The Tempest by Christine Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org) comments welcome Usual Disclaimer: the characters of the show Gargoyles are the property of the folks at Disney. The others are mine. And a special thank you to William Shakespeare.
THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, 1974 "Secure the ship!" Cyrus Claiborne ordered. "Looks like we've got a bit of a blow coming up!" "Better head back," Dave said. "Ah, it's only a little drencher," Cyrus said, switching his pipe from one corner of his mouth to the other. "What's the matter, boy, afraid of getting your tootsies wet?" "I just don't want anything happening to the boat!" Dave snapped. "Don't get your panties in a bunch. We can still haul in a few loads before it really breaks. A good fisherman doesn't go in early just because he might get damp around the edges." "A good fishermen doesn't take needless risks," Dave shot back. "God knows, my father's hammered that one into my head often enough." "Cyrus!" Bobby Danvers yelled. "It's coming awful fast. I never seen clouds move like that!" He pointed. Dave and Cyrus broke off their argument and stared at the turbulent mass of clouds in the east. It was moving like something out of one of those time lapse nature films Dave remembered from school, but this wasn't special effects. This was real. He, too, in all of his seventeen years, had never seen anything like it. The oncoming storm swelled into a towering front that looked every inch of the eight miles it probably was. The clouds were a bruised purple streaked with black and iron grey, lit briefly from within by flashes of lightning. Other forks stabbed down at the wind-whipped waves. "It's coming right at us!" Dave didn't know who yelled. Might've been Steve Gelman. All the voices sounded alike, robbed of their individuality by fear and by the shrieking wind. The ship, the Nereid, bucked on the roughening waves. A line snapped, a net swung free, spilling the remains of the last catch over the deck. Men scrambled through knee-deep piles of fish trying to secure the other lines. Cyrus, no longer in the mood for ribbing Dave, barked commands. Dave, no longer in the mood to defy Cyrus, leapt as readily as the others to obey them. Fast as they were, however, they were too slow. No sooner had the Nereid begun to come about than the storm was upon them. Waves slapped the hull, doused the deck. The wind was a living thing trying to pry men loose from their precarious holds. Thunder roared like cannonfire, as if the Nereid had slipped through time and was caught in a battle between pirates. A huge wave rose up and the ship swept helplessly toward it. Dave clung for dear life, looking up, up, up at that steel-grey wall of water that curved over them, the whitecaps frothing high above. For a moment, he was sure it would crash down over them, crushing the Nereid and slamming their bodies straight to the ocean floor. Instead, the Nereid was thrust upward, rising into the teeth of the wind on the back of another giant wave. The boat tipped wildly, sending men and fish sliding in all directions. Lightning darted down, a needle in God's sewing machine, stitching flame into the splinters of the mainmast. The wave fell away, leaving the Nereid momentarily suspended over a black gulley before plunging straight down. Dave lost his hold and was thrown halfway across the deck. The ship struck hard, struck sideways, and bitterly cold water flooded over it. Dave grabbed for something, anything. He caught a rope, which skidded through his unprotected hands as he was pulled backwards over the side. His fists, closed despite the pain, despite feeling like the skin and flesh were being abraded down to bare bone, snagged on a large knot. His arms were nearly jerked from their sockets but he held on, trying to keep his head above water, spitting out brackish salt, gasping for air. He saw one of the crew go by, flailing in panic. Brian Trinkle, Trink to his pals. His blond hair was plastered to his face, but any of the crew would have recognized him by his fatigue jacket with "Guns for God" stitched on the shoulder. Dave lunged for Trink and missed, his effort almost costing him his hold. Lightning again, not a sewing needle this time but a sky-wide flash. God taking pictures for His photo album. Thunder that rattled Dave's bones. He hauled himself up, hand over bleeding hand, toward the wallowing hulk of the Nereid. He saw Cyrus, clinging desperately to the rail. He saw Bobby Danvers entangled in the loose net, helpless as any fish he'd ever hauled in. The rain came in a sudden hard sheet. God turning on His bathtub. So cold the sea seemed comfortable by comparison. Dave squinted against the stinging rain and kept climbing. His head went under as the Nereid tipped toward him. He gulped a mouthful of the sea but fought to the surface, coughing. He came up just as a wave-tossed barrel came down. It struck his shoulders with horrible, numbing force, driving him back, trying to tear his hands from the rope. He held on, determined. When the agony lessened to an extreme pain, he started moving again. He saw the railing of the Nereid now, only a few yards away. He saw the post around which the other end of his rope was tied -- no, not tied, only looped, and as the ship tilted again, the rope slid closer to the end. Dave's eyes widened. He lunged forward, clawing at the rope, straining for the rail. Another wave rose up under the Nereid, rolling it all the way onto its side. For a heartstopping instant, Dave swung out of the water, hanging by the rope, the curve of the wave sloping away beneath his desperately kicking feet. The rope came loose. Dave looked up, saw the hideous sight of the Nereid receding as he dropped like a stone, trailing rope like an unopened parachute. Then, worse, the sight of the ship falling after him. He let go of the useless rope, curled and uncurled his body so that he was diving instead of going feet-first, and knifed into the surging waters. An instant later, the Nereid crashed down in that same spot. * * Halcyon Renard scowled and fiddled with one of the large black knobs set into the base of the computer console. On the monitor screen, a fuzzy white line ran through the picture. He could barely make out the ship, let alone see if there was anyone left on board. "What were you doing out this far anyway?" he mused. "Greedy fools. That eager for fish? Couldn't turn back when you saw the storm coming?" His musings sounded feeble and defensive to his own ears. He couldn't blame this on the fishermen. They had been in a perfectly reasonable area, and the storm had risen much faster than they could have anticipated. Much faster than even he had anticipated. "Daddy?" He turned and smiled at his daughter. "Janine! I thought you were asleep!" "The storm woke me. Daddy, did you do this? I thought you wanted to make the weather better, to help the farmers and the starving people