Dr. Emma Handley, finally unable to bear the tension any longer, strode purposefully out of her research station to confront the security guard named McGee who was pacing back and forth across the entrance, keeping his gun at the ready. She had been sitting in her station watching over every last detail form the changes in the materials that were receiving direct sunlight without benefit of any ultraviolet protection. Most of them were organic substances that were being fried by the rays nearly instantly. Half had cancerous growths within the first fifteen minutes. Her results were positive for her work, but they were not what she wanted. She wanted to know what was going on!
The idea that a mythical beast stalked them was absolutely ridiculous, and she had told them so. However, they insisted it was true, and it had gotten her to thinking. If there was such a thing as a werewolf, and it had killed several crew members, then just what were they doing with only one security guard? They would need more for their protection, as there were five of them, and not a single one of them was probably combat ready. There had to be some more protection going on around here or they could very easily wind up being in the belly of a werewolf.
Somehow she could not take that seriously, but it was an altogether too frightening image for her usual self-assured calm to take. She did not like things to be out of order, and this certainly did not fit in the genetic order of life. After boring herself to tears over samples that had at first intrigued her but now were tame next to the thought of a being who biochemistry defied all known laws, she had begun drawing up possible theories on the background of this werewolf and just how it could biologically exist.
However even that had taxed her patience after a time. It would have greatly helped her if she could have had some sort of example to look at to begin her modeling. Everything she did was just a theory, with absolutely no basis in fact! The only thing she was working on was the assumption that they did exist, and that was based completely on the questionable word of the security officer who would not let them leave. Well, she was about fed up with it, and was going to tell him so. She didn't care what he had to say, she was going to be leaving this instant to see for herself what was going on out there!
The security guard saw her coming at him, and recognized her impatience, which was written plainly across her round face. Her large green eyes flared at him as her coppery curls tumbled about her shoulders. She was shorter than the security guard, but she was also a bit more motivated than he was! She was going to be leaving, and there was nothing he could do to stop her.
"Excuse me, Dr. Handley, what is wrong?" he asked her as she approached. She strided up to the door and pushed the button to open the hatch. The red light flashed at her to let her know that the door was locked. She kicked it in frustration, this was so humiliating!
"I'm afraid that you cannot leave right now, it is not safe to do so." McGee pointed out in his gruff voice. Had he been younger she might have thought him handsome, as he was strong and he did keep himself in good shape. But that receding hairline and the pockmarked impression of his skin was enough to dissuade her. It also didn't help that his personality was on the level of green jello.
"I am going to be leaving, now open this door!" she insisted.
"I'm sorry, itís too dangerous. There is a werewolf out there you know."
"So you say. I want to see it for myself," she replied archly.
"I don't recommend that."
"I don't care, I want out of this place!" She took out her card and swiped it through the lock. The red light remained. She hit the button to open the door anyway in frustration. She would have hit it again, but McGee had grabbed her arm and spun her about. She found herself facing him suddenly. His touch on her arm was so light and tender that she was sure that she should be able to just slip her arm from his grasp by pulling about any direction. Everytime she pulled away though, it was like she met a wall of impenetrable force. His grip on her was loose enough not to hurt her, but she could not break free of his grasp.
She tried to slap him with her other arm, but he twisted her first arm in such away that she was spun around and could not strike him. She tried to step on his toes, but he deftly moved them out of the way before she came anywhere near them. This man was very frustrating and it was driving her crazy. However, what use was there in fighting him? His grip was too strong to break, at least while he was paying attention. Perhaps a bit of subterfuge was necessary at this point. She decided to go limp a bit, letting him think she had given up. His grip on her did not change; it was still loose and very versatile.
"Why won't you let me go outside?" she asked, hoping to distract him further with idle talk.
"Because you might get killed by the werewolf."
"I can take care of myself."
"Somehow, I am not too sure of that." McGee replied. Though his remark seemed condescending, she did not seem to notice any of that in his voice.
"I can too take care of myself! Besides, I just want to see what it looks like. I'd like to collect a sample if I could."
"A sample? A sample of what?"
"Anything, flesh, bone, urine, defecation, anything." She had to admit that anything she could find of the werewolf's would be a startling discovery in itself, though the defecation would probably tell her the least. A tissue sample would probably be too much to hope for.
"I'm afraid that is out of the question."
"What is wrong with you? Can't you see that if I had a sample of its tissue then I could advance my career by leaps and bounds? Imagine it, I unlock the secret of the werewolf, how could the Nobel committee ignore me. I could eve write a book about it. You know people would buy it."
"Somehow, I think your life is worth more than a Nobel Prize."
