The Perpetual

Part XIV

Bowman was not really tired, but he was sick of waiting for Saltonstall to get the Television fixed. The screen had suddenly gone dead minutes before, and Saltonstall, being the expert at electronics that he was, had found a broken part inside that must have fried out. It certainly looked fried. The circuit had been blackened to a crisp with some of the siding melting into a pile of sludge. Saltonstall had gone through his equipment, and had been able to find a few of the things he was going to need, but was unable to rebuild the circuit. He was pacing the room now, trying to think of a way to get around that block.

Bowman hoped he was able to determine it soon, he really did want to see if there were others alive. Surely some must be holed up like they were, stuck inside a room somewhere with nothing to go on but their own fears. The way to survival existed certainly, and it involved putting a bullet through the head of that idiot in the wolf suit. What could cause a person to loose their mind and do these atrocities he did not know. Apparently, the person had eaten one of the other passengers. That was a fate that Bowman did not wish to share. He wanted to keep his own skin. Right now, nothing much else mattered to him. He wanted to live.

Somebody had once told him that water could be the most precious thing if one is dying of thirst. Then again, it could also be worthless and unwanted when one was drowning. He could not decide which one of those two me he was at the moment. Both were dying men, and he was certainly a man who could die. What did he want? What could save him? Only the efforts of others to intervene on his behalf. That was what he needed then, others to kill this beast, or restrain it, he didn't care which. If they let that loony live, they were going to have to lock him up tight, and make sure never to give him any more meat.

Arkady, being a bit inquisitive went over to the screen to see just what Saltonstall was talking about, but Everett gave him a withering look, "Don't touch! I don't need anything else broken."

"Sorry, I just wanted to see where that particular circuit came from," Arkady bowed his head in apology. His gruff accent clearly covering any traces of indignancy.

Saltonstall shrugged, "Okay, but don't touch."

Bowman raised his head up to see what Saltonstall was showing the other man. Arkady looked completely confused by the mass of circuits and wires and tubes. Saltonstall pointed into the machine, "See, that's where it fits."

Arkady nodded. He then looked thoughtful, "Would all televisions have these?"

Saltonstall nodded, "Of course, its standard. Can't get a picture without it."

Arkady smiled to him, and told him in a very smug voice, "Why not go to one of the other rooms then and take the device out from there?"

Saltonstall looked at Arkady for a moment as if he were crazy. Then his frown of displeasure turned to a grin of triumph. "Of course! Why didn't I think of that! Certainly there are other television sets on this hall, I'm sure you can find a circuit without any problem."

"I was hoping that you could do it actually," Arkady pointed out.

Saltonstall nodded, then he looked over at Bowman, "Hey Richard, I think we should do this together, all three of us. I just got another brilliant idea. We need to get a circuit, that much is certain. There might be other useful items in people's room son this hall. If we can get as much as we can, maybe we can form a plan about killing that thing. I don't know who else is around, but we've already seen one dead body. I don't want to see another."

"Is it safe to go out in that hall though?" Bowman asked.

"No, it isn't, but if we just sit around here, nothing will get accomplished." Saltonstall admitted. Bowman could see that his roommate was quite frustrated from his demeanor. He was pacing back and forth, gesticulating wildly, almost as wildly as he had while watching the football game. His voice was also quite loud, his volume control having simply disappeared after the screen had.

"Well, I'm not leaving this room till I know it's safe." Bowman reminded him. "That lunatic nearly sliced Arkady here into pieces, and you want us all to go outside and start going through people's rooms? Are you crazy too?"

Saltonstall threw his arms up in the air, "No matter what we do there is going to be some risk involved!"

"Then lets talk about minimizing risk." Arkady interrupted. "I am very willing to do what Dr. Saltonstall has suggested, but I admit that I am worried about walking out into the arms of that werewolf too."

"Is there a way we can keep the werewolf out of the hall?" Saltonstall asked then.

"I think it is possible to close the doorways at both ends off. I don't think any of us have that sort of clearance though." Arkady pointed.

