Pierre could see the consternation on the almost ready to change werewolf's face. Rhodes was looking at the door quite frequently, giving him very deadly and threatening glares, much like a trapped animal might. It was clear that the only thing that Rhodes wanted now was to get out that door. The time for begging and pleading was past. He was ready to attack if he thought that Thibaudet was going to waste his time. He needed to know more though, there was so much that he could still learn and yet if this werewolf would not tell him, then there would be no way for him to know. McGee might know, but that was doubtful. Rhodes had been the Captain of the ship, and like he had said was privy to some very high level information. He had yet to share it all, that was quite obvious, but it was also becoming clear that he was not willing to share it. For whatever reason, Rhodes was intent on taking some of his secrets to the lupine kingdom when he went.
"Rhodes, I have only a few more questions for you, and then I will let you go." Thibaudet figured he had better say something like that. If he could calm the loup garou's nerves down, then there was a chance. His voice was slow and steady; he did not want to provoke him anymore than he had to. Asking more questions was likely to make him angry enough. He hoped that the suggestion that he would be let free soon would spur him onto to answer more succinctly and clearly.
Rhodes nodded, looking eager to hear what Thibaudet had to say. He felt the presence of eyes on him. He knew that the other three in the chamber with him were very interested in what he might do. Each had a stake in this; it was no longer between him and the Captain. This was a matter of life and death for all of them. If Rhodes changed forms, then they might all die. Thibaudet did not know how many bullets were in the gun, but it didn't matter, it was his only means of protection. If he were scratched, then he too would join Rhodes and Dutton and Darkwolf among the ranks of the loup garou. He'd rather that didn't happen. However, he just wanted to make sure that was everything he knew about the Hasmoneans.
"Rhodes, is there anything else you can tell me? Not rumors of ceremonies or anything like that. Rumors that might be pertinent to our current crisis. Have you ever heard rumors about anything dealing with Anselm, or with werewolves, or anything involving the full moon?" He hoped that was enough to possibly pull out a specific answer from the man. He knew as well as Rhodes did that the first two stories were completely useless to him. He needed something that might help them in this fight. Was there any weakness that the werewolves had other than silver? Even then, they did not know if silver would be able to do the job.
Rhodes nodded after a very dangerous glance, "You won't hurt my packmates or me will you if I tell you?" He heard a few gasps from behind him as Rhodes glared at him. The skin on his arms was quite gray now, and his face had taken on a slightly bestial cast to it. That he was slowly letting the wolf express itself not just in his speech and mannerisms but also his body was something that was becoming quite clear to everybody. Thibaudet wondered just how aware of it Rhodes was himself. He did not have much longer to go, and Rhodes needed to tell him as much as he knew about this sort of subject, and as quickly as possible.
"I promise that nobody is going to hurt them. Not even Harper is going to hurt them; he is just going to tranquilize you all and keep you locked up in cages for your own good. You know that nobody wants to do you any harm at all." Thibaudet pointed out.
Rhodes did not seem satisfied by that. His voice was menacing, nearly growling, his throat vibrating with the effect, "And we will be released and not locked up to be studied when we get back to Earth."
Thibaudet knew that any promise on this was going to be hopeless. There was almost certainly no chance that they would be let free. They were going to be poked and prodded and vivisected and examined in every conceivable way for the rest of their lives. Or perhaps Anselm would take them back to some secret lab where he would perform grisly operations on them to extract the cause of lycanthropy, unless he already had it. If he did, then what was the point of all this? Was he conducting this to see how people would react under a stressful situation of impossible proportions? If so, then Thibaudet was really going to be ticked off at the man. Perhaps the experiment had just gone awry? That was another very real possibility, though not quite as satisfying or maddening.
Thibaudet finally managed to find his voice again, the glare that Rhodes directed at him, those nearly amber eyes piercing him through, gave him quite a stir. They unsettled him, and it made him hard to find his footing, but he did not flinch from their gaze once. If he did, he might very well be dead only moments later. He needed to keep his eye on the werewolf at all times, and the gun must not falter in his grip. He was sweating, he knew it, and he was very frightened by this cornered beast. However, he had to say something. "I cannot make that promise. If I did I would be lying. I will say though that I will try with all of my effort to make sure that you are released from captivity and not subject to any further torture." He heard Pillow gasp and Jansen made a sudden strangling sound.
