Original SWAT Kats Story

Awakenings

By DJ Clawson

  • 1 Chapter
  • 46,330 Words

An evil sorcerer named Abadon is after the sword of Ecaudor, which he can only possess by killing off the possessor. But with Ramis gone and Maric unsuccessful, that leaves . . . Jake? Meanwhile, Abi learns something Thoran has hidden from her about himself, and her own destiny.

Read This Story

Author's Notes:

NOTE : IF YOU HAVE NOT READ “Children of the Stone” then GO READ IT BEFORE READING THIS! YOU WILL NOT UNDERSTAND THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T!

That’s right, I’m back. I’m kind of wondering where I’m finding the time to write this story, but I am. This is a continuation of my earlier story. NOTE:This is not a Felina story–sorry if that upsets anyone. I know the beginning might be misleading on that–it has a lot of her. I feel she should have been in both seasons, and not nearly enough has been done on her character, so I have her stuff during the beginning to help open the story and show her point of view on things. Otherwise, the central characters are Dr. Abi Sinian, Jake, and Thoran.For those of you who *really* don’t feel like reading “Children of the Stone” and feel the strange need to read this one first, here’s a small introduction:1. In 1996, three months before this story took place, Dr. Abi Sinian discovered a cave of ancient gargoyle statues, and two kat mages who were of a strange line of sons of Ecaudor–an immortal kat. An evil sorcerer named Selena,who was from the Council (ref: “The Pastmaster Always Rings Twice”) that was run by Sauraman the Pastmaster, woke them up from their spell. 1000 years ago,shortly before the Dark Ages, councilmen Frakes and Selena teamed up to defeat the gargoyles and the sons of Ecuador and put them under a stone spell. Sauraman was, in the same spell, robbed of his true powers, and forced to become a weak sorcerer in the Dark Ages.2.

Lopine – the name of the gargoyle’s culture. A culture that spreads over many centuries and species. According to it, Frith (the sun) is the emperor of the universe. He has two sons, Aslan (ref: the Narnia Chronicles) and Ecaudor,who chose to live out a mortal life as a kat before officially becoming immortal.He began the line of sons of Ecaudors. They are also Lopinenean.*Concerning Characters*1. Sauraman the

Pastmaster – a Lopinenean immortal, a member of the Isatari,came to the kat world to instantly become head of the “council” of sorcerer katsbecause of his incredible powers. Lost his powers in 996 to Frakes and Selena.In the TV show, was weak and crazed. He gained his powers back in “Children of the Stone” and does not fight the gargoyles or the sons of Ecuador, because oftheir similar Lopine beliefs.2.

Sons of Ecuador – the two awoken in “Children…”are Maric and Ramis,father and son. Before Ramis was put under the spell, he impregnated his wife,but with him as a statue the lineage of the newborn son was lost. It was revealed in “Children…” that Jake Clawson is his descendant, a son of Ecaudor.Only S. of E. can hold the sword of Ecaudor, also known as “the Dragon Sword”(ref: “Bride of the Pastmaster”)3.

Gargoyles – Here is a listing of all the gargoyles awoken in the spell:

Thoran – a white bearded leader

Sevian – second-in-command

Chani – his love

Chip – a small one with kite-like wings

Jumicus – the fat one

a beast one

Alia

There’s one more, who I haven’t even bothered to name yet.

Dathena and Charon, former lovers, where both killed in “Children…”

It was also revealed that their egg that hatched back in 996 after they were stone (Dathena by a different spell) suffered from a cave in of the rookery. Only three hatchlings survived, each going their separate ways.

Charon and Dathena’s found a sorcerer leftover from the council that made him kat, and founded the Furlong line. The second did the same, and founded another line that became the line of Felina Feral’s mother. The third is still missing to this day. When Charon and Dathena “died,” Maric used a spell to bind their bodies with two gargoyle descendants –T-Bone and Felina. The SWAT Kat and enforcer are now kat by day, gargoyle by night.4.

Professor Hackle – Jake’s father in my stories. Changed his name for protection reasons. I *know* it goes against what the show says. But it made sense to me. Both Jake and Hackle are Jewish. Both “Children…” and this one take place after both seasons of SWAT Kats

“There are three things no kat can defeat nor escape. One is time, one is fate, and the third is a gargoyle.”

-Excerpts from the diary of Professor Jacob Clawson

————————————————————————————————————

Awakenings

Epilogue”Are you sure you want to do this, lad?” In the misty bays of Megakat City, a group could be seen on the docks. In water beside them lay a small skiff.  Ramis, dressed in Jake’s borrowed shirt and pants instead of his cloak, shook his head in response, “No . . . don’t you see? I am no use to you here! I need to see the world–see what is out there! See what has happened in a thousand years! I cannot spend my life living in a museum.”

He pulled the sword and scabbard he had from his side and handed it to Razor, “You should have this. It is rightfully yours.”

“No, Ramis . . . I can’t accept this,” the SWAT Kat backed off, waving his paws.  “You’ve been using it all your life.”

“So? You protect the city now. It belongs to your generation now, not mine. I will take the copy. It feels the same to me.”

Razor took the sword, half-heatedly, “Ramis . . .”

His medieval ancestor hopped into the skiff confidently, “And what if something should happen to me if I took it? The sword belongs with you, Jacob.”

Maric, his father, knelt on the docks so he was eye level with his son on the skiff, “I cannot justify what you are doing, my son, but I trust you are making the right decision.”

Painfully, he spoke, “Whatever makes you happy.”

Razor flinched, and realized his father had said something similar when he went off to join the Enforcers.

Part 1 Chapter 1

Felina Feral sighed.The sun on the horizon shined brightly, brightening her apartment.  Grumbling, she closed the shades. Light–from the sun at least–was not always appreciated. Exhausted, she slumped into her armchair, turning on the television simultaneously. Her body ached beyond, more out of sheer tiredness than her recent transformation. She’s spent the evening, or course, at the museum or on patrols with T-Bone. Now, she sighed at the knowledge she would be wanted at Enforcer HQ in less than 5 hours for duty, and that left her next to no time for some sleep. Glancing at the clock, she wondered how long it had been since she had a good 8 hours of sleep.She sighed again, heavily, and slipped out of her uniform and into a bathrobe. Her enforcer outfit, of course, had been modified to fit both of her constantly-changing forms. She couldn’t risk getting stuck in a battle at sundown and ripping a good uniform. The traditional belt and jerkin of the gargoyles had been added, and her shirt had been adjusted to make room for wings to sprout once a day. In a way, she liked it all. Being a gargoyle certainly gave her more freedom; who was her uncle to say she couldn’t run around without boots if hours later she would break out talons? A smile slid across her face as she thought of her uncle. Overprotective at times, she realized he was occasionally handy to have around.She leaned back into the armchair, and slowly realized she liked this new life.Jake Clawson was sweating, and not for exhaustion. The truck swiveled in theroad, and he tried to concentrate on something over than the constant coaching of Maric.”

No, no, NO! You’re not concentrating your energies on the truck! You’re concentrating on the steering wheel! Work on the truck–oh, did you see that?!?”The truck spun wildly, nearly missing a sidewalk.

“You missed the lamp post this time! Good, VERY GOOD! Now concentrate on the car . . .!”

“I *really* don’t like this . . . ,” Jake cursed somewhat above his breath.He was in the driver’s seat, but instead of having his paws on the steering wheel, they were crossed against his chest. The wheel, from an observer,appeared to be moving himself.He braced himself for another near-miss, then turned to Maric doubtfully, “Are you sure I’m ready for this?!?”

“Yes! Of course! You’re never going to learn if you don’t experience–LOOK OUT!Good . . . good, you missed the bird bath!”The truck increased speed, with Jake tensing, and suddenly spun straight into a tree. All three passengers were nearly thrown from their seats.  Maric sighed, rubbing his head, then immediately regained himself, “Well . .. that was definitely better. I believe that should be enough for today.”

Jake breathed deeply, relieved, and turned to the backseat, “You still in one piece, Abi?”Dr. Sinian picked herself off the backseat floor, “I seem to be . . . missed the lamp post this time, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, well . . . the street sign back there, too. Gotta give me credit for that,” they got out of the car, joined Maric as he inspect the damaged headlight.”

Not bad . . . ,” the old mage gestured at it, speaking beneath his breath.

“Dosimien’as arlcadei . . .”

The headlight untwisted, and moments later appeared undamaged. He smiled, and turned to his students, “Not bad at all, Jacob. But again you were concentrating on the wheel. Why?”

“Well, it kind of controls the truck . . .”

“Ah, but how little you understand of thaurmaturgy! You need to use your powers to control a being as a whole, not its controls! That was the point of this excerise!”

The whole conversation might have looked strange to a passing kat . . . two young kats–a mechanic and an archaeologist–and an old one who looked straight out of the Dark Ages with his brown cloak and white beard.

The phone was ringing. Damn.  Abi forced herself awake. She had fallen asleep at her desk again, face into the books. She adjusted her glasses, then reached for the phone.”

What is it?”

“Dr. Sinian? We have a slight problem on floor 2.”

Rubbing her face, she glanced at the clock and realized it wasn’t quite sunset yet, “Has one of the exhibits fallen again?”

“Well . . . ,” the guard sounded a little hesitant.

“Not *really* . . . it has something more to do with the dioramas . . .”

“What is it?”

“Uh, doctor . . . last night, one of the gargoyles seemed to have decided to stand in the cavekat diorama before he . . . uhh, froze . . .”

Her eyes widened as she grasped the situation, “Oh *no* . . .”

“Yeah . . . that tour guide you hired last week is having a bit of trouble explaining it . . . it seemed to have frightened some of the kids . . .”

Abi shook her head angrily, “I’ll be right down . . .”

“I’ll kill him for this . . . ,” she cursed beneath her breath, surveying the situation. Indeed, Jumicus had planted himself in the diorama . . . it now featured two cavekats running from a life-size, stone gargoyle instead of a saberkat.

“I’ll *kill* him . . .”

To make matters worse, an entire nursery school had been on tour and half of the little kittens were crying their eyes out while the parent chaperones were busy yelling at the poor guide.”

Where’s the curator of this–”

“I’m the curator,” Abi stepped in, trying to prevent her new guide from having a nervous breakdown. Calmly, she shook the paws of the complaining parents, “Dr. Sinian. I’m terribly sorry about this, but it seems the workkat who came to setup some new exhibits yesterday got some pieces mixed up . . . ,” she glared a tthe statue of Jumicus coldly.

“I’ll yell at him later, I *promise*.”

“Our kids . . .”

“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can really do–,” suddenly she remembered abox of lollipops in the back room she always kept for emergencies.

“Except . ..”

After distributing her entire stock of candy out to the kittens, she closed up the museum and headed up to the roof. The sun was almost set, and she always liked to be there when the gargoyles awoke. Especially today–she wanted to make sure Thoran gave Jumicus a good talking for the incident in the diorama.As a thanks from Ms Briggs for the gargoyles saving the city from Selena, the deputy mayor had supplied money to have the museum redone–complete with merlons and pedestals for their sleep. In fact, there was a constant flow of money from city hall to provide for them–for food and such.This was all private; the public didn’t officially know of the gargoyles,though their had always been rumors since the attack of the undead. There were those rumors that Commander Feral’s niece morphed into a monster at night, but then there were ones that said she feasted on kat blood. Thoran shrugged them off, knowing full well sooner or later the public would know the truth of the matter.Lost in thought, Abi snapped back into attention as a blanket of darkness set over Megakat City from the horizon, and the sound of stone cracking was quite audible. Beside her, Thoran began to stretch form his long-frozen position, and growled excusively. His wings spread and knocked her back a bit; she always underestimated their width

“Good evening, Abi,” a cultured voice spoke as he stepped down from his merlon, folding his wings over. They had known each other for a good few months by now,and each gained a great deal of respect for the other.

“How was the day?”

“Well . . . ,” she led him inside.

“There was a small incident involving Jumicus and a diorama . . .”

“Really?” his heavy eyebrows raised as he settled into his favorite armchair.”

It didn’t frighten anyone, did it?”

“Unless you count an entire class of kittens . . .”

“No . . .”

She nodded, “I had to use up all our lollipops to get them quite, I’m afraid.”

“You mean those little round candies on a stick!? I love those! What a shame .. .”

he stood, “Where is Jumicus? I’ll get him for this all right . . .”

Abi laughed softly; it was amusing to see an 1100-year-old gargoyle get upset over a particular candy. Her attention was redirected over to the roof as she heard two gargoyles land. Felina and T-Bone had arrived, and with them Razor.There wasn’t a real need for the Turbokat at night, unless they wanted to bother with it.”

Looks like a slow night,” T-Bone observed, almost sadly as he hopped down from the merlon he had landed on.”

Good,” Felina folded her wings over next to him.

“I can’t afford to get hurt tonight. I’ve got an Academy Ball tomorrow, and my uncle says I have to make an appearance for him before sunset.”

“I remember those . . . ,” T-Bone reminisced, heading inside.

“We got invited to one of those while we were Lts.. Remember, Razor?”

“Yeah . . . damn that thing was boring. How long did we last? An hour before we tried sneaking out?”

“Oh, I remember . . . Feral’s little weasel–what’s his name? He’s gone now,isn’t he?–he caught us and thought we were smashed or something . . .”

“So we spent the rest of the time making prank phone calls on the pay phone  .. .

“Felina listened to the two reminisce for a little while, wondering what they were like in the Enforcers. She was still having trouble imagining them taking orders from her uncle–then again, they probably TOOK the orders, but didn’t go any-where with them.She sighed, shaking her head, “Like I’d be able to sneak out. Do I need to remind anyone I’m Feral’s NIECE?”

“Come on, Felina, it won’t be so bad,” T-Bone laid a surprisingly comforting hand on her shoulder.

“At least you get to split at sunset.”

“I guess so, huh?”

A good 20 hours later, she still didn’t feel any better.  In fact, she felt worse.

Felina Feral *hated* formal parties; that was why she had joined the enforcers in the first place–to get away from any sort of classy lifestyle she risked getting stuck in. The Ferals had always been a high class family, and the Commander Feral was only a break in the tradition. The only thing Felina truly liked about her family was her father had grown to respect her for who she was,and had allowed her to join the enforcers.

No, an evening of strained smiles and sparkly champagne was *not* appealing to her.  She slipped into her formal uniform, complete with stripes and etc. Silently she prayed she would be able to get back to her apartment and change before sunset; this wasn’t one she wanted to tear.

In full uniform, she passed the mirror and absently glanced at herself. As much as she liked being a gargoyle, something about being in the enforcer’s uniform made her proud.

Chapter 2

The Academy Ball actually had a slightly misleading ball–it was not just Enforcer Academy. It was called that because the Feral’s–including the Commander–put a good amount of money into it, and several of his best kats always were required to come. Aside from that, it was basically a social evening for the high class members of Megakat City.As every year, the number of limousines astounded Felina as she headed to the entrance. For her, the social hall was only two blocks from her apartment, so she thought she would save some money for her parents and walked. The sky was cloudy, but aside from that it was a nice evening.”

Ah, Lt,” she was met by a Junior Grade enforcer, who was getting quite good at kissing up by collecting invitations.

“It should be a lovely evening.”

“On my life,” she muttered grumpily.Inside, she found herself amongst every hum-drom on the social scale. Champagne had all ready been distributed, and it really made everyone equal in her eyes.It never fails to amaze me, she mused, how fast I can get bored at these things. She took a seat on the side, and began slowly sipping a wine glass.”

Doing all right, Felina?”She looked up, surprisingly, to see her uncle towering above her.She smiled, “Whatta you think?”He looked around, making sure no one was watching, “What a waste of time.”

Even more surprisingly, he sat down beside her, and Felina wondered what number the champagne glass in his hand was.

“For once, Uncle, I agree with you.”

“When was the last time that happened?”

“Well . . . ,” she scratched her head thoughtfully.

“When Zed was going to steal the satellite, we both *agreed* it would be bad for the city.”

“That doesn’t count. Everyone agreed on that.”

“Oh. Then I can’t think of anything.”

Feral sighed, and for the first time looked as bored as she was. Absently he looked at his watch, “I think I’ll go out for a breath of fresh air. If you see your father, tell him I hate him for this.”

Felina watched him leave, then sat back and watched the other guests get onwith their conversations. She considered mingling with them, and tossed the idea when she realized she had nothing to say to most of the people.”

“Felina!” She rose to greet her father. Well, *finally* he realized she was there . . .

Richard Feral, a brown kat with a similar tint of the fur as his brother but without the muscle packaging, was a mix of both worlds. He was not a natural in the world of high class felines–his wife had helped him. He was not interested in law enforcement or any other violent career as his brother, but he wasn’t planning on being a businesskat before he met Joanna in college. It was really Felina’s mother that dragged him into the upper class, even though he easily hadthe money for the lifestyle beforehand. His background while growing up with his stiff, resourceful brother probably helped him understand Felina’s rebellion against her mother’s world.  In a way, Felina respected him for that.

“I’m so glad you could make it, honey,” her father inspected her with a semi-critical eye  “In uniform, too! You’re more like Uly every day.”

She raised an eyebrow skeptically, “Did you really expect me to wear a dress?”

“Hardly. Have you seen your mother?”

“No. Why?”

“Watch out. She’ll still not big on the uniform.”

Felina’s lips curled into a smile as she watched her father go, “Okay, Dad.”

Shaking her head sadly, she suddenly remembered she still hadn’t told him about the gargoyles, or herself. That reminds me . . . she glanced at her watch, and realized it was nearly sunset. Only a little more of this . . .

As Commander Feral slipped out side, he was thankful of his rank. Head of the enforcers was the kind of stature that made people get out of your way, which was particularly helpful when you’re trying to sneak out the door of an incredibly boring affair.Passing the doorkat, he suddenly realized the earlier Junior Grade enforcer had been replaced by another one, a shadowy character he didn’t recognize. Wasn’t ita little early to switch shifts? The affair had only been on for an hour.

What happened to the enforcer here earlier?” he asked curiously.

“Oh, he was called off, sir. I’m not quite sure why,” the new doorkat replied quickly.

A little too quickly . . ., Feral noticed. Or am I just paranoid? Shrugging the thought back, he stepped out onto the sidewalk.

An explosion rocked Megakat Social Hall.  Feral felt the blast on the sidewalk in front of the building; it sent him toppling over. By the time regained himself, smoke was all ready pouring out the front entrance.What the hell–? He pulled out his gun and turned to the front steps. The doorkat was gone, and the blast had caused the front door to jam with rubble. He kicked it fruitlessly, then called for the enforcers.

The guests had been lucky. As the enforcers discovered outside, the bomb had gone off in the basement, messing up most of the first floor. The reception was on the second.  No one was injured, but it sent a good amount of them to their knees.

Felina had been thrown from the couch, but otherwise unharmed. A thousand thoughts went through her mind as she picked herself up, most of them bad and involving the words “what” and “hell” along with several other profanities.She stood, and found herself amongst havoc. Most of the guests were panicking or fainting.Slowly she came to realize *she* was the head officer in the room.She prayed her uncle had been all ready outside during the blast, and that no one–including her uncle–was injured.Okay, Felina, her mind screamed. You just got thrown from your seat. A bomb probably went off downstairs. There might be a fire. There might be a certain building foundation that is about to collapse. There might be a good hundred people in the room who you have to control.She quickly surveyed the area, and changed the “might be” in her last sentenceto “are.”

“EVERYBODY LISTEN UP!” She pulled out her gun and fired to the ceiling, which was the only way she imagined she could get attention in a crowd of that size.

“KEEP CALM! THE ENFORCERS CAN HANDLE THIS!” Boy, did she sound like her uncle.The crowd wasn’t listening. Half of them were sane enough to head for the heavy doors in the back, only to find them jammed.

“EVERYBODY BACK!” She fired again, and pushed them aside as she made her way to the doors. She pushed, but *damnit*, those doors would NOT move.Heaving her body up against them, she suddenly looked at the giant windows and realized in a few minutes, she would have her gargoyle strength to smash a wholeright through the wood–but that wasn’t always a good thing.She turned with her front to the door, and desperately aimed her gun in the direction of the handle.At that moment, the heavy doors swung open, but the enforcers weren’t the ones on the other side.

Chapter 3

Outside, Feral had immediately set up a team to try their way in while he barricaded the street with cars before Ann Gora and her news team got there.Still no word from Felina . . . it was starting to worry him.”

Sir . . .,” the head of the team pulled him from his thoughts.

“All the exits have been sealed, even the roof. Sir, I don’t think it was just the explosion.Someone’s sealed those people in.”

“Any contact with Felina?”

“Sorry, sir, but the phone lines have all been cut.”

He grunted, “Keep trying.”

“What the hell–?”Felina backed off as a group of heavily-armed kats entered. She hesitated, then remembered her gun.”

Freeze! You’re under arrest!”

“And for what?” The first one, a slimmer kat in a ski mask and fatigues, approached fearlessly.  “The explosives? Is that against the law?”

She steadied her aim on him, but was too late. A burly commando jumped at her side, crushing the gun in his claw and knocking her back into the crowd.

The first one, apparently the leader, spoke sarcastically as he approached,”Oh, *I’m sorry* . . . I simply haven’t gotten around to reading the Megakat Constitution lately . . . *where* does the time go?!”The other commandos cocked their guns in the direction of the frightened crowd,which quickly backed off. There were a few shrieks of terror amidst the females or even the male kats.

“But where are my manners?!?” He continued, bowing with his arm across his chest.

“I am Korat, leader of my little militia–wonderful guys, once you get to know them. Sorry if my entrance had ruined the party, but I’m afraid their won’t be any departures anytime soon. You see, I’ve rigged the building with explosives, and silly me–I set them to blow! In fact, if your lovely mayor doesn’t hand me a few megabucks by the end of the evening,” he waved his arm expressively, “boom! Won’t that be a shame?!”

Felina picked herself up angrily, Just what a need! Minutes before sundown and some wacko pulls a hostage stunt! She prayed her uncle was safely outside on either things or the money.

Korat’s cassette, found on the seat of Feral’s car, with a recording of the demands, was now held in the commander’s hands. He cursed softly, nearly crushing it in his paws. Damn Korat! With a recording, there was no way to know if anyone was injured. He grabbed his phone, and dialed the mayor’s office.”

Felina!” she heard her father whispering nervously at her side.

“What’s going on? What do they want?”

“Money, for starters,” Felina rested a comforting paw on his shoulder, keeping an eye on the commandos as they moved through the crowd.

“Just go along with it and everything should be okay.”

“What’s that?” one of the smaller commandos had overheard their conversation,and cocked the barrel of his gun in their direction.

“Come on . . . there’s no room for secrets between us.”

He approached them cautiously, eyeing Richard,”Hey . . . aren’t you a Feral?”He nodded nervously.The commando twirled his gun around loosely, coming in closer, “Aren’t you hosting this? Must have a few pretty pennies on ya, huh?”Felina saw where the conversation was going, and didn’t like it. She stepped inbetween her father and the commando, eyeing the quickly-sinking sun on the horizon out of the corner of her eye, “Hey, buddy . . . lay off him.”

“Oh, yeah?” the commando pointed his bulky gun at her.

“And what are you gonna do about it?”She hesitated. She could sense the loss of light as the sky turned a deeper shade of purple, and the pain was beginning to set it. Her shoulder blades ached horribly.”

Look, just drop the gun or . . .”

” . . . or what?”

Too late. She doubled over in pain, dropping to her knees and grasping her body tightly. The commando stepped back, a little surprised at her reaction and unsure of exactly what was happening.Felina moaned. The pain was the worst part of the transformations, and she knew T-Bone shared her feelings. However, there was always a price for every advantage, and the gargoyle form she took every evening was certainly worthy of that category.Her form did not linger as the pain reached its point of intensity. Stubs erupted from her back, tearing her uniform, and grew to size of wings. Her newly clawed feet grew out of her boots. Her tail lengthened and thickened.  Her scream of agony slowly became a growl.The commando backed off a little further, pointing his gun at her hesitantly.Felina straightened, her eyes lit a bright red. The pain was over, and she could appreciate her new form. Her wings stretched luxuriously, and Dathena’s instincts kicked in.

“OR . . . ,” she lunged at him, grabbing his gun and breaking it in half with both her claws, ” . . . I’ll just TAKE it from you.”

She hissed, and the commando turned to run.Too late again.She leaped, grabbing him by the shoulders and hurling him into another commando. She landed a few feet from them, crouching low and growling.

Korat noticed her for the first time since sunset, “What the hell–?”

She leapt at him, but he flipped on his back and launched her straight through the window. Felina shrieked in her very gargoyle way as her body fell through the shattering glass and outside.

Korat smiled, and rubbed his paws together, “That takes care of THAT.”  He turned to the horrified guests.  “Can we get on with the festivities?”

Felina heard him from outside the window, where her claws had a firm grip on the stone wall. Growling softly, she slowly clawed her way up to the floor above.

“*Now* . . . where were we before the Lt. turned into a monster?” Korat rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then turned to the astounded Richard Feral.

“Interesting daughter you’ve got there, by the way. Really livened up the the evening. This money collecting thing was getting SO boring . . .”

He grabbed Richard by the collar, dragging him to the window as he surveryed the pileup of enforcer cars outside.”

Give it up, Korat!” Commander Feral shouted over the megaphone.

“You’re surrounded!”

“Oh, really? Say, Commander . . . ,” Korat signalled to one of the guards, who picked Richard up and held him out the window by the collar, ” . . . how about an unscheduled family reunion?”

The commander grunted angrily, almost ready to hurl the megaphone at him, “Let him go, Korat!”

Korat laughed, “Think hard about what you just said, Commander. Now, do you*really* want me to do that?!?”

Richard gave a yelp as the burly commando loosened his grip while he hung loosely in the air. The drop was well over a good twenty feet.Commander Feral frowned; he had a decision to make and he knew it. He HAD the money, but he also spied Felina on the balcony above Korat. For not the first time, he was thankful of her new form.

“Do whatever you want with him! You’re not getting the money!” he said confidently, banking on his niece.

“Oh, *really*?” Korat raised his eyebrows, surprised, then turned to the burly commando.  “Drop him.”

“ULY . . . !” Richard’s cry became a scream of horror as he was released, and he wondered what the hell his brother was thinking as he felt himself began to plummet.He shut his eyes tightly, and waited for the end.Seconds later, he was vaguely aware of the fact he was no longer falling.  He opened one eye, then the other, and gave a yelp when he realized the ground was still a long way beneath him, only someone was holding his collar to prevent him for falling.

“Relax, dad. I got you,” he looked up, and realized not only was his daughter holding him up, but she was not supported as well.”

Holy . . .”

Instead of the horrible plummet he expected, they glided gently down to the ground beside the enforcer vehicles. Felina dropped him off beside Feral, then landed herself and took up a perch on the roof of Feral’s car.Richard stood with the help of his brother, still breathing heavily, “The hell–?”He rubbed his eyes, glanced at his daughter, then at Feral.

“Am I missing something–?”Commander Feral sighed, “It’s a long story, Rich.”

Korat shook his head, frustrated, then turned back to the horrified guests,”Well . . . it’s been quite an evening, hasn’t it?” He abruptly heard something above him–the sound of something breaking.

The ceiling smashed open and a clawed fist appeared, striking until the hole was big enough for three figures to fit through.”

Nah . . . we’re just gettin’ warmed up!” T-Bone landed, his heavy clawed feet nearly making a dent in the floor. Razor followed and landed next, covering his partner’s back. T-Bone turned to the the commandos surrounding him, growling dangerously.  Felina landed a few feet from Korat, growling as her eyes lit again.

“Sorry to break up the party, but . . .!” she grabbed him with one claw,holding him up with his feet hanging several feet off the ground. Her eyes red in fury, she hissed, and hurled him into the buffet table.

The guests screamed, and did their best to get out of the way as two gargoyles and one SWAT Kat took on the commandos.