She tried to pull her arm free, finding his grip quite slack. However, it proved to be completely impregnable as before. Though he did not seem to be keeping a good hold on her, he actually had complete control over where she was going. There was no way that he was going to let her out, and there was no way that he was going to let her go unless he thought she was going to head back to her room.
"I said I'll be fine! Now let me go!" she growled at him, unable to bear the humiliation of being restrained by one simple hand like this.
Suddenly McGee let go of her, and she fell to the ground. She got up to both feet furious at being tossed to the ground like that, "Why did you do that!" she burst out.
"You told me to let go, so I did."
"You didn't have to do it so suddenly or hard!" Dr. Handley massaged her other arm, which had taken the brunt of the impact. McGee shook his head in disbelief, and returned to standing between her and the hatch.
As she was still fuming at him, there was a sudden voice calling over radio. "McGee? This is Captain Rhodes, I need to talk to you."
McGee reached for the radio on his belt, and picked it up, keeping an eye on Handley the whole time. "McGee here, what is it, Captain?"
"Is everything going fine down on your end?"
"Basically. I just had to prevent Dr. Handley from leaving this room. Seems she thinks she could survive out there with the werewolf."
"Werewolves, there is more than one." Rhodes pointed out.
McGee stood stock still for a moment, his eyes gone wide very briefly. Handley listened to the words in surprise, feeling a little foolish and most certainly a bit of chagrin. Had she gone out there, she would have been at the mercy of more than one werewolf, which was something that even she doubted she could survive. She may be tough, despite what McGee did to her, but she was also mortal and multiple werewolves were more trouble than she wanted to deal with. However, she would still like to just take a brief step out, perhaps there was an opportunity to get a sample in the corridor just outside the hatch.
"How many of them are there?" McGee asked after a momentís pause.
"There are at least four that we can count at present. There will be five before too much longer." There was another voice, a kidís voice then, but he could not make it out. "No wait, sorry there will be six in another hour or so. HuggyBear just reminded me that one of the kids trying to make it to the engine room was clawed by the werewolf as well."
"It can spread by injury?"
"Unfortunately yes. Dutton was scratched by it when we first saw it, and only twenty minutes ago he transformed into that beast that we told you of."
"Not Max!" McGee seemed to be a little shocked by what he was hearing. Emma found herself more shocked. She had remembered the size of Max Dutton during that first meeting they had held before launch. He had been a very intimidating figure, not quite so much as Tembo had been, but he was not a person she wanted to cross anytime soon. Now he was a werewolf, how ferocious must he be?
"Yes, Max. I am sorry to see him go, but I know that I will get to see him soon enough anyway."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, before we managed to get him out of the Greenhouse, he slashed at me, and cut my chest."
McGee didn't say anything for a moment, his face putting the evidence together. The subject of werewolves was one of ignorance, and he displayed a lot. "But he was still human right? That doesn't count if he was still human, does it?"
"He was beginning to change. So he wasn't as human as you and I remember him to be. Besides, I don't really know that it matters. I had to threaten Jansen I was going to bite him to shut him up." Rhodes seemed almost casual in the way he was pronouncing this. Handley found herself horrified by it. What kind of monster would joke so lightly about so terrible a fate? Did he want this? Did he want to go about killing his crewmembers in bestial delight? She found herself turning from this in horror, staring at the floor, wishing so much that she could wrest the radio from McGee's hands and smash it to the floor.
"What did Jansen do?" McGee asked, his voice the same monotone it always was. However, she could see his face, how it had gone pale at Rhodes's words. She knew that he was not as composed as he made himself out to be.
"He shut up of course. I don't mean to make light of all this, I haven't fully accepted it yet. I don't want it in fact. But the simple fact remains; I am going to become a werewolf. There is nothing more for it. I can do nothing to stop it. I can already hear the wolf trying to seduce me as it did Dutton. I am going to resist as long as I can, but I don't think I have much more than an hour left. I want you McGee to keep these people alive in anyway you can. If you have to kill me, do so. I am leaving Dr. Thibaudet with my gun and radio, I think he should be competent.
"Oh, Captain Harper will be coming up in the rescue ship in another 7 and a half hours. That's a rough estimate, but expect him here sometime about then. His team will be armed with tranquilizers, and they will take care of the other werewolves and me. Unless you absolutely have to, do not leave the research station. I mean, unless you are going to absolutely die by being there, do not leave. And if you have to leave, head straight for the Greenhouse and let either Thibaudet or me know about it first. Do you understand?" There was a hard edge to Rhodes's voice, much like he was used to. The Captain was still there; his grasp of the situation had not lessened by his own personal plight.
