"The Hunters and the Hunted" by Karen
When the unmarked envelope arrived each member of the Pack had a different reaction; for brother and sister, Jackal and Hyena, read the contents of the enclosed papers, gasped at the enormous sum being offered for
their services by the as yet identified sender, laughed and debated throwing out the envelope.
Across the way Dingo, his Australian accent more pronounced when under stress, growled out that he didn't think it was legitimate but he would be willing to give it a try. Meanwhile, their nominal leader when Fox wasn't around, Wolf grunted a terse, "Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and wolves gotta hunt. I'm sick and tired of this nickel-and-dime publicity stuff, I'm spoiling for some real action." He finished another rep on the weighted exercise machined and offered up a feral grin.
After they had opened it up and scanned the contents the group huddled around like professional football players in a huddle going over the offensive plays, and gasped when the glossy photographs slid out of the manila envelope.
"Imagine hunting something like this."
Fox's whispered comment sent quiet ripples around the circle, mixed with Hyena's trademark wicked laughter. "Gotta be good, if it lives up to the hype, of course."
"Of course," Jackal echoed his sister a few seconds later.
"Still, this new gig, judging from the sparse details and the photos that had accompanied it promised to be interesting and as Wolf had succinctly pointed out, worth checking out."
And if it did not pan, well at least they could take their pay out and run. Hyena nodded to her brother, and he tossed the envelope and its contents onto the coffee table, where it landed amid a pile of other junk mail, bills, and the glossy covers of fashion and trade magazines. Fox strolled over to the phone, picked up the receiver and made the call.
On the other end of that call is a cultivated voice that acknowledges the Pack's acceptance of the proposed deal. No sooner than he set ended the call and sat down, David Xanatos shared a pleased grin with his top aide, Owen Burnett then stated. "They took the bait, hook line and sinker."
"Indeed, sir," Burnett replied, as formal and proper as ever. "As you expected that they would." he then leant forward so that his upper torso cast a shadow over the scrolled wooden roll top desk in front of him.
"I do wonder, when this comes to a conclusion, one way or another, there might be some doubt just whom I will be hunting whom."
Xanatos did not seem to mind the unvoiced doubt in the other man's voice, but the confident smile still in place, still as wicked and self-satisfied since its first appearance. "That's the fun part, Owen, and we'll see, but no matter what happens, I want a front row seat."
At the top of the Eyrie Building, a structure perched that even from the street below or from the view from an aircraft, would have been remarkably out of place in a 21st century modern and technological setting. A castle perched, seemingly plucked out its proper place and time and plunked down lock, stock and barrel and placed atop a glistening modern-day skyscraper. As, in fact, it had been.
The building belonged to David Xanatos, a wealthy and eccentric multi-billionaire, the current tenants of the castle, however, felt quite differently when it came to questions of ownership of the castle.
The Manhattan Clan of Gargoyles had gone out on their nightly patrol leaving only the eldest member of their clan, Hudson left to guard their home.
The younger members of the clan had just returned from a nearby sweep of the city's lower north side, coming in for a landing, exclaiming in loud voices about the wonders and often startling and curious things, peoples, and sights that they had encountered since they had first awoken in this new world, centuries of enforced stone sleep, notwithstanding.
Hudson could hear them from the tower room where he had placed his chair and the device he called the picture box, the television.
He clumped down the stairs only to be forced back several paces by the oncoming Broadway, Lexington, and Brooklyn. He bent down at the waist and scratched idly at the ridged head of the garg-dog, Bronx.
"Not so fast, lads," Hudson muttered mock-sternly, "these old bones canna take such excitement. “Now tell me what the entire hubbub is about, one at a time, if you please."
"There's something on the television," Lexington chattered, his words tripping over one another in his excitement and urgency to share his news first, his rookery brothers, Broadway and Brooklyn who were both equally anxious to be heard. "They're called, they fight crime, and they do it on live TV. They film the show right down town and they're going to host a public appearance tonight!
"Aye, I have, of late, that show has been on every station." I must admit a certain fondness for it," Hudson replied. "Lately, it's been on every channel."
"It's really cool," Brooklyn echoed.
"Slow down, lads, while I am certain that you do not need the reminder, remember we are strangers in this world, we have to be careful about who reveal our presence to." Hudson said as he shook his head, he would never too old or decrepit to not remember what it was like to be this young, reckless, and excited.
Placing his hand on Lexington's smooth head, he calmed him down long enough to understand that the youngster's plan involving going to the Pack Media Studio on the evening before their scheduled public appearance and propose an alliance. Hudson knew that their clan leader, Goliath, would not approve, but on the other hand, the clan did need more allies other than the human detectives, Elisa Maza and Matt Bluestone, perhaps this was an opportunity that they could not afford to miss, perhaps?
