It was dark, it was hot, and Lapwolf wouldn't stop complaining. Ever since they had left Lassie and Lovewolf back at the ladder they had been in the dark. There was some ambient illumination, but that came primarily form the various gratings that were stationed at regular intervals through the ventilation system. There was a steady breeze, but it was not enough for them to cool down. Pillow had always thought that the ducts would be cool because all that air would be blowing by, but no it was just the opposite. How then did they keep the ship cool? Not being a scientist, he could only rely on his high School physics to help him out with this one. He finally decided that it had to do with their being a limited amount of space in the ventilation ducts while the air had more room to move about in the larger areas.
Of course, they did have quite some difficulty in making their way through the airshafts, especially since Lapwolf wanted to stop every few minutes to stretch his legs. It was slow going, having to crawl on hands and knees like they were. Especially in the dark where they were afraid to go forward too fast for fear that there might be an opening beneath them that they could accidentally fall down. Also, there was a matter of stopping at every intersection to find the blood that had been smeared along the walls. It was usually not a big smear, so it always took them some time to find it. Some of it had caked and dried which made it easier, but some had only dripped to the ground, and occasionally they would place their hands in it. Pillow had wiped it on his pants when he'd done so.
Lap of course had tried to be dominating. He had gotten a bit on his fingertips and had then ordered, "Lick it off!"
Pillow stared at his shadowy face like he was crazy. Lap probably couldn't see his expression so there was no fear of rebuke. Licking blood, what a horrid thought, what had gotten into Lap's mind anyway?
"Lap, don't do that. It's Lovewolf's blood you know."
"So? It'll be cool!" It then looked like Lapwolf was licking his fingers clean. "C'mon, tastes good."
Pillow just started crawling down the corridor again, not wanting to even think about what Lap had probably just done. Come to think of it, he'd probably licked his fingers that didn't have any blood on them so that he would be forced to get all the blood. That was an idea that turned his stomach, being the only member of their group who did not feel an affinity for a carnivore. He'd much rather just stay away from anything that had anything to do with blood. The very notion was simply too horrible. Of course, Lap would try it. Lap seemed determined to make Pillow his dog or something, and was deliberately going out of his way to make him do dog like things.
Pillow, on the one hand did not want to do them, and on the other he craved that sort of attention. It hurt him deep down to feel that way, since he knew that it was abhorrent and repulsive. Yet another side of him really did love this pervert that was in the tunnel with him. He was honest enough with himself to admit that yet, Lapwolf was a pervert. All he cared about was sex and sexual games, without regard to the feelings of others. That they tolerated him was more a testament to their willingness to let anybody be with them as long as they claimed to have a connection to a certain animal. Pillow was, by his association with Lapwolf, beginning to feel increasingly alienated from them.
He sighed as he continued moving, ignoring Lapwolf's objections to leaving him behind. This was his fault. He should not have let himself get this involved with Lapwolf. Was there anyway or any hope period of reforming the man? Sadly enough, the chances that Lap would ever improve were slim. He was deluding himself if he thought that he could help him grow out of his sexual deviancies -- especially not by spending most of his time sharing in them. Did he really enjoy being led about by a collar and leash? No, he did not, but he did it because Lap enjoyed doing it to him. At least Lap did not enjoy abusing him physically, he knew that he would be unable to take that.
"Hey, slow down!' Lap called from behind him.
Pillow, feeling a bit mad at himself was unable to do anything but stop where he was. He turned back around, watching as Lap came into the light. He looked at his hands. There were a few bloodstains, but nothing significant. Lap's mouth was not sullied in anyway. That made him glad, at least Lapwolf was not so stupid as to go around drinking blood that he'd found lying along the wall. Of course, they were going to have to clean up when they got out of here. Pillow waited for him to get even with him again, and then he continued moving. The reason he was a bit faster than Lapwolf was that he was smaller. Lap was having trouble moving about because he just barely could crawl on hands and knees through the vent shaft. Even still, he had to duck his head a little bit.
That the passageway never seemed to end, and had probably almost circled back on itself had certainly occurred to Pillow, possibly even Lapwolf. It was clear that he was exhausted from the exertion. Pillow did not feel to fit himself. He finally stopped again near the light as they came to another grate just before an intersection. The vent continued forward off another fifteen feet down they could see, and it also had a path heading towards the right. They could not see the blood to show them the direction from there, but they hadn't been able to really see the blood until they got close anyway.