McGee nodded self-consciously, "Captain, I understand. Nobody will leave her unless it is a live or die situation." He fixed Handley with a cold stare. She returned an impudent smile; she was going to get out of here one way or another. Perhaps she could create a situation in which they would die if they did not leave? No too risky, and besides, she couldn't use her lab equipment if she did something like that. Besides, she was not going to threaten another human life just to get a sample, that was simply too unthinkable. She would have to find another way.
"Now McGee, there is only one thing left that we can do, and that is to make sure that Lovewolf and Lassie get back safely. Well, at least Lassie gets back safely. Lovewolf is going to become a werewolf in another half-hour to an hour. I'm not sure when, but it will happen before too much longer. Also, if they do find Penny and Kilpatrick, I want you to defer authority to Samuel without any questions asked, understood?"
"Of course sir. Nothing was farther from my mind."
"Good. Other than that, I can think of nothing else that needs to be done. There are three scientists still missing, but I cannot help them. Four Shapeshifters are unaccounted for as well. There seems to be very little that I can do, but we have to save those that we know are alive. If the others show up, great, if not, don't try anything heroic."
"Captain, you want me to keep things sane until Harper gets here. I understand. Nothing will change if I can help it." McGee said it with such calm assurance that Handley knew that he was telling the truth and that he was not going to deviate one iota from what Rhodes had ordered him to do. She was going to be stuck in here for over 7 more hours, maybe even 8! How could he do such a thing? She needed to get some samples, and she knew she could do it too.
"McGee, I am so glad that you are still with us at least. You are the last of my able-bodied security guards, I don't want to lose you."
"Thank you for your concern, Captain. I will try to make sure that I do not disappoint you."
"I know you won't. I must be going now; I'll let you get back to what you were doing. I'll have Thibaudet call you every hour. I will call if anything new happens before then. Understood?"
"Good, please try and stay alive."
"Goodbye my friend," Rhodes called out, and then the radio went silent. Obviously, Rhodes could no longer stand it. He must not have been good with good-byes; he'd drug that one out a bit longer than she was expecting. Obviously this werewolf business was hurting him a great deal. She did not wish to sympathize with him however, she did not want to be a werewolf. However, if she could discover what made a werewolf a werewolf then she would at least have a chance at the Nobel Prize she so craved. Her work now might have made it possible to reach such a prestigious award, but it was still iffy. This, there was no doubt what she could accomplish with it.
McGee turned to face her, his own hard, calm, and deliberate. "I trust you now know how dangerous it is to be going outside?"
"Yes. Yes, I do," she replied stiffly.
"Good, then you will go back to your room and not bother me again with such stupid requests?"
"No, I will not."
McGee did not seem surprised at al by her defiance. That was another thing she hated about this man, he was absolutely impossible to shock in anyway. He was also completely devoted to duty, and would not give her the opportunity she needed to get ahead of all the competition, this was her big chance, and she was going to miss it because of him. She wished so much that she could just say something, anything that would make his jaw drop, but there seemed to be no way to do that. He was always tight-lipped, calm, and completely in control of his actions and emotional state.
Before McGee could say anything though she went on, intent on at least giving this one last shot. "I think that just wandering the halls outside is dangerous, and I would never dream of doing that." She held up a finger to shush him so that she could continue. He looked like he wanted to tell her to be quiet, but he kept his mouth shut. "But, I think that just venturing out in the hall right outside this hatchway is perfectly safe, as long as you are with me to protect me." she batted her eyelashes at him a few times, giving him a sweet smile. She felt dirty for doing it, but it was one of her last ideas.
"You flatter me with words Dr. Handley." McGee seemed to melt there on the spot, and for a moment she felt the glory of triumph, but he crushed it just as quickly. "Words have never moved me, and you certainly do not impress me with your empty tongue. You are not leaving this hatch, not for any reason, so just please get used to this idea and get back to work."
Dr. Emma Handley stomped her foot indignantly, striding towards him, "I just want you to open the door so that we can have a peek. If there is nothing down there, then you can close it. Ouch! Let go of me you brute!" McGee had grabbed her left arm again, and had twisted her around so that she was facing back towards her research station.
"Will you please go back to your station?"
"Will you let me see out that door!" she countered.
"Are you going to insist?" he sighed finally.
"Then you leave me no choice." McGee calmly told her. He did not let go of her arm, but instead forced it behind her back and the grabbed her by the wait with his other arm. Before she could so much as scream, he had lifter her high into the air over his head and was carrying her back down the hallway. It took her a moment to realize the indignity of travelling this way, but when she did she began trying her hardest to kick him and hollering in protest. She was a grown woman! She could walk back; he didn't have to carry her like some child! A few doors opened, but notable Anselm's stayed shut, as usual. McGee looked at the faces peering out and calmly replied, "She's being a bit troublesome, now stay in your stations please."
