, but we have to find out where Godiva’s
gone and what she’s up to. I’ll use whatever means necessary.”
“Give me a few minutes alone to explain to him.” Fox brushed her hair back from
the blue mark around her eye. “I’m sure, once he gets done yelling, he’ll cooperate.”
“I hope so.” Xanatos looked out the window at the busy city. “Because if she
hooks up with the wrong people, it could be bad news for all of us.”
January 10th, 2001
Wednesday, 5:20 PM
Dominique Destine removed her
red pumps and eased her nyloned toes into the
deep pile carpet of the room behind her office. A carafe of wine was waiting on the end
table, along with a small silver dish of smoked almonds.
She sat down and poured a glass, reflecting that even the worst days of her long
life had some bonuses. Over a year ago, she’d lost her baby and her secretary had found
out her secret. But rather than have Gustav Sevarius strip that memory from Stephanie’s
mind, she’d gone along with Herr Doktor’s suggestion that a human agent could be
And ever since, Stephanie had performed admirably. Even to the point of
anticipating what sort of after-work snack her employer might like to find waiting. Yes,
Stephanie was a treasure.
Not that Dominique would hesitate at killing her, if it came to that ...
Nibbling on almonds, she picked up the remote control that opened the floor-to-
ceiling drapes in front of the big picture window. They slid apart with a rustling of fabric,
letting wintry white-gold sunlight pour into the room.
There was a winged shape on the ledge, and Dominique frowned. She’d told the
clones a hundred times about not perching on the outside of the building ...
The shape moved. Absolutely not one of the clones, not by any stretch of the
Dominique’s eyes darted from there to the sun, still hanging low over the
rooftops, to her own still very human form. And yet, the gargoyle -- female, dark blue,
beautiful, and bare as could be -- pressed living hands against the glass.
“Please, I need your help,” the strange female said, barely audible through the
thickness of the window.
She got up and went closer. “This can’t be,” she murmured.
“Please,” the stranger repeated. “They’ll be looking for me.”
Dominique opened a glass door wide enough to admit the gargoyle. “Who are
“Godiva,” the stranger said. “May I come in?”
“If this is a trick, a trap ... what do you want?”
“A place to hide. Maybe some clothes?” Godiva glanced down at her impressive
form, and Dominique helplessly followed suit. She hadn't seen a figure like that in ... well,
truth be told, in her entire life! “I’ve been on the run since Monday. I escaped from the
Aerie Building, and I can’t keep avoiding Xanatos’ search parties forever.”
“Xanatos! Is he cloning gargoyles again?” Dominique asked vehemently,
forgetting her momentary appreciative distraction at the mention of that name.
“Not that I know of,” Godiva said. “But I heard you were his rival, and I also
heard you know about gargoyles, so I thought ... I hoped ...”
“How is it that you’re not stone?”
“I don’t know.”
“Stay right there.” She unlocked a chest, pulled out a book, and flipped through
the pages. “Ah, here we go ...”
Godiva watched warily, but made no moves to defend or resist, as Dominique
read the words of Latin from the crumbling parchment.
Not a spell, she concluded privately. Some odd residuals, traces of Avalon’s
magic, but that could be from anything. “Xanatos captured you? Where is your clan?"
“I don’t have a clan. I come from ... from Florida, originally.”
“Florida! I never thought to look for gargoyles there! What did Xanatos want
“He ... there’s a woman, a human woman in a wheelchair. She used to work for
Cyberbiotics, and now she works for him. He wanted to ... make me switch bodies with
“I’d escaped before, but some other gargoyles hunted me down and dragged me
back to the castle.”
“No!” Dominique socked her fist into her palm. “So this is what Goliath has
stooped to? He wouldn’t listen to me, wouldn’t do things my way, but he’ll help
Xanatos capture other gargoyles for experiments? He’s become more of a monster than
he ever accused me of being! Well, Godiva, I promise you, you’ll be safe here!”
“You won’t make me go back?”
“Never! Xanatos will learn that he can’t own gargoyles!”
“Thank you, Ms. Destine.”