in the deserts." "It's just a test, princess. Nothing to worry about." She frowned, bringing that stubborn line between her fine feathery brows. Strange, how much she looked like her mother when she frowned. Or maybe he only thought that because frowns were all he'd really seen from Anastasia lately. "But what about them?" she asked, pointing to the monitor. "They're going to drown!" Renard sighed. "It was an accident. A problem with the generator. We'll get it fixed." "Too late for those men! How could you, Daddy? How could you just sit there and let those poor men drown? If I could, I'd help them!" She was lovely in her anger. Looking much older than her fifteen years. Where had the time gone? It seemed like only yesterday she'd been a child, running and sqealing with happiness. Now that child was replaced by the young woman in front of him. "Don't worry, my sweet. Everything is all right." He reached over and pressed the intercom button. "Owen?" "Yes, sir," a voice responded promptly. "Send out the mini-subs and retrieve the fishermen, please." "Right away, Mr. Renard." He smiled at Janine. "See? They'll be wet, but none the worse for wear." Her own smile was hesitant yet hopeful. "You're bringing them here? Really? We haven't had any visitors for so long --" "They won't be here long. Not long enough to get excited over. We'll just put them up in the lower boathouse until the storm passes. We won't even need to see them." "I never get to see anybody!" The smile was gone, the frown was back. She tossed her head angrily, sending her red-gold hair flying. "I'm tired of being stuck on this boring old island with nobody to talk to!" "I'm here. And Owen." "Owen!" she echoed. "Oatmeal, you mean. Because he's about as interesting as a big bowl of it." "I've asked you before not to assign rude nicknames to the staff." "You mean like Creepy Cal?" she said, all mocking innocence. "And I'd rather you didn't speak to him at all," Renard replied, much more sharply than he'd intended. "Stay away from him!" She flinched and he immediately regretted his harshness. "I'm sorry, Janine," he said. "I know it isn't easy for you. I know you miss your mother. She'll be back soon. And soon our work here will be done. We can go back to the mainland. You can see your friends again." "What friends? We've been out here since I was just a kid." "You'll make new ones, then. Maybe we can find a nice school for you, with girls your own age." "I don't see why we have to be out here anyway," she pouted. "There's nothing to do. It's like being in prison." "It was necessary. My work here is very important. Very secret. My competitors would stop at nothing to get their hands on even a fraction of the project notes. It's safest here, for all of us. I am a grown man, so I can take care of myself, but I also have you to think of. I wouldn't want my competitors to get ahold of you. A wealthy man makes enemies, Janine. Remember that." "Well, if I can't meet the fishermen, can I at least go down to the beach?" she asked. "No. Wait until tomorrow. The storm should have lessened by then." She sighed as if tomorrow was an eternity away and moped out of the room. Just as one door closed behind her, a second opened to admit Owen Burnett. Though only six years older than Janine, Owen gave the impression of being more than twice her age. He dressed in severe style when others his age were experimenting with ghastly colors and collars as wide as plane wings. His white-blond hair was worn short, his posture straighter than anything Renard had seen outside of the military. "Ah, Owen. Have you brought in the mini subs?" "Yes, sir. The ship is a loss, but the crew have been mostly recovered." "Mostly?" Renard asked. "All but one are accounted for. The rest are largely unhurt but extremely upset. I took the liberty of flooding the lower boathouse with sedative gas for fear they might do some damage to themselves or the facility. I also sealed the sea locks." "Very good. I must admit, Owen, I was hesitant to hire a man of your youth, but your skill was far too valuable to be wasted at Sycorax Laborotories. You were trapped in a dead-end job. I hope you appreciate the opportunities now available to you." "Oh, very much, Mr. Renard." "You would have become my employee after I bought out that witch Eugenia Sycorax anyway, I suppose," Renard admitted. "I think it's only you and Cal that are left from those days." "Yes, Cal," Owen said, a flicker of distaste marring his otherwise placid expression. "I know he'll never be a popular fellow," Renard said, "but he has his uses. If he didn't, I would have gotten rid of him long ago." One of the consoles beeped, and Owen turned to it. "Sir, the sensors have picked up something. The cameras can't get a clear fix because of the wind and rain, but it could be our missing sailor." Renard fiddled with dials until he got a blurry image of a man stumbling along the beach. "Keep an eye on him, would you, Owen? I'm going to go see how Cal is doing." He looked at the monitors and readouts again. The wind speed over the island was nearing hurricane force. The experiment was a success. If they could stop it. A qualified success, in that case. In science, there were very few outright failures. Even the worst abominations of chemistry came in handy, though usually not in the way the original creators had intended. The corridor to the control room was more suited to a submarine. It was a curved tube of corrugated metal with a textured black rubber floor. It was lit by red bulbs encased in wire cages. Oval-shaped doorways led off to the sides but Renard passed them by. His destination lay at the end, where a claustrophobically narrow stair spiraled down a stone shaft dug out of the very island's heart. "Cal!" he called, hearing his vioice rebound and echo off the walls. He waited for an answer and got none, so called again. When still that produced no reply, he muttered under his breath, "Cal, you disgusting piece of work, where are you?" "Here, damn you," Cal said, popping his lopsided pumpkin-head into the doorway at the bottom of the stairs and peering up at Renard. "What do you want?" "Watch your mouth," Renard warned. "I don't have to take that from you." "Why not? You've taken everything else. You've taken my business, bought it right out from under me. You deceived my mother and you deceived me. You've taken my pride with your trickery, flattering me, making me think I'd be a true partner, learning all my secrets, then stabbing me in the back. You've made me your slave, Renard." "I've treated you fairly," Renard argued. "More fairly that a weasel like you deserves. Don't think I haven't seen how you look at my daughter. If I ever catch you outside her window again ..." "What if you caught me in her room?" Cal leered. "Give you grandchildren, heh?" "Bastard!" Renard growled. "Sure would be, since I would never marry the little tart." "That's enough!" "If you were really so