The federal courtroom was hot and stuffy due to the broken air conditioning system. It was not that sultry a day, but with the number of people packed into the room to see the verdict, not the least of which was most of the entire crew of the Pytheas as well as the command staff from MOCR, it became quite unbearable for most. Thibaudet was not among them. Up until three weeks ago, he would have agreed with the general consensus that this was a terrible heat, but not now. While they languished in what to him was taste of something much more pleasant than the vast expanse of outer space, he watched the door where the jury would return through. The trial had taken almost two and a half weeks. His crime? Murder in the first degree of Doctor Frederick Anselm. He had been tempted to tell his lawyer that he wanted to plead guilty, because he had done it, but his lawyer convinced him that a plea of self-defense was more prudent. Of course, he had plenty of character witnesses. He didn't think they could get enough of Lieutenant Penny. They called her to the stand on three separate occasions, and her story was the same each time. As a joke, he'd asked his lawyer if having Darkwolf come to the stand as a witness for him, but Darkwolf was a real wolf at the moment, and his lawyer advised him that such constitutional issues were probably best left to be hashed out in other cases.
Sitting in the heat, he pondered a few things. He tried to roll his shoulder some, but the cast and sling kept it firmly in place. Pierre couldn't wait to have it off. The doctor had told him only three weeks, and it was nearing that time now. It would come off soon enough, but still, it was quite irritating. At least his skin was back to normal, and all the sores had finally gone away. That first week in court had been a miserable one. He had this sore on his rear that was just swelling, and every time he sat down it squished into him, sending a lance of pain up his spine. Thankfully, the doctors had been quite competent, and he was now in almost full health. The chlorine poisoning had done some severe damage to him, but it was nothing permanent.
Thibaudet idly wondered what Swiley's sentence had been. They had both been in concurrent trials, and Swiley's sentence had come that morning. Of course, Saltonstall had accepted the President's offer for a pardon, but Swiley had refused. Thibaudet wasn't sure if he would have done the same if he were in Swiley's shoes. According to Colonel Throckmorton, Swiley was doing it to prevent blackmail, but he really couldn't see what worse damage it would cause if Swiley were convicted of manslaughter and second degree murder. Frankly, he wasn't sure what was going to happen period. The Hasmonean organization had basically dumped their entire file system on the United States Press almost as soon as Swiley was charged. Of course, the statute of limitations had run out on most of everything they publicly admitted to. Congress was in an epileptic fit trying to pass new legislation to control the shapeshifters and regulate them. Of course, since two of them were shapeshifters anyway, something that they were finally able to admit to their constituents, it got very messy and quite heated. Almost as hot as this court room probably.
Pierre glanced back, and caught Captain Rhodes's eye. He was sitting up in the front, next to the huge black man, Mr. Tembo. Both inclined their heads in his direction. They were supposedly done wit their deliberations, but they were taking their time coming into the room. The judge was already seated, and waiting. Her imperial eyes looking down through the glasses at him, calling upon him to beg for forgiveness from the court. At least that was how she looked to him. He wasn't sure if he was very comfortable around the judge, and he suspected that she was not on his side. The case against him was quite strong. He pulled the trigger on the gun that shot Anselm, and he used some strategy to get into the area where Anselm was hiding. Of course, his case was probably even stronger, about being sucked out into space at Anselm's behest. Because of what had happened, he was some sort of national hero. Frankly, he didn't want to be a national hero. He had just done what he had to do to survive.
With a sudden intake of breath, the jury started filing in through the back door. Pierre stood up, as his lawyer directed, and watched. The men and women, all wearing summer clothes and dour expressions walked to their seats and gingerly sat in them. There were murmurings throughout the courtroom, and the judge was quick to slam her gavel down, demanding silence. Thibaudet licked his lips, flexed his fingers, and stared at each juror, noting the ones that looked his way and the ones that didn't. Was the jury hung? Was he pronounced guilty as charged? What would they say, he certainly needed to know.
"Members of the jury, have you reached a decision?" the judge called out in her brusque alto voice.
An elderly man who had smoked too many cigars in his time replied in a gravely voice, "We have. We, the members of the jury, have found the defendant, Doctor Pierre Thibaudet, not guilty of first degree murder."