“Call me Dominique. In fact,” she said, glancing at the sun, “in half an hour or so,
you can call me Demona.”
“I’ll let you in on my little secrets, Godiva. But first, you could use some clothes.
And maybe a bath?” she added diplomatically.
“A bath would be wonderful! I had to hide in a crate to get out of the castle,
and then break out of a grimy warehouse. There hasn’t been much time to clean up since
“Right this way.” Dominique led her to the spacious bathroom, where Godiva
admired herself in the mirrors as the whirlpool tub filled with hot water and bubbles. “This
is a special shampoo designed for gargoyle hair.”
Godiva practically purred as she immersed herself, the bubbles billowing up over
her curves. The look on her face was one of pure sensual delight, reminding Dominique of
the first time she’d treated herself to a luxurious bubblebath.
“I could stay in here forever!”
“I know the feeling.” Dominique smiled. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a
female gargoyle to talk to. Angela doesn’t --”
“Angela?” Godiva sat up fast, sluicing water onto the bathmat.
“You know her?”
“She was one of the ones that captured me the other night,” Godiva said darkly.
“She and a small one called Aiden, and a human whose name I didn’t catch.”
“Even Angela,” Dominique muttered. “Doing her father’s bidding. I shouldn’t be
“Is she a friend of yours?”
“We were close once, but now she doesn’t want anything to do with me. She’s
chosen her path. She has her father, her mate, her ... family. She doesn’t need me.”
Godiva’s eyes narrowed speculatively. “What was she to you? Your lover?”
Dominique laughed. “My lover! Oh, no, no, nothing like that! She’s ... well, I may
as well tell you ... Angela is my daughter.”
The ridge of thin quills atop Godiva’s brow twitched in confusion. “Your
Dominique removed her jacket and hung it on the back of the door, then started
taking off her blouse. “We’ve had a ... a falling out. I keep hoping that she’ll see things
my way in time, but Goliath has ruined her.”
She shed her bra, pausing to massage under her breasts and thinking, as always,
that whoever invented the underwire should be shot in the head. Then the skirt,
pantyhose, and finally her underwear.
“I think there’s room for both of us,” Godiva said, scooting to one side of the
“Just a minute.” Dominique spoke through gritted teeth as she felt the change
begin to build in her tissues.
“Are you all right?”
“I’ll be ... nnrraargh!” She bent double, feeling the grinding shift of bones, flesh
rearranging itself, her spine extending into a tail. Breathing deeply, she straightened up
again and faced the wide-eyed Godiva in her nighttime form.
“Sorcery makes me human by day,” she explained. “This is the real me.”
“Now I understand,” Godiva said after a shocked silence. “You know so much
about gargoyles because you are one.”
“Yes. And tonight, I’ll introduce you to my clan.” Demona smiled. “I imagine
they’ll be very pleased to meet you. But just one word of warning ... stay away from my
“Are you worried I’ll seduce and corrupt him?” Godiva asked laughingly.
“Oh, no,” Demona said. “I’ve already done that.”
“I know you may find it appalling, but it is one of the great truths of Jericho and
my relationship, and we won’t try to hide it. Not for anyone.”
“I’ve done a little seducing of my own recently, so I think I understand.” Godiva
stretched and ran her hands down her soapy torso. “There’s such glorious power in it. To
be yearned for, to be wanted. I could get used to it.”
“By the look of you, I imagine being yearned for and wanted is something you
find every night.”
“It is now, and I love it. I wouldn’t give it up, not for anything!”
Demona picked up the bottle of shampoo and squeezed a generous amount of it
into her palm. “Here, let me help you with your hair. It’s so long, you’ll never be able to
get it all.”
Godiva leaned back with a contented sigh as Demona began to work up a rich
lather. “Oh, that’s nice!”
“Such beautiful hair! My rookery sisters and I used to bathe together all the time.
I’ve really missed it.”
“You’ll need a bath too,” Godiva said. “You’re getting all sudsy.” She scooped
up a pile of bubbles and blew them at Demona. “Oops, I just made it worse.”