Lap looked at him, the light reflecting of his face that sick sort of smile he always had when he got a rather disturbing idea. Pillow did not even want to know, but he could imagine that it was going to involve sex. So far, they had not copulated since they had launched, and Pillow wanted to keep it that way. Lap however, had different ideas it seemed, "Hey, lets do it right here. I mean, perfect place, right size."
Pillow just laughed. For some reason, he was feeling giddy; it might have been the heat. "Is that all you can think of?"
"What's wrong with it? I know you want to do me." Lapwolf seemed oblivious to the obvious.
"No, Lap. I do not want to do you. I want to get out of this accursed shaft and back to the Greenhouse. I am hot, sweaty, tired, and I'm not in the mood. Perhaps later, but both you and I know we are tired. I probably can't even get it up right now."
"I could do you." Lap offered his usual vexatious attitude sullen.
"No thank you, I want to get out of here. I don't know how much farther it is, but I don't want to stay in here another minute."
Lap nodded then, backing down for once. He had done it before, but it was not typical of him. Pillow did not mind though. Still, despite his desire to get out, his muscles were too stiff to move at the moment. They lay there resting for a few more minutes, their thoughts going back and forth. Even when they got to the Greenhouse, what could they do? If there really was a werewolf, then how were they going to be able to stop it? Of course some might ask, why would they want to stop it? Well if it was killing people then stopping it would be a necessary thing. He had seen what it had done to Lovewolf, those scars in his back looking rather nasty, despite the fact they were no longer bleeding.
Still, what could he do? He was not strong; he had nothing on him to fight with, except a few pillows stashed here and there. He had left a number of them back in his room, and it bugged him. He thought back to the suggestion from his father that if he really liked hiding stuff up his sleeves he should try to be a professional magician. Of course, they had more than one trick; this was all that Pillow had. He repositioned himself, trying to get back into a sitting position. This place never seemed to end, and they were almost certain to be here a while longer. At least, as long as Lap kept asking for a break every five seconds.
Pillow finally got to his hands and knees again and began crawling down towards the intersection. As expected, Lapwolf objected, but soon followed after him. Pillow looked down both passageways. There was dim illumination down the one straight ahead, but down the other there was something that made his heart jump. The other passageway was bright with light, and he could see things moving back and forth in the opening at the end. They looked like branches. They had made it; just down at the end of that passage was the Greenhouse. Pillow turned back in excitement at Lap, "We made it, it's just down this corridor!"
The excitement of getting out of the stuffy ventilation system gave both of them renewed vigor and vitality, and they were crawling as fast as they could. Within moments they had reached the opening and were looking out at the Greenhouse proper. There were several somber looking figures sitting down about the place. A rather large man with a couple scars on his chest was leaning on the desk at the far end of the room, while the familiar figure of Jansen was glowering as he sat next to a tree. Huggy was sleeping in the bushes off to the side, and a rather tall and slim fourth figure was pacing back and forth in front of the slightly oversized man.
"Hey!" Pillow called out. "Could you all help us get down from here!"
Even Huggy woke at the sound of their voices. All four of them came over to see them sitting up in the ventilation shaft. Hands were held up as the two of them climbed out of the opening. Soon, they were on the ground proper and standing up once more! Pillow felt the ground beneath his feet, and was quite pleased about it. Here they were, out of that cramped shaft and back into the open air. It felt really good. Lapwolf was also stretching his face smiling at being free for once.
Huggy looked ecstatic to see them, "Pillow! Lap! I'm so glad to see you guys!"
"How did you two find your way here?" Jansen asked, looking slightly bemused at seeing them.
"Lassie and Lovewolf found us and told us how to get here," Pillow explained.
"Those two!" Jansen's face turned dark. "They were supposed to be going to the engine room."
"They probably got lost." the large man murmured.
"That's what she said." Pillow agreed with the large man. He knew that he had seen him before, but could not remember where.
"They're going there now, so lay off of her okay!" Lapwolf shot back at Jansen.
Jansen looked like he was going to say something else to the impertinent Lapwolf, but he turned about and stalked back to the other side of the room. The tall thin man seemed thoughtful. "How did Lovewolf look?" he asked with a slight French accent.
