Staring out at the various media moguls that had gathered at the pressroom, Colonel Throckmorton sighed. Most were disreputable reporters who would probably ignore his words and go on about government conspiracies and the like. He saw a few respected journalists present, but he too did not want to face their questions. The one thing that he had never learned to enjoy during his many years of experience was talking with the media. They were ruthless and did not care one whit about what you were actually saying, they only wanted to seal their newspapers or magazines or netzines, or whatever it was that they worked for. They were not interested in a story unless it was sensational. A werewolf in space, that was sensational enough to catch their interest.
Of course, he imagined most were very skeptical, at least in the public, but he knew that the spin-doctors could get most to believe anything they wanted to. People were in general willing to believe anything they wanted to believe. Those that did not think werewolves existed probably would not believe it until they either saw the creature themselves or were killed by it. A lot of good that would do them. Then there were others who would be convinced that the werewolves were a secret government project no matter what he told them, no matter what evidence to the contrary was presented. He wondered how many out there in the media room were of the former and how many were of the latter. He knew that even those reporters for the less reputable magazines would print whatever sold copies, whether they thought it was trustworthy, true, or otherwise.
However, standing here in the wings would do him no good. He was going to have to get this over with at one point or another. Now was as good a time as any. Secretary Blumenfield would not take long to get here, and when that happened, there was certainly going to be Hell to pay for all of the disasters that had come about. However, if he could convince at least the respectable news media that there was no werewolf, then he had at least salvaged some of their reputation and made the disaster into only a minor nit. Taking a deep breath, he walked out of the wing and up onto the podium. The shouts and questions that erupted form the media were astounding and completely incomprehensible.
"Ladies! Gentlemen! Please, one at a time!" he called out, trying not to sound condescending.
Of course, that did not help, as almost everybody wanted to be that one person to get in the first question. He waved them all silent, and then looked for one of the major networks. He finally pointed to a man wearing a false toupee. "Colonel Throckmorton," the man said in a very self-congratulatory tone, "could the reports of werewolves we are hearing on board the Pytheas possibly be true?"
Edward shook his head, "No, they are completely false. At least the way it was presented on television."
"They claimed to have a copy of a transmission from the Pytheas stating that there is a werewolf aboard and that it has killed four different people! How do you explain that?" the same reporter asked again, pushing his wire framed glasses up his nose a bit.
Throckmorton kept his expression grave and serious, "That notice is a forgery. The real message that we received did not indicate that there was anything like a werewolf on board that ship."
There were suddenly a deluge of questions and outrage, especially from the people form that very station that Mrs. Clarendon had been from. Throckmorton was expecting this to happen quite frequently. Once he'd managed to calm them down again, a reporter from a tabloid magazine stood up to ask a question. "Colonel, if we understand you correctly, there is no werewolf. What of the Shapeshifters? We all know the Pytheas was going to be carrying as passengers a group of people who thought they could turn into animals. What if one of them really is a werewolf?"
There were some skeptical murmurings from a few people and a few others were hastily tacking down notes about what was being said. Throckmorton sighed; of course they would assume that there was a werewolf. Throckmorton kept his voice steady and replied, "Like I said, there is no werewolf. Any speculation to the contrary is wasting my precious time."
"I'm sorry, there is no werewolf. That is a fact. Anything to the contrary is ignoring the evidence. Now, are there any other questions?"
"Have you talked with the crew of the Pytheas since you got this message?" another reporter from a smaller but reliable newspaper asked.
"Like I said before, the actual communication is different from what was publicly broadcast. And yes, I have talked with the Captain of the Pytheas, and we have discussed options to solve the present crisis. Now there is a real danger up therein space, and it has nothing to do with a werewolf." Throckmorton pointed out. He felt like he was going to be repeating himself for the whole night.
Another member of the audience rose to be recognized, a young woman with braided hair and thick glasses. "What is the current situation of the crew aboard the Pytheas? Are there four people who have actually died?"