"Ah phooey!" Saltonstall waved him off. "I can break their codes, I can have those doors closed in no time. Of course, I'll need a terminal to do that at. It seems the one I had here is not working though." He jerked his thumb towards the still blank television screen.

"Well, my computer is in my research station," Arkady sighed.

"So is mine." Bowman replied, thinking that the plan that had at once seemed so hopeful would now die so quickly.

"Wait, nevermind!" Saltonstall shook his head. He reached into his pack, and pulled out a small hand held calculator. He pulled out a few connector cables, and began hooking them up into the television and into the calculator. "I might be able to do it from here. I won't be able to go with you because I have to make sure that the security protocols don't override my commands. If the doors open at any time, I think you two should quickly lock yourselves in whatever room you are searching through. However, I think it would work and we could search in relative safety." He began to press keys on the keypad, looking at the readout, completely captured by what he was doing.

"Can you patch into the security cameras with that thing?" Bowman asked, staring at the calculator.

"Afraid not. I might be able to get a picture, but the resolution would be so bad we couldn't tell what we were seeing." Saltonstall shook his head sadly.

"That's odd, the resolution on most calculators is pretty good these days." Bowman remarked.

"Well, I got this calculator when I was a kid so don't bug me," Everett snapped back waspishly.

"Sentimental value?" Arkady queried.

"For a calculator?" Bowman finished the thought. He'd heard of people loving their computers or their televisions, but he'd never heard about somebody with a crush on a calculator.

Saltonstall looked a bit embarrassed, "Okay, this girl Jenny and I used to write each other messages back and forth with our calculators. I liked Jenny, and she liked me. She moved away only a few years later, and we lost touch. I kept the calculator though. Okay, enough about my attachments to the calculator, you two get ready to get out that door the moment I'm finished with this."

"Um, Everett, you locked the door remember?" Bowman pointed out.

"Oh, sorry about that." Everett walked up to the door, slid his card through the slot and then tossed it back on his bed. "Okay, it still is locked from the outside, but now we can open it up here."

Bowman finally got up from the bed. He straightened his clothes out, looked at Arkady thoughtfully. Arkady looked a little reluctant, but there was no changing Saltonstall's mind now. Saltonstall was feverishly punching numbers into his machine. Arkady let out a deep sigh. This was going to be a dangerous game, and there was no turning back now. Bowman gave Arkady a wink, "You get to take out that circuit."

"You have more technical knowledge than I do." Arkady pointed out, his voice angrier. The calm that Arkady usually presented was now fading. The stress of having this situation thrust upon him was certainly unhinging his nerves. Bowman did not feel that much better himself. He did not want to be found dead at the hands of some crazy man dressed in a wolf suit with a tendency to eating his victims and urinating on walls. He had to admit one thing about it all; that was the most realistic looking wolfman suit he had ever seen.

"True, but you saw where it was." Bowman argued.

"Richard, come over here, I'll show it to you." Saltonstall motioned for him to walk over. Bowman peered among the mesh of wires, tubes, and circuits to see a board that was missing. Everett pointed him towards it, and showed him the various wires that would have to be disconnected before he could take it out. Bowman understood what he was seeing, unlike the mycologist Arkady who must have thought Everett was speaking in Chinese or something.

"Okay, fine I'll get the circuit." Bowman conceded. "But I'm bringing it right back here. I want you to tell me if that wolf guy is coming around again, I want to know immediately, even if the doors are still closed!"

"Not a problem." Everett gave him a quick smile and then went back to fiddling with his calculator. Bowman went back to staring at the door, and at Arkady who seemed to be trying to calm his nerves. Arkady kept his eyes closed, breathing deeply, slowly and rhythmically. He wanted nothing so much as to get out of this room, but he also did not want to die. This room was becoming stuffy, and three men, none of them well suited to each other, would not last long before they started to go stir crazy waiting it out. This was a good plan. If they could hold those doors closed on a more permanent basis, then they would have the entire hallway to work with, which would give them much more breathing space.

