Thibaudet remained motionless, the gun held firmly in one hand as he stared intently at the sniveling form of the former Captain. He was already the former Captain in his eyes because of his complete breakdown in personality. It hurt Pierre to see this happen to a man. When Dutton had been sucked into the mind of the werewolf he had stayed cool, he had not really gotten to know the man, and what he did know of him made him shake his head in dismay. He seemed ever too eager to suspect his own friends regardless of reason and logic. He had been too quick to judge, and slow to act at times. Rhodes had been the first to fire on the werewolf when they had seen it. Dutton had fired moments later, but had foolishly emptied his own pistol into the beast, even though the shots had done nothing more than to slow it down temporarily.
Rhodes however was a different matter. He had talked with the man, learned of his past, and shared his own life experiences with him. He had suffered and fought with this large man, with his characteristic swagger and commanding personality. Under fire he had persevered and shined. Now, with the wolf attacking not his body but his mind, he was sniveling, groveling to be let out to join the pack outside that waited for him. Thibaudet knew that this man no longer held the rank of Captain, no matter what his badge or colors said. He was another creature that had to be dealt with, and could become very possibly extremely dangerous. There was no question about it; Rhodes could not stay in the Greenhouse for very much longer.
Dutton had irrationally fought against the wolf to the very end, Rhodes it appeared had finally let it take over, had given in to it and now yearned for it in a way that was scaring Thibaudet more than the possibility that he might get his throat slashed out if he was not careful. He would rather be physically dead than mentally tortured every moment of his life. He wondered, what went through a werewolf's mind when the moon was not full? Were they still part wolf, or was it sleeping or something. Perhaps the wolf hibernated during the other phases of the moon, but came out and subjugated the human when the moon was there for it to glimpse. But how did that work? It made no logical sense. Nothing in his scientific mind could find a correlation between the full moon and the werewolf's transformation. It seemed almost arbitrary to him. Why not the new moon? Or the half moon? Or perhaps a crescent moon? Why the full moon and not them? What power did the moon have over them at its brightest?
Once again, he had to ask himself, what if Anselm was correct? What if the world was full of things that could not be explained by science, as they knew it? What if there were ways of doing things that today would be called impossible but those future computers could unravel with ease. Would they ever understand the scientific principles behind it? Perhaps if they studied their whole lives to understand it, but then again, the diversification in science was growing at an alarming rate. Three hundred years ago a physicist was a physicist, there was no difference between any of them on the matters they studied. Now, there were Magnetists as Bowman was, Superconductivists as he was, and many others that he could not name nor understand. The fields were simply becoming too specialized, and if Fulton Swiley was right, than in the next generation it would be impossible to continue like this and the work of correlating scientific information would be passed onto specialized computers that would solve the problems for them.
He had to admit that the first fruits of this were beginning. Most of the specialized equations that he used in Superconductivity studies were already preprogrammed into a computer. The computer calculated the information for him, and all he did was take measurements and propose postulates and theories. He was the one who made connections between the data. However, it was a simple matter of mass statistical analysis for a computer to create a graphical model that would be used to advance those properties. If all these computers could talk to each other than who knew what could be discovered. Surely such an arrangement would be able to answer the question of how werewolves could exist. Could then the study of the physical transformation of werewolves be termed a science? Most would be more likely to call it magic. However, what was science other than the repeatable observable? Surely if a werewolf consistently changed under the influence of the full moon than that was something that could be observed repeatedly, why not call it a science?
Of course, he knew that Anselm would. However, Anselm had been trying to tell him this before, but he had refused to listen then. His mind had been unready to accept the New World that was going to be thrust upon them. He did not want to be a part of it anymore now than he did when Anselm had been reading to him out of Fulton Swiley's accursed, yet prophetic, book. Swiley was not so much a scientist as a futurist, one who was dictating the way events would change in the lives of man. The era of 'magic' would come again, when man could no longer correlate the contents of their own science. Would the computers become their 'gods'? Would the users of the computers become 'wizards'? Perhaps such things as flying carpets and floating cities were not far off? If werewolves could exist, what else was possible? Perhaps a way could be found for him to be an albatross.