concerned, you'd fire me. But you value your work above your own daughter." Cal grinned. Renard fumed, but Cal's barb had struck close to the mark. He followed Cal into the huge cavern that housed their master computer, nicknamed Jetstream. It stood two stories tall, covered with flashing lights, reels of magnetic tape whizzing back and forth, television screens showing weather patterns all over the world, and a dizzying array of dials, switches, and panels. Cables as thick as a man's thigh led from Jetstream to the six copper-wrapped generators, three on each side of the cave. Electricity danced around the nodes protruding from their tops, washing Renard and Cal with irregular blue-white light. It made Cal look almost normal as he scuttled rapidly across the cave on his twisted leg. The computer was churning out a ribbon of tape with the latest reports on the severity of the storm. Cal seized it and brought it close to his face, something the paper would not have enjoyed had it been alive. Renard shook his head. He'd told himself that the mind behind that monstrous visage need not necessarily be similarly deformed, and surely Cal's brilliant work at Sycorax Labs had indicated that. But since bringing Cal to work for him, Renard had discovered a dark malignance lurking in that brilliance. It had almost cost him more than he was willing to pay. Almost. Janine, naive from their blessed lack of television, had no idea what could have befallen her. If Anastasia had been here, Renard knew she would have sent Cal on his way with a hundred invisible scars inflicted by her scathing tongue. But Anastasia wasn't here, and they had been so close, so close to the breakthrough that would put complete climatic control within their grasp. And so Renard had let the incident pass. He was watchful, of course. Protective. Janine was precious to him. Precious beyond words. But the possibilities ... to rise amid Thor and Zeus ... To master what Anastasia called this magic of science ... * * "Oh, this is a lark!" Puck said, spinning around a tree branch. The wind blew his white hair straight up, streaming it around his large, sharply pointed ears. He threw his arms skyward and let the wind take him for a brief ride before dropping lightly, one toe to the earth. "Now, where oh where can our little lost fish be?" he wondered. He skimmed past one of the huge clunky security cameras, confident that he would be as unseen to its electronic eye as he was to the eyes of men. The premature night brought on by the storm was rendered utterly black as true night finally took hold, and the lightning all the brighter for it. Puck reveled in the power around him, artificial in origin though it was. Mostly artificial, he was beginning to suspect. There was more to all of this than mere science could account for. Movement counter to the wind-lashed trees caught his attention and he flitted nearer. There, at the place where beach met woodland, was a human form. He swooped in for a closer look. Human, all right. Tall and strong in build, not ill-favored beneath the sand and brine. A young one, no older than eighteen at the eldest. His clothes were saggy shapeless clumps. Barefoot on one side, shod on the other. Scrapes aplenty, and that probably stung something fierce with the salt. Puck, invisible, flew right up to the young man's face and peered into the dark eyes. Amid the exhaustion and bleakness, he read determination and above-average smarts. "How near you were to coral bones and pearls for eyes," Puck said. Unaware, the young man staggered into the shelter of the woods and sank at the base of a tree. He tipped his head back against the trunk, his breathing ragged. "Let these roots and twigs now be your bed," Puck intoned. "Sleep shut your eyes and nod your head. Worry not about the fates of friends and crew and all shipmates. Awaken with the morning light and be eased of pains you earned this night." He passed his hand over the youth's face, pleased to see the eyes immediately close. The young man slumped to the side and was soon snoring gently. "Yep, still got it!" Puck chirped. "Morpheus, eat your heart out." * * Cal paused, listening. When he heard nothing, he eased up to the corner and peered around. The hall beyond was empty. Not a sign of that pale freak Owen Burnett. He didn't know why Burnett gave him the shivers, but whenever that glass-smooth gaze fell upon him, it made his skin crawl. Almost as if Burnett was looking through him, seeing the real Cal. Impossible. His true self was kept well hidden. He glanced over his shoulder and saw that he was still alone. Much swifter and more silently than he looked capable of being, he went down the hall and found the stairs leading to the lower boathouse. The weight of the air tank pulled on his hunched shoulder. He adjusted it and slipped the mask over his face. The door was locked, so he quickly punched in his code. As he did so, he used his other hand to flip on the air pack. He tasted canned air, felt the dry whisper of it blowing around his lips. The door opened with a hiss and a gust of damp salt-smelling air. Dim emergency lights illuminated the trio of mini-subs that bobbed in the cement-lined pool like tired porpoises. Digital readouts showed that the sea locks, which connected the pool to the open ocean, had been sealed and that the storm's pressure on them was well within tolerable levels. Also illuminated were the bodies of men, sprawled on the floor like a bunch of carelessly-strewn toys. They lay in puddles of seawater, on cold concrete, but slept on in chemical-induced comfort. Cal crept forward, still being silent although he knew he could have come in with a brass band and the men wouldn't have stirred. He moved among them, seeing his misshapen shadow fall over them like some bizarre Sandman. The security camera, which should have tracked his movement, stared with a single dark eye. He had deactivated it from the control room while Renard was busy with Jetstream, and in all likelihood, nobody would notice until it was far, far too late. He chose two that looked promising. One was a burly blond with long hair and a patch reading "Guns for God" sewn onto the shoulder of his jacket. The other was a thickset man with dusky skin, his face curled into a sneer even as he slept. The metal case clinked as he set it down, and squealed when he opened it. He found the syringe, paused to read the bottle again, and grinned. With one more furtive glance around, Cal spread his fingers over the bottle. His eyes drifted closed. His lips moved silently. The skin of his hand changed. Darkened, roughened, creased in deep wrinkles. The shape of his hand changed. The fingers drew up into hooks. Webbing grew between them to the middle knuckle. The air around his hand rippled. It grew a glove of greenish smoke. Cal moved his hand, spinning the tendrils of smoke into a funnel. His other hand opened the bottle. He directed the funnel into the open