Korat picked himself up, seeing Felina was preoccupied with a burly commando.  Seizing the chance, he headed through the doors and slipped into the hallway.  Silently making his way along the dark hallway, he was so busy wondering what the would do once he escaped that he didn’t stop until he noticed something growl in front of him.

Felina? No–she was back in the recession hall.

The strange thing growled, and Korat could see white eyes penetrate the darkness. He could almost feel the thing’s breath as he emerged from the shadows.It looked like a dog, but–?  Not stopping to consider the situation, he spun around, and found himself face to face with a bearded gargoyle.

The old gargoyle stepped from the shadows, catching Korat between him and the dog-like gargoyle. Growling softly, his eyes lit white as the others as he pulled Korat up by the collar and kept his grip firm, leading him back into the recession hall.

The fight was over, but only for the gargoyles.  Commander Feral, once inside, found himself amidst a crowd of over a hundred frightened kats. Crowd control was not one of his better abilities, but he managed to calm enough of them to prevent a mob.Surveying the area, he watched as Korat and his gang were carried off by uniformed enforcers. He allowed himself a small smile, then turned to Felina and the SWAT Kats, along with Thoran and the other gargoyles he had brought.

“Thanks, Felina.”

“No problem,” she curled one of her clawed fists into a ball, then released it.  “Now for the real challenge.”

Feral noticed Richard slowly making his way over.

“Felina . . .,” he stopped, right in front of her, almost inspecting her modified from. Their eyes met, and she smiled–as did he, “Well . . . how do you plan on telling your mother?”

Laughing softly, she took her father into her arms, “Glad you like it, dad.”

“Like isn’t the word, Felina. I was thinking more along the lines of a delayed reaction.”

“Looks like they’re happy,” Thoran rubbed his beard, joining Feral at his side.

“Commander Feral–,” he turned to see Ann Gora enter the room, despite the protests of the enforcers posted as guards.

Feral turned to Thoran, “Ready for your first public appearance?”

Surprisingly, the old leader smiled, “I’m always in for a challenge.”

“Commander, I need–,” Ann stopped short, noticing Thoran for the first time.

Thoran didn’t miss a beat, coming forward. He spread his wings full, nearly knocking her back. A gargoyle was certainly a force to be reckoned with. She cowered backwards, almost expecting an attack, but he only clipped his wing sdown in a curtsy-like fashion.”

Ann . . .,” Feral began hesitant.

“This is . . . Thoran. He’s a gargoyle.”

The newscaster picked herself of the floor, slowly holding her paw out to shake his heavy claw, “Then it’s true? The rumors–?”

“Which ones?” Thoran spoke, of course, in his highly cultured voice.

“I’d hateto disappoint you, but I’m afraid we don’t care for kat blood. Actually, we don’t care for any blood, for that matter.”

He waved to the other gargoyles,beckoning them over.”

So that would explain all the remodeling at the museum,” she deduced.

“But I don’t understand–you look like those statues during the day–“Thoran look her shoulder and led her into the hallway, “Tell me–what is the day like? I have lived over 1100 hundred years and I have never seen it.”

“Really? That’s interesting–do you think we could do an interview?”

T-Bone watched Thoran exit with Ann, and laughed, “Old Thoran; doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into.”

Razor smiled, at patted him on the back, “I’m sure he can watch what he says.”  He noticed a tear in T-Bone’s wing, “What’s this from?”

T-Bone spread his wings, inspecting the raw flesh, “One of the commandos.Crud–this’ll cost me a day.”

“Hey–you make it sound like a bad thing. *I* have to hang around and fix whatever’s lyin’ around. Between that and lesson’s with Maric, it’s not like I have  a lot of free time.”

His partner glanced at him curiously, “It can’t be all bad . . .”

“And what makes you say that? You’re not around most of the time.”

“Because . . . ,” his bulky partner led him to the window, where the other gargoyles were leaving.

” . . . I don’t think you find anything wrong with spending an entire day with Abi . . .”

Razor felt like smacking him, but he smiled instead.

End of Part 1[Having fun?][NOTE FOR READERS (again) : For those of you worrying about “mature themes” and”censorship” read on without fear. Hate to say it, but there are no wild scenes in this story (no matter how much some of you may be hoping for it).]

————————————————————————————————————

“Vilthuril – n. 1. A prophet or seer of Lopinenean culture, named after the mate of Fiver, a mystic of Lopine folklore.- Standard New Lopine Dictionary,1994

————————————————————————————————————

Part 2

Chapter 1

″NO, that’s not it–here, let me show you–“Sauraman the Pastmaster sighed, pointing and muttering. The chair levitated several inches off the ground, spun around a bit, then set back down as he lowered his paw.”

See? Now, if you control the object by its handles as you are used to doing with your hands, it doesn’t allow for much movement at all. Thaurmaturgy demands that you take in the object as a whole. Didn’t Maric go over that yesterday?”

Sauraman had a short span of patience for all mortals; especially his two pupils. Abi understood nearly everything but did not have the capabilities to perform most of it yet; Jake had plenty of energy inside him and no grasp on thaurmaturgic concepts. He knew it would take time, but . . . inside, he knew Maric would be gone in only a few years and he would be left to handle their studies.

Perhaps that was what kept him at it. Jake should have been studying the arts since his boyhood, but the lineage was lost and thanks to Frakes’ spell Sauraman did not have the power. Dr. Sinian was a Jew–Jake was as well, but that was only because Ramis’s son had moved to Europe and married into the religion 1000 years ago. All kats had a certain amount of thaurmatugic and overmagical capabilities, but the Jews were not known for their skill in it. It was only logical–most magical creatures originally came from the beginning place,which was somewhere in Scotland, and the Jews came from the Middle East.  Sauraman would have not even accepted her as a student if Jake had not refused to study without a fellow pupil, and Abi had offered to join him. It was not to say she had no capabilities herself; she simply needed more time to cultivate her powers.

“Sauraman . . .,” Maric stood, joining the session for the first time.Previously, he had been simply watching the class from Thoran’s armchair; only now did he intervene.

“You have to have more patience. If it doesn’t work, move on to something else. Now Jacob–“Jake looked up. He was sitting on Abi’s desk, cross-legged with a heavy book i nhis lap.”

The concept of magic–or thaurmaturgy, at least–is that because it’s energy draws from your life force, it needs to come from your ‘self.’”

“Yeah, so?”Shaking his head, Maric continued, “I’m not so sure you understand what thatis. Your generation has no sense of philosophy whatsoever. You have no conception of what your ‘self’ is.”

“So whatta you want me to do?”The old mage paced for a moment, deep in thought. Its sad how little Jacob understands of himself–how much of his potential he cannot achieve because ofit. Abi may not understand as well . . . I could turn this into a real experience for both of them if . . .

“What is the Lopinenean word for soul?”

“Hrair,” Abi answered immediately.”

Why? What is another meaning for the word?”

Blank stares.

“Hrair is a word form Brer Lopine–the origin of the language. The original Lopineneans of folklore could only count to four, so the word ‘hrair’ was usedas anything beyong that. It is infinity. Your soul is hrair, or infinite. Itdoes not exist in the sense of the material world because such an existencewould give it limits.”

“Now,” he continued, “a trance allows you to slip into a region of the SpiritWorld where only your soul–you, in a sense–exists. When you both slipped into Selena’s mind, all you saw there was her soul. Any appearances of it–or the Koldran–were merely symbols of their thoughts. When you destroyed the Koldran,you destroyed a being that was controlling her thoughts.”

“So . . . what are you getting at?”Maric stared at him with expectance.

“Oh, *no* . . . not a trance. Anything but a trance.”

“Jacob . . .”

Jake covered his head with the book, “I *hate* those things,” came a muffled voice beneath the pages. The book suddenly floated out of his paws and into Maric’s.”

They aren’t so bad–you just have to used to them.”

Abi turned to the cowering Jake, “Jake, listen . . . I’ll be doing it with you.”

Jake considered, then sighed, “All right.”

Maric looked up as Sauraman spoke, “They’re hopeless.”

He was indicating their two students, who were sitting cross-legged on the floor, opposite each other in a circle drawn with red paste. They were both wearing linked V-R headpieces Jake had helped Maric equip to be used for magitorial purposes.

“The centuries have changed you, Sauraman. A thousand years ago you might not have look upon the situation so hopelessly. So this generation is slow to learn–give them time.”

The sorcerer grunted, but said nothing.

“Come Sauraman–I believe the tea is brewing,” Maric turned to leave, then glanced back at the circle.

“They’re hooked to work off the free energy of each other–they should be all right.”

Deep in his trance, Jake was the first to notice something was wrong.Everything had seemed to be going all right. The trip in was easy enough, and if he was lucky he hoped to come out without a headache.Inside was very cool. Between the headaches he had often forgotten what it was actually like and had worried more of the consequences. When he had first entered it appeared to look the same as Selena’s mind–endless tunnels and a purple sky.

“Your mind’s appearance is what you perceive it to be,” Abi reminded, appearing at his side.”

What’re you doing here? I thought this was my head.”

“Our minds are linked, remember?”Jake thought for a moment, “Does that mean I get to like inside all your secret little thoughts?”

Abi stared at him coldly, “Don’t count on it.”

The platform they were standing on morphed, and slowly took the shape of the salvage yard garage.”

See?” Abi looked around, “It’ll change to whatever your mind’s thinking of. YOU control it.”

The salvage yard image dissolved, and the sky suddenly began to mutate in color. A loud shrill was quite audible from above.”

Are you doing that?” Jake looked up nervously.”

“No . . . are you?”

The colors began to shift violently. The situation made Jake nervous; he had never seen this in a trance before.

“GET DOWN!” a giant boulder appeared from nowhere above them and began to plummet. Jake slammed into Abi, pushing them out of the way just in time to escape it as it landed on the platform, inches beside them.”

“I didn’t create *that* either,” he helped her up, thanking himself for his instincts.

There was another shrilling sound, and another boulder appeared, this once faster. It landed smack between the two of them, splitting the platform in opposite directions. Jake was thrown onto a lower platform. As he steadied himself, he realized the world around him was beginning to dissolve. Were their bodies getting two weak for this? That didn’t explain the avalanche . . .The sky began to collapse, and he felt himself began to loose touch with this strange world. He could feel his body again, cross-legged on the museum floor.What about Abi? There was no time to check…

Abi rose to her feet on the platform she had been thrown on. She felt strange, like for some reason she was supposed to be back in her body but she wasn’t able to get there. The walls around her became a blinding flash of white light, so intense it was painful. She screamed, and collapsed again on the dissolving platform.Maric spat out his tea, first noticing the VR helmets were beginning to sizzle.By the time he reached the drawn circle, Jake had awoken and quickly snatched the helmets off him and Abi. The linked equipment went flying, hitting the opposite wall and exploding on impact.  Abi’s body slumped; she was still unconscious.

Jake knelt beside her. She was still breathing, but she didn’t respond when he tried to coax her awake. Nervously he dragged her to the wall, using it to prompt her into sitting position.Maric watched, dumbfounded, “What happened? Did she not pull out of the trance?”

“You tell me–you’re the trance expert,” Jake spoke almost accusingly, shaking Abi gently.

“Come on . . .”

Feeling was the first thing to return. Her head hurt tremendously, with a constant pounding. Her body was immovable. Why couldn’t she move?From all appearances, she seemed to be alone in the museum, prompt up againstthe wall. Where was everyone? Why did they leave her?But it didn’t feel like the museum. It didn’t *feel* like her office. It only looked that way–but something told her appearances weren’t everything.From that point on, she was aware of other presences in the room, but they weren’t anybody she knew.

“Child . . . ,” came an unnaturally coaxing voice.  “Awake, child.”

With some effort she managed to turn her head in the direction of the female voice, “W-Wha–?” She looked up to see a tall, slender kat dressed in strange robes at her side.”

Come child,” a second one appeared, with similar robes but different color fur. This one stood right in front of her.”

Have you not slept enough, child?” A third, again with the same robes and different fur appeared on her other side. Abi straightened to see them all at once, but her field of vision was narrowed considerably and doing so waspainful.”

You have been hurt, child,” the first spoke again.”

Yes, hurt,” almost on quo, the second spoke.”

Injured badly,” the third quipped.”

But alas child, the pain is a gift.”

“When the wound heals, you shall not be like the others.”

“Your wound shall be a gift.”

Not at all following what they were saying, Abi tried to talk again, “I don’t understand–where am I? W-Who are you?”

“You are returning, child.”

“But alas, you will still be able to see us.”

“We will always be with you.”

The scene around her appeared the change, and she was subconsciously aware ofJake and Maric at her side, but her concentration remained on the strange she-kats.”

W-What are you–I-I don’t understand–?”In the back of her head she heard Jake speaking to her, but it wasn’t loud enough to really register, “I don’t u-understand . . .”

Jake watched as Abi slowly awoke. She was mumbling nearly incoherently, her eyes concentrated on some sort of form in front of her. He looked, and realized no one was there.”

Here–stay by her,” he commanded Maric, then reached for the phone on her desk.

“I’m getting her an ambulance.”

When he retook his position by her side, she was still mumbling and staring out at what appeared to be nothing.

“Shhhh . . . ,” he spoke softly, holding her paw tightly.Abi didn’t see him, and it perhaps she sensed her presence she didn’t thinkabout it, “Where did you come from?”

“Do you know not, child?”

“You created us.”

“We are a figment of your imagination.”

“But then how–,” slowly she began to register that she was being lifted onto astretcher, but all she saw was the strange she-kats.”

Rest now, child.”

“You are tired and weak.”

“Rest,” was all the third one said as the paramedic drove a needle into her arm, and her world dissolved into darkness.Jake Clawson awoke from his katnap, immediately glancing at the bed beside him.No, Abi was still asleep. Funny, he glanced at his watch, the doctor had said she would be awake soon . . .He noticed Maric leaning against the door of the hospital ward, shaking his head sadly, “I should have been watching more carefully. This never happened with Ramis.”

“No,” Sauraman put in, emerging from the window he was climbing through.  “It was a completely freak incident.”

“What’re you doing?” Jake asked curiously.”

I couldn’t very well walk in! I *am* dead, you know,” the sorcerer responded,almost angrily, then continued.  “When you were in the trance, a line ofenergetic strings must have ignited. A very random happening. I’ve only seen ithappen a few times in my life–or death, for that matter. She was not able to pull out fast enough.”

He turned to Maric, “I am one of the Isatari, Maric. I know what I’m talking about. There was nothing that could have done to prevent this.”

“So is she gonna be okay?” Jake put in.

“I suppose. Sometimes it’s hard to see where the damage has been dealt,” he noticed Abi was beginning to stir.

“We’ll know in a few minutes, won’t we?”Jake rose and came up at her side, holding her paw tightly, “Abi? Can you hereme?”

Abi moaned and struggled to open her eyes. Her head still hurt, with the same intensity as before. She only relaxed when she realized the voice penetrating the darkness was Jake’s and not that of the strange she-kats she had seen earlier.Slowly her vision returned. She was aware of the presence of three kats around her; she was glad to know it was only her companions in the museum. The second thing she realized was that she was not in the museum, and as Jake called for a doctor she knew she had to be in the hospital.But the strange women were gone.”

W-Where–? T-There were three strange k-kats here before–?” She strained to sit up, but Jake pushed her back down.

“Shhhh . . .,” he spoke soothly, still gripping her paw.  “Stay still. You’re gonna be all right.”

“No, Jake–they were real–”

“Relax . . .”

Between her own weakness and Jake’s comforting voice, she eventually gave inand settled back into the pillow. The doctor arrived shortly.

“What did you say happened again?” he adjusted his glasses, glancing at his charts.

“She hit her head?”

“Yeah.”

“Well . . . there doesn’t appear to be any permant damage, though she is banged up a bit. I’m keeping her overnight for observation, but aside from that . . .”

“Doctor . . .,” Abi began hesitantly.

“I-I saw these three she-kats–they werealmost like witches . . .”

The doctor shook his head, “Hallucinations are typical with a case like this.They shouldn’t bother you anymore, but if you have any more I would report it.”

“But they were so real–”

“Hallucinations are like that,” he turned to go.

“Let her rest. She’s still a little groggy from the sedative.”

Jake nodded, and watched him leave.Abi sighed as he released her paw. It had all seemed so real at the time–but .. . it just didn’t seem like a hallucination. Perhaps all the better, shewondered. I didn’t like the look of them. ‘Maybe I’ll ask Thoran . . .,’ onlythen did it register that the sun was slowly sinking.”

The gargoyles–”

“I know. We left them a note. They’ll probably be here in a few minutes.”

“In that case,” Maric rose from his seat, “I think we’d better be going,Sauraman. I don’t want to crowd the room, or poor Abi will never get any sleep.”

She smiled, and stared out the window.Abi had nearly drifted off again when she heard the sound of wings against theair. The window slid open and Thoran slipped in, folding over his wings andtaking her paw in his giant claw. Felina and T-Bone followed.”

How are you feeling?” Thoran’s deep, soft voice was always a welcome in it’sstrangely soothing tone.”

I’m a bit shaken up, but thanks anyway.”

“The doctor said she’ll be fine by tomorrow night,” Jake put in.

“We had a few problems with a trance, that’s all.”

“Jake . . .,” T-Bone put a claw on his shoulder.

“Are you *sure* those thingsare safe?”

“No–but do I have a choice? Sauraman said what happened to Abi was freak. Itwouldn’t happen again.”

“So?” Felina answered angrily, and Jake could have sworn he saw her eyes lightup.

“I’ve had enough tangles with the Pastmaster to watch my back around him.”

He didn’t answer.”

I’d best be going,” Thoran turned towards the window.

“Get some rest.”

“Thoran . . .,” Abi continued.

“I had the strangest dream while I was unconscious . . . the doctor says it was a  hallucination . . . three witchesspoke with me. They said . . .”

“Quiet, Abi . . . it’s nothing to worry about,” Jake said softly, not wanting to get her off on a tangent about her odd hallucination again.

As Thoran turned back towards the window, Abi looked at him strangely. She could have sworn she saw some hint of recognization in his eyes when she had spoken of the three witches, but she didn’t have enough curiosity to inquire further. She turned to Jake, would had not noticed it. The old leader had pushed it away too quickly.

Chapter 2

Two Weeks Later

A few months had passed since Abi had met Jake Clawson–officially, not as a SWAT Kat–and slowly she was beginning to realize how handy it was to have a mechanic around. Her car had been having problems since the summer, but they hadn’t bothered her until it actually didn’t start one morning. Jake was around from the previous evening, with Chance sleeping on the merlon again, and it was more than a help to get a tow–free of charge.”

You know, you didn’t have to do this.”

“Of course I did,” Jake said from the driver’s seat.

“It’s my job.”

“No–I mean the free tow.”

“Let’s see here . . . I don’t treat you to dinner ’cause I can’t afford it, Idon’t treat you to lunch ’cause I can’t afford it, I don’t treat you to a moviebecause all that’s playing are horror flicks that you don’t like–“Abi crossed her arms, “And what makes you think you have to treat me?”

“Because . . . I dunno, I guess I’ve kinda been raised with it.”

The truck came to a halt.  Jake pulled up the door of the garage, and Abi gasped.

“Abi? Is something wrong?” Her stance was beginning to falter; he was there to catch her as she nearly collapsed.”

Oh G-d . . . ,” she moaned, staring at the garage.Jake glanced at it, “Gee, I didn’t know it was *that* dirty–”

“Blood . . .,” Abi slowly wandered over to the entrance, eyes livid.  “T-There’s blood everywhere . . .”

“Abi? What’s wrong–?” he looked around, and there didn’t seem to be anything wrong–no blood, at least.She began to shake and turn white with fear. She shook her head in disbelief,”Can’t you see it? The garage is covered with blood! It’s r-right there . . .”

“Abi? Come on, get a hold of yourself.”

She rubbed her eyes violently, hoping the mirage would go away. Hell, the place*smelt* of blood. Why didn’t he see it? Being there was nauseating . . .,”B-Blood . . . e-everywhere, damnit . . .”

Her head began to spin.”

All right,” Jake pulled her away.

“I’m getting you out of here. I know it’smessy, but jeez–”

“No, Jake . . . I s-swear . . . it isn’t safe . . . I just have this feeling .. .”

Now seriously worried for her sanity, he helped her to the truck, “Come on.I’ll take you home.”

Abi tried to concentrate on the translations in front of her, but failedmiserably.After they were clear of the yard, she was fine. However, the force she hadfelt inside remained a vivid memory. Never before had she felt so horrible; Whydidn’t Jake see something so obvious?Because it wasn’t there, she reminded herself. It *couldn’t* have been there;it didn’t exist or Jake would have noticed his garage was covered with blood.Silently she began to wonder if there was any insanity in her family history.Maybe she was sane, and everyone else in the word was just crazy.She chuckled at that thought.Jake had left shortly after dropping her off at the museum; her work alwaysseemed to get her mind off things. She would have gone straight back to herapartment and into bed, but she doubted it would do any good. She didn’t feeltired, just drained.Emotionally drained.Deep in her thoughts, she felt a soft voice penetrate the silence; a soft voiceshe didn’t particularly want to hear.”

Child . . .”

“Fear us not.”

“There is no need for fear.”

She stood and turned around, noticing the three witches now standing severalfeet from her desk, “Please . . . go away. Leave me alone.”

“You have a gift.”

“You can see us.”

“That is a gift.”

“No . . .,” she backed off, up against her desk.

“You don’t exist. Y-You’re afigment of my imagination.You’re nothing but a hallucination–that’s what thedoctor said.”

“The longer you deny us . . .”

” . . . the more pain it will cause you.”

“Accept and be healed.”

“I-I don’t want to–“The three witches exchanged glances, then turned back to her as the firstspoke, “You remember the blood.”

“It is what ails you.”

“It should be not your illness–it should be your savior.”

Straightening a bit, “I don’t understand.”

The first witch gave a hint of a nod, then continued, “We will bother you nomore for now, but remember this . . .”

she began to dissolve.”

If the blood you see if not of your house . . .,” the second added, thendisappeared.”

. . . then perhaps you should worry of who’s blood shall be split.”

The third one was gone, and Abi sighed in relief.The realization hit her.’Jake!’ Racing for the phone, she dialed and slammed it down when she got abusy signal.Jake Clawson was just getting off the phone with his father as he heard a carpull up in the garage. He instantly recognized the green hue of Cally Briggs’old model, and remembered Chance was not around. Damn, he cursed to himself.He’d have to handle this one alone. Sure, he found Cally as the most beautifulpolitician in the city, but his feelings for Abi surpassed his feelings for hernow.”

Hi, Jake–I need your help again,” Cally stepped out of the car, running herpaw through her hair. Funny, Jake thought she’d never be able to do that withoutthe use of power tools.

“My transmission’s been ‘pinging’ all morning; I’msurprised I got it here without something else going wrong.”

“Well, I’ll take a look–,” he popped the hood, and was immediately met with acloud of smoke that was quite happy to be released. Coughing, he stood back andlet the smoke clear, “Something tells me this might take a while.”

“In that case, can I use your phone? I’m gonna need a ride.”

“Yeah, sure. It’s in the office.”

In the office, the TV was one mute as Ann Gora’s face covered the screen. Callythought nothing of it, until her own face appeared in a box aside from Ann andshe turned the volume back on.”

It was just released this morning that Deputy Mayor Callico Briggs has beenrecieving death threats ever since she denied the parole of Mark Korat and hisassociates during their trial last week. Korat and the six kats he hired ascommandos were convinced of . . .

“Cally turned the volume off again, disgusted, “Who released that?! That wasprivate information!”

“Something wrong, Miss Briggs?” Jake looked up from the engine he was leaninginto.”

Yeah, Korat’s been sending me threats for a while now. I just didn’t want thepress to find out yet. They’d just give him more publicity for his cause.”

“Then shouldn’t you be walking around with some sort of bodyguard? Rememberwhat happened with the Metallikats.”

Cally shook her head, “I don’t know. I just don’t like the idea. Besides, theonly ones I really trust are the SWAT Kats, and I don’t think they’d get a kickout of the idea.”

Glancing around, “Where’s Chance?”

“Oh, he’s out. Visiting relatives or something,” he lied. He looked at Callynervously; she seemed to have bought it. In fact, she was about to say somethingwhen the phone ringed.”

Hang on,” Jake picked it up.

“Hello?”

“Oh, thank G-d I finally reached you . . .”

He was about to say, “Abi” but he hesitated with Cally around. He had all readyrealized that the two women knew each other well, and it was probably better ifthe Deputy Mayor didn’t know he had any sort of friendly relationship with Abi.He certainly didn’t want the two of them exchanging notes.”

Can this wait?” he answered, semi-impatiently, without saying her name.

“Ihave a customer.”

“No, Jake, you don’t understand–I have this horrible feeling–”

“Listen . . .

“Please . . .,” on the other end of the line, Abi realized there was reallynothing she could do. Perhaps the witches were all a hallucination . . . even ifthey weren’t, there was no way to prove it.

“Just . . .watch your back, okay?”

“Yeah. Sure. Bye.”

As he hung up the phone, Cally asked, “Who was that?”

“Just a friend. Long story,” for once, he was telling the truth. He turned backto the car, and from the outside he heard the sound of metal being thrownaround, or at least stepped on. Burk and Murry? Probably too early, but . . .”

Ya know,” he said, joking, “you’d think I should be happy I’m getting all thisbusiness–“He was interrupted by the loud noise of a gun letting loose. Or, at least, itsounded that way.Jake didn’t stay still long enough to find out. His enforcer instincts kickedin, “GET DOWN!” he threw himself into Cally, hopefully knocking her out ofharm’s way.Before there was time for further reaction, the world around him darkened.Cally had been as shocked as Jake. At first, of course, she had deeply hopedthe sounds were not truly the firing of a gun.The spray of bullets told her different.The force of Jake’s body had thrown her to the ground, missing most of them.She pushed him off her carefully, just enough to see their attacker as heentered the garage.She gasped.The kat could have been any size, but his actual build was masked by the layersof metal armor. He was wearing a full-body suit that have him the appearance ofa robot.A seven-foot robot.The gun attached to his arm retrached into it’s case beneath the metal. Thehelmet that hid his face–at least, it seemed to be a he–released a spray ofoxygen as it was removed.Cally’s mouth hung open as the words remained far from her tongue.Hard Drive held the helmet at his side, looking around, “That wasn’t too hard.For a deputy mayor, you sure don’t carry around too much protection, MissBriggs.”

He pointed at Jake, “He sure didn’t put up much of a fight.”

Cally knelt beside Jake, noticing for the first time the blood speading acrosshis overalls. He had been hit–how many times, it was impossible to tell at aglance. He was still breathing, thank G-d. A chill went up her spine when sherealized those bullets were probably meant for her.She stood again and approached Hard Drive, her courage spouting mainly fromanger, “Did Korat hire you to do this, Hard Drive? Is that all your good for–aterrorist’s messanger boy?!”

“Why of course not, Miss Briggs. There just happened to be a lot in this littlejob for me–including *this*,” he flexed his giant, metallically-gloved paw. Therazor-sharp class attached were nearly half a foot long.”

I suppose you’ll kill me now,” behind her, Cally heard Jake moan softly. Good,that meant he wasn’t quite dead yet. Hard Drive, luckily, hadn’t noticed.She needed to stall him or at least get him away from Jake. As long as hethought the mechanic was dead, he would leave him alone. Then, hopefully,*someone* would find him in . . . if only in time . . .”

No, no, no . . . Korat’s given me instructions. He wants you delivered–so hecan deal with you there.”

She narrowed her eyes, “So he’s planning a breakout.”

“In other words, yes. We should go soon, before some idiot comes by . . .”

“And what makes you think I’ll go with you?”

Hard Drive pointed to Jake, and the gun popped out again and aimed and the mechanic’s helpless form, “Because I heard blood red isn’t suggested to be used for wall painting–at least, that’s what *my* decorator says. Don’t you agree?”

Cally bit her lip. She had a decision to make, and it had to be soon.