Anselm would tell him that such a way did exist. He might even offer to help him become what he wanted. However Anselm had caused all of this by his meddling with Darkwolf. Poor Darkwolf, did he not realize that he was messing with a man who did not care what happened to the minds of the people on board this ship? How could any trust a man who was willing to sacrifice the sanity of the crew and the passengers in order to test a theory? He was certainly reprehensible for every last bit of this action. He would not go unpunished for it, Thibaudet was certain of that. Of course, he was a Hasmonean, and that was enough to make Rhodes, when he was still a sane and self-controlled man, fall to the floor in fright and shock. He needed to know what a Hasmonean was, and he knew that it must be something other than the name of the priestly family that ruled Israel after they had thrown of their Hellenistic rulers.
Rhodes, quivering before him, opened his mouth to speak, as if every word were a pain to him. He knew that he only talked to get it off his chest that he might escape out of the room to be with his pack. This thought sickened Pierre in many ways. He wished that this man could stay with them. He would rather have Rhodes leading them; he would rather have that man delivering them to safety than to see him join the ranks of those who would kill and eat them. However, Dutton's fateful slash across his chest would prevent that. And it was because not that there was a young man named Darkwolf who was so eager to be a werewolf that he would fall for the charms of the rather emaculate Dr. Frederick Anselm, but because there were such people like Anselm! He had to know what he was, and what sort of things to expect from him in the future and just what punishment he deserved for destroying this good man's mind.
"When I first was assigned to be the Captain of the Pytheas, I was warned about the Hasmoneans by the upper command. They were among a list of names of people not to piss of, among them a group I know is affiliated with the space division of the FBI, and another that was so obviously CIA that I almost wanted to laugh the more I heard about them. However, the Hasmoneans don't really hunt for any agency in particular, they are more like a set aside pack of the government." Rhodes stopped to catch his breath for a moment. Pierre wondered whether he knew he was using lupine concepts to describe them or not. He did not seem concerned about it that was for certain.
"Is that all you know?" Pierre asked, hoping that this was just the beginning of something more.
"Hardly!" Rhodes barked sardonically. "I have heard a lot of rumors about them. Gossip is frequent in the government pack, and everybody wants to know what the alphas are up to." His eyes moved past Pierre and began to stare out into space, his whole body still quivering. He pulled his legs up close to his body and wrapped his arms about them, as if to hold in the wolf that wanted to burst through at any moment. "Well, being an alpha of sorts myself, I was privileged to hear information that others didn't. I know a few other things about the Hasmoneans that are sure, a few things that are just idle scents in the wind.
"Everybody I've ever met who has encountered a Hasmonean has told me that they are all masquerading as scientists of one sort or another. Of course, they are not likely to reveal their scents as much as the next agent would be. They have the Presidential mark on their I.D. cards, so we know that they are an approved United States agency or subgroup. I've never been able to figure out which. However, I don't think they are masquerading as scientists. I think they are scientists, all of them, and the entire place has an agenda that they are after. I don't know what it is, but everyone I've heard about has been doing something esoteric, something that reminds one more of a medieval witch than a present day scholar.
"That is the extent of the concrete knowledge I have about the Hasmoneans." Rhodes finished speaking, his whole body tensed, ready to spring up into action at the slightest provocation. Thibaudet was not really too surprised by what he'd heard. From everything he'd gathered, the Hasmoneans were a word that was told to young people in the government who might have occasion to run into them. If they did, then they were to know not to mess with them and to do exactly as they were told. Dutton had broken that promise and had told them what Anselm was. It meant something to Rhodes, but to nobody else. Thibaudet intended to know more.
"Rhodes, that is not enough. What about these rumors that you have heard?" Thibaudet pressed, fingering the gun idly. He knew how to fire a weapon, had done it once or twice himself when he was younger, but it had been so long. If Rhodes moved to jump him, he did not know whether he would react fast enough to stop him. However, he was confident that he could pry this from his friend, get the information that was necessary before he degenerated past any point of containing the wolf. It had only been just over an hour since Dutton had left the room, and already Rhodes was terribly shaken. The only thing that he could think of to explain it of course was the Rhodes had been dwelling on it the whole time. If Rhodes scratched him, would he also go in a short time because the thought of the wolf would always be there?