It was only a few more moments before Saltonstall jumped for joy, "Ha! I got in! Give me a second and I will have those doors closed." They waited a few more seconds, and then there was the distant sound of metal against metal, and the rush of air. Saltonstall sighed, "Okay, both of them are closed, it should be mostly safe for you two to go out there and get that part and anything else you think is useful. I'll keep a watch on things to make sure that those doors stay closed. Now, get going, we don't got that much time."

Bowman took a deep breath himself, and then opened the door. The streaks of blood on the floor were still there, and he could see bloodied paw prints that stalked down towards the other exit. A solid looking frame closed both sides of the hallway, and the way was clear for them to move. Bowman and Arkady both stepped out, each looking down the sides of the passageway.

"I'll go this way, you go that way, and be quick about it!" he told his Russian companion.

"You too." Arkady advised, before briskly strolling down to the next door on the right. It was his own room; he probably would find more useful things there than Richard would be able to. He jogged lightly to the next door on the left, and quickly opened it. Thankfully, it was not locked, though it probably should have been. He stepped into the sole room allotted for the two female scientists and stared at how much nicer it was than any of his rooms. They may be scientists, but they knew how to travel in comfort. He resisted the urge to look through their clothes drawers and instead focused on the television. He looked to find the seam that Everett had used to open the television up, and then quickly remembered that he'd needed several tools to get the device open. He'd need to go back and get them.

"Everett! I need the screwdriver to get this television screen off." Bowman leaned out the door and called down the hall.

"Just a second, I'll get it for you." Everett called back. Bowman could hear him rummaging through a few things, pulling out what was needed. Bowman idly stared at the doors on the far side. Arkady had disappeared into his own room, and was probably collecting various tools and supplies that might be of importance. He wondered just what he'd find in Dr. Johnson and Dr. Handley's room. Though he didn't know either of them real well, he'd gotten the impression that Handley was not really interested and that Johnson was already taken. Not that he wanted either of them, but they displayed, almost shoved it his face when they had first met that the impression had stuck.

He began tapping his foot impatiently; Saltonstall was taking forever to get him that screwdriver. He probably could have ripped it off faster by hand! "Everett! Hurry up with that screwdriver, we don't have all day you know!"

"I know, I'm just trying to keep my eye on...oh shit!" Saltonstall sounded very frightened for a moment and it took Bowman only a moment to realize why. The doors were opening back up again. "Lock yourselves in! Now!" Saltonstall was practically screaming. Bowman did not hesitate. He slid into the room, and closed the door tight. He swiped his card through the lock, and saw the light turn red. He leaned against the door, shaking his head. Well, he was safe at least, for the moment, and he could try to see if he could get the circuit out for Everett. However, he was going to have to wait for his signal to come back out again. It probably wouldn't take that long anyway.

Besides, this room looked much more comfortable anyway.

Rhodes was sitting by the wall with the almost faithful to a fault Thibaudet standing over top of him. He tried to continue talking about his misadventures as being a starship captain, but there really wasn't that much to talk about. He wanted it to stay on topic, but that fiend, the wolf, kept coming in to interrupt him. The first time he had thought it stealthy, as he never even noticed it, but those words such as packmates gave it away. Thibaudet was able to warn him when it was becoming obvious and he would go back and try again. That he slipped into the terminology of the wolf, or at least how the human thought of the wolf, scared him more than he ever could know. The wolf wanted him, wanted him badly, and his own perception became increasingly deluded, unable to see clearly that which was right in front of him.

At times he wanted to slash out at Pierre. Rhodes knew this would only end in tragedy, just the way Dutton slashing him was ending now. However, the wolf kept putting those thoughts into his mind, reminding him that anybody he injured was going to be a werewolf too. It also wanted him to get up from his seat and eat Lapwolf, who still lay unconscious by the door. Pillow and Huggy were now looking after him, Jansen watching on, idly curious perhaps. Either that or he was indignantly making sure that they didn't do anything to hurt the kid. He knew that Lapwolf had an emotional disorder. However, he had still asked for something beyond his will to give.