Consciousness did not return as a friend.  The first thing he was aware of was the pain. His ribs hurt badly, or was it his whole back . . . it was hard to tell where the bullets were. He felt like his nerves were on fire.The second thing was the memory of what had happened, and he struggled for further consciousness.The third was the conversation between Cally and the voice he quickly recognized as Hard Drive. The words didn’t quite register, but the intent was clear enough.

At least Cally’s alive, he thought gladly. She sounded unharmed. He was lying on his stomach, his head turned away from them. It took him a considerable amount of time and effort to lift and turn his head enough to see the figures at the entrance to the garage. His vision was still wavering, but he could tell Hard Drive was wearing some sort of robo-skeleton–that or he had one hell of a make over.

Jake suddenly remembered his gun, the registered one he had purchased after his expulsion from the enforcers and always carried with him. It looked perfectly normal–which was certainly better than him pulling out a glovatix in a situation like this.Instinctively, he looked for a weak spot in the metal skeleton as he pulled out his gun and held it against his chest. He found one–there was a small spot in the upper arm, above the elbow, where the skin was exposed. It wouldn’t stop a guy in a suit like that to get shot there, but it would probably give Cally enough time to make a run for it.

In one, aching motion, he somehow managed to roll onto his back, and simultaneously fire.The one truth he had depended on his whole life didn’t fail him now : he was a crack shot.

Hard Drive screamed in agony and nearly fell backwards, the bullet piercing his skin in the desired place.  A very stunned Cally Briggs instantly rushed to Jake’s side.”

N-No . . . G-Get a-away . . .,” he strained to speak as she cradled his head in her arms. The shot was supposed to be a distraction! He was losing consciousness again, and this time he knew it could easily be for good if he didn’t get some medical attention soon. Darkness crept into the corners of his vision. Jake squirmed, trying to fight the in closing darkness, “N-No . . .”

Cally bent closer, but was suddenly was pushed roughly out of the way by HardDrive.

“Little S.O.B . . .”  He aimed his gun angrily, blood dripping down the metal arm.

“No!” she screamed, running between him and Jake.  “Let him go! He was just trying to save me!”

“SO? HE SHOT ME!” He reaimed the gun, but she pushed it down.

“Listen, if you let Jake go, I’ll go quietly.”

Hard Drive grabbed her tightly by the arm, “If you weren’t such a pain in the first place, this would be so much easier . . .!” He glanced at Jake, “Well . .. he’ll be dead in a few hours anyway.”

The gun retracted into the compartmentin his arm.

The black haze had almost overcome Jake as he watched him carry the uncomplaining deputy mayor out of the garage. Groaning, he rested his head back against the floor as the darkness tightened in his field of vision, and his very thoughts began to fade . . .

Chapter 3

Darkness over Megakat City–something natural to two particular creatures as  they soared above the buildings.T-Bone was not really worried, just concerned at the fact Jake was not at the museum when they awoke that evening. His presence was rarely specifically requested, but he had always been there. After all, T-Bone and Felina still weren’t completely gargoyle, so they didn’t sleep *every* night.But something was bothering him. He suspected himself to be selfish to assume Jake always had the time to get down there–he *did* have a lot of work to do.That wasn’t the problem. Abi had had a bad feeling about it all afternoon, and was unable to reach him. The fact that he hadn’t shown by sunset had only frightened her more.”

That’s odd,” he muttered, approaching the yard. All the lights were on and the garage door was open. Jake usually didn’t leave it like that when he was alone.A voice in the back of T-Bone’s mind screamed something was terribly wrong.

Felina, who flew beside him, followed in motion as he dove and landed at the entrance. Folding their wings, they slowly approached the garage.

T-Bone gasped.

Felina was the second to see it, “Oh *G-d* . . .”

In pure shock T-Bone knelt beside his partner. Jake’s coveralls were soaked in blood. Besides the small gasps which one might call breathing and the small rise and fall of his chest, there was no other movement.”

He’s still breathing . . .,” his voice not above a whisper, he checked forother vital signs. There was a slow pulse, but it was there regardless.Felina noticed T-Bone’s eyes tightly shut, like he was going to cry, “Chance .. .”

her claw went out, but he reject it.He stood. His wings unfolded,.and he raised his arms to the sky and released amoaning howl that shook the whole yard.At the back entrance to Megakat Memorial Hospital, two figures landed as softlyas possible next to an empty ambulance. T-Bone gently set his partner on thestretcher, then folded his wings.There was a swish of wings, and Felina landed beside him.”

I’ll go get the other gargoyles . . . and Abi. At least she can go in therefor us and check on how he’s doing . . .”

His head bowed, she could tell T-Bone wasn’t truly listening, “I should havebeen protecting him . . .”

“Chance–this was something you couldn’t help.”

He was silent.Dr. Abi Sinian pressed her forehead against the glass, her paws up against itas well. Through the window, she could see Jake resting quietly in his hospitalbed. His feeble form was hooked to a half a dozen different machines andwhatnot.Her eyes were shut tightly; looking was too painful.”

He was shot a total of three times. The first bullet was lodged in hisabdomen. The second and third both pierced his right lung, and were caught bythe back ribs,” looking at the X-Rays, the doctor rubbed his eyes tiredly andcontinued.

“He’s lost a lot of blood. The enforcers haven’t been able to tellhow long he was lying there. He doesn’t have a rare blood type, so we were ableto supply. That seems to have stabilized him.”

Not pulling her head from the glass, Abi turned towards him and spoke softly,”Will he be all right?”

“There aren’t any garantees right now, but if he pulls through the next 24hours or so, he should be fine,” he looked at Abi, deeply concerned.

“Are *you*going to be all right?”She nodded, “Can I go in?”

“Sure,” he said softly, leading her in the door.

“I’m just trying to not lettoo many people in here. He shouldn’t be disturbed. The next 12 hours arecritical.”

He laid a paw on her shoulder, then quietly left.Abi was overcome with guilt–admist confusion. She was so sure she had seen theblood in the yard earlier–why wasn’t see better at warning Jake? What if shehad insisted that he not go in? Was the vision supposed to be some sort ofprophecy she was supposed to try and prevent . . . and had she failed in doingso?”Abi . . .”

Thoran’s soft voice drifted over from his perch on the windowsill. She ran overto him as he hopped in, wrapping his wings around the two of them as he embracedher, “How is Jacob?”She led him to the beside, “The doctors don’t know right now. In another 24hours he should be all right, but . . .”

Thoran turned to see T-Bone loittering at the window, “Come. We must leave himto rest. We can talk on the roof.”

As if she was wieghtless, he scooped her upand carried her out the window.Nearly the entire clan was gathered on the rooftop, aside from those leftbehind to guard the museum. There was a silent air between then, a nervoussilence, as Thoran set her down.Maric was the first to pull her close. The gargoyles stood around nervously asthey watched a kats pass a few words concerning Jake or their own mental health.Thoran watched Abi talk. Such a graceful young kat; he knew Jake was lucky tofind someone like her. Even in her emotionally strained state, she was stillgraceful in movement, the low wind blowing through her hair.”

I could have warned him–I saw it that morning. I should have warned him . ..,” shaking her head almost violently, she leaned close to Maric.Maric was silent, until he saw Sauraman signal to him, “I must speak withSauraman. Hold on for moment.”

He released her, then followed the sorcerer tothe other side of the roof, out of earshot.Thoran watched the mage and the sorcerer converse curiously.”

What’re they talking about?” he was not surprised to find Abi at his side,noticing them speak.He didn’t answer.His suspicions deepened as Maric gestured them over.”

Abi . . .,” the old mage put both his paws on her shoulder. We wereconsidering . . . ummm . . . tell us again about your vision this morning.”

Her eyes narrowed; he seemed oddly uncomfortable, “When I walked into thesalvage yard this morning, there was blood everywhere. I could have sworn therewas, but–”

“–Jake didn’t see it,” Sauraman nodded his head.

“Tell us of the witches. Whendid you first see them?”

“When I was in the trance–no, it was after it. I woke up in the museum, but Iwas alone with them.”

“What did they say?”Abi hesitated; the memories were slow to come, “They said . . . they said I washurt . . . and that the wound was . . . a gift.”

Maric and Sauraman exchanged glances, “They warned you of Jake, didn’t they?Did they approach you at any other time?”

“No–except before the shooting, because . . .,” she stopped, looking at themboth suspiciously.

“Why does it matter? It was a hallucination.”

Maric sighed, “‘Sometimes it’s hard to see where the damage has been dealt.’”He turned to the sorcerer, “You said that, didn’t you Sauraman?”

“What’s the point of this?” Abi’s voice didn’t mask her agitation. It wasobvious they both knew something, and it bothered her. She looked to Thoran, whowas silent.”

Abi . . .,” Maric sighed, shifting uncomfortably.

“Do you know what avilthuril is?”

“No.”

“Well . . . in Lopine folklore, there was a mystic named Fiver. He predictedthe destruction of his warren through a vision and such. He is credited as thesavior of the Lopineneans who managed to escape that holocaust because of hiswarnings,” he hesitated, then continued.

“His mate’s name was vilthuril.”

“So?”

“A vilthuril,” Sauraman jumped in, “is a person who sees what isn’t alwaysthere yet.”

Abi’s eyebrows raised. She saw what they were both hinting–and she didn’t likeit at all, “So you’re saying *I’m*–”

“It hasn’t been tested–”

“It’s too soon to be sure–“Shaking her head stubbornly, she began to turn away, “I don’t want any part ofthis.”

“Maybe you should ask Thoran . . .”

She turned back, curious.”

Thoran’s a vilthuril . . .”

The old gargoyle lowered his eyes, and nodded as Abi came close, shocked, “I’venever told my clan because I couldn’t afford to put my authority to such a testback when I became one. I was a new leader, and I needed my ranks behind me.”

“But you’ve been–”    “Seeing the three sisters forever since. Yes.”

“Then you understand them–“Thoran shook his head sadly, “What I see–what *we* see–is random in thepicking. That or fate. I have known the witches nearly all my life, and I do notunderstand them.”

“But why does it happen?”

“Why does the sun rise every morning? And why have I never seen it? Such doingsare the natural–or unnatural–doings of the universe. Only Frith understandssuch things.”

Chapter 4

956 C.E.Megallith Castle”Coming, brother? It’s a fine night for a hunt,” Thoran signalled to the old gargoyle perched on one of the merlons, studying some sort of transcript.”

Aye, Thoran,” the old one looked up at the sky.

“A fine night indeed. I onlyworry if my old wings should fail me.”

The young Thoran, still growing out his short, brown beard, crossed his armsagainst his massive chest stubbornly, “Do not give up on me yet, Gurney.”

Gurney lept from his merlon, landing a few feet from Thoran as he folded hiswings in an almost curtsy manner, “I serve you as I served Old Thrain (May FrithGuide Him). Is anyone else coming?”

“I invited Fenring, but I have doubts he will show–“A rush of wings sounded against the wing, and a stiff gargoyle landed besidethem, “Doubt me, eh, Thoran?” His words had the obvious jest when approaching aleader.”

More to the point of I thought you would worry of missing a meal. But let’s beoff–I want to be back before sunrise,” he hopped on the merlon, spread hiswings, and led the wind take him.”

Odd . . .,” Gurney, tired now from a few hours hunt, looked back up at thesky.

“A few hours ago, the sky was clear.”

“Aye,” Thoran braced himself, the heavy wind blowing through his short beard.”

The sky looks to be gathering up a storm.”

They were thrown off balance by a crash of lightening. Gurney’s weak wingsdidn’t support him with the harsh wings, and he crashed into a tree.”

Gurney!” Thoran’s eyes were taken off the flight home long enough for another lightening rod to strike. It came close enough for him to be sure it knocked into his back, electrifying his wings.He released a growl as he plummeted downward. He had long since lost his senseof up and down–there was no way to tell where either Gurney or Fenring were. His growl was cut off as his world began a spinning whirlpool of darkness.Groaning softly, Thoran began to return to consciousness. His head was pounding, and sliding an eye open he noticed a presence at his side.He instantly sensed it was a gargoyle–one he did not know. And it was notalone.Picking his heavy body up while rubbing his throbbing head, he looked aroundand noticed three strange gargoyles surrounded him. They all had matching furcolor, but different hair.”

What–? Who are you?!” he demanded, growling as his eyes lit.The first approaching him, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder, “You will know us well, Thoran of Megallith.”

Her voice was strangely soothing.”

But introductions must now be brief,” the second put in.”

For you must return to your clan,” the third addded.”

Wierd sisters . . .,” Thoran shook his head, trying to shake off the image oftheir presence.

“What work of sorcery is this? A councilman?!”They spoke in turn, “We have no cares for such mortals.”

“Their lives mean nothing–”

“–But beware the couple. They will decide your fate.”

“WHAT?” Eyes ignited, his claws rolled into fists.

“I will allow no councilmanto defeat me!”

“Not of you should your worries be, child.”

“Think of your clan.”

“Their fate is set with San-Aldus.”

“Speak not in riddles, wierd sisters! What of San-Adlus?” his voice rose as didhis anger, but the strange gargoyless expressions did not change.”

Beware the couple.”

“Not councilman defeat you, Thoran of Megallith.”

“But perhaps two can.”

The three female gargoyles turned away, and their images began to fade.”

WAIT!” Thoran called for them, but they were gone and did not speak again.”

Come back! Do not leave me with half a prophecy!”

“Thoran!” a familiar voice broke through the woods.

“Are you all right? We saw you go down . . .”

He shook his head, trying to clear his mind as Gurney and Fenring entered thesmall clearing, “Tell me . . . did you just see three wierd gargoyles leave?”

“What? We are alone. We have seen not a sign of life all evening.”

Thoran rubbed his head; it was still pounding, “I-I’ll be all right. A few hours will clear this headache. Come,” he led them to a tree, climbed it, and lept off.

“Let us return before the storm breaks.”

He had all ready decided not to mention the wierd sisters. It could be nothingmore than a dream, and he had no witnesses. What he needed was the clan behindhim, and Gurney and Fenring were his biggest supporters. He could not affordsuch a loss while in such a new position.Still . . . he had a feeling he had not seen the last of the strange three.

1996 C.E.

Megakat Memorial Hospital

When Chance Furlong arrived in his overalls, Abi had drifted off in her chair beside Jake’s bed. The sun shone brightly, nearly blinding him as he pulled the shades closed.Looking out, he noticed Thoran had perched in sitting position on the small ledge beside the window. He smiled, and the legend flashed through his mind, ” .. . and a gargoyle will always protect him.”

His thoughts were broken as he heard Abi stir from her katnap.”

How is he?”Abi glanced over to the bed, where Jake lay motionless, aside from the gentlerise and fall of his chest, “No change . . . but he survived the night. Thedoctor said it was a good sign.”

Chance sighed, looking down at his partner. Jake looked weak . . . helpless,even. That was not exactly a position Chance was used to seeing him in; he onlywished he had it in him to help somehow.He slumped into the chair beside Abi. She watched him, respectively. Jake meanteverything to him, and she knew it well. She wasn’t sure Chance could handlesuch a loss.Strangely, she felt the urge to go, “I’m going get some coffee. Do you wantany?”

“No . . . it’s okay.”

Nodding, she quietly left him alone with his best friend.

Chance’s world was spinning.He had known Jake nearly all his life, since he moved into the city after his father’s illness began. Through the years, they had both formed an unbreakable bond; Jake depended on him for emotional stability, and he kept Jake from getting beaten up at least every other day.But it was more than that. It meant more to them then that.

To lose Jake was unimaginable. He had always accepted he would lose him someday; he just didn’t think it would happen so quickly.Or at least not *that* way. Jake had been shot in a salvage yard, as an auto mechanic. They had both agreed earlier that it was better to go as heroes, maybe in a blaze of glory. Jake dying as Jake and not Razor seemed somehow demeaning.Chance certainly didn’t want him to be remembered as an auto mechanic. They had both done so much more; it didn’t seem appropriate to have anything else on their gravestones but “died in a valiant effort to save the city” or something to that effect.

The memories he had of Jake and him–the thousands of them–slowly surfaced and played like a movie in front of his eyes.Chance leaned up against the brick building, and readied himself for another leap.  Since his recent move to a small suburb outside of Megakat City, he had made it his personal goal to kick the tail of every guy in his grade before school started. It was all natural, of course; in the city, you *had* to make an impression like that or you were a disaster waiting to happen.For a burly kid like him, it was better to a walking disaster.He heard the footsteps approach, and at the appropriate moment, leapt.It was that skinny kid next door–wasn’t his name Jake or something?Regardless, he was easy pickings. He toppled him easily, pinning his shoulders down his his paws. The kid began to cough, gasping for breath.

“Give me one good reason why I don’t turn you into sidewalk pizza!”Beneath him, the skinny kid managed to suck in enough air for a reply, “I don’t have anything . . .”

“Not a good answer–,” he was in the process of standing up when Jake suddenly landed a good, hard kick in his shins. He doubled over, wincing in pain, andJake saw his opportunity.

“Come back here you little–,” the pain subsiding, Chance stood straight and broke into a run, following him into the woods.

Jake ran as fast as his feeble legs would take him, hurrying deeper into the greenery.

Damn he’s fast, Chance stumbled along, but he eventually caught up with him. He pounced again, like a wildkat, and they tumbled down the steep hill.The two wrestled straight into the stream at the bottom of the incline. In the battle they both got pushed into the water.Jake stood, rising above the surface. When he released his breath he let out a noise–then realized it was laughter. Their little match was *fun*.

Beneath the surface, Chance nearly panicked; he couldn’t swim. His confidence was restored when he realized the water was only about two feet deep. He stood,coming up next to Jake.

Jake was ready. He spat a mouthful of water straight in his adversary’s face,then ran through the stream, soaking wet and laughing.

Chance shook the water off his fur, and suddenly smiled, “Now you’re gonna getit–!” He hurled himself into Jake, sending them both into the water.

That was basically how they spent the afternoon; their battle became sort of mock as they rolled in the dirt. In fact, it was how they passed a lot of long summer days, when . . .

Chance was awoken from his reverie as Abi handed him a cup of coffee from behind, “Thanks.”

She slid down onto the chair beside him, and they were respectively silent,allowing the other to engage in their own thoughts concerning Jake Clawson.

Chapter 4

″Uncle,” Felina, now in kat form and looking a bit weary, caught up with Commander Feral as he headed down the hospital corridor.

“Let me handle this case.”

“I would, Felina, but the Deputy Mayor’s in danger. That’s my jurisdiction.”

“At least let me do the interview with Furlong. He hates you. You really thinkyou’ll get anything out of him yourself?” she bargained. The truth was, she knewChance had been sleeping on the merlon next to hers that day, and she wanted tomake sure no one did *too* much looking into whatever alibi he had come with.Feral no doubt suspected his involvement all ready.”

All right,” he handed her a manila envelope, then turned to the doctor as theyneared Jake’s room.

“Is he awake yet?”

“No, commander. Even if he were to wake up, he still probably wouldn’t be ableto answer questions for a day or so.”

Feral pushed back his impatience, knowing there wasn’t time for it, “Keep meposted on his condition. He’s the only one who may know where the deputy mayoris.”

Chance had drifted off when he heard a voice towering above him.”

My son gets shot and no one calls me?!?”He stood immediately; the voice of Professor Hackle was always that ofauthority in his lifetime, even if he *was* a bit senile. Hackle’s expression,which had really only been a sort of sarcastic anger, melted into sadness as hesuddenly leaned into Chance’s embrace.”

It’s all right, Doc–the doctor says he should be fine,” he lied. Therewouldn’t be any official word until Jake woke up–and no one could predict whenthat would be. In fact, the longer he remained unconscious, the worse it wasbeginning to look.”

Doc, this is Dr. Sinian–“Hackle gasped, “My son’s been *dating* and no one calls me?!”

“Doc . . .”

“No, Chance, it’s all right,” acting very lady-like, Abi stepped in front ofhim and shook Hackle’s paw.

“Pleased to meet you. I’m also not dating your son .. . officially.”

“Are you Jewish?”

“DOC–,” Chance jumped in, agitated, because he knew that was what Jake woulddo if he was awake.”

Yes, I am,” to the surprise of both of them, she answered.”

*Oy* . . .,” Hackle slumped into the chair, cane still in paw.

“My son finally finds a girl . . . Jewish, too . . . and *this* happens . . .”

” . . . dad . . .”

The attention instantly shifted over to the direction of the bed, where theweak voice had been coming from. Beneath the various tubes and wires that he waslinked too, Jake Clawson was desperately trying to sit up. The one word hisvocal chords had had the strength to produce had spent nearly all of his energy,and he collapsed from whatever position he had finally prompt himself up into.Abi was the first one to break out of a shocked state, “Chance, go get a doctor.”

“Yaakov . . . my dear Yaakov,” Hackle knelt on the beside.

“How are you feeling?”Jake’s bloodshot eyes moved around, getting as much of a picture as he couldget of a room while still keeping the same position, ” . . . I-I’ll be okay . ..once I figure out . . . how I got here . . .”

“Jake, don’t you remember–you were shot,” Abi took his paw on the other sideof him, and he had to strain a bit to turn his head enough to see her.He raised his eyebrows, “Really . . .?” His voice was thin and reedy, like itwas a struggle over every word.

” . . when . . .?”

“That’s what we were hoping you could tell us.”

Jake’s expression became confused, “I-I don’t . . . I don’t r-remember . . .”

Any further words were cut off as he began to cough and wheeze, his faultybreathing echoing through the respirator.”

Relax, son,” the doctor entered, and pushed him back down.

“Take it slow. The bullets nearly pierced open your lungs; don’t do anything that requires heavybreathing just yet.”

Jake nodded weakly. His chest all ready stung from the few words he had spoken;it was getting hard to breath deeply.”

Temporary memory lapse is common with any sort of traumatic accident,” hecontinued.

“It should be back in a day or so, but there’s no telling how you’vebeen reacting to what you’ve been through.”

The doctor rose to go, and laid a paw on Hackle’s shoulder, “Let him rest. He’s been through a lot.”

“I wish I could remember . . .”

Jake was now prompt up with several pillows. He was looking much more awake,but another 6 hours of sleep had helped. He still looked quite weak, butbreathing and talking was getting easier, and Felina was allowed to interview,as long as he took it slow.”

Okay, just back up . . .,” Felina held a notebook in her paws. She sat at theend of the bed. Abi and Hackle were at his side, and Chance was up against thewall.

“Do you remember any of the morning?”He shut his eyes tightly, trying obviously to picture it, “Yeah . . . it’scoming back. I took Abi into the yard . . . and . . .,” his features tightened.”

. . . and she had the vision. Of the blood.”

His face untwisted as his eyes opened, “Yeah . . . I remember that now. Then Idrove her back to museum . . . and started working on the car. I-I don’tremember anymore than that.”

“Do you remember Cally Briggs coming in?”He looked at her blankly.”

Think green car, Jake,” Chance helped.

“She’s got a green car. Always breaks down.”

“Oh, yeah . . . she said it was ‘pinging’ all morning. We were talking . . .and Abi called . . . trying to warn me . . .,” he turned to Abi, seriously.

“Howdid you–?”

“I’m a vilthuril,” she put in quickly.

“Go on. Don’t lose track.”

He hesitated momentarily, then guessed there would be an explanation later andcontinued, “What were we talking about? . . . something on the news . . . about her . . .”

“The report on Korat? He’s been sending her death threats since she denied hisparole.”

His eyes widened, “*Yeah* . . . that was it. I was worried . . . about hersafety . . . she said she was okay . . .”

“Then what happened?”Jake closed his eyes and grunted in pain. The memories were starting toresurface, “I remember . . . I heard gunshots . . . I tried to knock Miss Briggsout of the way . . .”

“You were attacked?”He frowed; the vision of what had happened knocked him in the head like a goodwhack, “We must’ve been . . . ’cause next thing I remember . . . I was lying onthe floor . . . in pain.”

“But you were conscious.”

“Unfortunately,” he rubbed his side, over the bandages.”

Do you remember what the attacker looked like?”

“It was Hard Drive,” he spoke almost in a weak anger.

“H-He was talking to Miss Briggs . . . something about working for Korat . . . she called him a ‘messenger boy.’”

Felina wrote down what he said, then looked back up, “Did he mention where hewas taking her?”His eyelids tightened, “I don’t know . . . I didn’t catch much of what they were saying . . .”

“What about the gun? When did you fire it?”It took a moment before recognization registered on his face, “They were talking . . . he was pointing his gun at me and talking . . . I don’t remember what they said . . . but . . . it distracted him enough . . . for a clean shot.”

“Where did you hit him?”

“He was wearing . . . some sort of exo-skeletion . . . really wierd. There wasa spot . . . in the arm . . . with an opening.”

“And you hit him there? On the marker?” Felina’s eyebrows raised.”

Jake doesn’t miss,” Chance quipped.

“Don’t you know that by now?”Jake smiled, thankful for the compliment, “Yeah . . . well, it didn’t do muchgood . . . was supposed to be . . . a distraction–”

“Let me guess. She ran to your side instead of making a break for it.”

He nodded.”

Well . . . that’s the deputy mayor for you. Doesn’t know an opening when shesees one.”

He countered, almost in defense, “I guess she was worried . . . about me . . .she kind of forgot . . . I was an enforcer . . . I was trained for that stuff .. .”

“Do you remember anything else?”

“No . . . that’s about when . . . I started losing consciousness–” his wordsbroke off as he began coughing heavily, struggling for breath. Abi pushed himback against the pillow as he tried desparately to steady himself as hisbreathing reduced to a few ragged breaths and weezes.”

That’s enough for today,” the doctor adjusted the respirator’s dials.

“He still needs rest.”

“No . . .,” Jake’s voice was terribly thin as he tried to speak again withoutbreaking into another coughing fit.

“I-I have to help them . . . they need–”

“I don’t think so . . .,” the doctor shook his head, then stuck a syringe intoJake’s I.V.

“I’m giving you a sedative . . . it’ll calm you down.”

“No . . . please . . .,” he moaned as he felt the drug begin to take effect.”

Leave him be,” the doctor began to push them out of the room.

Jake leaned back, and sighed. The room was all ready beginning to fade, and their was barely time to replay the previous day’s events in his head. Was there anything he missed? Any hint of where they were going? Anything at all that could help the enforcers find her?  He certainly couldn’t remember anything; he only hoped he was right.

Chapter 5

Cally Briggs was *not* having a good day.She had awoken from Hard Drive’s drug in a darkened room. Luckily, he was not around.Korat, however, was.He sat on the table across from her. On her sides were too burly commandos.Above them, the only light was a small lamp that lit the table.Mark Korat was really an oddball of the criminal underworld. He didn’t believe in the mob, or anything mob-related. He believed in big time, and his style reflected it. He had, unlike Mac and Molly Mange, no appreciation for the gangster era. He believed in getting as techno as one could get, and as far from having any sort of Italian accent as possible.In actuality, Korat was a slim, almost scrawny kat with light brown fur and looked remotely like Hard Drive. He was wearing his fatigues as usual, as he would have worn for the trial had his defense attorney not thought that a bad impression.”

Ya know, Miss Briggs . . .,” he spoke nonchalantly.

“If you’d let me pass onthe parole, none of this would have happened . . .”

Cally looked at him coldly.”

I mean . . . not like I hold grunges on people, but life sentence is a prettystiff term.”

“You held an entire building hostage.”

“Yeah, well . . . at least I was *polite* about it.”

She almost cracked a smile, but forced it back, “You also held CommanderFeral’s brother out the window.”

“And if his little monster-for-a-daughter hadn’t caught him–”

“She’s a gargoyle.”

“Whatever–“He was interrupted as the door swung open, and Hard Drive trooped in. Now freeof his exo-skeleton, he was gripping his arm tightly. It was bandaged whereJake’s bullet had hit, “HE SHOT ME! The little S.O.B. SHOT ME!”