Throckmorton nodded slowly, "Yes, four people have been killed since launch. However, that was not because of anybody growing fur, but because of a simple malfunction in the engines. They misfired, and have drained most of the fuel of the Pytheas. In the chaos that ensued during the engine problems, four people were killed because they were not secured. I cannot reveal the names of the people dead at this time, I'm sure you can understand that." It was not the best lie he could think of, but with only five minutes to prepare his responses, it had seemed the most plausible. He had dismissed telling them that it was a Shapeshifter going about killing people because that was even more ridiculous than a werewolf was. Nobody would believe that.
"We understand that you are sending another shuttle up to intercept the Pytheas, is that true?" the same woman asked.
"Yes. They will be leaving in another five hours, and they will intercept the Pytheas two hours after that."
Somebody else, a short man with a beak-like nose piped in before she could continue, "Why are you sending a rescue mission if they are not in danger of dying?"
"Because they are. Their present orbit is unstable, and they are too low on fuel. We felt that it was in our best interests to get it done as fast as possible. They will be refueling the Pytheas so that she can land safely. Either way, this mission is going to be cut short," Throckmorton admitted glumly.
"What is being done about the engine problem?" the man with the fake toupee asked.
"Our engineers is consulting with the engineers onboard the Pytheas and we have isolated the bad chip in the engine core and are currently working to replace it. I have no other information on that at this time." Throckmorton did not like lying to people. In fact, he found it a repugnant thing to do. However, if he admitted that yes there was a werewolf on board the ship, then NASA was going to be the laughing stock of the scientific community. The stature that they were trying to regain ever since the Marco Polo fiasco had finally been achieved, and if they plummeted again there was no telling what would happen. So, he lied. He had to admit he was quite good at it too. However, that was not a fact that he was proud of.
"Do you expect to keep shuttle launches on a regular basis?"
"Yes, we will continue with our schedule, this does not change any of our plans."
Finally, another tabloid reporter managed to stand up first, "Look, you've been very deft about these questions, but what we want to know is whether John Corigliano actually sent the message that you received. Did he or did he not send you a message."
This was not one of the questions he had been expecting, and he wasn't quite sure what to say. However, it occurred to him that if he admitted that John had sent the message, then it implied that the bridge crew was not on the bridge, and that would be bad, at least for his story. He had no choice in what to tell them. "The message we received was not from John Corigliano. It was from the communications officer, standard protocol."
"Is John Corigliano a member of the Pytheas's crew?"
"That is confidential information, I cannot reveal it."
"Do you believe in werewolves?" the same reporter from the tabloid asked. It was obvious he was trying to lead Edward into a contradiction, but he was not so easily fooled. Now it seemed that the man was falling back on the old tried and true personal opinion.
"Whether I do or not is of no concern in this matter. There are no werewolves on board the Pytheas, the report that was read on the news was fraudulent and clearly designed to grab viewer interest."
"Yet the report knew that four people were dead, which you have admitted is true. How can we be sure to take your word over the hardcopy's?"
"Because hard copy's can be easily faked, as it has been in this case."
Suddenly a new voice rang out, one from the back of the room. The man was dressed in a light tan suit and he had a pipe in his mouth. He did not stand up either but stayed in his seat, speaking over every one else with a tone that commanded attention. "Is John Corigliano dead?"
Throckmorton was taken aback by the suddenness of the question, and he could detect the leading quality in it. This man wanted to convince others that he was hiding something. This man had an agenda. "I'm afraid I cannot answer this question for security reasons."
"Then there is a John Corigliano on board the Pytheas?" the man pursued the opening.
Throckmorton had been expecting it and quickly closed that opening off. "Not what I meant. I said that I could not answer the question for security reasons. Those reasons being that I am not allowed to disclose who is aboard or not one of our ships during their time of flight."
The man seemed satisfied with that answer and began a different avenue of attack. "Are you certain that there are no werewolves aboard the Pytheas?"
"Convinced. The matter is as innocuous as I have described."
"Then why are you sending weapons up on the rescue mission?" the man asked, and the room took a collective breath. It was very hard to hear him, because Throckmorton's mind wanted to deny that he had heard what he had just heard. This man had to know something was going on because they had not even loaded the weapons on the shuttle yet! There was something funny going on and it obviously unsettled him he knew. However, he could only remain quiet so long.