Nightfall at Pack Media Studios and the Pack were running a drill through their expensive and highly technical and sophisticated training facility, nicknamed the Gauntlet. Fox was acting as the play-by-play narrator, a role that suited her well, while her teammates navigated through the maze of walls and blind corridors, and the dangerous but not lethal traps and laser grids.
Lexington dropped down from where he had landed on the roof and then squeezed his way through a narrow window and into the confusing maze of a building. He crouched down and slitted his eyes until they had adjusted to the change in the light. He was the smallest among the clan of gargoyles, but the sheer size of the walls and the construction of the building sent his small shadow leaping
At odd angles, a bit nervous but the odd stretching feel of the walls, Lexington nevertheless was determined to succeed in his self-appointed mission.
He had seen enough episodes of the Pack's exploit on television with Hudson and Bronx that had convinced that they were exactly the kind of allies that his clan was looking for; it was all a matter of how exactly to go about approaching them.
Meanwhile, leading the charge down the hallway, darting to avoid a cross-hatching of lasefire, Wolf, still quick on his feet for all his muscled bulk, came to a screeching halt when he got his first good close up look at the small, yellow-green gargoyle. The other members of the Pack were also similarly affected.
In a low voice, and darting a side long glance at Fox, Wolf muttered. "This one is a lot smaller than the one in the picture. Not replying, Fox nudged him in the ribs with a sharp elbow.
"My name is Lexington, I'm a gargoyle, and I my clan have been looking for allies, and I think we'd be perfect together, what do you say.” Lexington launched into his unrehearsed speech with all the sincerity and effort that could muster under the circumstances.
Fox stepped forward coming to the forefront of the punched Pack members, spreading her hands in a wide gesture of meaning no harm. "I have heard stories, rumors really, even urban legends if you will, about the existence of gargoyles. I did not think they were true, I mean, who would? She laughed a nervous one. "But I hoped that they were true."
"They are!" Lexington nodded encouragingly.
"Do you think that you could arrange a meeting with the other members of your clan? Fox asked. She smiled, showing all of her sharp, white teeth. "I would really like to meet the others."
"Of course, just say when."
"Tomorrow, at midnight? Will you be there?"
"They'll be there." Lexington looked up to where a small narrow window let in a spill of moonlight, "It's almost morning, I have to go. I'll do what I can, I promise."
"He took the bait," Wolf muttered under his breath.
"Hook, line and sinker," Fox smiled, this one was not a pleasant one.
The following evening, after a debate on the relative merits of the plan, Goliath had reluctantly given his approval for the pre-arranged meeting with the Pack, , wondering if those that they had come to meet would default on their promise.
Hudson seemed a bit edgy, his hand resting on the hilt of his sheathed sword, nervously drumming his fingers on the worn leather scabbard.
Among the other sounds and smells of the night he could hear a scratchy and high-pitched laughter, and all the instincts and knowledge that had seen him through so many years and battles, told him that something was very wrong here, he just wished he could lay a finger on what exactly had him so jumpy and on edge.
Goliath was of two minds about the proposed meeting with the Pack. Their combined knowledge about these strangers amounted to what they had seen on television and that first meeting Lexington had had with them. Not much when the Clan had so much more to lose by exposure to the public. But as others had pointed out, they they did need more allies than Elisa Maza and Matt Bluestone, and the eager light glimmering in Lexington's eye
and his own curiousity pushing at his nerve endings convinced him to shove his doubts to the back burner.
They glided on currents with the night sky all around them clear and cool, clouds scudding across like ships becalmed on a quiet ocean.
Lexington came to a landing, glancing in all directions for any signs that those that they had come to meet were there. Gargoyles did not carry time-keeping devices on their persons, but centuries of experience and judging by the position of the moon in the sky overhead, he could tell that it was only about a quarter to midnight. His rookery brothers, Brooklyn and Broadway landed with a thump and screeching of claws on the steel and concrete roofs of the building that had been chosen as the meeting spot.
"I don't think they're coming," Broadway muttered as he let out a huge yawn, fluffing his wings and wrapping them around his stocky, chunky form.
"They said they would be here, and they will," Lexington replied with more heat in his voice than he had intended.
"Maybe they stopped off for a cocktail," Brooklyn joked, "I've heard that's what television stars do, isn't it?"