“Relax, bro,” Cally looked surprised as Korat blew off Hard Drive’s rants. They*did* look a lot alike.  “I told you to patch that spot on your suit ahead oftime.”

“HELL, I wasn’t expecting a CRACK SHOT OF AN MECHANIC!”Korat pulled his claws from his ears, “Will you stop shouting?”

Cally smiled, watching Hard Drive grip his arm in what was obviously agonizing pain. My night in shining armor, she thought jokingly. A garage mechanic. That’s pretty funny.

Korat dismissed his ranting brother from his agenda, then continued his conversation, “Anyway, I was hoping you’d be a help in a collection . . . so I can get a reimbersement of whatever was lost in that little event.”

She narrowed her eyes, coldly, “So it’s a ransom?”

“In a way. The city pays me, and you get to live an extra few hours. They payme enough, and I may even let you go.”

“What makes you think Feral won’t find you?”

“*Commander* Feral? Tell me–how successful has he been in the past few yearsin finding *anything*? And as for your SWAT Kats . . . I think my brother canhandle them.”

He noticed Hard Drive reenter the room, slipping into his suit, “Where are*you* going?”

“To get some aspirin. Oh–and on the way, I’ll take out that mechanic.”

“He’s still *alive*?”

“Haven’t you heard the news?” he slipped an armored glove over his paw.

“Threebullets in him, but still alive.”

“Is he awake?”

“Just woke up. Doesn’t remember too much, from the news. Certainly doesn’t knowwhere we are.”

“But he knows *who* we are.”

“Yup.”

After contimplating it for a moment, Korat spoke, “Take ‘im out. He’s avariable.”

Cally sighed a secret breath of relief. The fact that Jake was both alive and conscious was assuring–but she only prayed he was under some sort of guard;someone big enough to stand up to Hard Drive’s exo-skeleton.Dr. Abi Sinian couldn’t sleep.She hadn’t seen the witches since they brought Jake to the hospital–which wasrelieving. Something about their presence still gave her chills.In fact, the whole vilthuril thing was rather hard to swallow, but she wasdetermined to believe it. She’d certainly seen stranger things. Thoran had beena help, and Maric, but she avoided Sauraman. He seemed to have something on hismind.She’d ask them of course how much control she had on what she coud see; Thoransaid none.

‘So I can’t see where they’ve taken Cally?’ she’d said.

’No,’ Maric had shaken his head. ‘The witches care not for the lives of mortal kats.’Except for Jake, of course. Mortal or no, he was a Son of Ecuador, and that instantly made him important. That was the only real reason she had seen a vision concerning him, Maric had said. That and the fact she cared for him.’The witches do not completely control any sort of vision,’ he had explained.’But they, personally, can give you hints.’ When they do this, they do it to manipulate the order so it comes out the way Frith has destined it to be. They do not save mortals. Cally Briggs means nothing to them. She is like every other mortal female they have encountered in the sea of time. She can have no real effect on the time line; not even a ripple in the water.’

This information had been somehow comforting, knowing there was an order to things, but it was not nearly satisfying.Wandering mindlessly around her darkened apartment, she prayed for rest–but it did not come.

There was a strange feeling growing within her; she slowly  recognized it was fear. A fear of things to come.Something bad was going to happen.She felt it with the same force that had overcome her in the garage the other day, but there were no visual aids or clues. Only a *feeling*.  It wasn’t much to go on.She opened her window, letting the warm evening breeze rustle in her hair. Yes, something was definitely up; she could feel it blowing in the wind. The presence of magic–something she had grown accustomed to in the past few months–was very clear.But there was still the notion of evil. Not only in the air–she felt a different sense of dread in worry over Jake. She pictured his feeble form–alone, drugged . . .Unprotected.

There was probably a gargoyle posted at the window outside his room, but shewas still overcome with a sense of helplessness around him. The air was thickwith it. It was almost like she was in his room for one, brief moment, thenstanding back in her apartment as if someone had transported her there and backin a second.The feeling was overpowering; she slipped on a pair of pants and and someshoes, and headed for her car.It was just a hunch, but what was there to be lost?Chip yawned.From his perch outside Jake’s window, the wind rustling the pages of his comicbook was really the only noise. The room was silent; the kat was still under thesedative, and it was well past visiting hours anyway.No noises, aside from a loud ‘thump’ from the ledge above him. He glanced up,and was met with a metal fist plowing into his forehead. He instantly lost hisbalance, plummeting from the building. The wind caught him, carrying him to thenext roof, where he collapsed.The hallways of the hospital were darkened for night time, but there was alwaysthe muffled hum-drum of the nurses shuffling past. Abi had no trouble sneakingin. She learned early that as long as you looked like you knew where you weregoing, no one bothered you.Everything looked quite peaceful as she reached Jake’s room.

There was no light, aside from the dimmed hallway lights that filtered in through the glasswindow outside the ward and the outside city lights that snuck in through theoutside window. The moon’s light cast enough of a glow that she could see quiteclearly, once her eyes adjusted.Jake was sleeping peacefully. She whispered thankfully to no particular dietyas she noticed his breathing was much easier than when they had left him. He hadbeen so eager to talk when the doctor sedated him; maybe he would get his chancewhen he awoke.In the silence, she wondered if she had been foolish to come.That was about when the horrible feeling returned. It did not come unbiddenthis time; a noise outside the window told her something was wrong.”

What the–“A giant, hulking figure slipped through the window; she knew instantly it wasnot a gargoyle. Gargoyles at least had wings.The figure stood. She knew from the glare of the light why he was so big–hewas wearing an exo-skeleton. Instantly she remembered Jake’s chilling tale ofhis encounter with Hard Drive.It was probably him. He had returned . . . for unfinished business.He turned his neck, getting a clear picture of the room. Luckily, his eyes hitJake before they hit Abi. He still had not acknoledged her presence as hepointed his gun at Jake–the probably meant he hadn’t noticed her yet.Hard Drive was still adjusting his laser when Abi made her move. Springing outof the shadows, she grabbed Jake’s prone form and pulled him from the bed. HardDrive, surprised and now noticing her in the room, still fired. The mattress wasfilled with holes in the place Jake had momentarily been lying in.”

WHAT THE–?” Hard Drive’s shocked cry broke the silence.

Abi pulled him closer, retreating towards the door. Jake began to mumble and stir; he was nearly awake. That was good. At least he would soon be aware ofwhat was going on.She spun for the lights. If the room suddenly lit up, at least the nurses wouldbecome suspicious.”

WHO THE HELL–?” Hard Drive redirected his gun barrel at Abi, who pushed Jake behind her.

“OH, WELL . . . now you’ll * both* get it for this–!”She heard Jake cough as he doubled over, desparately trying to catch hisbreath. A shocking shaking from sleep probably wasn’t too good for his piercedlungs. He caught it only enough to say one word as it became obvious that herecognized the their attacker, “Hard Drive.”

“You remember me, you little *******? You nearly cost me *my arm*!”

“Good, he thought.”

Now you’re gonna get what you deserve–“His voice was drowned out by a ferocious roar. He spun around just in time to see Thoran land inches in front of him, driving his sword into the exo-skeleton’s chest. There was a horrible display of fireworks as the leader jumped just in time to avoid having his face singed off.Hard Drive screamed as his exo-skeleton sparked and fell, slamming into the hard floor before laying silently.  Thoran pulled his sword from the unconscious kat’s suit, sticking it back in his belt and turning to the two huddled in the corner.”

Thoran–stay with him. I’ll get a nurse,” Abi ran out the door only when thegargoyle was safely at Jake’s side. The SWAT Kat was wheezing deeply, strugglingfor desperately-needed air in his lungs. He was all bent over, gripping hischest and coughing each time he was sure he had a good breath in. His side achedwhere the raw skin was still healing. All he wanted to do was crawl back intobed and go back to sleep.But his instincts wouldn’t do that. As the nurses shoved an oxygen mask overhis mouth, his mind was all ready playing back the last five minute’s events.Hard Drive had attacked him–why? Was it because he knew something? Or was hejust angry? Would Korat send someone else once he saw his first hit kat wasunsuccessful?”Thoran . . .,” the old leader looked up. He was slumped in the chair outsideJake’s room. Abi emerged, but only after she had made sure Jake’s breathing hadsteadied enough for him to drift back to sleep.

“What were you doing here? Youweren’t on guard. How did you know to come?”

“You should know the answer to that better than anyone, Abi,” Thoran lookedback at her curiously.

“Perhaps if you really seek answers, you should askyourself why *you* came.”

So Thoran had been driven by the same force she had . . . except he probablytrusted his newfound instincts more than she did. The thought she was not alonesomehow gave Abi comfort.

Chapter 6

″When do you think he’ll get moving? We gotta have this finished up by sunrise.”

Four gargoyles were crouched in the large, empty drainage pipe of Megakat Waterworks. In the sewer beneath them, where the pipe came out, Hard Drive was laying, still rendered unconscious by Thoran’s strike. With the way the gargoyles were positioned, they were nearly invisible to him.Felina answered T-Bone’s question, “Could be any minute now.”

She was right. Hard Drive began to stir, and slowly picked himself up, rubbinghis throbbing head. He cursed several times just beneath an audible level forthe group, then looked around and began contemplating his next move.Come on . . ., Felina prayed. Be a good boy and go on home. I bet Korat’ll bewaiting . . .

They got their wish. Hard Drive checked what appeared to be a holographic 3-Dmap projected from a screen on his wrist, then headed down deeper into the sewer system

.One thing about gargoyles that they all knew from their years in the rookery–gargoyles were only heard when they *wanted* to be heard. Even Chance and Felina, who were working off the memories of the previous owners of their bodies, knew it like second nature. Following him was cinch.

Sauraman of the Isatari muttered a spell beneath his breath, speaking words unknown to even Maric. The old mortal kat, however, was not around. Why would he be? The sorcerer had told no one where he was going, even why.Something heavy had been sitting on his mind lately. He knew the incident with the trance was freak, but it was usually caused by high amounts of magic in the air. He began to feel it himself about a week afterwards. By that evening, it was so sick to a sorcerer it was impossible not to be aware. Maric probably sensed it, but was too slow-moving to bother and investigate that evening.Had he bothered, he might have learned something interesting.On the particular rooftop Sauraman had chosen, he readied for the spell. Anyone would have been suitable, aside from his graveyard tower home, which wasn’t large enough, and the museum had too many levels. He used a mask spell, so any ordinary kat looking up wouldn’t see him or any of the things he had set up.Waiting.On the four corners of the roof were giant torches, lit and burning with strange insents which changed flavor with every puff of smoke. In the center was a mat, and a spell book set up on a golden stand.Waiting.He knew something was coming through. Something was breaking through the strong barrier that bridged the gap between the material world and the Spiritual one–that was what had probably caused so much magical strains in there.It was coming. Here.As a powerful member of the Isatari, as long as it came into the planet’s solarsystem, he could direct it to any spot he wanted. He happened to have chosenthat rooftop, in Megakat City, on that planet. But it could have been anywhere.And it wasn’t really an ‘it.’ In fact, if his suspicions were right, it was ahe. And Sauraman of the Isatari, Sauraman the Pastmaster, would be there tocatch him.And if he was lucky, consume him–and his powers.He was in a good mood.Mark Korat was *not* in a good mood.”

What the hell to you mean–you DIDN’T GET HIM?”Hard Drive shifted uncomfortably, “Well . . . there was this gargoyle . . .”

His brother covered his face with his paws, “*G-d* . . .”

“Well . . . it doesn’t change anything . . .”

“Except we look desperate,” Korat leaned back against the chair.

“Damn.”

Remembering Cally sitting across the table, he spoke almost in an angry jest,”Well . . . I suppose this is *good news* for you, eh? You’re little savior gets to live a little longer . . .”

Cally didn’t respond; she didn’t need to.”

What’s wrong? Kat got your tongue?”He head a sudden noise above him, and four gargoyles crashed through theceiling.”

What the–*not again*,” Korat grumbled, springing to Cally’s side and pullingher near.The gargoyles landed a few feet from him, Chip and Jumicus taking out hisguards with a single swipe. He backed off, holding her up in front of him.T-Bone growled, his tail slithering wildly.”

Don’t come closer or I’ll kill her.”

His huge opponent made no further movement.Korat began to back off, seeing the tables had turned and wondered if he couldstill possibly pull it off, “So, you got Hard Drive to lead you here, huh?” Heglanced at his brother coldly, “I *knew* you’d screw up.”

Hard Drive shrugged from his position in the corner, then was thrown as Felinaappeared behind him.Korat’s frown deepened, “Not *you* again . . .”

Felina did not advance any closer than T-Bone, not wanting to get the deputymayor in any more trouble than she was obviously already in, “Don’t do anythingstupid, Korat. It’s not going to get you anywhere.”

“One minute you sound like a monster, the next minute an enforcer. You shockme, Lt. We would’ve made a pretty good pair.”

He’s stalling, she thought, “My tail. Put her down. There’s no where to go. Andif there is, we can follow you.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure, Lt,” he ducked back, leaping out the window andgrabbing a jet pack in one fluid motion. It had been lying on the floor, admistthe rubble that had once been Hard Drive’s exo-skeleton.”

MISS BRIGGS–!”

“CALLY–!”By the time they reached the window, the sound of a jet back igniting was allready quite audible.     “Not so fast, Korat,” Felina whispered beneath her breath, leaping from thewindowsill as she spread her wings.Sauraman’s purple cloack fluttered in the strengthening winds. The sky abovegrew cloudy and thunder built up.Soon.”

This is just what I need,” Korat grumbled, glancing over his shoulder to seeT-Bone and Felina slowly gaining on him. He was going to have to land soon–thator drop Cally. The weight of the two of them was really wearing down the engine. . . and his fuel tank.”

*Crud*–,” he turned his neck back just in time to see himself crash into asmall guy dressed in purple. The slam sent Cally and Sauraman flying, sendingthem both piling into the ledge. Had it not been for the railing they would haveboth tumbled over the edge easily.”

NO!” Sauraman quickly stood, and looked to the sky. Korat had landed in hisplace, in the center of the mat.

“GET OUT, FOOLISH MORTAL!”The sky darkened, and the clouds began to seperate.Korat was still picking himself off the ground when he heard the sorcerer’scries, “Huh–?”Too late.Something shot out from the stars–a glowing sphere of built-up energy, glowinga flourescent blue. It plummeted downward . . . landing on the mat, right whereKorat was kneeling.He gave a sharp yell as it in met and consumed his body. His form began to glowas he doubled over in pain. The brightness intensified, and Sauraman and Callyhad to look away. Caught by the strong winds and the bright flash of light,Felina and T-Bone lost their balance and landed on the rootop beside the one thesphere had landed on.Korat’s body began to change. Looking through the visor provided by his helmet,T-Bone was able to watch. The terrorist began to sprout a white beard, whichgrew and extended down to nearly his waiste. The hair on the top of his headdissappeared, but along the back of his head it lengthened down his neck andback. His paws grew thin and bony, as his once-stable back hunched a bit.The strange transformation was nearly complete. The light around Korat faded,and he fell again to his knees, covering his face with his paws. He seemed . . .older.

Sauraman approached him curiously.

Korat stood–at least, if it *was* Korat. His eyes unfocused, he had not thelook nor the stance of the former terrorist. He looked confused, almost wisened. . . a completely different kat.He noticed for the first time Sauraman next to him. His eyes narrowed, studying the sorcerer, until his own began to widen in recognization, “You . . .”

His voice was not at all of Korat’s. It was deeper, almost cultured.”

It *is* me, Abadon. Do you remember? Sauraman the White?” the short sorcerercrossed his arms, smiling.Abadon–apparently–smiled as well, “Sauraman! Of all the places to find you–“he looked around, and down at his own paws.

“What the–what is this form?!”

“The form of the kat who was unfortunate enough to be standing in that spotwhen you entered this dimension.”

“I’m a kat! Then this must be that planet Ecaudor loved so much! The katplanet! he modeled his own form after the civilization here!” Abadon gestured around, reminicing.

“Sauraman? Who is this guy?” Felina leapt to their roof, landing by his sidew hile T-Bone helped Cally up.

“And gargoyles, too!” Abadon was amazed.

“This is a Abadon . . . my mentor. He was the teacher of Ecuador and his brother Uraysus/Aslan, the sons of Frith . . . until he was ‘kicked out.’”

“For what?”

“Oh–,” Abadon broke in.  “Something annoyed Frith–something about getting his sons to rally against him. I wasn’t paying too much attention at the time.”

Felina’s eyes narrowed, “So Frith kicked you out? Of where?” she wasn’t big on Lopine folklore, but she knew enough of it to know the good guys from the badguys.

“That’s not for mortal discussions, gargoyle,” Abadon’s gave off a hint of coldness.  “I have been a hlessi [a wanderer, living in open ground] for over anage. Here is where I intend to stay. I am sick of running. Are you a follower of Frith?”

Felina spread her wings, “Maybe.”

Her instincts told her something about Abadon wasn’t too pleasing to the stomach–that and the fact a guy like Sauraman had learned under him. Sauramanshe knew was evil, but he was also a Lopinenean and therefore controllable whilearound gargoyles. Abadon, however, was not a Lopine believer–from the looks ofthings–and a definite variable. He had taught Sauraman, so that probably meanthe was a match for the sorcerer or maybe even better. Even Thoran had not seenthe extent of Sauraman’s own powers. There was no way to know how far Abadonwould go to secure his new home, and how easy it would be for him to do so.Abadon’s paw lit with a bright sphere of magic, and he hurled it at Felina. Itsent her flying, straight back into T-Bone, “You think you are a match for me,gargoyle?” He turned to Sauraman, “Why have YOU not conquered this punyplanet?!”

“I have no need to. Besides–the gargoyles are Lopinenean. I must respect them and leave their space alone because of it.”

“And YOU consider yourself evil? I don’t understand what those damn Isatari councilmen talked you into. You used to be such a promising student.”

Sauraman bit his lip. He was a powerful sorcerer, but he wasn’t too confidentabout going up against Abadon alone. He might win, but the loss of power wouldbe heavy. It was better to wait–until he could rally the other Isatari membersor at least contact them.”

I tell you what,” Abadon curled his paw into a fist.

“I’ll get the Lopineneansout of the way, then you can have this world.”

“Why do you care? What of this planet?”Abadon lowered his voice, “You know of what I seek. Of my . . . safety.”

Hisvoice raised a bit, “Worry not of these mortal Lopineneans–I will take care ofthem.”

He muttered beneath his breath, in and in flash he was gone.”

WHAT THE–” T-Bone joined Sauraman at his side, staring at the empty spacethat had once contained the mysterious teacher.Sauraman sighed, “I’ll explain . . . at the museum.”

Seeing Abadon was gone, T-Bone concentrated on helping Cally to her feet.”

Are you all right, Miss Briggs?”

“Yes, but–,” she regained her composture slowly, straightening herself up abit.

“I have a friend who was shot–I heard he was still alive–”

“Clawson?” Felina immediately cut in.

“He’s okay. He’s in the hospital.”

“Can you take me to him? I just wanted to make sure–”

“Sure, Miss Briggs,” with an effortless scoop, he picked Cally up and cradledher as if she was weightless, opening his wings. Felina frowned; Cally wascertainly impressed enough.

“Coming, Lt?”Just to make sure you don’t flirt *too* much with Briggs, Felina thoughtskeptically, “Sure. I think Chip and Jumicus can work with the enforcers to takecare of Hard Drive.”

If it’s safe–,” Cally was cut off as T-Bone suddenly spread his wings andlept from the building, Felina following close behind.Chapter 7On the balcony of the museum, Sauraman had all ready related to the clan theearlier events with Abadon when Felina and T-Bone arrived.”

Sauraman,” Felina cut in on his explanation.

“He was talking about ‘seeking’something . . . and he said you knew what he wanted.”

“Yes, well,” he turned to her angrily, “If you let me continue, I’ll get toit.”

He readjusted his gaze to the bulk of the clan.

“As you know, Frith createdtwo sons–the immortal Aslan/Uraysus the lion, and Ecuador. Ecuador lived out amortal life first, taking kat form when he came here to found his line. Abadonwas one of their teachers–as he was one of mine. He tried to turn them againsttheir father, but he was discovered. Aslan would have slew him, but Ecuador hadno lvoe of violence and let him go. He has been a wanderer ever since.”

“Is he immortal?”

“Of course. But there are different levels of immortality. Some *can* be slainby mortals, in certain ways. Some can only be slain by other immortals. *All*can be slain by Frith. When Abadon was thrown from Frith’s kingdom, he was notmade mortal, but he was made ‘slayable’.”

“So we can kill him?”

“No. But Ecuador’s sword can. The sword of Ecuador can slay immortals.”

“Can it kill you?”Sauraman hesitated, ” . . . No. I am of the Isatari.”

Thoran whispered in T-Bone’s ear, “The Isatari are sacred to Frith. Only he can order their deaths.”

“So he wants the sword of Ecaudor.”

“Yes. But he can’t possess it as any kat can’t until he slays all the membersof that line–at least within the city.”

Thoran threw a glance at Maric, who remained silent.”

So Maric and Jake are in danger.”

“We are *all* in danger until he is slain or is thrown from the dimension. Buthe won’t attack for a while . . . he needs time for his powers to adjust to thisdimension.”

Abi spoke for the first time, curiously, “But aren’t *ou* powerful enough?”Sauraman shook his head, sadly, “Perhaps . . . but there’s too much risk. Thematch is far to even–any survivor might lose their powers, and Frith knows whenhe will get it back. I would rather have another member of the Isatari at myside.”

He paused, “I will go . . . away . . . and try to rally some members. The moremembers aware of Abadon’s location the better.”

“Aye . . . I will defend the sword . . . but I worry of Jacob. When did thedoctor say–?”

“He’ll be walking in a few days,” T-Bone updated them.

“But Razor’s out ofcommition for at least another week or two.”

“Well, then . . . ,” Maric frowned.

“Let us pray to Frith that will be fastenough.”

On the roof above the balcony, Thoran was meditating on his lone merlon. Abithought it best to perhaps not disturb him, but too much was on her mind. Shesaw the old leader heavily sigh, the wind blowing through his snowy white beard.His eyes opened for the first time, acknowledging her presence.”

What’s going to happen, Thoran? What if Sauraman doesn’t return or Jakedoesn’t heal fast enough?”He shrugged seriously.”

Perhaps we could suggest–”

“–a remedy to the situation.”

“If that is what you seek.”

Thoran growled softly, turning to see the three green gargoyles he knew sowell. Abi gasped; she saw three kats, each with different shades of hair andstrange robes, “Thoran . . .”

“Aye, Abi . . . I see them,” he hopped of his merlon and landed beside her,folding his wings.

“What do you want now, wierd sisters?”

“You seem troubled by Abadon.”

“Beware, he is a great sorcerer.”

“He can defeat you.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” he grunted.”

We will,” the first continued.

“Because you have thought of it, but not foryour sister vilthuril.”

“Why have you not told her of the eye?”

“Why do you hesitate?”Abi glanced at him, confused, “What’re they talking about?”

“The eye of Beraan,” he spoke softly.

“I spotted it in your Dark Ages exhibit.You can use it to . . . manipulate your powers.”

“Use the eye, children.”

“It is key.”

“If you seek, the eye shall find.”

They began to fade.”

WAIT–!” They took no notice of Abi’s pleas, and were gone. She looked back atThoran, “What do you mean . . . manipulate?”

“Beraan was a chomzon of Lopine folklore . . . a blind artist who could see inprophetic visions. The eye was named after him,” Thoran explained.

“Everything we see is random, but second sight is sometimes tameable. The eye allows you toconcentrate your powers and see whatever you wish. I have never used it . . .the eye is said to amplify emotions as well. I feared my clan would be unable tocontrol me.”

“Your whole clan?”

“Have you ever seen a rabid gargoyle, Abi?”

“No, but–what about me?”He breathed deeply, climbing up onto his merlon. On the merlons on the balconybelow, his clan was preparing for sleep, “You do not carry the rage of agargoyle, but . . . the eye is so unpredictable . . . it is your choice.”

Abi swallowed as he adjusted his head forward, and his flesh once again becamesolid stone.”

Do gargoyles dream?” is a favorite question among many young scholars ofLopine who happen to come across the warrior race in their studies. It has been debated throught the centuries, as any gargoyle is somehow unable to understandthe concept of ‘dreaming.’Thoran, however, was not at all an ordinary gargoyle. He was a vilthuril. Hedid not have dreams–he had visions.He was back in Megallith Castle’s main hall–how he remembered it! The splendorof the ball room, and of the throne of Claris. He had never wished for athrone–gargoyles are more like socialists. They cared not for royalty. The only symbol of leadership Thoran had was the plain, gold band he wore on hishead–one could have called it a crown, but it was hardly decorated aside formsome Lopine markings.

It had been warn by Thrain, and the leader before him. Itwas an honor, but to the clan the greater honor was the responsibility that camewith it.He felt Gurney and Fenring beside him; it must have been somewhere shortlyafter Thrain’s death. Gurney didn’t last long after that. But having him at hisside again was a comfort.But something was wrong with the scene. The young Claris, only a prince, andhis father on his thrown. Beside him where his various attendents and queen.Everything *looked* just like old times, but . . .He looked in a mirror that hung beside a tapestry on the wall. Not surprisingly, his beard was short and brown. It was good to be young again.”

Do not look into the past, Thoran of Megallith!”His smile deepened into a frown as he turned to face the three wierd sisters.They appeared, as they always did, as green gargoyles. This time, however, theywere wearing the clothing of the attendents, and standing in front of thethrown. The king and his gargoyles took no notice; he guessed to them theyappeared simply as servants of the crown.The second spoke, “You cannot live in the past!”

“I am not trying to! I only long for the time that is rightfully mine!” hepractically shouted, his anger rising. Fenring and Gurney took only minornotice.The third sister approached him, pointing, “You must face your future, child.”

Her face began to change–he recognized Felina’s description of Abadon. The Abadon/wierd sister blend spoke in a male, evil voice, “I am the face of yourfuture, gargoyle!” He began to laugh wickidly, drowning out all other noice.Thoran braced his claws over his ears, turning back to the mirror. His own facebegan to change . . . he was growing older. His beard grew and grayed to thepoint of whiteness. His wings slumped with age.”

NOOOO!” He spun around, seeking support from his gargoyle brothers.

“Brothers–!”Their faces had changed as well. They both equally resembled Abadon, with his evil laugh ringing in the gargoyle leader’s head. They approached, and in fear Thoran stumbled back, landing at the feet of the weird sisters.”

You can’t run forever, Thoran,” the first sister’s whole body began to changeshape, into a less gargoyle and more womanly figure.

“You must face your fears.”

It was Abi. The wierd sister now took the complete shape of Abi Sinian.Around her neck was the Eyeof Beraan.”

NOOO!” he cried out, lurching forward in an attempt to snatch the eye. Thethree sisters melted away, causing him to land face forward into the ground.Quickly he picked himself up, realizing they had reappeared behind him.”

This is your destiny, Thoran of Megallith,” the first sister, still in Abi’sshape, spoke with the voice of the kat she imatated in looks.The room began to swirl. Between the endless laughter of Abadon taking theshape of his old friend’s heads and the sister’s image of Abi and the eye, hegave one last shout as things dissolved into darkness.Chapter 810 Days LaterAbadon was in a good mood.Ten days it had taken him to adjust to such a dimension–it made him wonder whyEcuador has chosen it in the first place. The adjustment was a complicatedprocedure, and even for a powerful sorcerer it took some time.Sighing, he leaned back into a soft chair.He had created a home for himself that existed in a seperate dimension, but waslinkable to any new home he chose. It didn’t truly exist in the sense of a housewith a lawn, but it was real enough.The interior resembled that of a wizard’s workshop form a cheap fantasy flick.The shelves were lined with books and bottles–some labeled, some not.