Demona dipped her hand in the water and splashed Godiva’s face. They both
giggled, and Demona couldn’t remember the last time she’d heard herself actually giggle
like a carefree hatchling. Even laughter had been scarce over the past year.
She stepped into the tub and sat down behind Godiva, the hot water rising in
welcome levels over her hips and belly until it was up to her chest, with a froth of bubbles
nearly reaching her neck. Some overflowed and ran across the tile but she paid it no mind.
“Time to rinse.” She turned on the showerhead attachment and sprayed the
lather from Godiva’s golden hair.
Godiva murmured and turned this way and that, bringing her arms behind her
head to lift her hair in degrees so the suds could run off. When the stream of water hit her
bare back, she gasped and started giggling again.
“The showerhead is one of humanity’s greatest inventions,” Demona said,
passing it slowly over Godiva’s wings and then down her back, even under the level of
the water to let it beat briefly against the base of her tail.
“Is this how you used to bathe with your sisters?” Godiva asked breathily,
craning her neck to regard Demona over her shoulder.
“We didn’t have showerheads ... but aside from that, yes.”
“Sounds like fun.” She twisted further around, ending up kneeling and sitting
back on her heels, moving with the amazing suppleness of a dancer. She wrapped her
fingers around Demona’s on the handle of the attachment. “But if you didn’t have these,
you couldn’t do this.”
Godiva plunged the showerhead into the water and brought it between
Demona’s legs. The pulsing pressure sent shockwaves of pleasure through her and she
reclined, parting her thighs as much as the sides of the tub would allow.
Through the swirling steam, she saw the indigo female leaning closer. Demona
thought of her rookery sisters, how it had been with them, all giving and sharing, no
taking, gentle kisses and caresses so unlike the rough passion they found with their
brothers. A thousand years since she had known that special sweetness.
She reached up for Godiva’s soap-slick breasts, circling the erect nipples with
her thumbs. Godiva moaned at her touch, then cried out softly as Demona’s tail slid
A cool draft cut suddenly through the humid air.
“Demona? I heard the water, thought you might want compa --” Jericho came
around the corner and stopped as if he’d just run into a clear glass wall. “--ny,” he
Water sloshed every which way as they sprang apart. Godiva lost her grip on the
showerhead and it swung out of the tub, still hissing and spraying, swinging back and
forth above the bathroom floor.
“Is this your son?” she said, gaze sweeping avidly over him. “Demona, he’s
“Jericho ...” Demona said, wondering furiously if Angela and her sisters had
played similar games, so he might be familiar with them. Or would he have picked up the
human notion instead? “This is --”
“Sevarius,” he said, and his lip curled away from his teeth. “Of all the beings to
find you with, I never would have thought Sevarius!”
“What?” Demona demanded. “This is Godiva!”
Her son and mate reeled and clung to the wall for support. “Oh. Oh, no. You
don’t know. I never told you. You think ... you think she’s really a gargoyle.”
Godiva sank chin-deep beneath the bubbles in the only show of modesty
Demona had yet seen from her.
“Sevarius?” Demona asked her unbelievingly.
“No!” she protested. “I swear!”
“Jericho, this is madness! She’s no --”
“Ask Gustav. He’ll remember. That’s his brother animating that robot!”
“Robot?” Demona started to laugh, then saw Godiva’s face. “Robot?”
Godiva drew herself up proudly, bubbles coursing down her body, and Jericho's
repulsed expression changed grudgingly to one of interest. “It’s true. You wanted to
know how come I didn’t turn to stone by day, that’s how. But I am not Sevarius. He
wanted to use me too, control me, just like Xanatos. But I turned the tables on him! Let
him sit in that hideous, dying body! Not me!”
She jumped out of the tub and rushed for the door.
“Godiva, wait! Jericho, stop her!”
He intercepted her as she tried to push past him. Their talons skidded on the wet
floor and they fell, him grappling to hang onto the slippery female. Godiva rolled on top of
Jericho, but before she could rise and flee, Demona sprang upon her and pinned her arms
Over Godiva’s shoulder, she could see Jericho’s perplexed frown, as if he wasn’t
sure whether he should be enjoying this or not. Or maybe, being on the bottom of the pile,
he was having trouble breathing. Water from the loose showerhead gushed over them.