Maybe if he'd waited ten to twenty minutes later. Would he have been able to resist the wolf's insistent call to slash the kid, and to bite him so that he would too join their pack? No, it was a social grouping bent on killing them all. No that was wrong too, the wolf didn't want to kill them all, it just wanted to dominate them all. It wanted to be something greater, and it wanted to do all sorts of things. It wanted to run in the wind, chase animals, and enjoy the night sky and the hunt. It sounded all so serene and peaceful, that he began to tell Pierre about how much he enjoyed visiting the national parks when he was on leave. He'd never been to a national park though.

He didn't want to frighten Thibaudet anymore; he'd already had a second falter, so he let himself continue the tale. He found that he was no longer talking, but the wolf was beginning to speak through him, using words that would not immediately give it away. He could see the wolf standing before him, commanding him to sit and to lie down, and then looking down over him, laughing, its own tail held high. It wanted to mate with him still, and began to circle his prone position. It sniffed him, moving closer, pawing at his legs. He would not give in to what it wanted, but the wolf seemed so much stronger than he did. He was no longer the imposing captain of a starship, he was just a miniscule human, barely taller than the average dog standing on its hind legs. The wolf however was growing to monstrous proportions, dwarfing him by its immensity.

It was a proud and regal beast, one that did have its own set of honor. Loyalty to the pack, defending the young, caring for their wives. Yes, the female wolves would not kill their young; they watched over and protected them, suckling them till they were strong. The female wolf was not like the humans, who would kill their babies if it suited them. The fact that the debate over the human fetus being a living organism no longer mattered. The one that he had loved had betrayed him and killed the young that he had hoped to sire. What sort of trust was that? What sort of honor was there among humans? Wolves had a much simpler code, one that was not cast in terms of grays and misgivings. There was certainty with the wolves.

He felt his skin trembling. His own understanding of the wolf was not one that was being gained trough any manner except that of the wolf poisoning his mind, turning his own pains against him. Humans did this to you, but wolves never would. That was the entire summation of the argument. He found himself beginning to speak again in wolf-like thoughts, talking about how frustrated he was with Sandy having betrayed their trust by aborting their child. He began to talk about the days when there was an understanding and an obligation to children that people held. He talked about how precious little ones were to the soul and to the happiness. He talked about how important they were to the continuance of the species, and there the wolf made its mistake.

"Captain, Earth is overpopulated as it is. I don't think you have to worry about that." Pierre chided him, trying to sound like he was not worried about the oncoming transformation. Rhodes knew that it was not that long off anymore. He would not last much longer; the wolf had almost won anyway. He wished that he could fight it back somehow. He tried to think of Sandy as a person who had once loved him, and had done this to him, not because she betrayed him, but because he had betrayed her, and it was only fair that he suffer. No, he'd just been out hunting, hunting for her in fact! She, Sandy, a human being, had killed their pup. Why'd he ever mate with her in the first place? She was a disgrace to the pack!

Of course she was, it was a human pack. Wolf packs were a team, they did not turn on each other, and they certainly did not kill their young. But they were animals! Perhaps then animals knew something that humans didn't. They knew how to live properly and in harmony with their fellow beings. Humans were killing each other for sick exotic pleasures, and nobody was doing anything about it. They were destroying the Earth with their industry and technology and did not care one bit who got in their way, be they animal, plant, or other humans. Whole cultures were wiped out just to further the human desire of conquest and self-aggrandizement. Wolves were much more orderly, knowing the balance, only taking what they needed.