"I do not know what you are talking about sir. There are no weapons on board the Hyperion."
"Is the Hyperion the ship that is going to be refueling the Pytheas?"
"Sorry, I must have made a mistake then."
"Yes, you did." Throckmorton shot back, frightened by that man's assertion. He could see that the audience too was now questioning what Throckmorton had said, it was obvious in their eyes. Even the respectable journalists who would never claim that the werewolf was anything but a fraud or clever joke were very wary of what was going on now. Throckmorton had to recover this situation. It was not totally lost, but he was no longer in a position where the stories would just go away. The story would probably hang on for about a week, while he had his engineers craft a legitimate excuse for his responses. No matter what happened, he was going to stick to his story.
"Are there any other questions?" Throckmorton asked the crowd.
"Yes, I have another question," the man in the light tan suit said. He pulled his pipe form his mouth and pointed it at Throckmorton, "You said that this was a simple matter of refueling a starship which had a malfunctioning engine. Now, we assume that the engine has been or is being fixed, am I correct about that?"
"Yes." Throckmorton nodded, not sure what the man was trying to get at here.
"Well, if this is a simple rescue operation, then why did you have Mrs. Clarendon ejected from MOCR? I mean after all, the malfunction happened over four hours ago, those four people would have long since been dead. Why would you have just only 30 minutes ago ejected the young lady if something much more serious hadn't happened?" The man's demeanor was no longer inquisitive, but very serious, and he seemed to be attacking him directly, trying to take his claims and make them see worthless. Throckmorton had to admit he was doing an awfully artful job of it. He had not even expected this line of attack. The other two had failed for the man, obviously they had been to size him up. Or perhaps they had a different reason, something that he did not see quite yet.
Then again, maybe they were just idle questions to throw him off balance, and this one to knock him over. He certainly had to admit that he was stumped. However, the classic answer came to mind, the one that answered all of his questions on this sort.
"I'm afraid that was a matter of highest security."
"That is ridiculous and you know it. I have told you since the first that there are no werewolves on board the Pytheas."
"Yet you still had her ejected over something, what was it?" There were murmurs and protestations from the other members of the media. Now everybody wanted to know his side of the story on the ejection of that troublesome Mrs. Clarendon. However, he had nothing prepared to tell them. Not like he could tell them anyway even if he had something prepared.
Throckmorton sighed, "It is a routine affair to have the PA officer removed from MOCR in the event of military secrecy, there are all sorts of precedents for it. We did it last month, and no furor was raised over it then. The only reason that it is being made an issue now is that it comes at a bad time when we have a real crisis on our hands. I can say this much, Mrs. Clarendon was ejected from MOCR for reasons which have nothing to do with the Pytheas." He regretted that one almost as soon as he said it. It could come back and bite him later.
"But the other four ships in orbit now are all scientific vessels as well." the man objected. "Why would you need some secrecy about them?"
"Do you really think I'm going to tell you that?" Throckmorton replied, trying to be a bit witty. There was some cautious laughter from the crowd, and he smiled inwardly. His little bit of humor had won him the hearts -- or at least what was left of their hearts -- of the majority of the major media personnel. He was just doing his job, and was trying to defuse a ridiculous situation. Though there would still be some nagging doubts in the backs of their minds, it was not enough to paralyze his mission.
The man in the light-tan coat did not say anything more, but chewed on the end of his pipe contemplatively. Throckmorton idly wondered what news agency he was from; he did not look familiar. Oddly enough, he did not have a notepad, a recorder, or a camera with him. That was very odd, what did he have, a photographic memory. Why would somebody from the media come here not prepared to take down a story? It did not make any sense. He shook that thought from his mind as he turned to look at the rest of the assembled media figures.
"Now, I only have time for one more question," he scanned about the room, and then pointed to an individual with a bright red mustache that had stayed quiet the whole time, just taking down notes. "You sir, what's your question."
The man stood up, straightening his jacket. He was obviously new to journalism as he stuttered a bit in asking his question. "How would you, um... what do you think.... uh, well, what is your prognosis of the situation?"