Currentlypushed to the side was a cauldron, still bubbling from the recent transformationspell. With all his various spellbooks set up and the cauldron active, he onlyhad one problem on his hands.What he was going to do first.The world was basically at his disposal, except for perhaps a showdown withSauraman. Modern technology was no match for his magic.So what was he going to do first?  He felt a breeze–a *magical* breeze, as he knew on instinct. Had Sauraman comeall ready? It would take a good sorcerer to even find his home. He stood,turning in it’s direction, “How did you–?”He halted in mid-sentence. recognizing the three figures in blue robes besidehis cauldron, “Oh, *you* . . .”

he threw as much disgust as he could into hispronounication of “you.”

“We come with answers, Abadon.”

“If you seek.”

“If you truly wish to know.”

His eyelids narrowed, crossing his arms, “How do I know you’re not messangersfor Frith?”They apparently took no notice of his demand, “Seek the gargoyles.”

“The sons of Ecuador will hunt you down if you destroy them.”

“They are all that stands between you and the sword.”

He grunted. The witches *were* right; gargoyles were a nuisance, and he couldeasily take them out now. He was evil but he was proper–he could not attackthem during the day as long as they were his *formal* enemies.But they have not declared war on my, and I on them . . . a smill lit his faceas he rubbed his beard thoughtfully, “The gargoyles, eh? Perhaps this might getinteresting after all.”

It was nearly closing time in the museum. All the general tours were over,except perhaps a few stray onlookers who were shooed from the halls by thesecurity guard. Otherwise, a day’s work was over, and the place would soonbecome what it was apparently destined to be–a gargoyle’s castle. It was therehome more than anyone’s, no one could argue that point.Slipping out of her work clothes, Abi began to browse through some of her notesbefore beginning to put them away for the evening. She remembered the longevenings she had often spent in the museum doing research into late hours, backwhen her uncle had been curator and she had only been the assistant. A chancefor that was rare now–not with a clan of gargoyles around. Occasionally, Thoranwould help her with a translation; her Lopine wasn’t so great yet. His help wasin the form of a discussion, not a detailed study. Regardless, he was a usefulsource.Now he was busy with Maric, trying to contemplate Abadon’s first move.Sighing, she glanced over her notes, praying for a nice, quiet evening. Nowitches, no evil sorcerers, nobody getting shot.The sound of gentle footsteps told her differently.Maric was out with Jake. The gargoyles certainly wasn’t awake yet. She doubtedFelina or Chance would show before they transformed.That limited it down to the security guard.Charlie was out for the week, visiting family. He’d sent in a replacement, aquiet kat she hadn’t had time to take much notice of. But why would he come upthere? The top floor, with the balcony for the gargoyles, was her office and thegargoyle’s living quarters. Security guards rarely came up without aninvitation.He probably has a question . . . I can’t blame him for asking . . ., “Hello?”The guard stepped into the light. Odd, she remembered his fur being more of adarker orange color than light brown, “Dr. Sinian? I was just checking to see ifyou were still here.”

She smiled, “Yes, well . . . I usually wait for the gargoyles, thank you. I’llprobably be here all night anyway.”

“It should be a lovely night,” the guard stepped out towards the balcony, wherethe glass doors swung open.

“When did you say they usually wake up?”On the balcony in front of him, ths stone statues’ shadows fell into the roomfrom the sinking sun.”

Sunset,” strange, she vividly remembered telling him that the day earlier. Hereyes narrowed suspiciously, “Excuse me–what did you say your name was? I’mafraid I’m not good with names.”

“Oh, you should know me,” the guard said nonchalantly, almost to knock off hersense of suspicion as a joke. He stood facing the gargoyles, with his back toher and his paws gripped behind his back.”

I’m afraid I don’t.”

He spun abruptly. His tone of voice had changed; it was more deep and laced ifevil. Facing her now, his eyes glowed bright white, “I believe Sauraman calls meAbadon.”

He pulled off his cap, letting loose his white hair. Standing more rigid andbent, but ten times more alert, he lunged for Abi, grabbing a bat Chip andJumicus had been playing with the other evening.There was nearly no time for reaction; the end of the bat connected with Abi’stemple. There was an audible *crack* as she fell backwards.The darkness embracing her was not her interpretation of the evening she hadhoped for, but it certainly was quiet.”

I should truly pity these mortals for their gullibility . . .,” Abadon set thebat down on the desk beside where the curator lay. He frowned; as easy as his entry was, the talking killed precious time. The sun was nearly down. He wouldhave to work quickly. Snatching an old battle axe from the coat of arms on thewall, he headed out onto the balcony.A voice penetrated the mist.”

Wake, child!”She moaned softly. Even in her state of subconsciousness, she could still sensethe urgency of the moment, and the voice was not welcomed at such a time. Notnow, she prayed. Please!”Your friends are in danger!”Tell me something I don’t know, she thought.”

You can still help them!”She felt like shouting back “HOW?” at the third voice, but found no words ather lips. Yet . . . their soothing tones somehow eased the discomfort of herpounding skull. *That* she welcomed.”

Come back, child!”

“You are needed!”

“The gargoyles are in danger!”The mist began to clear–she could hear distant sounds aside from the voices.The sound of stone being smashed, and Abadon muttering to himself. In the fogshe began to see his form swing a stick of some sort repeatedly over his head,landing it on the form on the merlon.”

. . . No . . .,” the sound of her own unsteady voice was surprising. She couldsense more now; the witches knelt beside her. One cradled her head, giving her aclear view of the action on the balcony. The other two were at her side.”

D-Don’t  . . . let him . . .”

“Only you can stop him.”

“Speak the words, child.”

“Maric has taught you them well.”

“I-I don’t . . .,” recognization hit her like the slam she had encounteredearlier. The levatation spell! Abadon wouldn’t be expecting it; he apparentlycouldn’t see the witches. She could at least knock him off his feet, stallinguntil sundown. It might save another . . ., “I d-don’t . . . h-have the . . .s-strength . . .”

Thaurmaturgy took a lot out of someone, and in her weakenedstate, she doubted she could lift even his finger.The first witch nodded understandingly, “We will supply . . . for the moment.”

She laid a paw on Abi’s forehead. Abi felt a sudden rush of energy flowthroughout her limp body.It was enough. Concentrating on Abadon, she muttered the only spell she wastruly clear on.Abadon gave a yelp of surprise. He had his axe ready for the swing over thestatue of Chip when the axe suddenly lept from his paws. It flew over him,knocking him on the head before landing and rolling back into the building.”

Magic! What the–!” he stooped in, furious.

“YOU!”Abi collapsed again. The witches were gone, and the borrowed energy spent. Shefelt the darkness caving in again.”

You little–,” behind him, the sorcerer head the sound of stone crumbling. Itwas sundown. The gargoyles would soon be awake, and he had only smashed one . .. , “It seems I will have to take a rain check.”

Smiling wickedly, he turned tothe prone form of Abi Sinian.As leader, Thoran had the highest merlon, on the peak of the museum roof abovethe balcony. Free of his stone shell, the adreneline rush had nearly worn offwhen he heard a terrible shriek of a female.Fearing the worst, he hopped straight from his merlon down to the balcony.”

NOOOOOOO!!” the female, Chani, another surviver of the spell, howled and fellinto Thoran’s arms. He wrapped his wings around her, surveying the damage infront of him.The statue that had once been Sevian–Thoran’s second-in-command–was now aheap of stones. He held Chani close; she had been his lover.”

Who did this?!” he demanded in a cool-but-authorive voice. He released her,letting Jumicus have his chance to offer support as the gargoyle leader stoodbefore the merlon.

“WHO DID THIS?!?” he released his shout in a sort of howl,spreading his wings and calling out to the endless sky.Thoran was carrying a sack containing Sevian’s “bones” in as he noticed anothergargoyle beside Abi on the floor, trying to help her sit up.How much must I endure this night . . .? He knelt beside her immediately,handing the sack to Jumicus, “Abi . . .”

With a gentle claw he gently probed her face. A huge bruise was forming,extending from her eye straight through to her temple. She looked dazed–thatand weak, “Who did this?”He knew the answer, but . . .”

. . . Abadon,” Trying to regain herself, Abi’s eyelids flutters as shestruggled for a constant state of consciousness. Failing considerably, sheallowed Thoran to lift her and set her limp form down on the couch.”

Alia,” Thoran called on the other gargoyle female who had been comfortingChani. Alia was a thin, firm gargoyle he had always known to be strong–perhapseven occasionally cold. She could instantly see the leader was in a bad way . .. they were all in a bad way, considered the events that had taken place whilstthey slept and where still unfolding to them. He spoke in a soft but affirmativevoice.

“Go find Jacob and Maric. T-Bone and Felina should be here soon, but ifyou see them tell to come right here.”

Alia nodded, slipping out silently.The rest of his clan stood in silence. The leader stayed beside Abi, eyes shuttightly.Suddenly he rose, compelled by something unknown to the others, “Watch her.”

His simple words were clear enough as he strood out to the balcony, hopped onthe merlon, and lept off.Jumicus was the only one who dared to let his mouth drop open as he watched hisleader just leave.”

Let him go,” Abi said weakly.

“He has to talk with . . . someone.”

“Why did you not warn me of Sevian’s death?!?”Thoran, his grief now morphing into anger, paced the empty rooftop of theoffice building. He looked up occasionally in his pacing, to glance coldly atthem.They had not told him they would appear–no, it seemed almost as if he hadcalled upon their presence, sensing instantly while beside Abi that they wouldmeet him on this particular roof.”

We are not fortune tellers.”

“Nor are you.”

“What you see is your own being’s choice.”

“What am I supposed to do now?!” his voice rose in fury.

“Sleep on the merlonsagain, like a sitting duck? How can I hide my clan?”They spoke with the same, eireely coming voice, “You have a sign, child.”

“Think of your dream.”

“Have you forgotten so quickly?”He stopped pacing. The memories slowly resurfaced, replaying on the inside ofhis eyelids . . ., “You want me to use the eye . . . to find Abadon?”

“Is that truly your dream?”Hesitating, he remembered, “No . . . but Abi’s injured. I can’t . . . I *won’t*let her use it . . .”

“You only delay the inevidable.”

“You know it to be this way.”

“NO . . .,” he spoke firmly.

“I won’t let her use it . . . I-I don’t know howmuch she’s injured . . . no, I will find him myself–with my clan.”

He turned to leave, taking up on a perch on the ledge, but they spoke once morebefore he was out of earshot.”

You are their leader, Thoran of Megallith.”

“But you also cannot deny yourself or your vilthuril sister of your right.”

“The eye is your right, Thoran of Megallith.”

Without another word, he turned away and jumped from the building.Jake leaned heavily on his cane, inspecting the horrible bruise developingacross Abi’s face.”

Well . . . it doesn’t *look* bad . . . maybe a bone bruise–a nasty one.Possibly a skull fracture, but I doubt it . . .,” shrugging, he took at seatbeside the couch, setting his cane up against the chair. It would be anotherweek before he could walk freely; he was still recovering from the three bulletsto tear his body nearly two weeks earlier.”

Abadon did this . . .,” Maric said coldly.

“How could he do this–something sodishonorable . . .”

“Abadon has honor,” everyone was surprised by Thoran’s sudden return, “but itdepends on the definition of the word. Lopineneans are formadable enemies . . .at least to him. He had know way of knowing anything about Abi–except that shewas in the way.”

He rejoined her side, “How are you feeling?”

“Better . . .,” she was resting on the bed, but had forced herself to at leastsit up.

“My head’s throbbing . . . but I’m a little better.”

She visiblyhesitated before speaking again, in a lower voice, “Are you going to use theEye?”Stubbornly, the leader shook his head, “I have enough faith in my clan to findhim. He could not have gone far–he’s looking for a fight.”

Abi frowned as he turned away. She didn’t want anyone to use it and certainlydidn’t like the idea, but they couldn’t sleep on their merlons again safelyuntil Abadon was rid of. She wasn’t quite sure she could use it herself–atleast, not yet. Not still that damn ringing in her head cleared . . .

Chapter 9

The museum was quite again, and Felina sighed to herself.Oddly, she had opted to stay behind to watch Abi and Jake. Maric had gone withThoran to escort Sevian’s “bones” to a proper place until a formal funeral couldbe arranged. The others had split, searching for Abadon. T-Bone had taken theTurbokat somewhat reluctantly; he had always felt better with Razor in the seatbehind him, but they needed the jet’s tracking abilities for the moment. Ofcourse, shortly after T-Bone had become gargoyle, Razor had ‘adjusted’ the seatto fit his constantly-altering form. T-Bone rarely used it at night, but one hadto be safe about getting in a prolonged batte. Razor knew his partner wasconsiderably larger by night, so the seat had two settings; one to give himenough space for his huge wings and talons, the other to still keep him snugduring the day.All things considered, Chance had taken the change pretty well. He had the bestof both worlds and he knew it; now if only he could get past the pain of thetransformation . . .Felina only wished she could be that flexible with her own life.She was, in all sense, a gung-ho type kat–an almost commando and one hell of apilot. That was perhaps why she had gotten attached to her new form so quickly .. . despite the shock that came along with it. Fighting-wise, gargoyles weredefiinitely superior to a kat of any size. Wings, talons, claws, or anythingelse was an added bonus. And then there was the feeling of flying–like acontrolled free-fall, only ten times more fun. She had taken to the skies like ayoung bird trying to leave the nest for the first time. Once in the air, therewere times when she wondered if she could ever be happier.But . . . over the months, a slowly growing notion was deep inside of her,hanging on and strengthening like a dull ache.Perhaps it was Alia who had first made her openly aware of it. Dathena, who’sbody and mind she now occupied, had been no lover of kats, but Alia was anextreme. She cared nothing for the race, but she didn’t quite fall into thecategory of hating it, either. The true problem was her loyalty to her race;something she was constant in reminding Felina.”

You’re gargoyle, Felina–more than you’ve ever been kat. Never deny it and itwon’t betray you,” her voice was laced with malice as she had spoken.Maybe it was because she new–as everyone did–that Felina did not like tocompletely consider herself gargoyle. Come to think of it, she thought ofherself as a cross between the two species, but never one or the other. Shefrequented at Enforcer Headquarters in either form, which Alia despised. Felinarecognized quickly that Alia had a strong sense of a line between the two racesthat could not be stood on; one was on either one side, or the other. There wasno medium. Therefore, Alia considered it improper for a gargoyle to use laterhours to catch up on her daily deskwork.Felina mainly ignored the comments thrown at her; if Thoran didn’t care, thenwhy should anyone else?But what Alia had truly done–which she probably had realized by now–wasstirred up thoughts in Felina that hung on in the corner of her mind, slowlygaining in importance and intensity.She was slowly facing the fact: she was losing her kat side.Maybe it was when it drove her to chills to hear herself growl in plaindaylight. Or perhaps when the other enforcers claimed her eyes lit a bright redwhile battling Dark Kat or Dr. Viper at high noon.There was one incident that truly made her aware. A few weeks earlier, she hadbeen working a late shift with a group of enforcers on a practicularly chillynight. Megakat City was never cold–not enough for snow, anyway–but it wasoften chilly, especially in the winter.She hadn’t even noticed it. That was what had freaked her out. While the otherenforcers huddled in their jackets, leaning up against the patrol car and tryingto brace up against the wing with their collars rolled up, she had apparentlynot been aware from her perch on the car’s hood.”

Hey, Lt–aren’t you cold?” one of the enforcers, a rookie named John, caughther attention.

“It’s gotta be 30 degrees out here! Hell of a night for apatrol–”

“No, actually . . . I didn’t notice,” only now did she realize the guys wereshivering in their jackets. Herself, she was wearing not much more than heruniform, perhaps a heavier one. No boots or mittens–nothing could fit over herclaws. Her wings were unprotected from the wing.Curious, she asked Thoran if HE had felt the cold last night.”

Of course not. Gargoyles aren’t as sensitive as kats are to such things.”

That was what spooked her. Only a few months before that, the 30 degrees wouldhave certainly bothered her. Now, it didn’t.She was becoming gargoyle; more than she wanted to be.”

Hey Felina–you okay?” she spun at the sound of her name. Jake was standingthere, leaning heavily on his cane.”

Yeah, sure. Just . . . thinking,” There was a dragging itch that prevented herfrom ending the sentence with, “about the old days.”

No, she couldn’t thinkstraight of the days when she had been only a distant partner, or even a rival,to the SWAT Kats–before she was gargoyles. That was back when T-Bone and Razorhad just been masks without the face behind him. Now, looking at him, she didn’tsee Razor in front of her . . . she saw Jake. Jake Clawson, the ex-enforcer, theSWAT Kat, and the son of Ecuador. She knew him as a friend now as much as sheever did assume him an ally.She smiled; maybe it was better that way.”

Well, I’m gonna need you to think later. Abi’s gone.”

*There* was a shock.”

HUH?”He led her back into the main office, where Abi had formally been resting onthe couch, “I left her a few minutes and she was gone. She wouldn’t have gottenup–an hour ago, she could barely lift her head.”

“Then she couldn’t have gone far . . ,” Unless Abadon had taken her, but Felinadoubted that. He probably assumed she was dead by now. He had no way of knowingher connection with the gargoyles, so . . ., “We’ll split up and search for her.I’ll take the second floor, you take the first.”

“Gotcha.”

[Note: while I was writing the following scene, the Cranberrie’s “Zombie” cameon the radio and considering the context of this scene, I think that’s prettycool.]Felina had nearly finished her rounds when she heard a distant mumbling.Hurrying down the corridor, she considered calling Jake, then scratched theidea. Couldn’t she handle one museum curator?She was about to turn enter the Dark Ages exhibit when she spotted Abi’s form.The room was unlit, aside from a few basic lamps to highlight the displays, butanother bonus of her new form kicked in–gargoyles could see in the dark.Ducking behind a diarama set, she only hoped the light of her lit eyes wouldn’tgive her away.Abi was wandering around the exhibits, glancing sideways occasional at one caseor another. As if she’s never seen them before . . ., thought Felina curiously.She almost looks as if she’s looking for something . . .”

Here it is!”Felina nearly gasped; the voice had come from her mouth, but it had certainlynot been Abi’s. The gargoyle recognized it from the one encounter she had hadwith the owner of the low, hissy voice.Abadon.Her eyes narrowed wickedly as she continued to spy on the scene unfolding infront of her.Abadon’s voice had spoken as Abi’s eyes came to rest on a glass display case.Inside, mounted on a small pillow, was an oval gem, only about the size of aquarter.”

At last! The Eye!” Speaking again with Abadon’s voice, she unhesitatinglysmashed the glass with her fist. Felina watched with captured eyes as Abi/Abadondrew the gem from it’s case, flexing her palm around it.

“It’s mine at last!”

“I don’t think so,” the gargoyle rose from her hiding place, stepping into thelight with outstretched wings and claws bared menacingly.

“Put it back . . .Abadon.”

Abi’s face twisted in a smile that wasn’t hers as Abadon spoke, “It seems myhiding place has . . . been discovered. No matter,” he/she held out the gem.”

The Eye is mine now, and I’m afraid there doesn’t seem to be anything you cando about it.”

“Oh yeah?”Abadon/Abi ducked, slipping out of the way just in time to avoid Felina’s lungein that direction. The enforcer saw the miss coming and regained herselfquickly, bracing for another attack.”

Oh, this *could* get interesting,” Abadon said slyly.

“It seems I shall haveto play fire with fire.”

Abadon stepped back and spoke something in Lopine beneath his breath. A purplemist of magical strains appeared around Abi’s body.”

What the–?”Abadon began laughing in his manical way. The purple energy swarmed around him,and he continued his laugh as he started down at Abi’s paws in front of him asthey began to mutate.Felina recognized the transformation all too well.Abi’s paws grew, and thickened . . . into claws. Out her back appeared stubs,constantly expanding into wings. Her legs and feet adjusted to the talons. Hertail lengthened, almost snake-like instead of bushy.Abadon’s laughter became a gargoyle-like growl.”

It seems . . .,” he spoke with a lower, demon-like voice, spreading his wingsluxuriously, ” . . . that I have decided to throw you a bone.”

Deep inside, Felina knew he was right. A powerful sorcerer like Abadon, even inthe body of Abi, she didn’t doubt could easily have struck the enforcer she-katdown with magic by now. At least this would be a proper fight.Abadon launched himself at Felina, nearly toppling her. She was ready, and asshe went down, she used her position to hurl him over her–straight into a glassdisplay case. Felina had no intention of harming Abi, but she had to face whathad to be done.Hissing, Abadon/Abi’s eyes lit widly as he stood, gaining back enough balanceto take a swipe at Felina. The powerful gargoyle limbs sent her flying back intothe diarama. The enforcer shook herself, trying to get her vision straight. Theknock had really taken out some sense of balance. Moaning softly, she rubbed thespot on her skull where he had struck.”

NOW . . . TO END THIS . . .,” a sphere of purple energy lit his/her claw,burning with intensity.”

You got that right!”Abadon needed a moment to react to the new presence in the room; it was justenough time for Jake. He swung his cane out, knocking the gem out ofAbadon/Abi’s claw.The gem went flying.Abadon shrieked, leaping in that direction.His attention was again distracted; it gave Felina the appropriate amount oftime to regain her composture and knock him out from behind.”

NO!” Abadon/Abi fell, outstretched claws landing only a few feet from the gem.Jake’s shoe came down between his/her claws and the gem.”

It’s over, Abadon,” he bent over to scoop up the gem as Abadon moaned indefeat. On his back he could feel Felina’s talons, pinning him down, “Stay rightwhere you are.”

A rush of wind overcame Jake as he bent beside the gem, this time not startedby Abadon, “Hey!” The wind circled around the gem, and three forms appeared inthe purple mist.

“Huh–?”One gargoyle, one sorcerer/curator/gargoyle, and one kat watched in amazementas the image of the three creatures focused. From the mist approached threefemale kats, all dressed in strange blue robes. They were identical in figureand fur, aside from the different hair color on each.”

Who–?”Abadon/Abi gasped, he seemed to recognize them. The middle one plucked the gemfrom the floor, holding it in her paws as they brushed aside Jake to faceAbadon/Abi. Felina backed away, joining Jake on his side to marvel at the scenebeing played through.Abadon stood, angry, “YOU–What are *you* doing here?!”

“You have possessed the body of our child, Abadon.”

“She is sacred.”

“You knew the law.”

“*What*? This weak kat?” He looked down at Abi’s form.

“A vilthuril?!”

“It is as you speak.”

“You have broken a sacred law of Frith.”

“You must leave her.”

Abadon frowned, knowing their were right. He knew the wierd sisters fromexperience; they had every right and power to call Frith in personally to takecare of him, “Aggghhh . . . . all right.”

He glanced back at Jake and Felina,”This is not finished.”

He spoke again softly, and the form of Abi slumped to the ground. The threewitches circled around her prone form.Only now, with growing concern, did Jake dare to approach them, “What’s goingon?”

“She is our child.”

“She is free.”

“We have driven Abadon from her.”

“But . . . who are you? What do you mean–,” somehow, he didn’t think he wasgoing to get any sort of response as Abi began to stir. Still in gargoyle form,she stood hesitantly, eyes unfocused and wavering.The witches spoke soothingly, in a strangly calming voice as the first touchedher shoulder, “Rest, child.”

“You are weak.”

“Let your body rest.”

With the touch, Abi instantly collapsed. Exchanging glances, the witches tooktheir places around her, holding hands as the mist began to stir again aroundthem.Jake stepped back towards Felina as they both watched the odd happening.Abi’s body began to glow. Her gargoyle features receeded, just as Felina andChance’s did during dawn. After only a few minutes passing, her body was back toit’s smaller, frailer form.”

Our work here is done.”

The three witches began to dissolve into the spreading mist, the gem droppingat Abi’s side.”

No, wait–,” by the time Jake’s paw was outstretched enough to reach them,they were gone. The kat and the gargoyle were left alone . . . with oneunconscious vilthuril.Chapter 10Jake looked nervously out again at the balcony, “They should be back by now.”

“Relax,” from her position beside Abi, Felina glanced at the clock on the wall.”

You called Chance five minutes ago. How fast can the Turbokat go?”

“Pretty fast,” restlessly, he snatched his cane and hobbled over to thebalcony, staring up at the sky.Felina didn’t condemn his impatience; neither of them were up for another matchwith Abadon, at least alone. She suspected, in the back of Jake’s mind, he hadall ready begun to recognize the fact that if Maric did not defeat Abadon . . .it meant *he* would have to face him. Jake was a scientist and a mechanic, anenforcer at best, but no swordskat.Their attention was shifted to the figure on the couch as Abi began to moansoftly. They had both been debating over taking her to the hospital, but withher consciousness returning, it was a good sign.”

Wha . . .?” her eyelids fluttering, Abi strained to see through the thick mistthat clouded the clarity of her vision.”

Shhh . . . relax,” Jake bent beside her.

“Do you remember what happened?”

” . . . what?” Something had happened? The last thing she remembered wasdrifting off shortly after Thoran left to search for Abadon.”

She doesn’t remember,” Felina’s words were confirmed as she meet Abi’sconfused eyes.

“She doesn’t remember anything.”

“What happened . . .?” she struggled to understand what they were talkingabout.”

Abadon possessed you . . . do you ever remember him leaving after he smashedSevian?”Frowning, “Come to think of it . . . no . . . I just remember getting . . .knocked out . . .”

She closed her eyes in defeat, feeling frustrated, “How manytimes in one night . . . does this have to happen . . .? Damn . . . my head . ..”

“Hmm,” Jake brushed his paw up against the snarled black and blue bruise.”

Maybe it IS a fracture. Felina, could you get me some bandages?”She complied; he was busy bandaging her up when the gargoyles finally arrived.”

What happened–,” Thoran looked at Abi, then shook his head sadly.

“Oh *no*,not again . . .”

“You were off the mark, Thoran,” Jake stood.

“Abadon never left the museum. Hewas inside Abi all along–trying to steal this.”

He tossed the Eye at Thoran,who caught it instantly.”

You OK?” T-Bone’s concern still leveled on his partner.”

Yeah . . . he didn’t attack me. I don’t think he even knows who I am yet.”

“Why didn’t he get it?” Thoran held the Eye tightly in his claw, sensing itspower ignited by his presence.”

Would you believe it . . .,” Jake shook his head, smiling in almost disbelief.”

Three wierd witches showed up and kicked him out.”

The leader’s eyebrows raised. The wierd sisters! What role did they truly playin this?! “I believe you.”

The recognization in his voice drove chills up Jake’sspine.”

What can we do?” Chani came up behind him nervously.

“If we stay another dayhe will destroy us for sure. It’s nearly midnight. We might not even find himbefore dawn.”

Thoran’s frown deepened. He knew the survival of the clan could easily resideon whatever decisions he made in the next six hours. The memories of the oldclan–the ones he had left behind that fateful night back in 996–and thepicture of how all their crushed bones must have looked like the following nightwere ever present in his mind.He would not let such a holocaust happen again . . . not while *he* was leader.”

You know what to do, Thoran of Megallith.”

“Let her use the Eye.”

“Your destinies have all ready been set.”

Looking up, the familiar forms were now present on the other end of the room,behind Felina. It was plain to see that no one else had noticed their arrival,except Abi . . .”

Thoran . . .”

He tugged Abi’s paw comfortingly, speaking in a low voice, “I know. I see them,too. The others can’t.”

Glancing around, the clan was still waiting for ananswer. But he had other matters on his hand now.”

Thoran . . .,” Jake could not see the witches, but at least he noticedThoran’s interest in the apparently empty wall behind Felina.

“Is somethingwrong?”

“Quiet, lad,” he hushed him, waiting for more from the witches. His clawtightened around the Eye; he could feel its power pulsing through his veins. Asilent understanding passed between him and the three sisters.They nodded, and were gone.He readjusted his gaze on the clan, “I have an idea . . . but first, I’m afraidthere is some . . . explaining to do.”