"He looked pretty bad, what with those scars and all," Pillow replied, not sure quite what the Frenchman was looking for.
"Was he sweating heavily and did he appear to shiver or shake at all?" the thick man then asked. It felt like a tag team session or something.
Pillow shook his head, "We were all sweating, it was hot up in there. But no, he wasn't shaking or anything. Why do you ask?"
Huggy then looked at the other too, "Captain, mind if I answer this one?"
The thick man nodded, "By all means."
"What is it Huggy?" Lap asked. For the first time all day, Lap seemed calm.
"Well, anybody injured by a werewolf has about an hour-and-a-half before they too become a werewolf. Lovewolf got slashed by the werewolf about an hour ago, and they were wondering if he was showing any of the signs of it yet." Huggy explained.
Lapwolf was stunned, "Really? How do you know?"
The captain stepped in on that one. "One of my security guards was slashed when we first found met the werewolf. He has already transformed. In so doing, he slashed me as well."
"So, if you like slashed or bit me, I'd become a werewolf too?" Lapwolf asked, a dangerous glint in his eyes. The captain seemed not to have noticed it.
"Yes, that is what would happen."
Lapwolf then walked up to the Captain and exposed his arm, "Bite me then! I want to be a real werewolf."
The Captain stared incredulously at the kid, while both Pillow and Huggy shook their heads in shame. The Frenchman was backing away from the Captain slowly, not wanting to be any part of the proceedings. Lapwolf had that defiant glint in his eye; he would do anything to get what he wanted. He now had access to a way to guarantee that he would grow fur, claws, and be the wolf that he always wanted to be. Nothing was going to stop him from achieving that.
The Captain stared at the impetuous youth, looking into his eyes as if to reason with him. "You don't know what you are asking."
"Yes I do, I want to be a wolf, and if you bite me, I'll be a wolf."
"You won't have your mind, it will be gone and you will be a crazy lunatic who just wants to kill."
"So?" Lap did not seem to grasp the point.
"Rhodes, he's not going to listen to reason," the Frenchman pointed out.
"I can see that, Pierre." Rhodes replied noncommittally, not taking his eyes away from Lap.
"Are you going to bite me or what?" Lapwolf insisted, shoving his arm in Rhodes' face.
Rhodes shook his head and turned his back to the kid. "No, I am not going to put you through what I must face."
Pillow reached a hand out to try and calm Lapwolf down, but his excitement and fervor had already escalated past all reasonability. There was not going to be anyway that Lapwolf would give up. Pillow had seen times such as this before, Lap finding something that he really wanted. In the end, Lap always got his way. He would do whatever was necessary to make sure that he got what he wanted, and this was only the latest example of it. Pillow could not stop him alone; it was going to take a team effort, but how to coordinate it, that he did not know.
"But I want it!" Lapwolf pointed out. "I want to be a werewolf."
"No, you don't."
"Of course I do! I wouldn't be standing here telling you I want it if I didn't mean it."
Rhodes shook his head walking away from him, and back with Pierre, "No, my young fool, you don't even know what you are talking about. Do you know what the voice of the wolf is like? Do you know what it demands? Do you know what it will do to you?"
Lap shrugged then, almost as if he didn't care, but he did stay right behind the Captain. "I know that it will make me look cool. I've been talking to wolf for a long time, this would be no different."
Rhodes then turned back on the kid, his face almost sad. "I am not going to argue with you about this. You do not want to listen when I say no. I am not going to bite you, and there is nothing you can do to make me turn you into a werewolf. It is bad enough that I have maybe an hour left, but I am not going to do something that I will ultimately regret myself for doing it. I am not going to turn you into a werewolf. You'll thank me for that when you're older."
Not surprisingly, that infuriated Lapwolf. Lapwolf who had been pretty calmly -- at least for him -- trying to coerce Rhodes into biting him, finally exploded with all of his pent up desires denied. He lashed out at Rhodes, striking him on the face with his fist, sending Rhodes reeling backwards at the suddenness of the strike. Huggy and Pillow quickly acted to restrain Lapwolf, but he easily shrugged them off. Pierre stepped up to stop Lap from making another blow at Rhodes, and then stepped away and then falling over while clutching his crotch as Lapwolf kneed him hard. Jansen came running over then, trying to see what was happening, but he stood off at a distance, just watching.