Throckmorton gave him a firm smile, "I must say that I am optimistic of our chances to get the rest of the Pytheas' crew back safely to Earth. I am confident that this will be one of our finest hours. Never before have we had to rescue a crew lost in space. I guarantee, than no more will die." He wanted to kick himself for such a prediction. However, it was made, and there was nothing left that they could do about it. He hoped he was right.
"Now, I must get back to business, that will be all for this session. Thank you for coming." Throckmorton turned to leave, and the room exploded into pleas that he answer even more questions, but he had his fill for today. He needed to get back into MOCR; he needed to organize his men to cover these problems. He needed to make sure that there was sufficient paperwork that could be uncovered by an investigative reporter to show that Mrs. Clarendon was kicked out for a reason that had nothing to do with the Pytheas.
After moving into the wings of the room, he saw one of the press aids for the Space Force giving him a thumbs up. The man had a half-eaten donut in the other hand. He smiled at the guy and then pulled him to the side, "Did you see that man in the light-tan suit with the smocking pipe. You know the one who was asking my very leading questions?"
"Yes I saw him, what about him?" he said between bites.
"Do you know who he works for?"
The man finished off the donut, trying to place the man in his mind. He looked very confused and then very frustrated. "No, I don't. In fact, I can't ever remember seeing him before. Most of those people I recognized from previous press interviews, but not him. I don't even remember seeing his press card."
"Why would a media man not have a press card?"
"He might not be from the media."
"Then how did he get in there?"
"I don't know."
Throckmorton scratched his whitening hair distractedly. He was an old man, a strong one, powerful, built like a sturdy oak, but one thing he did not like was mysteries anymore. He enjoyed programming, and thus wanted everything to fit in its own place, as he instructed it. This man fell outside that schema. However, he was inconsequential to the really important matter at hand, which was saving the crew of the Pytheas.
Thibaudet looked at the job that they had done on Lapwolf's leg. It would be fine, as long as the werewolves didn't get to him first. He looked up at the door, and peered out the window. The werewolves were not in sight, at least for now. He turned back around and sighed. They hadn't been to the door ever since Dutton had left them. That had been nearly forty minutes ago now. Nearly half of Rhodes's allotted time was up. Lovewolf was almost ready to transform by his count. That is, if he hadn't already succumbed. That would make six werewolves total, or at least six that they knew of. However, the situation seemed to imply that there weren't that many people left to be killed, which was a good thing. As long as McGee kept the others in the research station, than there was almost nobody left that could be killed.
Of course there were still three of his fellow scientists unaccounted for, Bowman, Saltonstall, and his friend Arkady. He wondered if they were still alive. He missed Arkady's droll humor, his casual manner of taking things as they came. If he had seen the werewolves, which was probably likely, then he would probably be one of the few who would have no problem accepting them for who they were. Well, at least from a scientific standpoint. Accepting the existence of mythical creatures was not one of the things he'd plan to do on waking up in the morning.
He thought of Anselm then, what would his erstwhile roommate have thought of all this and his speculations if he were here? Anselm would probably remind him that there are just as many legends concerning dragons as there are unicorns as there are werewolves. Perhaps vampires would get a mentioning by Anselm. Of course, seeing a unicorn would probably be less hazardous to his health than a werewolf. A dragon? Well that all depended on which legends were true and which weren't. Then again, Anselm might not do that but could come back and tell him that he was reading a bit too much into the legends. That the legends of the werewolf were at least in part true seemed somehow to stiff to ignore.
What if there were other legends that were true? What if in fact there were unicorns and dragons and the like? Well his first question "Why haven't we seen them?" was easy to dismiss. Nobody had really seen a werewolf until today either. Of course, no matter what he looked at, no matter how he viewed his world from now on, his entire view was completely changed. His eyes had been opened to another part of existence, and they would not be shut again. He would be on the lookout for more signs most certainly throughout the rest of his life. He would of course continue to study physics, but the werewolf was always going to be there. Even if he hadn't been infected, it was still going to there with him, letting him know that the world was not as safe as it used to be.