“Are you sure about this?”She was seated on the armchair, surrounded by the gargoyles and the two sons ofEcuador. Directly in front of her, Thoran held the Eye of Beraan–now on theproper golden chain to fit around a neck. It glowed with excitement, almost asif it could sense the building energy in the room.Nodding softly, careful not to move her head too much, Abi sighed nervously,”As I’ll ever be . . .”

“You don’t have to do this, Abi,” Jake approached her side.

“No one’s forcingyou to.”

“Oh, really?” she raised her eyebrows skeptically.

“Would you like to be aroundif Thoran does it?” Jake cowered back.

“Besides . . . I suppose I could say it’sfor the good of my research.”

“Now, Abi,” Thoran began, “The Eye will heal your skull–but not permanately.Once you remove it, the injury will rejuvinate.”

“Then let’s get it on,” she equiped.

“My head is throbbing.”

Thoran breathed deeply, then released his breath and stepped forward, placingthe chain around her neck. A hush of silence overcame the room as the Eye beganto glow with intensity.Closing his eyes momentarily, Thoran stepped back and began to chant,”Guiminatos . . . kumlate’ alcanad . . .”

He was no sorcerer or mage, but thewitches had long-since instructed him in the use of the Eye. That was somethingonly vilthurils and high ranked members of the Isatari were permitted to know.Even Maric, a Lopine scholar, could not recognize all of the words of the chant.They were spoken in an ancient Lopine of the sages–a version he did not know.”

Rusniaot berbadie . . .”

The words seemed to ignite the Eye; the gem nearly burned their eyes with theintensity of it’s brighteness.”

Agy cumsabaq’ ‘jueg . . .”

The flourescent blue glow surrounding the Eye spread, engulfing her body. Abiscreamed, not from the pain, but the sudden rush of energy was overwhelming . .. Jake was ready to drop his cane and run to her side, but Maric held him backwith firm paws.”

Sha’uro redic!”There was a white hot flash of light, causing them to at last turn their eyesaway for a breaf moment. T-Bone shielded both himself and his partner with oneof his wings.A moment later, the light receeded.Abi was motionless on her seat. Her eyes were open, yet glazed over andobviously unseeing. The glow around her body had sunk back into the Eye, whichwas not so bright now, but still powered up.Thoran slowly approached her, waving his claw in front of her stationary eyes.No reaction.He let out a sigh of relief, “She’s in.”

The concept Thoran had used as “inside” was a very vague term. In truth, shewas “outside” of the material world, becuase she could see what was there andmore.It was like having a thousand thoughts thrown at her, all at once. Every oneshe saw individually, but all at the same time. Days and nights passed aroundher, fading and dissolving, then focusing again like a bad movie projecter.Admist the confusion, she could sense the witches . . . but only distantly . .. no, they were too far.The churning visions were almost painful; she buried her head in her arms. Amoment later, it was as if the spinning had stopped, as if the Eye had centeredon one solatary vision.She was in Megallith Castle. She knew it instantly; hours of study of it’sruins didn’t fail her memory now. But . . . it was whole again. There was thesmell of fire, and of burning. Around her she could hear soldier’s cries–wasshe in the midst of a battle?No . . . she was on the front rampart, and overlooking the side wall, she couldsee soldiers wearing armor she had, in her studies, recognized as the typicalcolors of San-Aldus. They were carting away the captured masses of prisoners,probably Megallithians.She suddenly realized when she was. Around her, on the decorated merlons, werestone gargoyles–smashed gargoyles. San-Aldus’s armies had just conqueredMegallith Castle, which meant Thoran and the group he took were in the forestcave somewhere, under a sleep spell that would hold them for another thousandyears.The statues where of the gargoyles that had remained behind to guard thecastle.Approaching a merlon, she picked up a few pieces of rubble that had once been aflesh-and-blood creature and held them in her paws. At once she screamed, it waslike she could feel the stones bleeding in her paws. She dropped to her feet,feeling a rush of memories–memories that had belonged to that gargoyle–pourinto her mind like a rushing stream. Thoran rarely spoke of the ones he leftbehind, but she knew this one as if she had lived with him all her life.The pain was again overwhelming. She dropped the stones; holding them was tooagonizing. The scene around her, as quickly as it had come, melted away.She was still standing in front of a merlon, but it was different–newer. Thebalcony of the museum? Over the front she could see not the visions of a tornbattleground, but a few tree sculptures of dinosaurs for the new exhibit. Thatmeant the crushed stones on the merlon in front of her were now . . . Sevian. Itwas like the massacre at the castle . . .  all over again.The stones began to move, fitting themselves together again into the form theyhad once been. She recognized Sevian’s lanky body. The stone creature of his’bones’ turned to face her, hissing. Nearly screaming, she fell back awkwardlyas he came towards her, eyes lit.”

WHY COULDN’T YOU SAVE ME?!” the piercing voice almost commanded, diggin intoher soul and tearing apart any appropriate answer she had prepared.”

T-There was nothing . . . I could d-do–”

“LOOK AT ME!” he was nothing but a fitted mass of crumbled stones.

“LOOK AT ME!THIS IS YOUR DOING!” Shrieking horribly, he fell to his knees as the bondsbetween the stones began to crumble again.”

No . . .,” some newfound strength within her was called up.

“It was Abadon!”Around her, the other statues–those of the gargoyles she knew so well, began tocollapse as well, even though they had never been touched.”

Look at us, Abi . . .”

the weak cries of the dying gargoyles surrounded her.”

This is our future, Abi . . .”

“NO,” straightening, she tightened her fist determinedly.

“I *won’t* let ithappen again . . .”

Closing her eyes tightly, she concentrated on the task athand. Almost in a commanding voice, to no one in particular, she spoke, “Showme.”

The cries were drowned out by the shifting scenes, and she saw.”

Abi . . . come back to us . . .”

There was a familiar voice penetrating the mist; Abi moaned softly. The senseof ‘feeling’ returned–her head began to throb again. The Eye must have beentaken off . . .”

Did you see?”A very eager Chip appeared in the corner of her vision, looking down at herover the side. The shapes began to take a finer form; she recognized Thoran andJake . . . and the rest . . .She had seen indeed; she wondered now if she should have been more specific onwhat she wanted to be shown. The Eye told her where Abadon was, of course, butit continued beyond that . . . beyond the battle of Abadon and Maric . . . itmight have just kept going and showed her the rest of her life, maybe until theend of time if it wanted, but something had disturbed it.”

We had to take it off . . . we were getting worried about you,” with a gentleclaw Thoran brushed her hair out of her face as she straightened in thearmchair.”

Oh G-d . . . Abadon . . .”

“Where is he?”

“He’s . . . G-d, I saw so much . . . I have to sort it out . . .,” shecarefully massaged the large bruise reforming.

“He’s . . . on a roof–awarehouse.”

Frightened, she turned to Maric, “He’s waiting for you . . . he hasa sword . . . I saw your swords clash . . .”

Sensing the urgency of the moment, Maric slid the sword of Ecuador out of it’sshealth at his side, “Then it must be done . . .”

Jake hobbled over to his side, “Maric–”

“If a vilthuril decrees it, then it must be done, Jacob. Where is the factory?”

“It’s . . .,” she spelled out a name, and an address. Maric inspected the idgeof the sword, finding it to his liking, then turned to Thoran, “Take me there.”

Thoran complied, strangely, “Only if I can bring my clan.”

“If they want to watch . . . but they cannot interfere.”

“Woah, woah, woah . . .,” T-Bone jumped in, disbelieving.

“You’re not actuallyconsidering fighting this guy . . . *alone* . . .”

Maric nodded, sadly, “That is the law. Come.”

The clan turned to go, but Abi grabbed Thoran by the arm as the others went,”Don’t let him go . . . please, Thoran . . . I-I saw blood on Abadon’s sword . ..”

The leader shook his head in defeat, “Then it is even more important that hecompletes his destiny.”

“But . . . there will be no one left to teach Jake . . .”

Jake, who had been the only one bothering to catch the quiet conversation,picked up on it now. Why were they talking like they were so sure he was goingto lose? Maric was a good swordsman.But an understand had passed between the two vilthurils that he could notunderstand . . . the concept of fate.

Chapter 11

″Hello, Maric.”

The cold, crisp voice drove a chill up the old mage’s spine. On the rooftop, he had appeared to alone. The gargoyles, under the administration of Thoran, were held on the connecting roof.  Like spectators to a tourney…

Spinning around, only now did Abadon choose to make himself scene. His sword was similar in style to Maric’s–why not? They were both about the same height and build.It would give me an edge, the mage thought hopefully. I know how it works; I’vespared with one all my life. But knowledge is a double-edged sword, he remindedhimself, Abadon knows this blade as well.”

I thought you would come,” in a calm, proper voice he drew his sword, holding it out in ready position. Maric did the same, letting their swords cross.

“Shall we begin . . .?”

In rage, Maric struck first, with a strong slice that was parried by his opponent, nearly knocking him off balance. A weakness! He sees it! the mage thought angrily. He has placed it in me! I must not let my rage over Sevian’s death overcome me . . . I must be calm . . .Breathing deeply, he regained himself and decided to wait for the next strike.  Abadon did not act so quickly. They paced a bit, each trying to predict the other’s actions through the tensing of muscles or stance, but it was hard to see, as they were both wearing a sorcerer’s robes.He struck at last, a sneaky piercing blow in aim of Maric’s abdomen. Maric parried, whacking the blade away, but Abadon was ready and used the knock to throw his blade over his opponent’s and in the direction of his head.There was a clash of swords as Maric caught the swing. The sword of Ecuador seemed to almost sizzle each time it touched Abadon’s blade.”

Is he winning?” Thoran heard Jumicus beside him ask.

There was no response; he was too caught up in the battle. He knew he needn’t worry of attempts to save their mage; no gargoyle would dare to come between the two opponents.

Maric began to breath in gasping wheezes as he ducked out of the way of another swing. Abadon was really coming on strong. Maric knew from the history books that the evil sorcerer was nearly as old as Aslan or Ecaudor–many ages old–but it didn’t matter in battle. The plain truth was: Maric was starting to feel his age and beyond, Abadon was not.I will tire before him, he thought hopelessly. This battle was doomed before our swords were even made . . .The image of Jake was coming in clear in the back of his mind. Jacob would have to face him now, wouldn’t he? Who would be his teacher? Sauraman was gone, and the gargoyles were no swordsmen.  And who would defend him while he was still crippled?  He couldn’t worry about that now. He had his own problems at hand. There was an audible snap as his sword struck the water pipe, letting loose a spurt of rushing water.

“You need to work on your aim,” Abadon looked down at his soaked robes,sighing, then without missing a beat swung again. Maric leapt to avoid the low blow, landing securely on the upper ledge.  Abadon grabbed the opportunity. As his opponent midly struggled for balance on the end of the ledge, he swung again. The swing went wild, striking at Maric’s feet on the ledge. It missed, but had it’s desired effect, catching the old mage off balance. Maric tumbled backwards, landing on with his back against the ground.Smiling, Abadon hopped up onto the upper ledge, wielding his sword inches above the face of his opponent. Maric breathed deeply, but said nothing.”

It’s about time, Abadon brought the blade closer to his throat.

“I was getting bored.”

Maric attempted to stand, using his sword as a prompter, but Abadon knocked theblade well out of the way with his own. Maric collapsed again, at his knees,wheezing heavily as he looked up at his opponent. His eyes were marked with ablunt hopelessness and a feeling of oncoming doom.Speaking quietly, in a calm, low voice Abadon spoke again, “Now it ends.”

Heraised his blade, set loose a horrible battle cry, and swung down at the neck ofMaric of Ecuador.Time had slowed to a crawl for the small crowd of onlookers on the roof beside.Thoran looked away, mouthing the old prophecy, ” . . . and heads shall roll . ..”

Grinning wildly, he slipped beside the decapitated body at his feet. The battlewas won, but the prize was yet to be claimed.The sword of Ecuador was lying idol by his side. The blade seemed to be hummingslightly, almost in a built up anger towards the oncoming oppressor. Abadon bentbeside it, clutching the golden handle with his paws.”

At last . . .,” Something unexpected happened; a dull whine echoed in his ears as the handlebegan to fizzle. The intensity of both shocks grew with incredible speed . . .he had only begun to grip it as he was forced to release it with a scream ofpain.The sword landed again with a ‘thunk’ as he moaned and gripped his ears,trying to force out the agonizing noise.”

No . . .,” he looked at the sword, now calm.

“The spells are still in effect.  But I’ve slain the only . . .,” realization struck him.

“*No* . . . there must be another one here . . . he must be back at  the museum . . .”

Glancing overhis shoulder as he stood, he noticed the angered gargoyle clan closing in.

“Looks like it is time to stage my exit . . .”

There was a blinding flash of light, and he was gone.The transportation spell was nearly complete, and the scene around him began to steady. The sword of Ecaudor had come with him, lying idol at his feet. His ownsword, still bloodied from battle, hung loosely in his paw.”

What the–?”He realized his arrival must have been a shock to the kats in the room. Nodust, no wind, just a flash of light and he had appeared.”

*You* . . .,” a female voice caused him to spin around to face Abi.  “I *knew*it . . . oh, why did I ever let him go?”

Abadon frowned. Killing her here and now, before the gargoyles arrived, would be simple enough, but she was a vilthuril. The death of a vilthuril would surely turn the eyes of Frith over to this dimension of the universe! He tightened his grasp over his sword, but did not strike, “You have no idea what I would do to be rid of you!”

“Stay away from her!” A second voice chimed, and he spun so he could see both on each side. It was the orange kat with the cane, the one who had taken the Eye from him during a vital moment. The malice in the slim kat’s voice was enough to cause him to hesitate from further moment.But only for a second.

“Oh, spare me!” Abadon didn’t bother to hide the boredom in his tone.  “What can*you* do?”

“Not much–but *we* can!” Jake darted to his side, and Abadon was met with afully-grown gargoyle charging at his face. There was little time for reactionaside from a quick step to the side.T-Bone growled, missing the target, but still managing a swing with his rightclaw that tore Abadon’s robe.”

Foolish monster!” Before T-Bone could get to his feet again, Abadon gathered afiery sphere of red magic and struck him with it.

“Why do you always test theimpossible!?”T-Bone moaned as he was struck by the beam. He collapsed again, feeling hisenergy drain, “Jake . . . NOW!”Abadon swung his own sword out just in time to catch and parry Jake’s ownswing. He off-balanced the crippled kat easily, throwing him backwards on thefloor. His cane made a loud clanking sound as it hit the floor.But Abadon was concentrating on them. The sword, he thought! He held the sword!But HIM? How could he be . . .?

“A *cripple*? The son of Ecuador is a*cripple*?”

“I’m not a cripple,” Jake said firmly, but as he reached for his cane, Abadon waved his paw and it fell out of his reach.”

YOU!” The sorcerer kicked out effortlessly, knocking Jake even further to hisfeet. Abadon leveled his sword at Jake’s neck, pinning him down with a foot onhis chest. The prone mechanic gasped for air; Abadon’s weight was crushing hislungs. He squirmed for feedom, but in his state he was no match for his rival.”

*You* are hardly a worthy opponent, mortal! Maric was better, and I havedefeated him! What makes you doubt I would not hesitate to take two heads in onenight?”Jake wheezed, too concerned with catching his breath to reply as the blade ofAbadon knicked the fur and flesh across his throat. Closing his eyes, heswallowed and waited for the end.”

I could slay you now,” Abadon spoke softer, holding Abi and T-Bone at bay witha palm of magic ready to hurl.

“But the sword would never bend to me if I killeda cripple.”

Jake’s features twisted, but he suddenly understood. Beside him, the swordseemed to be humming wildly, almost glowing.  Silently, Abadon stood, removing the weight of his foot off Jake’s chest. TheSWAT Kat coughed as his air passageways were opened again. The sorcerer glancedout the balcony, “The gargoyles will be here soon. I think it best that I takemy leave.”

In a mock bow, he gestured towards Abi and T-Bone, then turned backto Jake.

“I’ll return for you, son of Ecuador.”

A blink of an eye and he was gone; Jake released his breath.”

You okay, buddy?” T-Bone knelt by his side, helping him stand again while Abiwent for his cane.Jake faced his partner in blunt earnest, “My days are numbered.”

“What a night . . .,” Abi sighed, facing the balcony, littered with stonegargoyles. Behind her, she heard a quiet “yeah” as the tap-tap of Jake’scrutches sounded wildly. It wasn’t over for him, was it? Not until Abadon wasdead . . . until then, a weight that had passed from Maric to him would continueto weight him down.”

Are you all right, Jake?”The mechanic came up beside her, leaning tiredly on his cane, “Am I supposed tobe? I mean, come on–I’m supposed to be some sort of swordskat now. Maric’sdead, Sauraman’s gone . . . that doesn’t leave me with a lot of options, doesit?”

“Maybe Sauraman’ll return.”

“He won’t return,” his voice was cold as he turned back into the museum.

“Hewon’t get back in time–if he gets back at all. I won’t be surprised if heabandoned us.”

“You shouldn’t be so negative–”

“*I* shoudn’t be so negative?! *I’m* the one who has to face this guy, thankyou very much! I can’t walk by myself, my partner’s asleep all day if he getsthe littlest scratch, and the only two kats who could have possibly helped me inthis situation are the ones who left it to me!”His voice had been rising in anger throughout the speech, but suddenly hedeflated, feeling lost and hopeless as he took in his own words. He sunk furtherwith his weight on the cane, shaking his head and staring downward, “It’s no use. . .”

“Well . . .,” feeling Jake’s need for support, Abi chimed in.

“There is *one* thing you can do . . .”

“What?”

“You can be ready for him. You’re a SWAT Kat, aren’t you?” Smiling wickedly,”Or have you forgotten that all ready?”

Chapter 12

Less than a day had passed, and Jake found himself beside the newly-dug grave in front of Sauraman’s tower. Lopineneans did not necessarily have tombstones,but Thoran insisted, “How else would someone know the grave is there?”

So they had placed a simple one, carved (for cost reasons) by the Thoran’s own claws. On it read, in Brer Lopine:Maric of Ecuador(946 – 1996)May Frith wait with him,by the gates of His kingdom.    The gargoyles had no holy kat, or ‘mog-ur’ in other forms of Lopine, but asleader Thoran served as a sort of “priest” for the ceremony. Silently, with onlya few grunted vocalized words, he went through a series of guestures with hisclaws. He explained later to Abi that they were of clan origin, a group ofneandarthal Lopineneans who had undeveloped vocal chords and communicated simplyby signals and gestures. Since they had mainly died out, their gestures hadbecome a common burial ritual that was kept secret in meaning among leaders.When he was finished, Jake, Abi, and Hackle said the traditional JewishMourner’s Kaddish prayer, because it was all they knew and Jake felt Maric wouldhave wanted them to be comfortable and grieving in their own personal way,”Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba . . .”

The prayer continued, and the others were silent. T-Bone recalled it, vaguely.Jake had recited it every day for a year after his mother died, and then againon the anniversary of her death each year. That same Hebrew, lifeless tone,without tune or rythym . . .It ended, and each were among their own thoughts; Lopineneans were not big onspeeches. Jake stared at the gravestone, wondering if a similar one would beerected soon–in his honor. He wondered what Ramis was doing, if he was stillalive, and what he would do if he knew his father was dead. Or perhaps he knewall ready . . . the Lopineneans were such mystics, Jake wouldn’t toss the ideaout so quickly.Time passed, and in couples or alone the group began to slink away. It wasn’tlong before only three were still huddled around the grave, each ingrossed intheir separate reactions.”

I knew it . . .,” breaking the noiseless streak, Abi spoke suddenly.

“I knewthis was going to happen–G-d, I *saw* this before . . .”

Her voice carried adistant tone.”

Of course you did,” Thoran’s tone stated understandingly.

“You’re avilthuril.”

“So why didn’t I try to prevent it?”

“Abi . . .,” the gargoyle leader exhaled, crossing his heavy arms against hischest.

“Being a vilthuril is both a gift . . . and a curse. Sometimes you seethings that you don’t want to . . . and you feel the need to try and prevent it.Whether you try or you don’t . . . you’re still playing into the hands of fate.The time stream cannot be changed.”

Abi thought for a moment, then looked at him gravely, “Did you see the massacreat Megallith Castle . . . beforehand?”

“I knew it was coming, yes . . . but I didn’t know how or when. Frakes andSelena were also hinted to me, but by the wierd sisters and not by dreams. So Inever connected the two. I had these dreams . . .,” he nearly buried his head inhis claws.

“I saw their bones–the broken bits of stone–and I knew what wasahead. I wished I wasn’t leader, so I wouldn’t feel like such a fate rested onmy shoulders. But not knowing how or when . . . it was like someone above wastossing me a line . . . then pulling it away each time my claw swung by. It wasa shadow hovering above me for many years.”

“But you remained leader.”

“You . . . get used to it. And there was no one else to lead the clan.”

“Abi,” Jake joined in. Previously, he had been standing outside of theconversation.

“When you, umm . . . used the Eye . . . how far did you see?”She caught the drift quickly, “It was jumble, Jake. I don’t know about you yet.But if I see anything . . . I’ll tell you.”

Jake nodded, and turned to leave.She watched him go, than faced Thoran again, instantly reading the grave lookon his face, “You know, don’t you? You know what’s going to happen to him?”

“Like I said, Abi. A gift . . . or a curse.”

End of Part 2

————————————————————————————————————

“There can be only one.”

–Connor MacLeod, theHighlander

————————————————————————————————————

Part 3

Chapter 1

Jake made him way out to the truck, feeling a dull ache in his ribs. Tylenolmust’ve warn off . . ., his attention shifted to Chance, who grunted as heloaded the second sack onto the back of the truck, “Jeez–I didn’t realize wewere so heavy!”The sacks contained the shattered stones that were all that remained of Sevianof Megallith. Traditionally, gargoyles were not buried–stone only became harderunder the pressure of dirt and rock. In order for them to slowly wear down askat bodies did when they were buried, the stones were typically cast off somemountain ledge, up high where they would be worn down by wind and rain. Amemorial service was manditory, but the actual spreading of the stones was notnecessarily part of it.Jake had been thinking hard of it since Sevian’s death; after the funeral forMaric he approached the old leader and made a strange request. Thoran had staredat him oddly, almost as if he had seen this before in a dream, then complied.”

I still don’t like this,” Chance muttered, slamming the truck door as he gotin to secure the creaky door.”

What’re you worrying about?” Jake set his cane up against the seat as thetruck yanked out of the yard, heading out towards the outskirts of Megakat City,near the coast.”

I dunno . . . it just gives me the creeps whenever you and the doc put you’reheads together.”

He smiled, shaking his head. He rarely approached his father with a technicalproblem, but this situation intreged him.If he can turn a couple of dead gangsters into robots, he thought, then hellknows what we can do with a smashed gargoyle.Three Days LaterIn the background of the office, Jake could hear the faint sounds of thetelevision announcer. It was easily muted by Chance’s drilling through the glasswindow.It would take days, his plan. That was what his father had said. But it mightwork. Not days–weeks, actually. It had taken the professor over a month tocreate the Metallikats. His son couldn’t blame him when it came to fixing amagical creature. Now is Sauraman were there, then perhaps it would go faster,but . . .Jake sighed, and pushed the thought away. Sometimes it was bad to wish thingsbound not to happen. Nothing evident was persistent, expect a rattling in hisbones, that Sauraman would not return in time to save him from his fate withAbadon.He tried to concentrate on the papers in front of him. Abadon or no, there wasstill work to do around the yard–mechanical or accounting. He was currently upto his ears in forms and bills, with all that had been going on.There was a distant crashing sound; Burk and Murry had arrived.”

If there’s one thing I hate about this job . . .,” Chance muttered to himself,making his way out of the garage.

“It’s the neighborhood lurkers.”

“Hey, lowlifes!” Murry’s taunting voice spread across the yard.

“Make any moremoney this week? That enforcer building’s gettin’ expensive!”

“Bug off,” Chance was clearly not in the mood to be irritated.

“Why don’t yougo make a Star Wars movie or something?”

“Yeah,” Jake backed him.

“Don’t you have anything better to do than dump infront of our garage?!”Murry only persisted further, pleased with their growing anger, “Why? Don’tlike our *special delivery*?” He turned to his burly partner, “Hear that, Burk?I don’t think they appreciate us!”

“Look, I know you’re doing your job, but just *do* it somewhere else, okay?!”His angered response only sparked more laughter from the two junkkats. Murryregained himself, approaching Jake and pointing at him tauntingly, “Demands!Coming from a cripple who can’t even stay in one piece *out* of the air!”Chance saw Jake’s eyes glow with hatred; he instantly stepped between him andthe midget junkkat, “Hey, guys–cut it out.”

“What?” Burk towered over the muscler SWAT Kat.

“Don’t think your buddy canhandle him?”

“Just . . . leave him alone,” he didn’t like the way the conversation wasgoing, and he knew his partner couldn’t affort any *more* injuries before Abadondecided to show up again.”

C’mon, Burk” practically picking himself up from the floor from laughter,Murry led him back to the dump truck.

“They’ve got bills to pay off–in the nextthousand years!”They drove off, and with them their laughter eventually wasted away, out ofearshot. Chance clenched his fists, then released them. Beside him, his partnerwas silent as he headed back into the office.Chance had gone back to his work, and Jake stood beside his desk, deeplyworried. Feeling strength within him and being beyond his partner’s view, he sethis cane beside the wall, leaning on the rim of desk.Then, slowly, he began to put one foot in front of him, one after another. Hisrib’s dull ache struck him now with a sharp pain in his side, but he muffled hisgroan and tried for another step.”

Jake–what the hell are you doing–!”Chance was behind him, standing at the door. He must have heard the groan, “Youknow what the doctor said–“Clenching his teeth to fight the pain, he lurched forward into another step,gripping the rim so sweat from his palm made it slippery, “I know . . .,” with aheavying breath he strained again to inch forward.

“Another two days.”

“C’mon–,” Chance grabbed his arm, trying to pull him to the chair.

“You’rejust pushing yourself–”

“Pushing myself!” Almost laughing, Jake pushed away his partner’s grip andgasped as his foot moved again. A thought beyond Chance’s understanding suddenlyhit him; a grave expression lit his face as he looked down sadly, “What does itmatter, anyway?” He faced his friend, dead serious.

“Abadon could pop in anytime now.”

“What makes you think you don’t have a chance?”

“The only chance I have is *you*, and you can’t stand up to him! Admit it!”Chance frowned; he knew he was right.”

Now,” apparently satisfied by his current feat of walking the length of thedesk, he settled down into the chair, “I can either go down like a cripple . . .or I can go down fighting. Which would you prefer?”

“They have to be here *somewhere* . . .”

Abi was hunched over her desk, sorting through a heavy stack of papers. Out bythe balcony, the sun was still reasonably high; it would be another few hoursbefore dusk.Abi cursed softly beneath her breath, slamming the heavyrimmed binder she had been shifting through back onto the work pile, heading forthe bookshelve, “I could have *sworn* they were right here . . .”

“Take your time,” Jake settled back into a chair. He walked freely now, asidefrom an occasional throbbing in his ribs. He hadn’t fully gone back to trainingyet, under the strict orders of his doctor and just about everyone who knew himwell.Abi frowned. She had found some references to the history of the sword ofEcaudor previously, and had been apparently eager to show them to Jake.”

Dr. Sinian? Am I interrupting something?”It was the slim, gentle-faced assistant curator Debbie Howser, who was stillstudying for her master’s degrees. A nervous creature with an awful twitch whenit came to gargoyles, she preferred to be long gone with the closing crowdsbefore sundown. Jake didn’t think too much of her, but then again he oftencorrected himself to the fact that they *were* pretty frightening if you didn’tknow them personally.”

No, Deborah,” Abi stepped down from her stool, setting the book she had beenshifting through up on its shelf again.

“Is something wrong?”

“Oh, no–it’s just that there’s a kat wandering around the medival exhibit whoseems to think he’s, umm, more important than closing time.”