end. Green smoke dipped down in a point, contacting the fluid. The fluid began to swirl, and take on the same green color as it sucked the funnel into itself. When the last of the smoke was drawn in, Cal closed the lid and admired the miniature tornado within. His hand returned to its former appearance. He filled the syringe and injected the blond man. The man's body tensed, then began to shiver. Behind closed lids, his eyes rolled. His jaw snapped fitfully at the air. Moments later, his eyes snapped open and he went limp. The orbs beneath the lids were solid swirling green. No irises, no whites, no pupils. Cal nodded in satisfaction and injected the other one. The process repeated with the same result. "Blink if you can hear me," Cal said. Both men blinked, once, and resumed staring. "Very good!" Cal rubbed his hands together and stifled a maniacal giggle. "Now, listen to me and do as I command ..." * * "There he is, Mr. Renard," Owen said. "He's apparantly slept the night through." "Is that the best picture we can get?" Renard griped. He had been up most of the night, trying to regain control of the weather around the island, and now half of the security cameras were down as well. "We hadn't expected intruders on the island," Owen pointed out. "The outdoor cameras are not the best." "Hmph. We'll have to remedy that. So who is he?" "His name is David Xanatos. He is seventeen and from Bar Harbor." "How do you know?" Renard asked. "I looked in his wallet while he was sleeping," Owen said with an utterly expressionless face. Renard laughed. "I think that's the first time I've heard you make a joke." "A joke, sir?" "Forget it." Renard leaned forward and studied the image with interest. "Seventeen? A hardworking young man, no doubt." "No doubt," Owen said. "You know, Owen, I've been thinking," Renard mused, tapping his chin. "This desolate island is no place for a young girl. Janine needs to meet people her own age, wouldn't you agree?" "Of course, sir." "Not those spoiled wealthy brats she used to chum with, either. Regular people. Normal people. People who appreciate the value of work and the simple life." "Of course, sir." Renard glanced sidelong at him, looking for any sign of insincerity, and saw none. Owen was a puzzle, even more straightlaced than Renard's other assistant, Preston Vogel. Vogel was away with Anastasia right now, pursuing other lines of research, but had he been here, the two men could have been near mirror images of each other, in manner as well as looks. "Normal people," Renard repeated. * * "Now, tell me what you're going to do," Cal urged. The blond man with the gun spoke in a low monotone. "Kill the man called Renard." "Kill him," the other one repeated. "And then?" Cal prompted. In unison, they recited, "And then the island will be yours, and the girl, and everything." "We'll need to lure him, make him vulnerable ..." Cal mused. "Aha! Come on, follow me!" He hadn't shared all of his secrets with Renard. Not quite. * * Dave was just about to give up and turn back to the beach when he heard music. He headed in that direction, scrambling over boughs that had been torn loose in last night's fierce winds. They had lessened now, but the gusts were still strong enough to drive the steady rain sideways. Ahead of him, the forest gave way to a rough clearing around a steep rocky cliffside. To his shock, he saw square blocks of stone and windows covered with thick metal shutters sticking out of the rock. At the base of the cliff were some larger buildings, all connected. The nearest looked like a regular building sliced in half, with a roof that slanted up to a peak on one side. Along the slant were wide windows, some angled open against the rain. "What the ...?" he muttered. "Where _am_ I?" There was no way he was going to get an answer by himself. If there were buildings, and music, there reasonably would be people. He started forward when it occurred to him that maybe the people here were up to something illegal. Unless he'd gotten really off-course, there weren't supposed to be any inhabited islands for miles. Maybe they were Communists or something. He faded back into the trees, arguing with himself that Communists didn't listen to rock and roll, that he was being crazy. "Or maybe this is all a dream," he said aloud. "Some anxiety about graduation, maybe." He didn't like all those maybes. He'd never get anywhere in the world by being uncertain. Okay, first thing he would do was try and sneak a glimpse in those windows, which seemed to be where the music was coming from. If he saw guns or drugs or something, he could escape into the woods. With the help of a likely tree and a corrugated-metal shed, he got onto the slanted part of the roof and started edging toward the windows. A deejay's voice came on, telling all his listeners about an upcoming concert and then about a sale on carpet remnants, sounding equally enthusiastic about both. His chatter gave way to a groovy beat, and Dave peeked through one of the windows. Mentally, he was prepared for something out of a spy movie. Uniformed guys whispering in a foreign language while working on doomsday machines, or crating up weapons and supplies. It was a gymnasium. Pool, basketball court, parallel bars, weights, the works. He had time to wonder if this was some secret training camp for Commie athletes, and then he saw the girl. She was doing some sort of kung fu stuff, with lots of jumps and kicks. Her bare legs were long and shapely. Her red-gold hair was twisted into a thick French braid which swung as she leaped and spun, driving her foot into a hanging sandbag. "What a fox!" he said, much louder than he'd meant to. The girl looked up. Their eyes locked. Dave recoiled. Found nothing behind him but a steep drop. Threw himself forward. Struck the window. It swung wide under his weight. He grabbed at the edge but the metal frame was wet and his fingers slipped. He plunged straight through the opening. Caught a brief glimpse of the fox's eyes, brilliant turquoise, widening in alarm. He landed on a pile of gymnastics mats. The mats fell over in a dark blue cascade, tumbling him along. "Oof! Ugh! Ow! Damn! Oof!" With his final "oof," he rolled onto glossy beige wood flooring and fetched up against a pair of stunning legs. He twisted and looked up, past the interesting geography of her torso to those sea-colored eyes, now peering down at him. "Are you okay?" she asked. Face flaming, he shoved himself to his feet. "Yeah," he said, brushing at his rain-damp rumpled clothes. "Not a scratch." He held out his hands to show her how hurt he wasn't, and only then realized that his rope burns, which should have branded his palms, were nowhere to be seen. The fox was staring at him. He was even more flustered by her direct gaze than by the mysterious absence of his injuries. God, she was pretty! "Who are you?" "Xanatos. David Xanatos," he said in imitation of James Bond, although Bond at his worst couldn't