"Oh, shut up," Lexington muttered under his breath, for the first time since his initial meeting with the Pack starting to be just a little bit doubtful how smart this move would prove to be. In the back of his mind, he wanted to be proved right about his read on the members of the Pack. More importantly than that, this entire episode might just prove to himself and his rookery brothers, his worth on the team. As the youngest and smallest gargoyle, Lexington sometimes felt a bit left out, so this might prove to be more important than he had yet realized.
They waited, and Lexington, for one, could not wait for midnight to arrive, and felt a small, nagging and slightly annoying nubbin of doubt; he shoved to a dark corner of his mind.
Meanwhile, Bronx who had been crouched down on his stomach near the edge of the roof that sat flush with the stairwell that lead down to the building's interior suddenly lifted his head, short ears pricked in attention, his nostrils flaring, as snuffled at the evening breeze.
Something or someone was present, and judging by the expression on his face, it was not a scent that met with his approval. When they finally picked out the sound from the others, it repeated in the manner of high pitched manic laughter. Then in the next instant, an amplified voice came from a hidden speaker.
"Welcome to the Gauntlet, normally the traps in here aren't lethal," the voice paused then added. "But we've juiced them up just for you."
An explosion rocked the roof where they stood and a hole opened up beneath their feet.
Goliath, who stood near to the stairwell with Hudson flanking him, suddenly went tense, his muscles standing out on his broad form, his eyes glaring white. A sure sign that danger approached, the others tensed as well, eyes glowing as well. They were under attack, but from where?
That question was answered from multiple directions as several sharp implements were thrown from out of the close-quarter shadows, one whistling over the head of Broadway, who ducked, the sharp blade just missing taking off a flap of skin but mere inches. Broadway growled, and crouched down, trying to see through the steel partitions, and pinpoint his attacker.
The scratchy sound of gunfire alerted Lexington to his immediate danger, and squared his shoulders then wrapped his wings around his small body, at the same instant that a lithe but strong body launched itself at him and swung up onto his back, trying to bear him to the steel floor by sheer force and momentum.
Lexington's little nubbin of doubt about the sincerity and trustworthiness of the
Pack as potential allies had just grown into a full-blown black eye. He gave a convulsive shudder that threw his attacker off of his back and onto the floor. It was the one they called Hyena.
She lay on the floor for a few seconds, laughing hysterically, and for the life of him Lexington could not figure out what was so funny. While he was distracted, Jackal crept out and began shooting a hand weapon.
Lexington ran forward, reaching out to wrest the hand gun from him.
Amidst the confusion of the fight, and the element of surprise gone, Goliath and Hudson had been separated from the other clan members, forced to fight a defensive battle against two men and one red-haired woman, in close quarters.
Goliath was angry, with himself for allowing this to happen, angry at the betrayal of the trust Lexington had placed in the Pack; and just generally angry those in these close quarters they were more vulnerable. With a nod
Goliath picked up Wolf bodily and threw the man as far as he could, where the man fetched up against the far wall.
"We must get out of here, somewhere we have more room to fight, and then we must rendezvous with the others."
"Aye, lad. Ye have the right of it, but tis easier said then done."
Hudson spread his wings and bolted up through the three attackers, and then up and away through the gaping hole where the roof had once been.
Goliath followed a few moments after, scooping Bronx up in his arms, and then he was out as well.
Brooklyn, Broadway and Lexington came out ten minutes after that, followed by the full complement of the Pack.
"I can't say much else for these jokers," Brooklyn muttered, "but I will say one thing for them, they are persistent."
"Agreed, follow me." Goliath spread his wings and launched into the air, we lose them in the city and then the fight will be at an end."
"You think," asked Lexington a little nervously."
"No lad," answered Hudson grimly, "He hopes."
"They tricked me, lied to me! I can't believe I ever trusted them to keep their word."
"Aye, lad, they did," Hudson soothed the young gargoyle, "but do not take it so hard, there was no way you could have known."
"I suppose it would do little good to tell him I told him that this might happen?" Goliath said.
"I will never trust another human again," Lexington hissed between clenched teeth, pounding a small but strong fist against the wall of the stairwell that led down to the interior of the castle. The rising sun etched against the far horizon rose higher in the sky, signaling dawn's arrival and the oncoming Stone sleep for the gargoyles.
"Lex," I know you don't want any advice right now," Brooklyn said, from where he prepared to crouch down on his sleeping spot,” but, I'm going give it to you anyway," the brick-red gargoyle continued, "It's just a case of one bad apple spoiling the entire cart, just because this one time did not pan out, don't give up for the rest of the race, kay?"
Goliath nodded in agreement with that, and placed a hand on Lexington's shoulder. "It's a hard lesson lad, but we must not give up hope."