Thibaudet sighed in relief, and the crowd behind the bar erupted into cheers. He stole a glance at the prosecution; they did not look all that disappointed either. He felt firm pats on his back, and a few slapping him hard enough to make his gasp from the pain in his shoulder. He smiled as best he could at all those about him, having lost his friends in the sudden standing crowd. The judge was slamming her gavel into the table, screaming for order. The bailiff rolled his eyes, but did nothing else. Finally, the judge was able to restore order to the court, and the crowd's cheers were stifled once again. Thibaudet remained standing throughout it all, amazed that his life was once again his own. The legal hassle would certainly be over. Although his lawyer had told him what might lay ahead for him in the future. The thought of a Pierre Thibaudet fan club did not please him. He'd already had to tell three major networks that he was not willing to be interviewed. Then there were the movie moguls coming to him with contracts asking for the film rights and if he wanted in on the action. He wanted nothing to do with it. Apparently some of the others had gone ahead and signed on with them, so the movie was being made, books were being written, and who knew what else was going on!
Finally, the clamor died down, and the judge was quick with the pronouncement of his sentence. Being found innocent, there was little else to say. Soon, they were dismissed, and Thibaudet shook hands with his lawyer, and then tried to get through the press of the crowd to his friends who he wanted to see. They were waiting for him, even Darkwolf, who was at Lovewolf and HuggyBear's side. The security personnel had been a bit wary of letting a wolf into the courtroom, but seeing as he was really a human being, they decided to let him in. Of course, Pierre's head was still spinning from everything that had been going on, so looked to find the one person that he felt really close to. Captain Rhodes, not quite as portly as he had once been, with a little more refined appearance strode towards him, shaking his hand, along with all the others glad to see him. Since they had returned to Earth, almost all of them stuck together. Perhaps there was something about the wolf in them that caused it to be so, but Pierre did not want to speculate.
"Congratulations, my friend," Rhodes finally said. "I knew you were going to get off, but it is good to see that you did nonetheless."
"Thanks, to all of you." Thibaudet smiled, shifting his arm about in the sling some to get comfortable. He could hardly wait the couple of days it would be before it came off.
"Well, you might be happy to know, Dr. Swiley got eighty years in jail." Rhodes chuckled to himself, shaking his head before he continued. "The funny thing is, he's going to be about the same age when he gets out. I just found out that Swiley knows a way to keep himself from aging, he's been using it for the last five years to keep from going bald. Anyway, it is a secret only he knows now, but still, I don't think it will take long before others find out what it is too."
"He got eighty years for second degree murder?" Thibaudet was a bit surprised at the sentence.
Rhodes looked at the others, "Well, there were some extenuating circumstances in this case."
Thibaudet nodded, looking at everybody before him. The entire command crew of the Pytheas: Rhodes, Kilpatrick, Simmons, Penny, Danielpour, and Xenakis; all of them were now werewolves. Every security guard: Tembo, Gorecki, Corigliano, McGee, and Dutton; they were all werewolves as well. Most of the scientists, even Saltonstall were there as werewolves as well. Only Jansen was not standing among the group, but off to the side with Angela. John West was twiddling his thumbs as he leaned against the railing. They were all people that he had worked aside and watched fall down under the onslaught. He had seen all of them, knew all of them. Yet, he was not a part of them. They were something he could not and did not want to be a part of. They were a pack. Somehow, now that they had their mind, Rhodes was once again in charge. From what they had told him, Tembo had been the alpha at first. Yet as he watched them all, they each seemed to gravitate toward a mate. It was disturbing, but he could see it in Tembo and Gorecki's eyes, Kilpatrick and Simmons, and Rhodes and Penny.
"So, how was Maine?" Thibaudet finally asked.
"Maine was nice. I think we will go up there for the full moon," Rhodes replied. "I know you don't understand it, Pierre. I really don't myself. To think that anybody could change so quickly, it is hard to accept. We just haven't got a choice, and well, it is better this way."
"Are you still going to be part of the Space Force?" Thibaudet queried. He grimaced as other spectators came up, asking for his autograph. Being right handed everything he'd done so far had been a bunch of scribbles, but the fans seemed glad to have it.