"Bite me!" Lapwolf told him as he continued to throw punches at the completely surprised Rhodes. "C'mon and bite me!"
Rhodes finally turned about and ran to the opposite end of the room where the table lay. Lap took off chasing after him, nearly tripping over the collapsed figure of Pierre who was still gasping from the pain. Huggy leaned over Thibaudet to see if he was all right while Pillow chased after Lap, crying out to him to stop this madness. Rhodes turned back around after reaching the desk, holding a black instrument in his hand, pointing it directly at Lap. Lapwolf then stopped, his face gone nearly white, and then it became red hot with his anger magnified thousands of times. Now Rhodes was holding a gun, and breathing hard, the welts on his face coming clearly.
"Now, back off." Rhodes told him, carefully phrasing each word, the sweat beginning to trickle down Rhodes' brow.
Lapwolf sneered at him, "You won't kill me. You can't even bite me!" Lapwolf took a few tentative steps forward. No matter how much bravado he was mustering, it was obvious to all that he was having doubts. He wanted to become a werewolf, but he did not want to die in the process. Rhodes however looked very shaken and unsure of himself. It was obvious that he did not want to have to kill this kid, but he was not going to give into the wolfen desire to expand the pack.
Rhodes pulled the safety off with a click, "I wouldn't be too sure about that." Rhodes certainly did not look sure of that, Pillow thought wryly.
Lapwolf stopped where he was, his arms quivering from the frustration at being denied. He then looked at Rhodes' skin, and the way it trembled. He smiled then, and began to take another step forward. Pillow found himself crying out in terror as he continued to move forward, Rhodes leaning back further and further into the desk. Lapwolf had a sick sort of smile on his face; his lips curled up menacingly, as if he were in complete control of the situation. Huggy and Pillow were both frozen, unable to do anything but watch as Pillow stepped up, with the gun pointing directly into his chest. When the two made contact, each person gasped, wondering whether Rhodes would actually pull the trigger. Rhodes did not move a muscle as Lapwolf stood there smiling triumphantly.
"Now, bite me." Lapwolf said it clearly and loudly, so that each could hear it.
Rhodes stopped shaking then, and then his face hardened. He suddenly did to Lap what Lap had down to Pierre, and Lap fell to the ground in agony. Rhodes stepped out form behind the kid clutching his crotch and looked at the others, "I will never infect anybody else, no matter how much they want it. Do you all understand that?" He looked at Pillow and Huggy who were staring at the collapsed figure of their fellow Shapeshifter. Pillow nodded numbly, and he could see that Huggy did the same.
"Good, never forget that." Rhodes slipped the gun into his holster and leaned down over the slowly recovering figure of Pierre, "Dr. Thibaudet, are you going to be all right?"
Pierre gasped for a moment, "I'll live, but I don't think I'll ever fool around again." He smiled at his own joke, and Rhodes nodded, and gave him a pat on the shoulder.
Jansen suddenly called out, "Captain! Watch out!"
Rhodes turned, and saw that the still pained Lapwolf had been reaching for his gun. Was there any stopping this kid? Pillow jumped in the way, this had to end, and both of them were only going to do each other harm. "Please, stop this both of you! Lap, he's not going to do it. Just let it lie. I'm sure there are other ways. Please Captain Rhodes, don't hurt him, it only makes him angrier."
Rhodes sighed, and continued to walk away, but he kept his eye on Lapwolf. Lap looked at Pillow derisively for a moment, and then got a very distant look. He then turned back to staring at Rhodes, and then a small smile came across him. Not the viscous sort of smile that he had earlier, but a knowing smile, one that was not going to reveal its secrets. He looked at Lap and gave him a brief hug, "Thank you, Pillow! You are so right, there is another way."
Lapwolf let go of him and strode purposefully towards the nearest doorway. It took Pillow a moment to catch on to what he was doing and was quickly horrified, "Lap! Don't go out there you'll get killed!"
"No, I'll become a werewolf!" Lap declared happily as he closed the gap between him and the door.
Rhodes had his gun in hand faster than anybody could imagine, and he looked very frightened. "Don't touch that door!"