But why eat Ziegler? Why eat Ascot? Why eat Tembo? Of course, that last question was probably ridiculous he now realized. He didn't know why, but he suspected that there was something else going on with Tembo that he did not know yet. He wasn't sure how; perhaps it was instinctual, perhaps not. But why eat human beings? That was horrid! Well, there really wasn't much of anything else that they could eat. All things needed food, and the stuff in the cafeteria and the supply rooms was not palatable with their stomachs. Human flesh was. But of course, they only ate the sick and dying, or the dead. What was wrong with that? The dead especially, their flesh was being put to good use. The dying, or the sick, well that was something that he was not going to give up on. Alan Ziegler had been his friend who had saved them from Ascot's freakish flying; he should have been commended for his sacrifice. But he was, he went to feed his packmates and keep them alive.

Rhodes cringed at the thought, staring at the floor. Thibaudet was saying something to him, he couldn't hear it anymore, nor did he care to. The wolf was getting him, he knew it, there was almost nothing of him left anymore, no will to resist. Every time he thought about how good humans were it came up with five million more reasons that showed why the wolf's way was better. Each one hit him personally; each one struck a chord at him somewhere deep that his whole body resonated with. None more deeply than the image of having little pups of his very own and a mate that would never leave him. He snarled at Sandy, wanting to rip her throat on. If he could he would do so, and let his pups feast there upon her, for that was all she was good for.

"Captain!" Thibaudet yelled into his ear while shaking his shoulders.

Rhodes's immediate inclination was to snap at the offending human, and to slash him with his claws, but he was still a man, and the rational side of his human nature, what was left of it, did manage to surface. He put up a hand and pushed Thibaudet over, locking his cold gray eyes upon the human once more. "I don't think that was a very good idea."

"Rhodes, you had nearly gone completely over into the edge. I don't want to see you go quite yet." Thibaudet gave him a look of deepest concern. It was obvious that Thibaudet was very worried about him. He should be more worried about his own skin, because Rhodes felt an urgent need to bite into it. He pushed that back away, no he did not want to do that, not to Pierre, a good friend.

Rhodes looked past Thibaudet to notice that quite a crowd was gathering. Pillow was standing just a few meters behind Pierre, while Dr. Emil Jansen watched with what seemed concern in his face. Apparently, despite all his bluster, Jansen really did have feelings for him. Then again, it might just be worry that Rhodes might shift right there and that would be the end of the rest of them. No, he was not going to do that. Not because he was afraid of killing them, that was not his fear anymore. He was afraid he would eat Lapwolf, and despite the kids asinine behavior and total lack of anything resembling common sense, he could not bear the thought of it.

"Pierre, I don't think we have a choice anymore. My thoughts are becoming increasingly wolfish. I can barely talk to you now without resorting to lupine expressions and behavior patterns. Here take my passcard before I start getting territorial about it." Rhodes handed him the red card that was his, and Thibaudet took it in his hands and pocketed it. Rhodes had been correct in his estimate, that card was his, nobody else should have it! But he had given it freely, so there should be no problem. The wolf seemed upset at him, but for the first time, did not seem to have any ground to stand upon.

"Rhodes, I'm sorry, I cannot put you out that door quite yet." Thibaudet shook his head apologetically.

"Haven't you heard what I've been saying you stupid human! I'm a werewolf, and I can feel it coming on even as I speak. I don't have that much longer, you need to put me out that door." Rhodes snarled, crouching against the wall.

Thibaudet remained calm, getting to his feet and brushing the dirt off, but never breaking eye contact with his Captain. "No, Rhodes, you are wrong. You are only letting yourself think that. You have one last thing that you have to do before I will even consider putting you out that door." Thibaudet had seemed to slip into the commanding role so easily that Rhodes was startled by it. This was a true alpha! Thibaudet knew exactly what he was doing and he wasn't losing control. Rhodes had been like that himself once, back before Dutton had slashed him. Of course, now he was a werewolf, and the dual nature was of course going to cause some conflicts. The wolf assured him that those nasty human contrarian idiosyncrasies would be taken care of and the more noble and stalwart lupine traits would take their place. The synthesis would be good for him, and for everybody else he cared to give it to as well.