Perhaps that was what Anselm was trying to tell him earlier? Perhaps in an off hand way Anselm was talking about the world in more than one line of sight. His suggestion that the was going back to the way of magic had at first seemed ludicrous, and then his description that the scientific processes are simply too hard for us to understand given our current way of viewing the world, was beginning to seem more and more accurate. Perhaps what it had meant was that magic was a perfectly reasonable alternative to science. They both were fundamentally the same. They operated the same in fact. What was different was that the way people understood science made it harder to find solutions to certain problems. Magic was then just another way of looking at those same problems and finding an easier answer.
He could imagine Anselm giving his a standing ovation for that bit of mental working, but for some reason he didn't want Anselm's congratulations. From what he'd heard about Anselm, the man sounded like some sort of secret agent. What in the world was a Hasmonean anyway? He knew about the Maccabeans in Israel restoring it to independence for a brief period of time, but he was certain that Anselm was not of Jewish descent. There had to be another meaning to the word. There had to be something that the man was up to. Perhaps he was responsible for the werewolves? Perhaps that was what he was doing with all those moon rocks, trying to find a way to create a werewolf. Well he'd been successful, that much was certain.
Of course, whom would he have convinced to let him try out his experiment on? Perhaps one of the Shapeshifters? After all, they wanted to be wolves anyway -- well most of them did. Which one though? Well, it couldn't be Ascot, or Lars Thordegaard as was his real name, since he had been taking them to Venus at the time. Five more were all out obviously, Lassie, this Lapwolf character, Lovewolf, HuggyBear, and this other kid here had all been in the Greenhouse at one point or another during the full moon, and none of them showed the signs of stress that Dutton had shown just before his change. That left two of the Shapeshifters. Darkwolf and one other. He did not know about the other, but he knew of Darkwolf. Would Darkwolf have submitted to such an experiment? Would he have willingly let himself become a werewolf to further Anselm's scheme?
He had not known Darkwolf before the death of his friend Lars Thordegaard, so there was no way to really know. Of course, he might have been so miserable because he did know what had happened, he knew that it was his fault, because he could not control the wolf side of him. In the brief conversation Thibaudet had shared with the troubled young man, he had grown quite fond of him, and could not stomach the thought that he had become the werewolf that had terrorized them all. He did not like thinking him of as the one who had slaughtered Tembo, and then Xenaxis, and then Danielpour, as well as Gorecki, Corigliano, and possibly others. However, it was a possibility that had to be faced.
He stared over at the small kid who was still standing over Lapwolf, a tear in his eye. Perhaps he would know about Darkwolf, considering that they had just shown up, and who knew where they had come from. He walked over to the kid, and tapped him on the shoulder. The kid turned around, his dirty-blonde hair disheveled. His blue eyes were wet with sorrow, this Lapwolf must have meant an awful lot to him. "Um, pardon me, but what is your name?"
"I'm Pillow." the kid replied absently.
"No, I mean you're real name." Thibaudet wasn't about to call somebody Pillow. Darkwolf, Lassie, certainly; Pillow, no. There was just some level of ridiculousness in calling somebody a pillow, while Darkwolf had a certain pleasant ring to it.
"It's Pillow," he reiterated.
"Ascot's real name was Lars Thordegaard. What's yours." Thibaudet really didn't have time for these games, so decided that swinging harder might be a good idea.
Pillow looked down at the ground. "Fine, my name is John H. West. Nothing special about it I guess, just the name I was born with."
"What made you decided to use Pillow as a name, John?" Pierre refused to use anything other than the real name of this kid. Something about it bugged his sensibilities. Of course something about werewolves in general bugged his sensibilities, but if he worried about it he was not going to be a sane man.
"Actually, my friends gave me the name." John admitted.
"Why did they do that? You don't look anything like a pillow to me."
"This is why." John reached behind his back, and suddenly there was a pillow in his hand. Thibaudet stared at it, it was scrunched up tight, to a very compact size, but as John held it, it began to inflate back up to a more typical size. Pillow fluffed it a few times, and soon it looked very comfortable to sleep on.
"Where did you have that?"
"In the back of my pants."
"In that case you better keep a hold of it then." Thibaudet kept his hands away from the pillow that had been in John's pants.