Rhodes nodded, as did the others. "It is what we do."
Thibaudet stole a glance at Darkwolf again. That he had somehow become a wolf after leaving the full moon had mystified even the experts. Of course Thibaudet wasn't sure he trusted the so-called 'experts'. Darkwolf was sitting upon his haunches, looking from one to the other. His fur was completely black, probably just as he had imagined it. Pierre remembered the kid telling him that he viewed himself like this all the time. Looking back up at Rhodes, he pointed down to the wolf, "Did they have anything to say about him?"
"Darkwolf?" Rhodes looked down, and smiled at his lupine brethren. "Yes. It has happened before, when on of us wants to be the wolf. It has to be a desire to be more wolf than man. From what the others have told me, Darkwolf has wanted to be a wolf all his life, and well, he just wanted it more than he did his old form back."
"Well, I don't know what to say."
Rhodes put a hand on his shoulder, "Don't worry about it. There is nothing you can say." Thibaudet nodded absently, feeling the firm squeeze of Rhodes thick palms on his shoulder. "Well, what are you going to do now that you are free?"
"Right now, I'm planning to get back to my place, and just get some sleep. I feel like I haven't gotten a decent sleep in months."
"Weeks only." Rhodes winked at him.
"Still, I think I need some sleep."
Rhodes pulled his hand away, and looked back over the others, "Well, we really need to be on our way too. It looks like they want us out of here anyway."
Thibaudet nodded, turning to walk out of the courtroom. The air outside was much cooler. He breathed it in, always amazed that he could still do that. Somebody had mentioned he might need some counseling. He did not want to associate himself with anymore psychologists though. One was certainly more than he'd ever wanted to meet. Taking one last look at his friends, he began walking down the hall. This was not a time for good-byes. He had the media to deal with, and they were certainly waiting for him at the front steps of the courthouse. He hated the media already.
Lying down on the hotel bed, Thibaudet put his head to the pillow and sank in the cool air of the room about him. His whole body was still aching, and he imagined it always would. It was like there was no time when he did not suffer from some pain now. Reflecting on the world as it was now was utterly useless. He did everything he could to try to stop it all, but it went on anyway. Everything had gone according to Swiley's plans, except that his man Anselm had gone crazy. And he had pulled the trigger that killed Anselm. No matter what the jury said, he was responsible for the death of a man. The man may have been a lunatic bent on killing him and all those around him, but he was still a human being. What justification was there that was worth killing?
Thibaudet rolled about on the pillow once more. He hit his fists against the bed sheets, trying to get it out of his mind. It wouldn't go away. The image of Anselm lying on the floor of the space ship dead with a bullet hole through his brain would not leave his mind. He had put that bullet there, and he had been glad he'd done it. Was he so glad now? Perhaps there had been another way, a way that he had not considered. Perhaps he had been too intent for blood that he had not considered all the options? Then again, what would have happened if he let Anselm survive? Anselm was quite obviously ready to kill him. Where he'd gotten that gun from he'd never know. Perhaps he had one hidden on him too, just like Penny had? Still, those were things he could do nothing about! Why was he berating himself with them?
He hit the pillow again, and sat up, crossing his legs as he did so. Pierre rubbed his ace with his one god hand, and looked at the cast on his other arm. The media were all gone, and thankfully they had put guards at his hotel door so that nobody would besiege him. Still, it was on his heart, and he couldn't get it off. He wanted to forget about Anselm, but he had a feeling that he would be seeing that man's face for the rest of his life. What possible way could it be that he would be forgiven? How could he possibly forgive himself?
Grimacing, he reached over to the side table, and pulled open the drawer. He wasn't sure why he did it, but for some reason he felt he had to. Inside, as expected, was a book that he had not read in years. The Bible lay before him, placed by the Gideons, ready for him to take and read. He slid the drawer shut again, turning his eyes away. It was a hard thing, to admit one was wrong. Thibaudet did not really want to let all know that he had made a mistake and had spent the last so many years of his life in error. Then again, everybody had to admit they were wrong, werewolves existed. People had been denying their existence for centuries, and now they are real. Now they knew. They had to admit they were wrong. He wondered how many had even thought about it.