Rhodes gulped his dry breath down. It had been several hours since any of them had anything to drink, but going thirsty was better than being slashed apart by the wolves. Of course, he was also glad that he had no need to use the restroom either. That could cause problems if people started having the need to fertilize the plants themselves! Rhodes tried to speak in a low conspiratorial voice, as the others were all watching him as well, but he was too high strung to manage anything less than a jittery conversational tone, "Most of the rumors are probably erroneous and I don't think you want to hear those ones."
"I want to hear them all if you can manage it," Thibaudet replied in a voice that left no room for bargaining. Rhodes was wasting time, and he knew it. He wanted out that door at all costs and immediately. If he could somehow get out without telling everything he knew, he would. However, Pierre had the card now, and there was no way that Rhodes could leave himself.
Rhodes nodded quickly, "Okay, I heard one time that there was this guy, I don't know his scent or anything like that, but the guy who told me about it called him Bob. Well Bob was apparently trying to get the entire wing of the comparative theology department to help him reenact an ancient ceremony. Something Norse if I recall correctly. Well this Bob got all the necessary things; you know goats to sacrifice and all that. They had one girl volunteer to be the one they were performing the ceremony on. I think it was to infuse her with some power of the gods, he wasn't very specific about Bob's intentions. Well apparently to get this girl to do the ceremony that had to get her intoxicated, and so she was very distracting during the actual ceremony. Bob claimed it would have worked if she had been sober.
"Anyway, they went out at midnight with the moon high in the sky to an abandoned field just south of the university. Bob was going to handle the actual incantation with the help of the students. He'd offered each of them a considerable sum of money to participate so they were quite eager, even though some of them were very skeptical about it. There were even a few atheists in the group, though I never understood why an atheist would be majoring in comparative theology. Anyway, there was supposed to be some strange things happening that night, and many of the kids just wouldn't talk about it, and nobody saw Bob again after that. Well, I heard about this from a friend of mine who was a teacher there, and he said that half the students who had gone out there converted to paganism or something, including all of the atheists.
"The girl, well she was unfit to be in the pack after that. Her mind was completely gone and supposedly she's still in the asylum they stuck her in gibbering about the gods or something." Rhodes took a deep breath, looking over the faces of each of the men in the Greenhouse one by one. Was he thinking about how good they might taste, or about how they should all join his new pack?
Thibaudet had to admit he was highly skeptical of all the atheists converting to paganism. He found that often times atheists were the most obstinate of all people on religious matters, excepting perhaps a few fundamentalist groups and cultists. However, the story itself sounded quite odd. What would be the scientific purpose behind reenacting an old Norse ritual? Who knew if it was Norse even? That might have just been a designation for convenience to explain the ritual's origins. It could have been Egyptian for all he knew. Plus, the story seemed quite whimsical, why would a Hasmonean, a group of scientists it seemed, be interested in the effects of thousands of years old rituals?
"There has to be more than just that?" Pierre prompted the man who was gingerly casting sidelong glances at the door nearest him. He noticed that his skin looked a little paler than usual, almost grayish in places. Perhaps it was not a good idea keeping him here any longer? It certainly looked like the physical change was coming over him. His chest had long since healed up, and there was not a single break in the skin. That he was a werewolf was clear, he just did not yet look like one. That would come very shortly, all of them knew. Thibaudet was taking the biggest risk by standing so close, but he needed to know everything he could about them.
"Well, I heard another story about somebody whom they thought was a Hasmonean. This one involved some mountain out in the Rockies in Montana I think. I can't remember exactly, but it was supposed to be some sort of archaeological dig. Apparently, there was an entire den underneath the mountain that they had excavated. It was very elaborate; many packs could stay there, many families, each with their own living quarters. Well they claimed that the central chamber had been carved in a way to channel the mystic energies of people. I know that they have found communities that have lived in caves before, but this was supposed to be a community of people that were not like you all, or like my pack and I am.