That seemed to give Rhodes the calm he needed to keep form exploding with force, "You speak truly, for that I will tell you what you want to know."
"Thank you." Thibaudet murmured. He heard the heavy quick breathing behind him, and few sighs of relief. Many of them were quite happy to know that the situation was not as volatile as it had seemed. Thibaudet knew better, Rhodes would be placated only for the duration of the answer. Once he was finished talking, his demand to be let free would return, and there was no way that he could further deny him. They both knew it, he would have to let Rhodes go, or he might very well die. Rhodes needed to be with his packmates, and they would all be better off if he was with them.
Rhodes cleared his throat, and his tongue nearly lolled out of his mouth. Thibaudet shuddered at how red it was. Rhodes spoke then in a crisp clear voice, slowly though as his most rational side kicked in. He probably had much better control knowing that he was going to be freed once this was over. "Where shall I begin, there is much about this that you should know. I have heard many hints that there was some interest on the part of the Hasmoneans in the workings of the moon. It never occurred to me though that there interest in the moon would culminate on my ship with werewolves. I always thought that it was just an interest in the ancient beliefs of man, and how the moon affected them. I had always heard that the Hasmoneans were a group interested in unearthing the methods and the minds of ancient humanity and applying it to the present day understandings of science. I guess I was wrong.
"I was not really sure what their interest in the moon was to be exact. I remember hearing their opinion described like this once, and I thought it so telling that I would never forget it. It's sort of a little poetry for the mind I guess. 'It has beckoned us since the dawn of time. From Goddess to astronomical body, it has watched over us, winking in its inimical way. Look yonder caveman, see it for yourself spacefarer, for it is the beginning of dreams.' I know it is rhetorical nonsense, but the Hasmoneans see it differently. I think that if they can find the way in which man has been spurred onto by dreams then they could unravel the mystery to causing science to continue to explode.
"I thought it was already expanding, but I guess they wished it to go in a different direction. Whether they see power in the full moon to create werewolves? Well, I don't know about that. I don't think anybody has come even close to suggesting it. I did hear some speculation though that the power of the moon over the werewolf is not something that can be measured by the known laws of science, with the possible exception of proximity. Of course, this was the same guy who told me about the nonhumans living under the ground so take that for what you will.
"I have nothing more that I can say on this subject. Now will you please let me go free to join my packmates? I have restrained myself long enough, I do not think I can hold it any longer. Will you let me go?" Rhodes looked like he was begging again. He was shaking all over, the last bit of reason he had mustered failing once more under the onslaught of the wolfen image onto his personality. He needed desperately to go out and join his pack, and all could see it. He was barely holding back the shape of the wolf; it was poking out in places here and there, such as his eyes and the grayish tinge to his skin, as well as his rather lupine tongue. He was no longer human, he was a werewolf. What more proof did they need than what they saw here before them? What more would it take to convince anybody what had to be done?
Thibaudet stood still for a minute, delaying not because he wanted to keep Rhodes here any longer. He had heard something that sounded so familiar, that statement that Rhodes had used, he knew he had heard it from somewhere before, but he just couldn't place it. The moon had been a goddess to some; it had just been another body in the heavens to others. All of Earth saw it in the sky above them, it was known to each and everyone, from the caveman to the astronaut. Yet it was the beginning of dreams? What dreams? To reach the moon? That had been long since accomplished. They had a small base on it even now of about fifty people. What then could it mean, and where had he heard it before? He hated the thought that he knew something yet could not remember it. Every time he thought he got close to figuring out where he had heard it from it slipped from his mind to dash off to another corner, eluding even his most indirect routes to remember it.
That he was frustrated an unable to concentrate was his mistake, and he knew it as soon as he made it. He should have immediately told Rhodes that yes he could leave, but instead he'd focused on the minor problem of trying to remember some unimportant phrase. The mistake could have proved very perilous indeed. Rhodes could have unleashed the beast and killed them all in his fury. Thibaudet had to be thankful at least for the great restraint Rhodes had shown and was still showing. However, it was not enough to keep him from doing what he did then.
Rhodes sprang from his position, knocking the gun clear with a swift slap of his left hand. His mouth was wide, his teeth growing as they neared Pierre's neck. Thibaudet did everything he could to resist putting his arms in the way. He would rather be killed than become a werewolf. He fell to the ground with Rhodes, still mostly human on top of him. Rhodes did not slash him though, nor did he make any move to bite him. He was tearing instead at his pocket, to get the card that was there. Pierre tried to push the beast off of his chest, but was too winded to do anything but lay there helplessly.