NO! He was not going to infect any others with this awful malady! How could he call a reordering of his life awful? How could a freeing of his life from the pain of loss and suffering, from the loss of his own pups to an unfaithful mate be called a malady? Why wouldn't Thibaudet let him get up and leave this place to join his packmates? He yearned to be with them, he felt lonely, trapped, cornered without them. He needed the companionship of his own kind to make him whole. Captain Havergal Rhodes wanted now to be a werewolf, nothing else made a difference.

"What is it?" Rhodes begged of the Frenchman. "I'll do it! Just please let me go before I hurt one of you!"

Pillow in the background was nearly crying. Jansen was shaking from the way that Rhodes pleaded with Thibaudet. Thibaudet remained stock still, not moving at all. He called out behind him, "Somebody bring me the gun. I am not going to shoot you Rhodes, not unless you give me cause to. I just have one simple question that I have to ask you before I can let you go."

Huggy picked up the gun from Jansen's desk, and ran it over to Thibaudet who was himself backing off from Rhodes, who was crouched, feeling his skin buckle and shake with every thought and every contortion. He had to hold it in long enough till he got outside that door, just long enough to leave them alone! Why though, if he slashed them, they would be werewolves too? And he would have a good meal as well, without need to hunt even!

Rhodes shook that thought from his head, he was not going to eat one of his crewmembers. Strangely, the desire not to infect Thibaudet or the others with lycanthropy was no longer a concern. In fact, it seemed right to want to make them werewolves as well! They each would be helped by the lupine, it was missing in their lives, and while it was missing they would be incomplete. Only the wolf could heal their pain and give them the benefit of knowing their place in society. The pack would always welcome them, though the pack would expect them to produce results too. That was the way of things, the way things should be for all creatures, and Rhodes did not want it in any other fashion.

"What is it?" Rhodes stammered, his voice nearly giving way to his terror. "I will tell you whatever you want to know!"

Thibaudet nodded, "I know you will. Now, please try to be calm, you will get to leave and join your pack after finishing this question. I hope it won't take long, but I want to know as many details as you can muster."

Rhodes nodded, "Everything! You will have everything I know!"

Jansen looked like he was getting impatient, worriedly looking back and forth between Thibaudet and Rhodes. He was idly reaching over for that hoe that he had used earlier, not wanting to be unarmed. Pillow was breathing fast and shallowly into his hands, his body quivering. Huggy was wiping the sweat from his ruddy cheeks, his fat jiggling as he breathed intensely, unable to stand still for a moment. Thibaudet remained calm, holding the gun in one hand stiffly, and aimed straight for Rhodes in case he lost control. Rhodes knew that he would heal from the wound quickly, but Thibaudet must have been counting on being able to get him out the door before he became a threat.

Thibaudet kept his eyes fixed on him, never breaking contact or looking away. This was the determination of a man who was sick of not having the answers to his questions. He was going to know, and he was going to know now, and nothing else mattered to him. When Thibaudet spoke, it was in a crisp clear tone, and he knew that there would be no defying it. "What pray tell is a Hasmonean?" was all that he said, and it was enough.

Rhodes whimpered, the forbidden secrets he had learned, the rumors he had heard, and all the stories of sheer oddity came back to him. This was not going to be quick, and he did not know whether he would be able to contain himself long enough to speak it all. He gave Thibaudet a pleading look, hoping that he would reconsider. Thibaudet stared back intensely. The scientist was no longer a scientist, but the human alpha, and he was still in part human, and he could not resist him any longer.

"The Hasmoneans. That is a long story. I do not think I will be able to get through it all."

"Abbreviate it then."

Rhodes nodded, and then began to speak, his voice coming in short bursts, and followed by brief periods of silence as he tried to regain control over the wolf that wanted him to jump up and slash at Thibaudet's throat. He resisted again, though he realized that he might be doing him a favor by giving in, he would be doing them an even bigger favor by not.

Instead, the wolf began telling him how good Lapwolf looked and smelled to eat, and reminded him that he was very hungry.

End Part 1 of Part XIV

Continued in Part 2 of Part XIV

Charles Matthias