"The way everything was structured, they claimed that the place was inhabited by things that were not human at all, and that they lived about the same time as ancient peoples. Supposedly a human that was placed at the center of the ring of power would become one of them when this energy was activated. Well the guy who told me this said the guy who had passed it on to him knew somebody that had been there and had stayed at the entrance to the caves. Apparently there were lots of screaming and some noise of something that was terrible beyond his mind's capability to understand. I don't know what happened, but the Hasmonean was supposed to have hired them all, they were scouts for their pack or what not, and not have told them what he was up to. From what I understand the Hasmoneans have been rebuilding this ancient community of underground dwelling creatures that are not human, but once were.
"I don't place any stock in this one, since the sources are suspect, but it does sound like the sort of thing a Hasmonean would do." Rhodes stopped, peering once more at the door. He obviously wanted out, wanted to be free from this place, wanted to get away form them all and join his pack. Thibaudet had to agree with Rhodes on that one, that second story seemed very suspect. How could anybody believe that such a community could exist? After all, what reasons would anybody have to suspect it? In comparison, the first story seemed reasonable.
However, there was more, he knew it. Rhodes was deliberately picking the most outrageous of the stories, as if to dissuade him from asking anymore questions. He must have hoped that if he related the impossible and most difficult to fathom stories then Thibaudet might let him leave because it was obvious he knew nothing helpful. However, Pierre had seen werewolves, and was, sadly enough, looking at one right now. Though he still appeared human, there were specks of yellow in his eyes, and the hair on his body had a peculiar metallic cast to it. How much longer could he hold out? Was he wise in keeping this nearly panicked werewolf around?
Rhodes looked back and forth from Thibaudet to the door. He so wanted to be let free so that he could run with his fellow packmates! Why didn't Thibaudet understand his need, his raw desire to be free to run? Why was Thibaudet subjecting him to such torture by keeping him here and asking inane and pointless questions? He had already told Pierre everything useful that he knew about the Hasmoneans. There was nothing left but unsubstantiated rumor and gossip. Most of it was almost certainly false! Rhodes could not bring himself to believe it either, it seemed so clearly fantastical that it made him laugh that this man of science who went around separating the impossible from the improbable eight hours a day could not see that.
Then again, he could have at one point sympathized with the concerns that Thibaudet most certainly felt about the Hasmoneans. There was one on board, Dr. Frederick Anselm. Almost certainly he wanted to know what that man might do. However, the chance that he could use any of these rumors against him was clearly next to nothing. Anselm certainly would deny them out right, and Pierre had no solid evidence to stand on anyway! If Anselm was smart, which he certainly was, then he was not going to let Thibaudet use any of this to coerce him to do anything. Rather Anselm could use it against Thibaudet, and force him to do as he wanted, not the other way around. Thibaudet was only wasting his time, and Rhodes' time.
Of course, Rhodes was not one to just wait for things to go his way. He was a planner, and with his cunning he needed to find a way out. Had he not been foolish and given away his card earlier, then he could very easily just make a dash for the door, slide his card through the slot, and be free to let himself go without any further worry. However, Thibaudet held his card now. He stared at Thibaudet's pants pocket where he had slipped the card. If he could just reach it, and tear it from the offending pocket, then he would also free as well. Still, there was another obstacle that he would have to overcome before he could do that.
He looked at the gun held tightly in Thibaudet's firm hand. It was aimed very well from what he could see, and knew that if he moved suddenly, then Thibaudet might shoot him. While he would not die from the shot, it would slow him down, and probably prevent him from ever getting the card period. Of course, the other problem with that was that in the pain from the wound he might loose complete control over the wolf inside him and release it on impact. He would be the werewolf in body then, and there would be no turning back at that point. He would have to eat Lapwolf, his stomach practically was demanding it already, and he certainly did look like he might taste good.
That and he would have to hurt Thibaudet and the others. He did not want to have to do to them what Dutton had done to him just before he had lost it completely. While making tem members of his new pack on the one hand was a very good and noble thing to do. It was the right thing to do in fact, the wolf assured him. On the other hand though, if Rhodes let himself lose that control and hurt them enough to make them werewolves too, then he would subject them to the same mind wrenching that he had gone through and was still going through. In the end it would be worth it, but he would rather they discover that for themselves. When they finally came to this realization and offered themselves to be werewolves too, then he would feel no qualms about inflicting the pain that was necessary. How he wished that Lapwolf had only arrived twenty minutes later! Why then he would have gladly done as he had asked instead of making him into food.