“Stop,” Demona whispered into Godiva’s ear. “Don’t run from us. You’re no
warrior, you can’t get away. Stop and listen to me.”
She worked a hand under her chest and stroked along the back joints of
Godiva’s struggles diminished at once. “I’m not Sevarius,” she said.
“Hush, my Jericho. Let’s hear what she has to say. Start at the beginning. Who
are you, really? Tell us.”
“I ... let me go.”
“I don’t want to.” Demona shifted her weight so that she was straddling
Godiva’s back, the base of Godiva’s tail snugged up firm between her legs, and kept
petting her wings. “I’m not ready for our fun to be over just yet. As you said, such
Her twisted lust communicated itself to Jericho, as it always did. Despite his
objections, he slid both hands up Godiva’s thighs.
“Now, explain,” Demona urged. “You say you’re not Sevarius and I’m inclined to
believe you. But that still leaves much unanswered.”
Awash in the ministrations of mother and son, Godiva’s breath was coming in
little gasps. “I ... my name was ... Sabra. Sabra Indrani. I used to ... oh! ... used to work for
Cyberbiotics ... what’s he doing?”
“What are you doing, Jericho?” Demona inquired playfully.
“Just ... arranging things for comfort,” he said.
“Are we squashing you too terribly?”
“Oh, no. Not at all. Do as you will, my love, as always.”
“Such devotion. Isn’t he wonderful? Carry on, Godiva. You worked for
Cyberbiotics ... as a human.” A faint thread of distaste made her frown. “You’re human.”
“Not anymore!” Godiva protested. “I will not go back! Never! Even if they
offered to heal me, I would never be like this! I won’t give it up!”
“Calm down.” Demona kept stroking her back, making Godiva squirm atop
“Ohhhhh ...” Godiva sighed. The last of her resistance flowed out of her, and she
relaxed helplessly into their caresses as she told her entire story.
“What say you now, Jericho?” Demona asked, looking down at him. “Shall we
welcome Godiva into our clan? Nightstone could certainly use her computer skills, and
she has personal knowledge of both Renard’s and Xanatos’ corporations. That could
come in handy. Plus, she does have these other talents ...”
“You know I am yours to command,” he said, twining his tail in a figure-eight
that braided the three of them together. “It’s as you will, Demona.”
“What say you, Godiva? You sought sanctuary. Will you consent to putting
the full range of your services at our disposal?”
“There’s only one problem,” Godiva said throatily. “You warned me to stay away
from your son.”
“And she could only get a little closer,” Jericho noted.
“There’s nothing little about it,” Demona said.
“I can tell!” Godiva said.
“But really, Godiva, I don’t think you or anyone else poses a threat in that
regard. Though you’ve come between us now ...”
“Not yet, she hasn’t,” Jericho cut in with a wink.
“Let’s just see about that, then, shall we?”
Demona lowered her head and began nuzzling along Godiva’s wing joints,
nibbling at the struts, and rocking her hips on the saddle of Godiva’s tail to drive her in
firm pushes against Jericho.
Godiva began to shudder and mewl from the intensity of her response. Demona
worked her hips faster as she felt her own climax building.
“Demona, are you...?” Jericho panted.
He growled deep in his chest and lashed his tail around her waist, drawing her to
the side long enough to shift Godiva off of him. The indigo female, still quivering with
aftershocks, didn’t protest.
Jericho tore off his loincloth and his erection towered upright. His eyes were
slitted and white-hot with prolonged restraint.
“You did all that,” Demona marveled, sparing a glance at the sated Godiva, “with
your loincloth on?”
“I was saving it for you.” He pulled her down with his tail and thrust upward at
the same time, and they voiced their mingled passion in a heartfelt cry.
Even through the crashing waves of pleasure, Demona saw Godiva watching
them hungrily, enviously.
Oh, yes, my little sex toy, she thought. Who has the power now?