He pulled the drawer upon again and took the Bible out in one hand. It was blue with a nice sturdy binding and thin pages. He let the book fall open to whatever page it wanted to. His eyes fixed upon the words, and his mouth began moving, speaking them. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal..." he stopped and looked at that last bit again. "A time to kill, and a time to heal." He had killed, it had been that time. Perhaps now it was time to heal? Perhaps he needed to heal wounds that were long since overdue for it? That might be the only way for his own problems to be taken care of.
The Bible still in his lap, he reached over and picked up the phone. Reading the instructions on the touch pad on how to call outside the hotel, he quickly began dialing the numbers. It had been so long; he had forgotten the last time he had spoke to them. Oh, he'd told them that he would be going into space. He listened to the ringing on the other end. Three times before the voice on the other end came through. It was in Français, but then again, he had been expecting that. "Hello?"
"Hello, Dad," Thibaudet replied, in Français as well. His voice was mellow, calm and nearly catching in his throat.
"Pierre!" His father's voice was suddenly excited and exuberant. "Pierre, it is so good to hear from you!"
"Good to hear from you as well. Where is Mom?"
His voice became quiet again. "Your mother isn't feeling well right now. You know she's always been a bit sickly." Suddenly he perked up again. "But it is good to hear from you, my son. We saw that you were found not guilty on the news today. We've been worried about you."
"I'm just glad that it's over."
"So, what are you going to do now?"
Thibaudet licked his lips, looking back at the Bible in his lap. "I was thinking. It's been sometime since I visited, and well, I miss you guys. I get the cast off in two days. I can come up on Saturday. I'll take a flight in to Montreal and drive the rest of the way. I've done it before."
His father was almost effervescent with joy; it was quite evident over the line. "We can get your old room ready by then. Well probably not make Mass on Sunday, so you can spend the day with us anyway. After all, your mother is sick right now."
Thibaudet could not take his eyes off of Ecclesiastes. "Dad, I'd like to come to Mass with you."
The other end of the line was silent for a few moments. They had already had this argument a long time ago. Of course at the time it was because he was refusing to go to Mass with them, and not the other way around. Now he was trying to drag them to Mass. For some reason, the irony did not strike him as funny. He was serious. "We would love to have you along! Why this sudden change in mind?" His father's voice was slightly skeptical, but enthusiastic nonetheless.
Pierre closed the Bible gently, and placed it back in the drawer, feeling much better all of a sudden. "I'll tell you some other time. I was also hoping that we could see the cliffs on the shore again. I always enjoyed running about there as a child."
"Trying to find yourself?"
"Dad, I just need to heal. It's that time now. I've gone through a lot of pain recently, I need to heal from that pain. I just want to watch the birds."
"Yes, the birds. I want to watch them fly." Thibaudet closed his eyes and stood there on that cliff. He stood there overlooking the crashing waves, the brine filing his nostrils, the air washing over his face and through his hair. The sound of the seabirds calling in the air, calling out to him and each other washed over his whole being. Leaning over the edge of the precipice, he held his arms out, letting the feathers stand upon them as wings. He jumped, sailing into the air, lifted up and up further and further. He called out in ecstasy and joy from his lofty heavenly perch. The sense of freedom pervaded him and he was then over the sea, looking about. The sea, the sloshing of the waves and the scent of the brine called out to him.
"Well, I'm sure we can do that too. So, are you going to tell us what really happened up on the Pytheas? We saw the footage."
Thibaudet chuckled, "When I get there, Dad. When I get there."
"Well be waiting for you, Pierre."
"Tell Mom that I love her."
"I love you, Dad."
"I love you too, son." His father's voice was nearly cracking from the unshared emotion and compassion that they had all shared. Truly, there was much healing to be done. This was that time for it.
"Adieu." Thibaudet called, and heard his father reply in kind. He set the phone back down on the receiver, and closed his eyes once more. He rolled back onto the pillow, letting his head sink into the soft embrace. He would fly. Someday. Just as they would run and romp, he would fly, fly out above the sea. Perhaps he already was.
Taking a slow breath and turning out the light of the lamp, Thibaudet closed his eyes once more and curled up there on top of the bed. It was the first real bit of sleep that he had managed in three weeks. It felt like it would last forever.
End The Perpetual