They looked to each other's faces and then quietly slipped back into their rooms. McGee then set Handley down before her open door. He calmly pushed her in, and then let go of her arm. She tossed her arm back, throwing off his hand and then spun about, giving him the deadliest glare she could muster.
McGee nodded at her, "As you wish it." He then closed her door. She heard a card sliding through the slot, and the light on her own door turned red. She pushed the button to open the door, but it did not work. She had been locked it by that brute! Not only wouldn't he let her see out that door, but now he had locked her in her research station as well! How humiliating! How was she ever to get that Nobel Prize now?
Colonel Throckmorton had procured himself another cup of hot cocoa; it seemed his nerves were getting frayed of late. He was listening to a report on the status of one of the other ships in space at the moment, not really paying attention at all. He was still worried about the Pytheas. One of his most competent Captains, Captain Rhodes, was going to become a werewolf. Was there anyway that he could save his friend's life? Was there anyway that he could guarantee that Rhodes would not spend the rest of his existence as some guinea pig in a laboratory? At the moment, he could not think of anything he could say or do to stop it from happening.
He took another sip of the cocoa as he listened half-heartedly. The cocoa really did taste good, but it could have been lighter fluid and it wouldn't have mattered to him right now. His mind was in space, up there with the crew of the Pytheas, trying to find someway that he could do more to help them, do something to prevent them from becoming werewolves, or to die at their hands. He would hate for Harper to have to do a clean up job, mopping up the mess that was left over from the werewolves rampaging. There had to be another way, but at the moment he could not think what it was.
He felt a tapping on his shoulder and he motioned for the officer reading the report to stop momentarily. He turned and saw Brucker holding a phone out to him. "What is it, Major?"
"It's Secretary Blumenfield, sir. She is not happy." Brucker's face was white and his hands were shaking slightly. Now what had gone wrong?
Throckmorton took the phone in his hands, gingerly cupping the receiver about his mouth, "Secretary?"
"Colonel Throckmorton, I want you to turn to cable channel 141 and tell me what you see." Her voice was even, though the fierce anger beneath it was very clear.
Throckmorton looked at the nearest screen and the officer sitting behind it, "Bring up cable channel 141 right now." The officer did as told, and the screen changed to a news report. Some anchorman with fake hair and empathy was talking and there was a little icon of a silhouetted figure in the right corner next to his head. There was a picture of a space ship behind the silhouette. The silhouette was of a werewolf.
"Rumors have come out suggesting that the United Space shuttle Pytheas has come under attack by what is being called a werewolf. Sources say that a message from the Pytheas itself confirmed the existence of the werewolf and that it has so far killed at least four officers aboard the ship. Though there is no actual footage of the werewolf, the message came from a one John Corigliano, one of the security guards aboard the ship. Our correspondent in MOCR was ejected from the room only minutes after the transmission was received. NASA officials are refusing to comment at this time.
"In other news...." Throckmorton turned the screen off himself. How had she gotten hold of that message! How had she managed to find out! He burned with fury at Mrs. Clarendon. He would make sure that she never set foot in this building or any other government office ever again.
"Well, Throckmorton? Do you have an explanation for this?" Blumenfield patiently called back.
Throckmorton licked his lips, calming his fury, "It is true. We did receive a report from Corigliano saying that there is a werewolf on board. I thought we ejected Clarendon before she saw it. I guess we were wrong. I have talked with Captain Rhodes, and he has confirmed this. The werewolves are real."
"Yes, there is more than one." Throckmorton admitted despite himself.
"You know what to do. We have to deny this every which way we can. This must be stopped as soon as possible. I will be returning to the United States within two hours, I will want to be fully briefed when I arrive at MOCR, do you understand?"
"Good. The reporters will probably be knocking down your door in five minutes, have your responses prepared." she cautioned him.
"Thanks for the warning."
"I will want to discuss why you didn't tell me this before, but not now, you have a job to do." Blumenfield's tone was very dangerous, and he knew that she was one step away form having his head on a platter. He was glad though that she had hung up, because he did not want to have to hear anything else form her at the moment. This had to be stopped now before it got any farther!
Throckmorton gave the phone back to Brucker. "Major, you are in charge here while I spearhead this myself. Nobody is to leave this room without my permission. No information leaves this room without my permission. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir." Brucker nodded gravely.
"Good, now get to it!"
End Part XII