However, the kid deserved to be food, he wasn't worth anything else. He was a self-indulgent human, like almost all humans with no moral understanding of the way the world worked. That was the way it was with humans. In an ironic sort of way, Rhodes realized that it was because those humans had been too successful over the years of their time on Earth. They had become complacent with the spoils of the past generations heaped upon them. They were decadent, and completely unconcerned with the affairs of others, just as long as they got their fair share of the pie that had been conquered and stolen from others. To the victor go the spoils of war. That was true, but the depravities that humans engaged in because of that maxim were beyond all decency. They were filthy, disgusting, self-absorbed, and completely untrustworthy. How much different from the noble wolf!
The wolf was a creature that he could only honor now. He could no longer find it in his heart to hate the wolf. He wanted to join his packmates and run with them through the tall grasses in the night, feeling the thrill of the hunt beat deep inside him. The glory of the first kill upon his jowls, his neck carving back to mourn the dead in a glorious and melancholy howl of ultimate despair. The knowledge that the animal did not die in vain, nor would it have lived for very long anyway. It died to feed his pack, and his family. Yes, his family. Wolves had families, strong ones, and close ones. Humans could say nothing of this. Yes, he and the one whom he would mate with would never part, and she would never ever cause harm to one of his pups. How unlike the humans who killed their pups because it might inconvenience them!
He needed to get out of this room and join his packmates! It was so urgent he could feel it spreading through him like some molten fire burning away even the most resilient of impurities. The last of his human nature was being subjugated to that of the wolf, which was of course, all for the good. The wolf had won him over, and was preparing to mate with him. He could feel it mounting his human form, ready to merge the two into one. All the foreplay was over, and the wolf, in its subtle probings and manipulations revealed to him how the wolf was better in almost every respect to humans. He knew that know, and reveled in the knowledge. He wanted it now; unlike before when he had dreaded it. The wolf was better; it was superior to humans.
The wolf had not been, on par, as successful as humans had on preserving their species. In fact, humans had nearly wiped them out in the last century. However, despite the fierce competition, and despite the fact that they could have done better if they had played dirtier, they had stuck to their own honor, their own code of morality. They had stuck with what they knew to be right, and had prospered despite the efforts of humans. Each generation of wolves stood on its own accomplishments, and they never became complacent at all. There was no room for complacency or weakness or procrastination. Everything must be done to ensure not only the survival of the individual but also that of the pack. The human pack was very loose; it tended to drift apart and not care so much for the others it purported to protect. Ah yes, the lupine way was much better.
However much he wanted to be one with the wolf, he could not allow it to proceed quite yet. Rhodes recognized the fact that he used to be part of the human pack, but now he was going to be part of something greater, the werewolf pack. However, some of the old loyalties still resided in his heart. He knew that none of them as of yet wanted to be a werewolf badly enough to subject themselves to his or his packmates ministrations. It was unfortunate for them, but that was the way that they choose to have it. They wanted to remain human despite the fact that the way of the wolf was much better and more serene and fulfilling. There was no reason they all should not come before him and ask him to make them part of his new pack right now.
However, Rhodes understood their reluctance. There was a certain measure of pride in being one thing or another. Each carried that with them, and to give that up required a hatred more profound than he could fathom. He was not made a werewolf of his own free will. It had been a parting gift from the confused Max Dutton, a friend who he would be joining in the hunt and the chase before too much longer. There would be reveling and competition amongst their kind for dominance, and he did not doubt that he could lead them as he had led them in the human world. Of course, wolves were not supposed to be as fat as he was, and he might have to lose a bit of this weight. Still, he could not in good conscious force any of these others to be werewolves, but nobody was going to stop him from getting out that door either. If Thibaudet forced him, he would hurt him. Thibaudet had to let him leave soon, or he would not have any other choice but to try to steal that red card from his pocket. No matter what the cost, he had to join his pack soon!
End Part 1 of Part XV
Continued in Part 2 of Part XV