have looked as shabby as he did, and would never be caught with just one shoe on. "David." She smiled. "That's a nice name. But where did you come from?" Her eyes went momentarily to the open window, then back to him. "Bar Harbor. There was a storm. Our ship went down." He groaned, the full realization finally sinking in. "Oh, man, my father's going to kill me! He put all our savings into the Nereid!" "Why should he be mad at you?" "Most of the time, he doesn't need a reason. It was my idea to take her out. The sky was clear. I never thought a storm would come up like that. I've never even seen a storm like that." The fox frowned. "How could you have known?" "That won't matter. No matter what I do, he's always disappointed in me. I get an A-, he starts in on how I'm throwing my life away. But the minute I mention college, he turns around and says that being a fisherman should be good enough for me, just like it was good enough for him, and my grandfather, and the whole family throughout history!" He realized he was ranting, taking out all his frustration with his father on this still-unnamed girl, but he didn't stop. "It wouldn't matter if I was rich as Carnegie and Rockefeller put together, he'd still sniff and turn away. Nothing I do is ever good enough. Ever since Mom died --" he broke off there, because some things were still and always going to be too painful to talk about. "Hey, what's your name? I'm unloading my life story on you, and I don't even know your name." "Janine Renard. My father owns this island." "I didn't think anybody lived out here. Not this far out to sea." "He's a scientist," she said guardedly. "He's doing experiments here." "Really? What kind?" "I really can't talk about it. Computers and stuff." He shrugged and let it go, although he was intrigued. "So you live here?" "Yeah," she sighed. "For now. My mother's in California, working on some other projects while Dad and I are here. Hey, do you want a Pepsi?" He was suddenly reminded that he hadn't eaten since lunch yesterday, nor had anything to drink except some rainwater. "That would be so great," he said fervently. She bounded over to a cooler and produced two red, white and blue cans. The familiar hiss-pop and accompanying mist of bubbles made Dave's mouth go desert-dry in anticipation. Delaying the sweet liquid sensation a moment longer, he held up his can toward Janine and sought right words for the occasion. He grinned. "Of such inconsequential beginnings, dynasities are begun," he said. She laughed. "Okay! I'll drink to that, whatever it is." She clunked her can against his and drank. Nothing had ever tasted so good as that first icy mouthful, and he doubted ever would. Not even chilled champagne sipped in a five-star New York restaurant could possibly refresh as much. Janine hiccuped and giggled. "Oh, no, not that! I hate the hiccups!" She puffed up her cheeks and held her breath. As she turned red, then blue, he came to the conclusion that she was younger than she looked. At first, he'd guessed eighteen, but now he wondered if she'd even seen fifteen yet. He gestured around at the gym. "What is all this? You were doing karate?" She nodded and exhaled in a whoof. "I used to take lessons. That and gymnastics. I want to be in the Olympics, but I don't think my father would let me." "You should do whatever you want to do." "Like you do?" she challenged. "That's different!" "What's so different about it? My father wants to control my life. So does yours." She blew a loose wisp of hair out of her face. "Sometimes I think about running away and joining the circus as an acrobat. Or maybe I could go to Hollywood, and be an actress. He'd hate that. He won't even let me watch television." "So you just live out here with your father?" "Weird, huh? Just me and Dad, and a couple of his assistants." "No boyfriend? I mean, a fox like you has got to have a boyfriend." "Why do you call me that?" "What?" "Fox. I don't get it." "Well, you know, it's a term for a pretty girl," he said, feeling like a real jerk. Instead of getting mad, she smiled. "Gee, thanks! Fox. I like it!" "You're ... welcome?" he said, perplexed. "No boyfriend, though," she sighed. "With nobody around but Oatmeal and Creepy Cal, there's hardly anybody to talk to." What the heck, he thought, and took a chance. "Would you go out with me sometime?" She gaped at him. "You mean, on a date?" "There's a place in Bar Harbor that has the best steaks in New England." His personal finances came to twelve bucks, and his father was probably going to ground him for a thousand years, but he said it anyway. "Could we go to a movie, too?" she asked eagerly. "Sure," he replied, digging himself in deeper. He did have better than two hundred dollars in the bank, but his father guarded it like a hawk. "I'd love to!" Her face fell. "But I don't think I can. My father would never let me." Brief white light flooded the room, accompanied by a blast of thunder. They both jumped. The storm, which had dwindled to steady rain and wind, suddenly rose in a tremendous fury. Hailstones the size of marbles clattered against the roof and the windows. The window through which Dave had made his alarming entrance was still open. Hail sheeted through, ticking and rattling on the floor. "Help me with the pole!" Janine cried, running to the wall. Dave followed. She grabbed a long metal pole with a hook on the end, nearly identical to the ones he knew from school, used to manipulate the tricky windows. "I don't think that's such a good idea," he said as lightning splintered the sky. "You'll get electrocuted." "But the hail's coming in!" The lights went out with the abrubtness of a slap. Janine yelped, dropped the pole, and bumped into Dave. He automatically put his arms around her to steady her and she clung to him fiercely. Four red emergency lights, one at each corner of the room, flickered and grew strong but still could not banish the darkness. Through the windows, they could see the black-bellied clouds rolling like a boxful of Labrador puppies. Janine buried her face against his chest. He felt very brave and heroic, holding the frightened girl in his arms. A cantalope-sized hailstone shattered the window just over them. Dave moved fast, seizing her up and leaping out of the path of falling glass. More hail and icy rain swept through the jagged hole. "Come on!" he yelled over the shrieking wind. "We have to get out of here!" "That way!" she called. Another window broke, and then a third. The floor was slick with ice and water. Sheltering Janine with one arm, Dave slammed through the door and nearly tumbled down a short flight of steps. He recovered his balance and the door swung shut, casting them into pitch darkness. He picked his way down the stairs and through another door, into a hall lit by red bulbs in wire cages. "He said the storm would be over," she said in a wounded voice. "Who did?" "My father. He promised it would." He gave her a funny look. Even