"Are you going to kill me if I do?"
"No, but I will shoot you to stop you. This is not a game Lapwolf. Get back here now!" the hesitancy and insecurity was gone, now Rhodes was commanding him, and there was no way that Lap was going to get out that door. There was nothing that Rhodes would not do to stop him from leaving.
"You wouldn't dare!" Lapwolf yelled back as he closed the distance to the door. Suddenly, a sharp detonation sounded, and Lapwolf buckled over in agony, his left leg giving out form underneath him. The blood spilled over the ground, and Lap could do nothing but grab his leg, holding it still as it continued to bleed. The shot had been masterful, not touching any of the bones, but it had been enough to keep Lapwolf down. Rhodes strode over to him, and took his card, and slid it through the door again. This time, it was locked from the inside as well.
Rhodes stared down at the cursing figure of Lapwolf and then his face went white. "Oh my... I did not realize..."
"What is it?" Jansen asked quickly. Thibaudet was finally getting to his feet as well.
"You fucking bastard!" Lapwolf blurted out. "You shot me!"
Rhodes did not seem to hear him, but stepped past the bleeding figure of Lapwolf and walked up to the two scientists. Pillow and Huggy stood close by as well. Rhodes looked very unhappy about something; they could see it in his eyes. Pillow wondered just what it was that was bugging him so. Whatever it was, it could not be good.
"Rhodes?" Thibaudet prodded. "Are you going to be all right?"
Rhodes shook his head, "The wolf looks at Lap, and sees food now. It never has done that before. I think I know why too. The wolf does not want to take a meal that might cause them harm; it wants a meal that is easy. All creatures do. Well, the sick and the injured, the old or the crippled, they are food. The young and healthy, no, that is not food. I just turned Lap into food. If the werewolves see him, they will eat him." Rhodes spoke slowly, each word barely a whisper. Everybody could hear him though, even Lap, who had gone completely white.
"I'm food!" Lap screamed at him. Not getting a response, Lap continued with his expletives, "You fucking bastard! How could you do this to me! I was going to be a werewolf and instead you made me food! Damn you, you son of a bitch!"
"Lap, calm down." Pillow chided him.
"Calm down? Calm down!" He was screaming now, completely irrational. The desire to become a werewolf coupled with the pain in his leg and the fact that he was now going to be werewolf chow had finally driven him completely over the edge.
Jansen looked a bit amazed at the tirade that Lap began to put on. He seemed amused rather than disturbed by the choice of words that were used. Pillow wondered what could make this man smile so as Lap continued to scream his head off. Rhodes was ignoring him, looking over at the others, his whole body completely wasted, as if he was more ashamed of what he had done than if he would have just let him go. It also seemed like Rhodes was slowly beginning to realize something else that was unpleasant. However, the ranting and raving of the lunatic Lap prevented him from doing what he wanted to.
He stared at Thibaudet, "I hope I can still remember how to do this."
"You'll see." Rhodes shrugged, setting the gun down on the desk. Rhodes walked back over towards where Lapwolf lay.
Lap saw him coming and began to spit at him as well as curse and taunt him, "Coming to finish me off huh? Are you going to eat me afterwards? You should have just bit me and then we wouldn't have this problem."
Rhodes finally managed to stand over the figure of Lapwolf, who was still trying to hold the blood in from the wound with both of his hands. "Are you going to shut up?"
"Why the Hell should I?" Lapwolf barked back.
"That's what I thought." Rhodes nodded, and then raised his hand back and rapped him sharply against the back of his head. Lapwolf sat there for a minute looking dazed, his mouth no longer working, and then he fell over on his side, completely unconscious. Rhodes looked over at the wound and then at the others who stood open mouthed at the strike. "Come and tend to his wound, I've got something I need to do."
"What is it?" Thibaudet asked as he began to move closer to see what he could do.
"I have to make a very important call." Rhodes had gone white again, his face empty. He picked up the radio and began to call into it "Ziegler? This is Captain Rhodes speaking, are you there, Alan? Ziegler, are you there? Ziegler?" There was no response, and finally after a few more tries, Rhodes put down the radio and slumped in front of the desk. Pillow watched him, saw that the man was crying. For some reason, he thought he understood why.
End Part 1 of Part XIII
Continued in Part 2 of Part XIII