She smiled, “Okay–I’ll get rid of him. You can start getting ready to go, ifyou want.”

Debbie returned her smile, then hurried away. Chapter 2The kat was nearly black, wearing torn jeans and a sweatshirt. On his back wasa worn, green backpack. Abi nonchalantly glanced down at his worn sneakers upthrough his black cap, and summed him up immediately.”

Check this out–isn’t it *amazing*?” The kat was pointing at a tapestry frombefore the Dark Ages. It was still in good condition, even after all theseyears, depicting an ancient king with his sword waving majestically.

“I mean–itjust takes you for a ride . . .”

His eyes wandered, in complete submission tothe weaved strings of faded colors that formed the picture.

“This stuff is *so*cool.”

“Yes, well . . . I appreciate your interest, but please,” Abi gently graspedhis arm.

“You can come back tomorrow.”

Behind her, Jake watched the kat curiously. Something clicked in in the back ofhis mind–maybe his old enforcer instincts–that told him something wasn’t*right* about this picture. The kat seemed like a college kid, or at least thatwas the way Abi had all ready summed him up as, but he seemed . . . old. Too old. . . like something was wrong . . .”

No . . . you gotta understand . . .,” the kat shook her grip off.

“Look–canyou give me five more minutes?”She hesitated, then gave in, “All right. Five minutes.”

His eyes widened, “Thanks, doc.”

She grinned, then turned to go, joining Jake’s side as she left the kat tohover over a coat of arms, “Nice to see some youthful interest in art for achange.”

He chuckled, “Yeah.”

They can only taken a few steps towards the door when he instantly sensedsomething amiss. His instincts, which he often found quite reliable, kicked inas he curiously glanced over his shoulder.It was just in time to see the kat raise an axe he had pulled from the coat ofarms over his head.”

OUT OF THE WAY!” He hurled himself into Abi, getting her well out of range forthe swing. The axe handed, slicing into the floor with an audible ‘hack.’The kat frowned. His expression, posture, and aura had completely morphed; hewas no longer the college kid with an art facination. His features were olderand twisted, almost evil. Hanging from a gold chain around his wrist was a gemhe had pulled from one of the cases while their backs were turned.Grinning wickedly, he raised the axe again. It was obvious it was far too heavyfor his scrawny body, but it had it’s own wait that was enough of a force toslice anything in its path as it came crashing down.”

Filthy little . . .,” Abi muttered coldly, ducking out of the way. A burglar!And a smart one, to try for it now! Some idiots still broke in after sundown . .. As she jumped again, she tripped and crashed into a heavy shield. The force ofthe impact, though nothing compared to the sharp edge of an axe, was enough tomomentarily knock out her bearings. She collapsed to the ground, shaking herhead furiously. The attacking kat didn’t want to miss such an opportunity; heraised his axe again.”

Stay away from her!” Straight out of the blue, the downswing of the axe wasmet by a sword. Almost instinctively, Jake had reached for the sword of Ecuadorfrom it’s case while the attacker was preoccupied, regrettably discovering hehad left his gun at the garage.It only caused the attacker’s insane smile to widen. He lunged for the coat ofarms, dropping his axe in favor of a sword of his own. He held it up againstJake’s, shifting into fighting stance. It was obvious he knew a thing or twoabout sword fighting.

“On guard!”He swung; and Jake found himself parrying with surprising agility. The handleseemed to sizzle in his paws as the feeling spread up his arms and slowlythroughout his body. Overwhelmed by the odd feeling, he made to command to lungeat his attacker’s blind side, but he did.A blinding flash of light, and he wasn’t there. The scene was different. He wason a green field; all the noises were around him of battles, all the smells,even the feeling. The young attacker became a soldier, with armor and helmet,”Die, Lopine scum!”But the strange sensation only lasted a few seconds. Literally less thanmoments later, he was back in the museum. It was as if some else controlled hisbody was he fought with surprising skill, overwhelming his attacker.Time slowed to a crawl as he watched himself knock the sword out of hisopponent’s paws, then lift his of to the kat’s throat level cooly.He grunted, and the flash returned. He was back on the battle field. In frontof him his sword was pointed at the throat of the soldier, his armor and uniformcovered in dirt and sweat from the battle.The effect of the apparent flashback was nearly painful as Abi’s voice callingbrought him back to the museum, “Jake? Are you all right?”She was now backed by three security guards; relief washed over Jake.”

Yeah–take him away,” he lowered his sword so it hung almost loosely from hispaws, not changing position. He felt exhausted, both physically and emotionally.His ribs throbbed, and he knew it would take a while for what just happened tofully register as the young kat was carted away with the guards.Whe they were gone, Abi turned to him seriously, “What was *that*? I thoughtyou said you’ve never used the sword in your life!”

“I did,” he held it closer with both hands, one grasping the blade and theother lightly gripped around the handle.

“I haven’t–I-I just . . . it just kindof came to me . . .”

His grasp closed tightly around the handle again, and he dropped to his kneesand groaned as the blinding vision returned. He felt grass beneath him, and thefresh air blowing through his fur. The battle was there, with the dead andwounded scattered along the field.Overwhelmed, he dropped the sword, and the image was instantly gone.”

Jake–what was that–”

“I-I don’t know . . .,” opening his eyes again, he stared down at the idolsword. It was almost as if it had a life of its own; like it was telling him it.He was suddenly overcome with the sensation to see more. He pulled it close, nottightening over the handle quiet yet, “Every time I get a good grip–“A moment had barely passed, and Abi was gone from his side. He rose from hiskneeling position, recognizing the strange battle around him that was slowlybecoming less and less alien. The soldier who had referred to him as “Lopinescum” was dead at his feet; apparently he had not been as lucky as the young katwho had tried to rob the museum.He felt as if he *belonged* there, with the sword in his paws. His clothing,his whole appearance had shifted with the scene around him. He was dressed in akilt and light leather armor. The hair on his head seemed fuller–yes, it wasdefinitely long.All around him were the cries of the weak and wounded, as nimble women ran totheir side. Wives–or, as they were apparently now–widows slowly gatheredaround their fallen husbands to mourn. He was overcome with grief, as if he kneweach fallen soldier or Scot.Pain shot through his body; he released the sword. His kilt became jeans, andhis armor became a shirt. Perhaps his fur was shorter. But he was still holdingthe sword . . . and he was still a son of Ecuador.”

Jake–?”With a strange sense of sudden wisdom, he began slowly to piece together whathad just happened, “The sword . . . the sword is *teaching me*.”

He stared inAbi’s confused eyes. Of course she didn’t understand.Not bothering to explain in his apparent new need for haste, he hurried up toher office, “Do you have a phone book?”

“A phone book?”

“Yeah. With ads. Dojos and stuff.”

Her eyes widened, “You’re not considering . . .”

“I *am* considering. Now–where is the phone book?”The tow struck spun widly around a corner, heading out of the heart of MegakatCity and closer to the slums and outskirts. On Jake’s lap was a phone book, opento the “D” section of the advertisements. On the carseat beside him was thesword of Ecuador.”

This is the place.”

The ad read correctly: “Megakat Open Dojo.”

Beneath the heading read, “SenseiDave Gamgee.”

It seemed simple enough, and the tiny print indicated the Senseispecialized in sword classes. That was why Jake had perhaps chosen him–that andhe was still open after 5 PM on a holiday weekend.The building was a classic one you’d imagine on main street, with theapartments above it and spaced very close to the buildings beside it, only itwas immense in size. The sign in the window mimiced the ad”You’re serious about this?” Abi raised her eyebrows skeptically.”

Yeah, sure,” grabbing the sword and  slipping it in his jacket, he stepped outof the truck.

“Did you leave a note for the gargoyles?”

“Yes–how long do you think this should take?”He shrugged, “Depends on how well this sword works.”

The sign on the door was turned to the “OPEN” side,  and they entered. The roomwasn’t took well lit–kind of shadowy so only a few lights fell on the mattedfloor in the center. On the side was a desk, a few weapons prompted up byshelves or cases, and a door.”

Hello?” The room had a strange echo as he spoke.

“Anyone there?”

“Coming,” came a familiar voice he recognized from his earlier phoneconversation. He sounded semi-interested, semi-annoyed.A kat appeared through the door. He has about the same build as Jake, maybe alittle more paddling. His fur was a silvery white, with traces of brown. Thelight brown hair on his head was long, just enough to almost touch hisshoulders, and it swung widly as he walked. He wore a karate gie, probablyoriginally white, but was stained and yellowed from repeated usage. Even hisblack belt was slightly torn on the edges. He sort of waddled when he walked,with his feet turned out, almost as if he was carrying lead around in hisstomach.”

Yes? Are you the one who called?”

“Yeah–I’m Jake Clawson.”

He lent out his paw, and the apparent sensei, instead of taking the paw,grabbed him by the upper wrist and shook that, “Sensei Gamgee.”

Jake suddenlyremembered Abi discribing that pawshake once as from the medival period: wristsinstead of paws.

“You need some kind of private sessons?”

“Umm–yeah. You see, I have to fight this guy with *this*,” he pulled out hissword; it glittered under the bright lights above the mats.”

Wow,” almost in admiration, Gamgee ran one paw over the smooth edge.

“Can Isee it?”

“Uhh . . . no,” Jake didn’t want to be impolite, but a voice screamed in theback of his head that reminded him no one else could touch the handle.

“You see. . . I have this situation . . .”

“Are you going to tell me it or not?” His blunt response caused Jake to betaken back. This ‘sensei’ was not stereotypical at all–he was obviouslyAmerican, probably of Irish decent, and even though he had the aura of a mastertrainer, he spoke like anyone else Jake might have met on the street, only a bitmore educated.Jake hesitated, slowly as he turned back to Abi, “Well . . . what do youthink?”She frowned. She certainly wasn’t getting any bad vibes from his guy, but shewasn’t sure yet–still, time was of the essence. Jake was healing every day, andthere was no telling when Abadon would show his face again, “All right . . .”

There was the constant clash of swords echoing throughout the dojo; Abiwondered how the tenants above could stand it. Still, she was captivated by thetwo fighters–they fought like the ancient medival warriors she always studiedand read about.Jake swung out with amazing forcing, occasionally breaking through one ofGamgee’s defenses. For someone who had never actually used a sword before thatday, he was doing quite well.Time passed as the two fought, and he began to feel himself tire. Gamgee showedno signs of planning to end the battle; his defenses were as firm as ever.I’ll screw up soon, Jake realized. I’m too tired. Maybe I should have held offfor another few days . . . that was when his defenses fell. Gamgee caught him inmid-raise. The sensei could have easily swung right through his chest, butinstead he threw his leg out. The kick connected with Jake’s stomach, knockingback onto the mats with a large ‘thud.’Wheezing heavily, he prompt himself up by his elbows as Gamgee knelt besidehim, “That was incredible–but you’re relying on adrenline rushes to keep you inthe fight. The sword is *teaching* you all right, but you’re getting too caughtup in the battle. You can’t put your ‘all’ into every swing, or you’ll nevermake it to the final one.”

Standing, the sensei stepped off the mats and pulledtwo bokuns–wooden practice swords–from their shelves. As Jake stood, he handedhim one, setting their swords aside.”

Back to the basics–you can’t rely on your sword so much. What if you have tofight with another? What if it stops *teaching* you? Come on,” he slipped intofighting stand.

“Let’s see just how much of your sword’s skill has become yourown.”

Jake smiled, and engaged in battle.Chapter 3The next few days of Jake Clawson’s life remained unchanging in schedule; everyspare moment he had went to training with Sensei Gamgee. Chance considered him”excused” from all garage duties, even though he knew his partner would make itup after this whole Abadon thing was over.He picked up swordsmanship with astonishing speed. Gamgee warned him on growingover confient regularly. It would be years before Jake would be an expertswordsman, but with his lineage and the sword *teaching* him in strange visions,along with his excellent physical shape (once he healed) and previous knowledgeof fighting basics thrown to boot, it wasn’t hard for him to make himself aformadable enemy quickly.Abadon did not show his face again in the next week, but Jake had thecontinuing sense of the coming evil, fast approaching. It was carried like aweight in everything he did. At first there had been his mute acceptance of hisfate–to die by the sharp edge of Abadon’s blade. The fact that Maric, aseasoned warrior, had failed so quickly, added to the dread. It was, of course,before he had started having *visions*.They persisted, shifting from when he tightened his grip over the sword tooccasionally his sleep. But when he grasped that handle, it felt like the bloodof every son of Ecuador before him to hold the sword was flowing through hisveins. That was something he could never explain later, not to Chance, Abi, oranyone. It was like a wild adreniline rush he couldn’t always control.Time passed, and Gamgee began to push harder. He tested him in all kinds ofsituations–most of them being in Megakat swamps, past the outskirts of thecity. He knew his pupil would need to fight *wherever* he was when the timecalled, and no one knew *where* that would be. They fought on grass, on cliffs,or sometimes logs. Anything to season his student as fast as he could.Dave Gamgee was an interesting character. Despite his “joe shmow” kind ofaccent, he often spoke with an aura of higher knowledge. He was studied inhistory and it’s events.Still, something was definitely strange. He almost never asked Jake about hisstrange quest past what he had been told briefly that late afternoon in thedojo. He never asked to hold the sword, or even touch it. Whenever he lifted it,it was by the blade with the tips of his fingers; that was before Jake hadwarned him against the protective spells. He seemed to just accept withouttedious explanations, though after a while Jake began to feel like that wasn’this character at all. Gamgee was the type of guy to repeatedly say, “Let me putthis simple . . .”

and then jump into a long, exaborate explanation that wasn’t*completely* necessary.Jake once asked him how many degrees he had in history and social studies;Gamgee replied none, “That’s what you get from watchin 20 years of the discoverchannel.”

Night, and Abi tossed and turned in her sleep.So caught in her work, she had even got to sleep that night without staring upat the ceiling for an hour or so, contemplating the current dilemma. She wasdoing a study on medival weapondary–something she thought appropriate for thetime. Normally, it was a topic she never touched upon, but she put extra timeaside for it as Jake began his lessons with his sword.So why couldn’t she sleep well now? A good day’s work nearly always put her tobed. Regardless, she awoke constantly throughout the night.It was the nightmares.One after another, all jumbled so she couldn’t tell one passing person from apassing gargoyle, they persisted each time she eased back into slumber. Nopictures came into focus enough for her mind to analyze or sometimes evenrecognize them; not like when she had used the Eye.Only one was so great, so in the spotlight that it seemed to cast a shadow onthe others.She was looking in on a garage, or some kind of lab. Not the salvage yard; shewould know that. There were no cars, only various machines in different stagesof assembly. The sides were lined with computers or tools.There was *someone* in the center, kneeling and hunched over, convulsing. Hiswhite labcoat was soaked with a pool of blood that was spreading to the floor.In the distance she felt Abadon’s presence, but his image was not as clear orconsistant.The kat was almost crying, begging for mercy. Slowly he pulled from his curledposition, and she recognized him instantly, with his white beard dyed with tearsand blood.It was Professor Isaac Hackle.Chance moaned as he began to stur from his slumber, a distant *ring* of thephone infiltrating his dream. He was stretched out on the couch, having onlypreviously returned from his nightly patrol with the other gargoyles, and hadplanned on a few hours sleep after sunrise.Slowly sitting up, he lurched out towards to the phone, “*What is it?!*”

“Chance? Is that you? Could you get Jake?” Through the reciever, it was easy totell Abi’s voice was laced with fear.”

Hu–wha–?” He rubbed his eyes, drifting fully awake without ease.

“What’swrong?”

“His father’s in danger. I don’t know–just tell him to get there as fast as hecan!”Her slamming down her end of the line made it obvious she couldn’t tell himmuch more. Chance shrugged, and went to rouse his partner.This had *better* be good, Jake thought as his truck sped down the highway. Sixin the morning was *not* a good time to be up when he spent most of the previousday tiring himself out. Especially to go on a trail of one of Abi’s wild”hunches”*.But still, a vision flashed in front of his eyes of that fateful morning in thesalvage yard, before he had been shot. She’s seen plenty then, and his ignorancehad cost him over a week in the hospital and two weeks of recovery after beingpumped full of lead from a six-foot-exo-framed-hit kat.His sword was in its case on the seat beside him. Just in case. He hadn’timagined that Abadon would ever go after his father, partially because he neverreally thought of his father as a “son of Ecaudor,” and partially because he hadalways calculated Hackle’s private beach house as far enough from the city toleave him out of it. According to the *rules,* all Abadon had to do was get ridof the sons of Ecaudor *in* the city. So Ramis didn’t count–G-d knew where hewas! If he was lucky, he was far, far away from this mess . . .But as he drove, a growing sense of dread grew in the back of his mind. What isAbi *was* right? And what if he was too late? As he pulled up to the secludedbeach house, he knew he would never stop blaming himself if he was.He set his two feet on the ground, and suddenly there was a buzzing soundburning in his brain, almost a “call to battle” of the sort. He instantly pulledout the sword, slipping it under the lining of his jacket.The house was quiet. At least *that* was a good sign. The security “eye”spotted him as he approached the garage door, and, recognizing him instantly andpulling all the security passes set in its data bases, slid the door open forhim.”

Dad? You there?” Instinctively, he called out.Silence.”

Dad?”His dad was a heavy sleeper in his old age, but Jake knew that any little robotassigned to warn of his entrance would have awoken Hackle by now. Or at least hewould have been greeted by one. His subconscious mind was practically screamingthat something was wrong.His conscious mind confirmed that belief as a loud *crash* echoed through theroom. He pulled the sword of Ecuador from his jacket as he headed deeper intothe house.Jake was forced to make a considerable effort to withhold his gasp as heentered the living room.Hackle was prompt up against the opposite wall. His white labcoat was bloodiedto the point so Jake couldn’t tell without a closer inspection *where* he wasinjured. Blood speckled his paws, face, and formerly-white beard. He cowered upagainst the wall, desperately trying to bury his head in a protect shield formedby his paws.Abadon hovered over him, his shadow creeping over the aged professor. His ownsword was raised, maybe for the final strike . . .”

NO!” As Abadon swung, his blade was met only inches from Hackle’s neck withthe sword of Ecuador. Jake appeared at his side, pushing him away from hisfather.”

My my . . .,” Abadon regained his stance, now focusing his attention on theyoung challenger as he readied his sword in position, “Someone’s been intraining . . .”

“Leave my father *alone*,” Jake stepped up to cross swords with his opponent,coming between Abadon and his father. His main concern wasn’t fighting him now;he needed to get Hackle to a hospital.”

Have you forgotten, Jacob? Your father is as vital to the protective spells asyou are.”

“Look–I can’t fight you now–“Abadon smiled cruelly, “Do you really think you have a *choice*?”He swung suddenly, but Jake caught it, bringing himself only inches from hisopponent as he parried, “I think *so*. That is–if you don’t want Sauraman andhalf the Isatari council on your back. Or do you think Ecuador will be veryhappy once he finds out you killed a *helpless* descendant of his?”The sorcerer considered.Jake saw the opening, and grabbed it, “Look–if you want to fight, fine. I’llget my father out of the city–*far* from the city–and I’ll come back. Ipromise.”

There was a tense silence, then Abadon released his firm hold on the blade, “Ifyou don’t come back . . . I would fear for your vilthuril friend–“Jake had barely blinked, and he was gone.He allowed himself a brief sigh of relief, then rushed to the side of hisconvulsing father, “Dad–“Hackle was curled up against the wall, dragging blood stains against the walland carpet, “G-d . . . why have you–?” He was muttering half-sanly, his eyesclosed tightly, sealed with tears and sweat.”

Come on, dad–,” Jake began to slowly prompt him out of curled position,dragging him towards the garage.

“I need to get you to a hospital.”

“The amulance . . . will come . . .”

“No, dad . . . I gotta get you out of the city,” Jake frowned as he pulled himup into the truck’s seat. He knew the risk of personally escorting him insteadof calling for an ambulance, where he would have 4 guys controlling the bleedingat least before he got to the emergancy room, but anyone contacted would sendsomeone from Megakat Memorial. Jake knew a hospital *outside* the city was hisonly hope, so he pulled out of the driveway and began the long route to LakeOrtae City.”

That kat . . . ugh . . . why . . .?” Hackle strained weakly to talk from theseat beside him.”

Don’t talk, dad. You need the energy,” Jake glanced at his father, wonderinghow much more blood he could still afford to lose. He knew that if he pulledover and spent time trying to stop the bleeding, it might be too late by thetime they got to the hospital.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s my business now.”

“Yaakov . . .,” giving up with his energy nearly diminished, Hackle leanedagainst the window, closing his eyes.

“What have you . . . gotten yourself . . .into?”Jake frowned; he honestly didn’t know.Chapter 4Unbknownest to Abi, her phone at home was ringing. Chance’s call–after beingalerted by Jake through their communicators–was definitely concerning somethingimportant, but he was only a few minutes too late. Abi all ready half way to themuseum while Chance was trying to warn her about Abadon.Abi entered the museum, unlocking the back door with her keys, trying to clearthe dream from her mind. Jake would handle it, whatever it was. If he couldn’t,he would call her, wouldn’t he? The morning had to go on, with whatever thenight was like.”

Oh, Dr. Sinian–you’re hear at last,” the voice of Debbie Howser drifted infrom the main office, where she had her desk.

“I just got a call from somedrilling company.”

Debbie handed her a small paper stripped from her ownnotepad.

“Some kind of cave they found. They want you to check it out.”

Funny, Abi frowned. Wasn’t that how this whole mess got started? Someone foundthe gargoyles in a cave? Oh, well, “How soon do they need me by?”

“Soon–like this morning. Some constructor *really* wants to get on with hisplans, but according to the swamp’s preservation bill, he’s gotta clear it byyou first. He sounded pissed over it–I suggest you get down there as fast asyou can.”

Her frown deepened. She wanted to stay local,  in case Jake called, but . . .what if it *was* big? Like the gargoyles? Chills went through her spine as shetried to imagine what would have happened if that drilling team had just kept*drilling* and the cave had collapsed . . . Thoran and his clan would have beenburied forever.She didn’t want to take that risk again; that much was decided as she headedback out the door, car keys in hand.”

Mr. Clawson?”Jake spun around at his name to face a grey-fured kat in a white labcoat–morethan obviously a doctor, “Yeah? How is he?”The doctor took a moment to look him over well; Jake realized it was easilyfrom his ragged appearance. His mechanic’s coveralls where stained all acrossthe front and arms with blood. His fur wasn’t without its own need for a goodscrubbing.”

Come with me–but first, are you sure you wouldn’t like some clean clothes?”

“Just . . .,” feeling too emotionally concerned over his father than over hisappearance, he only shook his head, ” . . . take me to him.”

The doctor complied, leading him into a small room where Hackle lay, “*Who* didyou say did this again? I mean–I hate to put it this way, but he’s reallysliced up.”

Jake set a paw down beside his father’s own limp one, frightened by how cool itwas to the touch, “Just get on with it.”

The grey kat swallowed, then continued, “Well . . . he’s lost a lot of blood.That’s never a good thing for someone his age, but he was very lucky. If he getsthe proper amount of rest and a few more blood donors, he should be all right.”

Jake nodded sadly, gripping Hackle’s paw tightly, “How long . . . until hewakes up?” He remembered how frightened he had been when his father had driftedunconscious in the truck.”

I’d give him at least a day. His body’s exhausted.”

The doctor headed for thedoor, but Jake caught him.”

Look, you gotta promise me something.”

“Sure.”

“Make sure he stays here. In *this* hospital. Or *any* hospital. Just notMegakat Memorial. Make sure he doesn’t get transfered,” he knew he couldn’tpossibly tell him the truth, but he could get as close to it as possible.

“Look,this real physco’s after him, but he won’t look for him outside of Megakat City.You gotta keep him *here*. Okay?”

“You want me to call the enforcers?”

“No–I’ve . . . got a handle on it.”

Chance waited patiently in the hard wood hospital chair. Finally Jake emergedfrom the ward room, dressed now in jeans and blue thermal shirt that thehospital had graciously given him. His fur–at least the face and arms–wasstill slightly damp.”

Feel better?”

“Yeah . . . it kinda creeped me out–walking around with my dad’s blood allover me.”

“You gonna be okay?”Jake bit his lip, nodding slightly, “Look, I’m gonna wait for my dad to wakeup–”

“You want me to go home and mind the yard?”

“Actually . . .,” Jake swallowed, shoving his paws deep in his pockets.

“Couldyou stay here . . . just for a little while?”Chance smiled warmly, seeing the emotional strain finally coming down on hispartnet, “Sure.”

Abadon felt like laughing.Everything was starting to come together now, and the puzzle who’s pieces hehad been long-since assembing were beginning to look like a picture.Soon.”

Ever seen anything like this, Dr. Sinian?”Abi knelt in the dirt of the cave, glad to have come to work in her morepaws-on type outfit she used for digs. At the end of the cave, there was whatappeared to be a small hole in the ground, but closer inspection with ahigh-powered flashlight revealed a deep chamber beneath them. She didn’t dare toguess how big it was, or how far down it went.She turned to the constructor in all seriousness, “You wouldn’t happen to havea harness on you, would you?”

“How’re you doing?”Abi glanced up at the opening, now above her, shining her flashlight beam upinto the faces of the onlooking workers, “Fine. Give me a little slack.”

There was an instant release of tension as the rope seemed to be pulled loose,and she swung lower in a sudden *jolt*, “A little more steady next time, okay?”

“You all right, doctor?”

“Keep it coming,” she waved the beam at the wall on her side, putting her pawout to rub it against the smooth rock. There was a sense of indentation; with asingle moment under the flashlight beam she recognized it as inscriptions,”Stop!”The gentle lowerment of the rope came a hault, and she hovered still severalfeet above ground, now trying to swing herself closer to the wall. Inscriptionsin dead–it proved the cave was there for a reason.Lopine inscriptions. She didn’t know the language as well as she would haveliked yet, despite Thoran’s lessons, and she certainly couldn’t make heads ortails of the words, except maybe a “the” or an obvious name. Some were Lopinecharacters, but some were more picture-like, almost like a narrative.A strange sensation of fear swept over her body as she ran her paws against oneof the pictures. It depicted two kats, about of equal build, holding crossedswords, obviously ready for battle. One was wearing robes with a beard.One had those unmistakable sideburns she knew as a characteristic of only *one*specific family line.”

Oh *G-d* . . .”

There was a sudden rumbling in the distance; she turned up to the workers,”What’s going on? Has someone started up one of the drills?” It didn’t *sound*like drills.”

I dunno, doctor, but–“The sentence was never finished. In what seemed like only nanoseconds, therumbling grew to the point where one might have called it an earthquake, shakingthe whole cave.Abi screamed as the harness rope suddenly snapped. Darkness enclosed her as herhead connected with the floor.Chance looked up from his magazine as Jake emerged at last from the privateroom Hackle was resting in, shutting the door behind him. How long had he beenin there? Most of the morning and the afternoon. He looked tired; Chance onlyhoped he had drifted off to sleep once or twice and had gotten some rest.”

I’m gonna go call Abi. You want something from the cafeteria?”

“I’ll go with you,” he rose, joining his partner’s side.

“Need to stretch mylegs. How’s he doing?”Jake closed his eyes sadly, “Isn’t awake yet.”

“The doctor said to give it 24 hours–”

“I know. I know,” sighing, he picked up the reciever of the pay phone and beganto dial the number for the museum.Chance left him, knowing Jake would probably want a *private* talk with Abi,and headed for the candy dispenser machine he had spotted earlier on his way in.He returned a few minutes later, munching on a candy bar, to see Jake’s faceeven paler as he hung up the reciever.”

What’s wrong?”

“I just got off the phone with the assistant curator–you know, Howser,” Jake’seyes were wide with terror, Chance only nodded.

“Abi went down into theswamps–they found some kind of cavern while they were drilling. T-There was acave in . . .”

“*Jesus*.”

“We have to get down there–Chance–” Jake stopped in mid-step.

“But my father. . .”