here, in the cool underground, they could still hear the thunder, one clap after another, a standing ovation in the sky. * * "We have a problem, sir," Owen said as he entered the room. Renard whirled on him. "Yes, I can see that! The whole damned thing has gone haywire! Where is Cal?" "I haven't seen him." With a snarl of pure frustration, Renard turned back to Jetstream's instrument panel. He tapped furiously on the keyboard, but all he got was a neatly centered box on the monitor with the words 'Access Denied' in it. "The power outage has shut down all of the security measures," Owen reported, his own hands flying over the controls just as uselessly. "The generators can maintain the emergency lights and Jetstream, but only for six hours." "If Jetstream is causing this, better to turn the thing off!" "That would not be wise, sir." Owen pointed to a readout. "Judging by this, if we cannot first contain the storm, hurricanes will begin spinning off and heading straight for the mainland." Renard cursed and resorted to childish pique, kicking the bottom edge of the huge machine and accomplishing nothing but hurting his foot. "I made you!" he screamed at the computer. "I made you, and I _will_ control you!" "Is that how you think of me, Daddy?" Janine asked. He whirled again and saw his daughter in the doorway, glaring at him with mingled hurt and accusation. A bedraggled youth stood behind her, his eyes wide as he took in the array of complex machinery. "You said this was to help people!" Janine cried. "You said the storm would be over!" "Now is not the time, Janine!" "The center over us is intensifying," Owen said, his gaze fixed on the monitor which showed the island, all but hidden beneath a mass of cloud cover. Trees ripped free of their roots. A large boulder, torn from its moorings, bounced down the cliffside and smashed the metal equipment shed. Lightning struck like an angry swarm of wasps, again and again. Some of the strikes exploded trees into flame, which the drenching rain instantly doused. Other strikes seared black scars along the outer buildings. "Where the devil is Cal?!" Renard demanded, beating his fists on the control panel. "Owen, find him!" "Right away, sir." * * Cal was on the roof. He had shucked his human form completely and stood revealed in the stormlight. From his pleated snout, gillflaps, and straggly greenish-black hair to the double row of spines running down his hunched back and his wide, webbed feet. The storm was as intense as the magically-enhanced computer could make it. Time for a little assistance. Time to shatter this island like a glass fishing float. Time to repay Renard for his treachery. Time to avenge his mother. It was because of his mother, Sycorax, that spiteful Titania had come to the human world. If only the queen had stayed home! She would never have become so enthralled with science. She would never have met Renard, never spurred him on to become a wealthy power. Never ruined all that Sycorax had worked so hard to accomplish. Never stolen her legacy for her only son and reduced him to a toady to humans. "The world of mortals should be mine!" he shrieked to the turbulent sky. "My mother was here first!" Ah, but according to Sycorax, Titania never could let another be first at anything. The proud queen had to outshine all of her kin in every way. The only useful thing she'd done in her time among humans, as far as Cal was concerned, was to whelp her delectable daughter. When Renard was dead, and that disturbing Owen, sweet young Janine would be his. Magical energy swirled around him, shrouding him in green smoke. He gathered it all into a single focus and shot it upward. He raped the storm with his power, and made it pregnant with destruction. * * "What is all this?" Dave asked. He looked at the monitors and readouts, and suddenly understood. "Weather control? You're controlling the weather?" "Not at the moment," Renard said grimly. Janine had grown pale, having evidently gotten over her anger at her father or at least put it aside for a while. "What can we do?" "We can help," Dave said. "Can't we?" "Throw those switches," Renard commanded. "All of them. If we can't cut the power to Jetstream, we can at least lessen it at the generators." Dave nodded. As he threw each switch, the tone of the humming in the room changed. Janine raced to his side and started doing the same. The next burst of thunder was loud as dynamite even through a hundred feet of stone. At the same moment, one of the generators exploded. Janine dropped so fast Dave was sure she'd been hit but he couldn't go to her because he was trying to throw himself out of the way of sparking, sizzling shards of metal. Cables like cobras spitting electricity danced through the air. Dave scrambled to Janine. She was rising, dazed but unhurt, her bangs standing out in a crackling nimbus around her face. Dave's scalp prickled and he knew his own hair was doing the same. They ducked and weaved out of the range of the cables. Renard caught their hands, wincing as static electricity snapped between them. He pulled both of them to safety as a smoking chunk of metal crashed at their heels. "Shut it down!" Janine pleaded. "Make it stop, Daddy!" "I can't!" Renard said in an agony of frustration. "Only Cal really knows how it works! I never should have trusted him! This is probably all his doing!" "Here comes someone!" Dave called, pointing into the flickering, smoky shadows. "Maybe it's him!" Two men stepped into view. Dave blinked in surprise. "Steve! Trink!" He started forward. How had he forgotten all about the rest of the crew? He must've assumed they drowned and shoved the guilty memory to the back of his mind, because it had all been his fault for bringing the Nereid out. It all came back to him now and he reached out, glad to see that at least two of them had survived. He drew up short when he saw the gun in Brian Trinkle's hand, and froze when he got a good look at their eyes. At what had been their eyes. Trink raised the gun and leveled it at Renard. "Daddy!" Janine screamed. Dave didn't stop to think, he just acted. He threw himself at Trink, wrestling his arm aside just as the gun went off. The bullet squealed off a generator and punched through the side of Jetstream. Steve Gelman grabbed Dave and pulled him off. Dave struggled and kicked. Trink fired again. Janine shoved her father out of the way and another bullet tore into the huge computer. The lights began flashing in asynchronous rhythm, and the steady hum dissolved into a jangling buzz. "No!" Renard cried. "Not the computer!" He raced for the control panel. The next bullet took him in the back and hurled him against it. His forehead smacked into one of the monitors, cracking the thick glass. His hands clutched drowningly at the keyboard. He slid down, leaving a wide trail of blood. Dave broke free of Steve's grip and drove his elbow into the other man's throat. He felt a crunching give, and