John West shrugged, scrunching the pillow back down, and then stuffing it back in his pants. Pierre was startled to see that it looked like nothing had changed at all about Pillow's appearance. He was awfully darn good at hiding those things! However, that was not what he was here to talk about, he needed to ask him a very important question. "Where were you when Lassie and Lovewolf found you?"
"Lap and I were in our room."
Darkwolf was in his room when he left him. If they found John's room, then surely they could have found Darkwolf's room as well. "Was Darkwolf in his room?"
Pillow shook his head, "No, they said that all they saw were his clothes strewn about again."
Suddenly it all clicked completely for him. That was it, Darkwolf was the original werewolf. He had a tendency to sleepwalk in the nude, and he'd said that he usually didn't do it often. Thibaudet had seen him in the hallway naked shortly after they had been told to go to their room s to be locked up. That was after they had gone to Venus and passed out of the phase of the full moon. He had seemed to be a bit wolfish when he'd first seen him as well. Now, he was not in his room, and it was a mess, with his clothes lying everywhere. Who else could be the original werewolf?
"I am afraid for your friend, Darkwolf." Thibaudet said.
"Why, what's wrong with him?"
"I'm sorry, I can't say right now. Just watch over Lap and make sure his wound doesn't get any worse. If he wakes up, try to mollify him please."
"I'll try." John's blue eyes gave it away. He doubted that Lapwolf would ever act sanely again. This was not welcome news to Thibaudet who knew that it would soon become his responsibility. He turned from the kid and looked to Rhodes who was sitting against the far wall again. His eyes peered upward at the sky. The moon was almost completely gone from their sight here. From the opposite end, Thibaudet could only see a glimmer of it left. He walked down towards where Rhodes sat contemplating.
Rhodes turned to look at him, his face sick with revulsion. Thibaudet did have something he wanted to say, but it looked like Rhodes did even more. "What is it, Captain?"
Rhodes sighed, "They ate Ziegler." His voice was shocked, in complete horror. "My packmates ate Ziegler!" His face then went even whiter. "Did I just say what I think I said?"
Thibaudet winced, "Yes, you did."
Rhodes quailed. "Pierre, I am being sucked into this thing. The wolf wants me, it wants my body. It wants me to go out and run with my packmates. I don't want to do that. I want to be here where I have real friends. Pierre, help me. I don't want to be a werewolf!"
Was there anything he could say in response to that? Rhodes, had held back his emotions as long as possible, focusing entirely on saving the lives of the crew and his passengers, and now he too was going to become a threat to them. He too was going to lose his mind to that of the wolf, or more appropriately, a demented form of the wolf. Thibaudet had seen real wolves before, and they did not act quite like the werewolves were doing. Perhaps it had something to do with the two minds being there at once, not fully able to function on all levels. Whatever the reason, they were acting insane. But not of late he noticed. He wondered what they were up to.
"Rhodes, I can't help you," Thibaudet replied, and at the same time wishing that it were not true.
"There has to be something that can be done! I don't want to be a werewolf, I'm afraid of it." Rhodes was actually shaking now. Thibaudet wondered whether this was a sign that the transformation was soon to come.
"Captain, nothing can be done for you now. You are going to change, at least this once. I can't do anything to help you. Nobody can, nobody except you. You are the only person who can stop this. Don't let the wolf win."
"But it keeps on giving me that look, trying to get me to all fours. It wants me." Rhodes murmured lowly.
"Was it there when you were giving out orders to the others? Was it there when we talked before about my life?"
"No, not really."
"Then you need to stop thinking about it. It won't hold it off forever, but maybe, just maybe, it will delay it a little while."
"Do you think so?" Rhodes sounded almost as frightened as a child did. His eyes were wild, and he looked to Thibaudet for support. He was collapsing, the only thing holding him together were his nerves.
"I know so." Thibaudet gave him a reassuring smile. He was not used to trying to keep people sane, but neither was he used to seeing people turn into werewolves. He certainly did not want to think what would go through his mind were he to become a werewolf. "Why don't you tell me about yourself. What were you like as a child?"