“He’ll be *fine*,” his partner put both heavy paws on his shoulders.

“If youwanna go after Abi, we’ll go after Abi.”

“Yeah, but if I go back into the city–,” his eyes widened even further, ifthat was possible.

“Oh *G-d*, Abadon–he said–” His features suddenly tightenedin anger.

“Come on. I’ve got a sorcerer to face.”

Chapter 5Chance glanced out the window of the truck nervously as they headed deeper intothe wilderness. The sun would be down soon–they had spent nearly the whole dayin the hospital. He wondered if they should go back and get the Turbokat andtheir uniforms, but Jake didn’t seem to be in the mood to wait another second.Chance absently noticed his partner slip his sword under the lining of hisjacket as they pulled up to the site. The workers could be considered more thannervous standing around, trying to look busy, while they really hung helplessly.It seemed the ambulance crew that had arrived wasn’t having much luck.”

Who’s in charge here?” Jake’s call was responded to by a heavyseat worker.”

Me. Who’re you?”

“I’m . . . a friend. Is there any way in those caves?”The kat frowned, leading him in, “We’ve been digging enough to open up a hole,but no one wants to go down quite yet. Things are still too shaky.”

Heswallowed, “She hasn’t been responding to our calls–but she must’ve fallenwithin earshot. If she was awake, she would hear us.”

“How big is the hole you drilled?”

“Woah, woah, woah–,” Chance ran up between them, facing Jake, “You’re notconsidering going down there, are you?”

“I don’t see any other volunteers. Look–Thoran and the clan should be heresoon. Tell them what’s going on.”

“Jake–“His pleas were like throwing stones at a wall, and he knew it.Chance looked down through the tiny opening nervously, keeping a steady paw onthe line that fed down to Jake, “How’s it going?”

“Almost–” his partner’s voice echoed in the chamber. There was an audible*thump*, “I hit ground. Let the line loose.”

Jake relaxed as he felt the tight rope slacken, releasing him for movement. Thechamber was quite large, extending in both directions in a long tunnel. He wavedhis flashlight around nervously, “Abi? You there?”There was no response, but his ears began to pick up the distant sounds oflight breathing as he advanced, “Abi?”Another sound became audible along with the breathing–mutterings. It wasunmistakably Abi’s voice–who else could it be? Coming nearer, Jake felt theloose stone and rock crackle beneath his shoes.His beam caught Abi at last. She lay on her side, slightly covered by fallendust and rock.He knelt beside her, easing her onto her back, “Abi? Can you hear me?” His tonewas as soft and soothing as he could possibly make it.She apparently couldn’t. Staring wide-eyed up at the ceiling, her unfocusedpupils didn’t see him. Blood dripped down her skull from a small wound on theforehead–her former head injury must have been disturbed again. She wasmuttering incomprehensibly, her skin obviously paled beneath her fur.”

Shhhh,” in a coaxing voice, he wiped the blood from her fur and hair.

“It’sgonna be all right.”

She suddenly twitched at his touch, turning to him for the first time. Theireyes met, except she didn’t quite seem to see him; her stare seemed hollow, asif it was looking beyond him, or seeing him as someone who wasn’t there.”

What is it? What’s wrong?” His eyes were filled with concern as she began totwitch nervously, eyes remaining on him.She made a wide swing, grabbing both his sideburns firmly, “A-Abadon . . .t-the s-shield conquerer–alas . . . justification works in its own ways!”

“Abi . . .,” calmly he took her paws of his sideburns, holding them in his own.”

What’s wrong with you?” This was not at all the Abi he knew–except maybe whenshe had the Eye . . .She only continued with her disillusians, “Caves inside! What do we know ofchambers . . . little hidden ones . . . lurking deep within us . . . !”

“Jake? How’s it goin’?”He had nearly forgotten about the crew above, “Uhh . . . she’s okay! Just alittle delirious . . .”

“You gonna stay down there all day or what?”He stood up, helping her to her feet, “Come on. I gotta figure out how to getyou back up.”

Almost on cue, a rumbling noise began to rise from the bowls of the cave. The’not again’ thought flashed through the head of the constructor who was lookingin beside Chance, “Take cover!” His crew immediately started heaving out of thetunnel, leaving only the guys holding the cord connected to Jake.”

Hey! What’s going on?” Chance grabbed the constructor’s arm.”

Don’t you know a cave in when you see one?! We stay, we might get buried!”

“*What about my partner and Dr. Sinian*?!”

“There isn’t time to get them up! Just tell them to take cover!”Chance frowned, leaning down nearly into the tiny opening to the chamber below,”Take cover, guys!”That was something Jake all ready understood the concept of quite well. Feelingthe small stones and dirt coming loose from the ceiling as the violent tremorcontinued, he abadoned all hopes of being pulled up on his harness, and pulledAbi close to his chest, trying to shield her with his back. She was stillmuttering insanely, but apparently aware of the situation, gripping his shirtwith her eyes shut tightly.Jake closed his own, and waited for the end. He had no idea how much longer thehuge slab of rock above them would hold up, or in how many pieces it would comedown in. They would surely be crushed by anything more than twice their ownweight.Embracing Abi tightly, he made a silent Hebrew prayer to G-d.Seconds later, something knocked into the back of his head, and then . . .nothing.The first thing he was aware of was the amount of dirt clogged in his lungs; hecould barely breath. He coughed, trying to clear an airway, without much successwithout considerate effort.Moaning, he pulled the thin (luckily) slab of rock from his back, freeing himenough to sit up. He hurt all over, but from what he would tell, nothing wasbroken. He was okay.Then it hit him; Abi was gone.She had apparently crawled out from the slab; a small amount of blood wassmeared across the rock scattered across the floor. He touched a drop–stillwarm. He hadn’t been out long, or at least not much more than her.He sighed, grabbing his flashlight. Another stroke of luck; it still worked.Jake stood, noticing the small droplets of blood occasionally scattered inalmost a trail down the cave. He sighed again, more heavily this time, thenglanced up at what had been the entrance hole. It was entirely filled up.He was trapped.At least I won’t run out of air, he reminded himself as he turned in the tunnelthe trail led him.”

Hello, son of Ecaudor.”

Jake frowned, but he wasn’t really in the mood to get angry. He spun around,noticing Abadon standing at the entrance the opposite tunnel, candled lantern inone hand, sword in the other.”

Let me guess,” the sorcerer spoke as Jake had only begun to open his mouth.”

You want to go look for your vilthuril friend. She went *that* way,” he pointedin Jake’s direction.

“But you see, I’m in *this* direction. You see, the cave’smuch less crowded with rubble down here.”

“No,” his reply was firm.

“I *have* to find Abi–”

“Oh, I assure you,” Abadon approached, with an evil twist to his voice.

“She’llbe *fine*. I saw to it myself.”

“*You*,” Jake’s eyes widened as he closed in, almost accusingly.

“*You* did allthis. It was all a setup!”

“No, the caves are real. I was lucky enough to find them. But earthquakes can be . . . created.”

His features curled into a wicked smile, “Your gargoylefriends cannot help you here.”

With a minor twitch of his eyebrows he indicatedthe now closed-in opening.Jake frowned in defeat, and drew his sword.    Abi shook her head, desperately trying to clear the mess in her head.She had only come back to full, sane conscious to find herself wandering downsome tunnel. A bad scrape on her head was bleeding, but she was barely aware ofit. There was this strange *force* drawing her in somewhere, getting stronger asshe pogressed.Her memories of the first cave in and on were faded and fuzzy, but she got thejist of what had happened. She didn’t even understand what she had said in hermutterings–though it had made perfect sense at the time. She remembered Jaketrying to help her, then the tremor . . . and now, *this* . . .Where was she going? She hadn’t the slightest idea, but the force was as strongas ever.Her eyes widened further in wonder as she was strucl by a strange blue lightupon entering a new chamber.This one was immense–maybe twenty, thirty feet high. Funny, she didn’t evennotice the decline in the tunnel, but . . . it didn’t matter. This new chamberhad collected all of her interest.It was obviously meant for *something*. In the center was a stone, squareplatform, easily 5 or 6 feet high and 20 feet long, with steps all around. Init’s four corners, evenly spaced, where 4 giant pillars, almost as high as theroom itself. They were each covered with writing–it was the writing that glowedwith the blue light that seemed to burn right through to her brain.The force was powerful now, pulling her closer.Have I been here before? she tried to remember. Have I seen this before? Whydoes it seem so . . . familiar? The blue light was almost warmly inviting.She cautiously approached the platform. If only she could touch it . . .The steps of the platform seemed to ignite under her shoes. She felt a strangesense of homeliness, almost to the point as to where it frightened her, butthere was no stopping it now. The force was stronger that ever, sucking her inlike a huge vacuum . . .She hit the top step, and reached her paw out.”

Abi!”The voice belonged to Thoran. How did *he* get down there? Of course–it mustbe night by now! One or two gargoyles would have trouble digging through allthose piled stones, but a *clan* of gargoyles would be through in no time. Hemust have followed her . . .He was too late. Her paw came within the space between two pillars.The entire platform instantly ignited with white hot light, as if she hadactivated some forcefield. Raw energy shot through her paw, but she couldn’tpull it back; she had to keep going . . .Screaming in pain, she threw herself between the pillars.Thoran called out again, this time with the knowledge it was useless, as herbody was caught by the force, freezing in dead air. The beam’s glowinginscreased tenfold in intensity, so even Thoran had to shield his eyes.”

ABI!” Feeling now the same strange force she had once felt, he lept from theentrance, spreading his wings, and was stopped and frozen as he entered the sameboundries.Chapter 6″You’ve learned well, Jacob!” Abadon smiled cooly.

“I must meet your teacherwhen this is over!”Jake sneered, trying to keep his concentration on the blade and not Abadon’staunts. His opponent was unlike what he had ever faced, but he was not aswordskat–not as a trade, at least. Maric hadn’t truly been one–his specialtyhad been magic. Ramis was the only true handler, but he was not around.So that just leaves the two of us . . ., Jake thought nervously. His defenseswere strong enough, but he wondered how long he could hold them up. Abadon,despite his appearance, never once acted with a hint of his great age, or eventhe age he would be if he was a mortal kat. He remained firm in his offense,keeping Jake busy with a steady line of swings and parries.Only he’s more confident, the son of Ecaudor reminded himself. Or maybe he justlooks that way . . . maybe that’s the way he *wants* to look . . .”

Do you wish to know–before you die–what I did with your vilthuril friend?”Abadon asked, confidently.     Not in the mood for a conversation with someone who was just going to play withhis head, Jake replied firmly, “You haven’t done anything. You don’t care abouther. Just me.”

“On the contrary. You don’t understand much about vilthurils, do you?” hisopponent knocked away his strike, countering with his own in one, fluid motionwithout missing a beat in his speech.

“Do you *know* how rare they are?Sometimes we will go an age without one being born. An age is longer than thisplanet will even exist.”

He grinned curiously, “I consider it amazing that theleader gargoyle and a kat vilthuril were both born in the same milineum, muchless dimension. And I don’t consider it something to waste either.”

“The gargoyle,” he continued, “is usless. Impossible to control, stone half theday, all ready approaching old age and possibly senility–a waste of my time.Now your friend–what is her name? Abigail?”Jake didn’t reply; he didn’t want to break his train of thought as he parried,or show he was listening.Abadon didn’t hesitate to start again, “She’s young, she’s fresh, and shedoesn’t even know the extent of her powers yet. Someone like that can be*tamed,* Jacob. Their powers can be minipulated because they have not been fullyutilized yet. She thinks she’s seen ‘visions’ but she hasn’t. They were nothingbut daydreams compared to what she is capable of.”

No answer; he grinned further, “You see, I was doubly fortunate to find thesecaves. Not only were they a perfect trap for the two of you, but there’s anotherchamber–in the other direction–that was large enough for my . . . purposes.”

“She went in that direction because she was ‘drawn’ in by a force I set up.Inside, she will find–or has found, by now–four large pillars. A magicalcontainment unit, of the sort. With the spells all set up, all she would need todo is touch inside inside their boundries, and the containment unit will suckher powers, and her ‘soul’ of the sorts, in. Of course,” he shruggednonchalantly, “the process with eventually kill her. No mortal could stand suchpower for such a long time. All her thoughts, powers, and visions, will bestored–waiting for me.”

“You’re lying.”

“Am I?” Intrigued that Jake had finally spoken up, now with a wavering voiceand heavy breathing, it only feed his confidence.

“Can’t you see? When thisevening is over, I will have the sword of Ecaudor, a vilthuril contained, and anentire world helpless–”

“NOOO!” Overcome with his emotions, Jake swung wildly.Time slowled to a crawl as the blade approached its target. Abadon saw it amile away, jumping sideways as his adversary lurched forward.Too far. Jake fell beyond Abadon, landing on his knees in front of where hisopponent had once stood. He felt a blade against his neck; Abadon was to hisrear now.”

You see, Jacob . . .,” he raised his blade for the final swing.

“Things*always* go according to plan–”

“WHOSE PLAN?!” Abadon stopped as he heard the deep, growling voice from behindhim.

“Get away from *my partner*.”

The sorcerer lowered his blade by his side, “You just don’t understand, do you?You can’t interfer! No one can interfer–especially not *gargoyles*!”

“*Sorry*, but we work as a team!” Chance emerged from the shadows, still injeans and a shirt, but in gargoyle form regardless.

“Not *get away from him*!”

“Of course,” remaining at least outwardly calm, Abadon moved away from Jake,heading in Chance’s direction.

“But I’m *afraid* you’re breaking the rules–”

“And what are *you* going to do about it?”Chance instantly regretted his rebuke. A beam of white hot energy bolts shotfrom Abadon’s paw, slamming into the gargoyle’s chest and ramming him againstthe wall of the chamber. Chance moaned; it was like all his own energy wasinstantly drained as the sorcerer hovered over him, a growing sphere of freshenergy in his paw.”

Abadon!” Jake called back from the other end, standing and wielding his sword.”

This is between you and me! You’ve made your point!”

“Jake . . . don’t . . .,” Chanced grumbled, starting to feel the corners of hisvision being overshadowed by the growing darkness.Jake shook his head as he watched his partner lose consciousness, “No . . .this is my fight now.”

“Wise choice, son of Ecuador–but unfortunately,” he lunged with a wild swing,”your last.”

His opponent parried, following in with a swipe of his own. Jake’s defensesremained strong, but his offense was weakening, and he knew it. He needed to endit before he tired out.His thoughts drifted to Abi. What is Abadon *wasn’t* lying to play games withhis head? What if Abi *was* in danger? Surely the other gargoyles would havefound her by now–unless she was caved in.”

Pay attention, Jacob!”He snapped up, but it was too late. Abadon knocked his blade with uncanny forceinto Jake’s hurling the sword of Ecaudor from his paws. It landed on the groundbeside Abadon.”

Now it ends,” the sorcerer raised his sword over his head.”

Not quite!” Jake saw the opening; his old enforcer and SWAT Kat instincts werepractically shouting it in his ears. With Abadon’s sword raised above his head,his entire front was exposed.As Abadon prepared for the final slice, Jake landed a kick in his stomach.It was enough to send the sorcerer lurching back, almost sprawled on theground. His sword flew from his paws, out of reach. He leaned for it, butrealized it was too late, with Jake hovering over him and the blade of Ecuadorat his throat.”

*Now* it’s over.”

Abadon swallowed, not daring to lean forward further as the blade raked hisneck. His lips curled suddenly in a smile, “Then do it. It’s your right.”

Jake raised the sword above his head, pressing his foot against his adversary’schest to make sure he stayed still. He closed his eyes, and prepared for theswing.A moment passed.”

Go ahead,” Abadon offered.

“Kill me. Chop off my head.”

His smile shifted intoa sly frown.

“After all, don’t I deserved it? I killed Maric, I almost killedyour father and two friends. Isn’t this what you *want*?”The SWAT Kat brought the blade down, slowly, to the edge of the neck; almost asin a practice swing. His grip around the handle tightened nervously as he raisedthe blade again, but did not swing down.”

*Well*?” The frowned face grinned wickedly back up at him.

“You can’t do it,can you? All this trouble, and you can’t even kill me?”

“You’re playing with me.”

“Then why do you hesitate? *Do it*, for Frith’s sakes!”Jake inhaled deeply, but instead of the expected swing, he grabbed Abadon bythe front collar of his cloack and pulled him close–speaking in a low, harshvoice, “Get out of here.”

“What?” the sorcerer spoke with a tone of surprise.”

Get *out*. Of this dimension. I don’t care where you go–just get out of mylife and the life of my friends. And if I ever here of you again . . . you won’tbe so lucky when I come to track you down.”

Abadon obviously grasped the seriousness of the commanding voice as he wasreleased; hesitantly, he picked up his sword. He saw Jake all ready turned fromhim, not with his back completely away, but at least moving in the direction ofhis fallen partner. He saw his chance.”

Oh, *Jacob*–”

“I said . . .”

Jake spun around, wielding his sword, but was unprepared to see Abadon’s eyeslit up wildly as a sphere of magical energy collected in his fist, “You know therules, Abadon. You can’t have the sword if you use your magic.”

“I don’t *want* the sword, Jacob–,” he pointed his fist as Jake. The SWAT Katdropped to his knees, feeling the invisible energy around him.

“I want *you*.”

Jake wheezed heavily, gasping for air. The energy around him was thick likebroth, being sucked in my his breathing and tightening his chest. He felt likehis lungs were on fire.”

Do you feel that, Jacob?” Abadon approached, his fist still glowing as Jakecontinued to cough and struggle for breath.

“That should be your lungs closingup. Magical energy is sometimes thick, son of Ecuador–if you soak enough of itup.”

He bent beside him, “You’ve won the battle, but I’ve won the war. You coulddefeat me in the fight for the sword, but *no one* orders Abadon around. Now . ..,” he twirled his sword curiously.

“What shall I be doing with you?”

“*Nothing*,” the deep voice sounded suddenly, nearly shaking the room. Abadonspun around, gasping as he came to recognize the *creature* at the other end ofthe chamber, who was slowly advancing.It was a lion.And no lion of ordinary size. He was huge, like his very presence commanded asense of awe and respect. His fur was a mix of many shades of brown, blond, red,grey, and black. It shined with a faint silver light, flashing as he moved withhis sleek, percise movements.”

Release him, Abadon,” the steel in voice was intimidating enough; he blew allof Feral’s efforts and lifelong practice away.Abadon did not smile as he spoke, “Gee, Aslan, I never thought you would–”

“Release him . . . *now*.”

The sorcerer opened his fist, and Jake coughed loudly as he found he couldsuddenly respire freely. Instinctively, he dived for his sword.”

Leave it be, nephew,” Aslan locked eyes with Abadon.

“There saw be no morebloodshed–at least not at your paw.”

Jake was wide-eyed, “I don’t understand . . .”

To his surprise, Aslan smiled, “Of course, child of Ecuador.”

His voice wassurprisingly warm as he broke his stare with Abadon to eye Jake.

“I am Ecuador’sbrother, the first son of Frith. You are my nephew.”

He turned back to Abadon,his voice cold again, “I should have killed you back when you first deservedit.”

Abadon shrugged, “You didn’t.”

“And now you have given me a reason to try again, “one of his mighty claws scraped the stone floor of the cave.  “The son of Ecuador won, Abadon. Must you cheat to destroy him for winning fairly?”

Abadon was visibly quivering now; Jake watched with renewed interest. His former opponent seemed to have lost of all of his trademark cockiness–instead now, his eyes were wide with terror.

“Aslan–please–”

The lion growled, “*Silence*!”

The sorcerer cowered as Aslan advanced, stepping back until his body was up against the wall. With a growing chill in his voice Aslan continued, “I should kill you now, but this child of my brother has allowed you to live. I shall follow in his example.”

It seemed his voice was almost calm again, but he striked back in the last beats with a frighting fierceness, “For *now.* Head my words, Abadon. If you ever enter this dimension, or even *dare* to come near this kat again, I will *personally* see to it that the whole universe will hear your screams.”

“Y-You mean . . .”

“*Go*,” he said firmly.

“Before I change my mind.”

Abadon hesitated only for a moment, before scooping up his sword anddisappearing around a bend. Aslan growled softly as he watched him go. Jakecautiously came up behind the huge lion, studying him curiously, “How didyou–?”There was no vocal reply; there wasn’t a need. Jake had barely had time toblink, and Sauraman the Pastmaster was standing beside the lion.”

I’m just in time, it seems.”

Jake shook his head, “I still don’t understand–”

“Of course not,” now in a calmer voice, Aslan spoke.

“Go to your vilthuril friend. There is still time.”

His eyes widened, remembering. He had almost forgotten about Abi! In a rush ofexcitement, he ran to where Chance was prompt up against the wall, still outlike a light, “Come *on*, Chance . . .”

“What do you think?” With Jake out of earshot, Sauraman spoke, watching the kattry to rouse his massive partner.”

He has much to learn,” Aslan said sternly, then smiled, “But he has manyteachers. Abadon was one of them.”

“What about the vilthuril?”The lion’s expression changed slyly, “Another story for another time, EldarCurunir.”

Chapter 7Jake hurried through the caves, slowed by the support he supplied with hisshoulder for his heavy partner. Aslan had said there was still time–but hedidn’t say how long. Maybe the other gargoyles had found her all ready . . .”

Jacob?” Chip poked his head down from the opening above that led the miner’scave.

“What’s going on? Thoran told us to stay here.”

He kept going; he didn’t want to stop and explain. He headed down the oppositetunnel, supposively where Abi and now Thoran had gone. Chance tagged behind, hisstrength slowly regaining, “Wha–?”

“It’s Abi,” he explained, practically running down the tunnel, stopping only toavoid fallen stones or debris.

“Aslan said there was still time to save her–”

“Aslan?” He suddenly realized his partner had probably been unconscious thewhole time.”

I’ll explain later.”

“Oh. Right,” rubbing his throbbing head, Chance tried to pick up the pace tokeep up as they reached the opening to the larger chamber.The chamber was completely lit by the four glowing pillars in the center.Estatic with energy, their flourescant blue light illuminated the force fieldaround them. Abi and Thoran were trapped within.Withuot hesitation, Jake ran up the platform, lifted his sword, and swung intothe field.”

Jake–what the hell are you doing–“There was an instant explosion of light and color as the energy beams headedstraight for the sword. Jake screamed, being overwhelmed by the shock of theincoming power. He froze in his place, sword still in hand.”

He’s gonna *really* owe me for this one–,” Chance muttered, holding one clawup to block the light as he approached the platform. In a single, rushed motionhe grabbed his partner by the back of his shirt, dragging him out of the line offire with his sword.The light became blinding, claw or no. He turned away from it, trying to get asfar as he could before collapsing to his knees. Chance pulled Jake close,shielding him from the light with his wings.There was a final explosion as the chamber shook. Combined with the force ofthe energy and his former injury from Abadon, Chance began to feel lightheaded.As the stones and dust from the ceiling came down of his shielding wings, heclosed his eyes and waited for the end.Chance had never really lost consciousness, but only when he dared to open hiseyes did he realize what had happened. The chamber was quiet, aside from a fewloose stones that were still falling now and them. Groaning, he patiently waitedfor his vision to stop swimming.Jake was standing in front of him. In his paw was the sword of Ecuador, stilloccasionally sizzling with raw, leftover energy. He was breathing heavily,obvious exhausted, but otherwise unharmed. He glanced down at his gargoylepartner, then ran back to the platform.All that remained of the pillars was fallen chunks of carved stone. Surely theyhadn’t been crushed? No–he had come to far for that to happen now.Abi’s body lay amist rumbled stones. Covered with dust and debris, she was atleast breathing. Her earlier head wound was open again and bleeding, but notheavily. She appeared only unconscious.Thank G-d, he thought, looking upwards. She’s alive. Now if only–his musingwere interrupted as a form appeared above him. A dirty, haggard, obviouslygargoyle form.”

Hello, Jacob,” Thoran smiled tiredly, his wrinkled grotesque face perhaps morelined than usual. For once, he looked his age, with his white beard seemlysparking in the faint blue light left over on the platform.Jake opened his mouth to respond, but a moan from Abi brought his attentionback downward. She was beginning to stir at last, “Here, Thoran, help me . . .”

The old gargoyle bent down on her other side, helping the son of Ecuador easeher into a slightly sitting up position. Abi’s eyes fluttered; the curator wasnearly awake as her pupils shifted to settle on him.”

Jake . . .”

“Shhh,” Jake supported her head with his paw, wiping away some of the bloodwith his thumb.

“It’s over.”

“Y-You did it–?”Nodding, “Let’s just say he’s never coming back.”

Chapter 8

The four were greeted by the awaiting gargoyles above as they slowly made theirway up.”

Jake,” leaning on him only minimally for support now, Abi persisted.

“I hadthe strangest dream–no, it wasn’t even a dream. I-I saw so much . . .”

“Yeah, well . . . you can tell me all about it later.”

She opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. A greater sense ofwisdom spread across her features than Jake could ever understand, “No . . . I*can’t* tell you . . . anymore that Thoran could tell you before . . . in thegraveyard, remember?”He frowned, not understanding, but strangely happy that she knew herself foronce.”

So what are you going to do now, Jacob?” Now safely outside the caves, Thoranlooked up at the night sky knowingly.Recollection washed over Jake; it was almost as if the leader’s question wassaid to remind him, “My father . . . oh G-d, I nearly forgot . . .”

In the messwith Abadon, his mind that drifted away from Hackle.

“I have to get back tohim–he might wake up–”

“I’ll get you there,” Chance offered.

“We’d better split anyway; I don’t thinkit’ll look too good if we’re still here when the enforcers show up . . .”

” . . . *then* you can tell us exactly what the hell was going on down there,”Felina suddenly put in, feeling left out.

“Next time, you’re *not* leaving meout of this . . .”

The sun was nearly up when Professor Hackle finally began to stir. His firstmutterings instantly brought Jake at attention; he had previously been dozing inhis chair beside the bed. Hackle shifted in the bed, straining to open his eyesand register his surroundings.His vision focused, and settled on his son. He smiled, “Yaakov . . . you’restill . . . alive . . .?”

“You think I wouldn’t be?”

“With what you do . . . I can never . . . tell,” he rubbed his eyes tiredly.”

What about . . .”

“Don’t worry about him. I took care of it,” the memory came back with a senseof relief.

“He’s not bothering you again.”

“Why–?”

“Well, Dad,” Jake sighed, staring down at his weak father, “that’s a *long*story. I’ll tell you sometime . . . when you get some rest.”

Hackle nodded, understanding him for once, and closed his eyes.The EndEpilogueAbi watched the sun gently rise in the distance, and sighed.This experience had cost her a few gray hairs, to say the least–even at herage. But her sigh was one of relief. Abadon was gone; Jake had twarted himwithout a killing. That seemed relieving to the son of Ecuador; killing wasn’this nature, lineage or no. He had explained to her Abadon’s plan, and the use ofthe chamber.And she had believed it, but not when he said no harm had been done.What had Thoran called what she had experienced in there? The first coming?Maybe that was it. When I vilthuril first began to experience what foresighttruly was–when everything to happen in her own life came rushing to her.”

It starts simple,” he had said afterward.

“It starts with your own life. Then you begin to see things that concern others around you, then times andraces you’ve never heard of and will never live to see . . .”

She glanced at his stone statue, beside her on the museum merlon, and smiled inwonder. He had said he had seen his first coming only shortly after officially becoming a vilthuril.

“We are born with the seed of foresight . . . but something must trigger it for the process to begin. Some go their lives without being triggered. I was struck down by lightening. You were startled by a mistake in a trance. I easily could have gone my life without knowing . . . and there are times, I assure you, when I wish I had . . .”

At that point, his face had washed over with sadness, but quickly revived himself.

“I see much death and destruction, Abi . . . that is the curse. But with every death I see, there is a birth as well I time of joy. That is the gift.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Navigate This Author's Stories

Visit Author's Page