Steve collapsed, pawing at his neck and making strangled gagging sounds. Trink advanced on Renard, pointing the gun at his head. Janine leapt and whirled and her heel smashed into Trink's face. The gun roared. The bullet dug a trough in the floor two inches from Renard's skull. Trink staggered, nose spouting. He started to bring the gun to bear on Janine but she seized his wrist and in one smooth motion pulled him forward while pistoning her foot into his stomach. Trink reeled back, right into Dave. Although he knew and liked the big guy, Dave wasted no time doubling his hands and bringing them down as hard as he could on the back of his neck. The blow, strengthened by years of net-hauling, sent Trink crashing to the floor. A panel popped out of Jetstream, trailing a tangle of burning wires. Printer tape unspooled in a wild flood. Two of the generators went dead, while a third began whirring in a high-pitched frenzy. "Daddy!" Janine threw herself to her knees and reached imploringly for her father. Dave grimaced at the sight of so much blood. The man had to be dead. Dead, just like his mother. Once again, rage at the injustice of it all filled him. His fists clenched, wanting to pummel Death itself just like he'd pummeled Trink. "He's alive!" Janine gasped. Renard's tortured eyes rolled up to look at them. "Storm ..." he said, a bubble of blood bursting on his lips. "Stop ... the ... storm." "Don't try to talk." Janine ripped off her T-shirt and pressed it against the wound, but the thin cloth instantly soaked through. Tears ran down her face. "Find ... Cal ..." * * "Mr. Renard is looking for you, Cal." Cal went rigid. It wasn't ... it couldn't be ... It was. He turned slowly and saw Owen Burnett standing on the roof. The tall, pale man gazed coolly at him, seemingly unsurprised by his hideousness. The rain didn't dampen Owen's suit. The wind didn't muss his hair. A whitish-gold aura blazed around him, and right before Cal's bulging lamplike eyes, Owen's shape altered and flowed smoothly into another. Although Cal had never been to Avalon, he knew of its denizens from his mother's stories. He knew what being he faced now, and felt his spirit contract with fear. He would not show it. He sneered. "Puck, I presume." "The one and only!" The sprite, as fair and agile as Cal was dark and loathesome, dipped in a floating bow. "Not for long!" Cal reached to the sky, and the lightning answered. Puck laughed as the bolt slammed through him, diverting and diffusing into a shower of smaller arcs. "Your little storm cannot hurt me, be it of science or sorcery. Now, oh son of the green Sea Hag, now the Puck is out of the bag. All of Nature heeds my call. Before that power, you will fall." "You may be safe from the lightning," Cal said, bringing a whirlwind of green smoke between his hands, "but will your foolish rhymes keep you safe from the sea itself?" He threw the whirlwind into the air. It was engulfed by the storm, turning the black clouds swamp-green. The wind lulled for a moment, then swelled. The sea leapt into greater waves, crashing against the rocky shores. "I am not impressed," Puck observed. He pointed one by one at the nearest treetops, stripped to skeletal branches. Small pulses of white light shot from his fingertips, struck the trees, and the branches began to shift and move. Clittering like the legs of giant bugs, they pulled free of their trunks and sprang toward Cal. "Here's a cage to bind you!" Cal broke apart two of the spindly wooden things with lightning brought down from above but the third one was nearly upon him. He tried madly to evade it, his webbed feet squelching and splashing in the puddles. Puck sat on air and crossed his legs, chuckling. "How _am_ I going to explain this to Renard?" he wondered aloud. "Renard is dead!" Cal spat. The cage closed around him like the jaws of a beast. Puck's mirthful mood vanished. He flew to the cage, thrust his thin arm through, and seized a handful of Cal's kelpy hair. "I don't think I heard you right." "Renard is dead!" Cal cried triumphantly. "I chose two dogsbodies from the humans below and by sorcery enslaved them to be his killers!" "I think I'll save your fate for his wife, then," Puck said grimly. "She can devise a vengeful wrath the likes of which you've never known." "You won't have the chance! The sea will take us all! I go gladly! It is my father! I will become part of it! You, child of air, what will you do?" He pointed, laughing wildly. Puck looked, and his fair face went ashen. A wave as great as any stirred up by dread Leviathan was rushing toward the island. The top of it towered to the undersides of the clouds. It was a wall of water miles tall, sunken ships and entire whales caught up in its unstoppable power. "The sea will take us! The sea will take us!" Cal sprang up and down in his cage, his spines waggling obscenely. The world went silent in the preceding of the wave. One final stab of lightning split a nearby tree, laying open its woody innards. "In cloven pine thy prison be, for now and all eternity, as thy mother did to cousin mine, so let that fate be forever thine!" Puck chanted hurriedly. At once, the cage rolled to the split tree and began melting into it, the wood and bark flowing like wax. Cal tore at the branches. "No! No!" His protests were cut off as the tree sealed around him, bulging like a snake trying to swallow an exceptionally large rat. Puck turned away, toward the oncoming wave. The wind pulled, streaming Puck's white hair around his uncharacteristically somber face. "This is no longer a lark," he muttered. * * Dave looked from the sparking, smoking computer back to Janine's desperate eyes. "I think it's ruined." "Try!" she insisted. An open first aid kit rested against her leg and bandages rolled all over the floor as she tried to stop the flow of her father's blood. Dave crossed his fingers and started hammering on the keyboard. "It keeps saying 'Access Denied.' There must be a password or something." "Cal did it. That's what my father said." "Just guess? I don't even know the guy!" "He's a creep. I wish Daddy had never hired him when he bought Sycorax Labs!" "Wait a minute ..." Dave stared intently at the keyboard. "How do you spell that?" "What, Sycorax?" She spelled it for him. "But that's where he used to --" 'Access Denied' vanished and data began scrolling by. "You did it!" Janine cried joyfully. "I knew you would!" "Thanks." He ran his thumb across his lower lip thoughtfully. "Now that it works, what do we do with it?" "Cancel the program," she suggested. He typed 'cancel program,' spelled it wrong, growled, re-typed it, and hit 'Enter.' A box came up, asking him if he really wanted to do that, so he typed 'yes.' 