"Precocious," Rhodes replied, smiling a bit. He was still shaking, and that haunted look in his gray eyes still lingered, but as he began to talk and to reveal to Thibaudet all the misdeeds of his youth, they began to brighten. It was working, the wolf had nothing to attack anymore. Rhodes just began to talk, and Pierre sat back and listened. He told about the time he declared that he had wanted to be a starship captain to his parents, how he wanted to go fight the aliens and the extraterrestrials to save Earth. It was a very sentimental view of his past, most of his glaring mistakes were either exaggerated for humorous purposes or they were covered up or forgotten. His dream of flying a starship had come to fruition, as well as his failed attempt at a marriage.
"I had known her for several years. She knew that I was a captain of a starship, but she thought that was so romantic that she hung around I guess. One time when I was on leave I got her pregnant. I didn't find out Sandy was with child till I got back from my next trip out, and by then she had begun to lose interest in me. I guess a guy can only be gone so much. Well, we finally scrapped our plans to get married, but I still wanted to have the child. She wanted to get an abortion. I begged and pleaded with her for weeks not to get the abortion, promising her that I would raise the child, promising her that I would take care of it, if only she would let it be born.
"She hated me more for that, and it only expedited our break-up. She went ahead and had the abortion anyway. She kept telling me that it was her body and that she could do whatever she wanted with it. I have not been able to trust myself with women since then. I so wanted to have that child of my own, that I drove a wedge between us. I guess not all relationships can work out. I took to drinking soon after that. Not serious drinking, but just enough to get myself in this condition." Rhodes patted his ample gut. Thibaudet looked at it and then wondered to himself something odd. Would Anselm the supposed psychologist be comparing his desire to have a child with his desire to have a beer gut? Could it be that in some subliminal way he was trying to recreate the pregnancy in himself? It was all nonsense of course, but interesting to think about nonetheless.
Of course, he told him of some of the mishaps on his previous tours of duty, relating how his present crew all came together. It was very interesting, hearing about the time they had to do a rescue operation with a stranded lifeboat and had to have the person inside travel through space without any spacesuit. That had shocked him, but it was not too outrageous a story. There was probably only a little bit of exaggeration involved.
However, as the minutes ticked by, the reality of the present situation began to come back. Whatever respite he had bought was only temporary, as the wolf that was inside Rhodes fought its way back to the forefront of his mind. It was quite insidious too in its attack. Rhodes was just talking normally about one of his treks into space, "It was probably the most boring and uneventful two months for my packmates and I. I mean, here we were with this group of scientists just swirling about the Earth, hunting for some excitement, and not a single snapped twig or interesting scent to be found! Terrible season that trip. My packmates and I... what is it Pierre?"
Pierre was staring at him, his whole body suddenly gone cold. Rhodes hadn't even noticed his change in terminology. "Your packmates? No interesting scents to be found?"
The Captain's smile fell when he heard his own words from another mouth. He began to shiver again, "Did I say that?"
"Oh my. The wolf, it's getting me anyway!"
"Rhodes, calm down. We knew it was going to happen anyway, I just want you to think of happier things."
Rhodes did not hear him anymore, "Mom? Dad? It's coming to get me. Mom? Dad?" He was talking into the air, his eyes seeing only the darkness that was surrounding his heart and mind. He was lost, the wolf having torn him away from reality, trying to take away his human eyes, and to give him the scent and hearing of the wolf instead.
Pierre knew that all his surmises were probably ambiguous, but what more could he do. He slapped Rhodes on the face. A small slap, enough to get him to wake up. Rhodes turned to face him, "What happened?"
"You weren't thinking straight."
"I'll never think straight again in my life." Rhodes looked distraught.
"No, you will." Thibaudet predicted. "Now, tell me again about this really boring trip? I'm very interested to know how much didn't happen."
Rhodes nodded, and began his tale again, this time making sure that it was the human talking and not the wolf. Thibaudet listened in, wishing that there was something more he could do for this poor man, this man who hadn't done anything wrong. He had taken the blow trying to save others, and now he was going to suffer for it. Thibaudet felt like his own heart would melt at this, there was no way that he could let it happened though. The responsibility would soon be his. He was not going to let these people die either.
End Part XIII