'Processing,' the computer said. "Yes!" Dave cheered. "I think that's got it!" "I knew you could!" she cried happily. "Look, the wind speed is dropping already!" He motioned to a gague. Janine pointed at a monitor. "What is that one? It looks like a wave the size of the Empire State Building." "It is a wave the size of the Empire State Building," Owen said as he burst into the room. Dave glanced at Janine. For a moment, it had looked like the tall man had long white hair and huge Spock-like ears, but the vision was gone before he could even be sure he'd seen it. Janine showed no reaction other that relief. "Owen! My father's hurt!" "We are all in extreme danger," Owen said. "The hatch, there, to the underbasement. I estimate less than a minute until the wave strikes." "But my father! We can't move him!" "We have no choice." Owen strode to the hatch, spun the wheel, and threw it open. Chill darkness waited below. "Do what he says," Dave told Janine. He helped her carry her father into the underbasement, then raced back up. Owen was standing in front of the computer, wearing a look of great concentration. "No way to affect the wave," he said to himself. His face was eerily lit, making him look strange and otherworldly Steve Gelman, clutching his mashed throat, was crawling feebly across the floor. The green color was gone from his eyes, leaving confusion and pain. Trink lay nearby, out cold and snoring through his busted nose. "Steve!" Dave yelled. "The hatch, there!" He grabbed Trink under the arms, dragged him to the open hatch, and heard Owen speak. "Thirty seconds." "Oh, crud." Dave tumbled Trink down the steps and went back for Steve. "Where's the rest of my crew? Do you know? "Twenty seconds." Owen turned to Dave as he shoved Steve into the darkness. "The rest of your crew are sedated in the lower boathouse. It is sealed, safe from flooding." "Are we safe down there? Tell me the truth." "I don't know." Owen followed him down. "It will have to be good enough. Five seconds." * * As the giant wave approached, the water surrounding the island was sucked away into its curving mass. Rocks which had lain concealed beneath the sea for centuries were exposed, black and glistening. Cal shrieked unheard in his wooden prison. The wave broke over the island. Thousands of tons of water slammed down, smashing apart the outbuildings as if they'd been made of children's blocks. Every tree on the island was instantly smote into matchsticks, with one exception. New waves, smaller than their parent but still huge, split off in all directions, turning the sea into a churning mass of froth and mud. Spray and spouts leapt to the very clouds. * * "Impact," Owen's soft voice said in the darkness. Janine whimpered and huddled against Dave. He put his arms around her, felt bare skin prickled with gooseflesh. As best he could without letting go of her, he shrugged out of his windbreaker and draped it over her shoulders. The island shook as if gripped by an earthquake. From above, muffled by the thickness of stone, came the sounds of destruction. Dave swallowed, trying to relieve the painful pressure in his ears. Janine pressed her head against his chest, holding him so tight he could barely breathe. There was a new sound, a closer and much worse sound, the sound of dripping. "We've got a leak," he said, trying to keep it calm. "Yes," Owen said, doing a much better job at it. "The computer room must have flooded. The water is right over us." "Are we going to die?" Janine whispered. "No," Dave replied. "Nobody is going to die." He could almost believe himself, and as Janine curled trustingly against him, he knew that she, at least, did. It was nice to have somebody believe in him. * * How long did they sit there in the dark, with the water creeping higher on their legs? Hours? Days? Years? Janine didn't know. All she knew, as she held her father's face out of the water, was that he was still alive, and would stay that way because David had said so. David had rescued her in the gym, had stopped those men from shooting them all, had figured out the computer ... why, if the room did flood, he could probably just pick her up and walk across the water to safety! She giggled at her own silliness. He wasn't a god, just a guy, just a fisherman's son. Just the most brilliant and wonderful person she'd ever met. "The wave has passed," Owen said. Except for irregular drips, all was quiet. "Let's open the hatch," David said. "Either we're safe or the whole island is underwater." There was a confidence in his voice that hadn't been there before, and Janine wondered if he'd be so cowed by his father anymore. He had undergone his trial, not by fire but by water, and come out of it stronger. * * The red and white helicopter settled onto a barren stretch of land that had once been thick with trees. Its rotors sent ripples across the shallow brackish lakes that filled the lowland areas of the island. Janine, wrapped in a blanket, watched as the rescue workers loaded her father's stretcher into the helicopter. The clouds were parting, letting thin beams of sun shine timidly through to gleam on the damp rocks. Of the works of man, hardly anything was left. The same could be said for the works of nature. Only one single pine tree stood unscathed amid the devastation. "Janine?" David said behind her. She turned to him, looking past him to the Coast Guard crafts bobbing offshore. "Are your sailors all right?" "Yeah, mostly. Steve and Trink are headed for Eastern Maine Medical Center. They don't remember anything, and I'm in no hurry to tell everyone how they got hurt. The less I have to talk about all this, the better. How's your dad?" She sighed. "They're flying him to Boston, but even with surgery, they don't think he'll ever walk again." Owen approached. Somehow, even after all they'd been through, he managed to be neat and presentable. "They're ready to go, Miss Renard." "Just a minute." She looked up at David. "Dinner and a movie?" "I won't forget," he promised. She leaned up on tiptoe and pressed a quick kiss on his cheek. "Me either." "Goodbye ... Fox." She smiled. "Goodbye, David." Owen led her toward the waiting helicopter. She broke away from him and raced back, throwing herself into David's arms. Before he could react, she kissed him firmly on the mouth. Then and only then did she let herself be herded into the helicopter. Owen shut the door, retreated, and signaled the pilot. David stuffed his hands in his pockets and watched her go, the wind flapping his jacket and blowing his hair. Owen gestured to a third boat that was approaching the island. "The Aurora," he said. "Is that a familiar craft, sir?" "It's my father." He drew himself straight. "Come for my explanation, no doubt." "May I be of assistance, Mr. Xanatos?" He grinned. "I really like the sound of that, but right now I bet you've got enough to do here." "That is true." "And I'm only a fisherman." He stared at his father's ship. "For now," he added quietly. "Not forever." "Very few things of this world are forever, sir," Owen said. His gaze fell on that single tree and he permitted himself a small smile. * * The End
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