Jansen grabbed the spade that he had used earlier, and slammed the blunt end into Rhodes's back, knocking him back a ways. Pierre watched in horror as Rhodes' clothes began to tear along the seams as his body began to expand. However, he saw the red card in his hand, and hoped that he did not take it with him. Pierre tried to crawl away as Jansen held the beast at bay with his shovel. Pillow and HuggyBear approached cautiously, trying to do their best to help, without getting hurt themselves. The still forming werewolf was slashing at them with the back of his hands, as if to avoid cutting them in anyway.
Pierre noticed it, and tried to gasp for breath. He wanted to cry out that he knew that Rhodes did not want to hurt them at all, and they should just leave him alone and let him run free to his pack. However, he had no breath, and so Jansen continued his brave, but foolhardy, advance on the creature, poking at it with his spade. The creature grabbed the spade in one hand, the other still held the card, and then tossed it aside towards Pillow and HuggyBear. Pillow ducked and rolled to the side, but HuggyBear took the handle full in the stomach, causing him to fall over in agony.
Pierre crawled toward the gun, still gasping for air, his chest aching from the impact, his hand smarting from the sharp slap that it had taken. He had the greatest of admiration of who Rhodes used to be, and of the effort he was showing to not hurt them now, but he still had to stop him before that restraint was almost completely gone. He looked back over his shoulder briefly and saw that he was already covered slightly in dark black fur with silver stripes along his back and thighs. His head was distending slightly, a snout beginning to grow from his jaws. His ears were nearly to the top of his head already, and the amber eyes of coarse glowered with a ravening desire to be free from this troublesome humans.
Jansen of course was smart enough to realize that without his weapon he was no match for the creature. HuggyBear was still rolling about in the dirt clutching his stomach. Pillow on the other hand must have been suicidal. He was standing directly between the werewolf and the nearest door, which it had turned to head towards. Thibaudet stared dumbfounded as he finally began to regain his breath at what he saw before him. The card clutched in one clawed hand the creature advanced on the door growling menacingly at Pillow. Pillow held his arms outstretched, clearly defying the creatures wished to leave by this exit.
"Come on! Scratch me!" Pillow shouted at the beast. "This is the only way out, and you have to get through me to do it!"
"Pillow!" Pierre shouted, scared to death that the kid was going to get himself killed. It was a worthless fight, they were better off letting the werewolf go, it was nearly to full size, and if it stayed much longer it might not have any compunction about killing them all. Thibaudet grabbed for the gun, just inches away from his hand. He finally scrambled to his feet and picked it up, and turned about, trying to aim at the wolf. He did not want to shoot Pillow, which would be tantamount to making him food for the werewolves as Rhodes had said of Lapwolf.
"Come on werewolf! Do it!" Pillow held his chest out invitingly, and the werewolf looked at him, trying to decide what to do, its arm outstretched. The mind of the wolf was starting to take over, because the hand turned about, claws ready to slash Pillow open. Pillow seemed to be inviting it, welcoming the deathblow that was to be struck. How could he do that? What in the world was he thinking? Unless he, like Lapwolf, wanted so much to be a werewolf that he was willing to risk death to get it. Could that be the case? Was he so desperate to have his mind subsumed by the lupine that he was willing to stand in between Rhodes and his pack?
Jansen even looked terrified by what he was seeing. HuggyBear finally recovered enough to stand up on his feet again, "Pillow! No don't do it!"
"I have to do it," Pillow called out in a very low tone, but every one of them heard it. "I have no choice, and neither does the werewolf."
The werewolf, growing a tail now, advanced on him and finally stepped in front of him. Thibaudet could wait no longer; he had to save the life of this foolish boy. There was no other way about it. He pulled the trigger on the gun, and was heartened to see the werewolf take the hit in the shoulder. It spun about then, the blood gushing form the open wound, and howled in rage, the card being crushed in its paw. Thibaudet stammered, if the card was destroyed, then the creature could not leave, and they could not lock themselves in. At least not easily.
Suddenly, it took off down the length of the Greenhouse back towards the end with the desk and two other doors. With a sudden realization of horror, Thibaudet realized that was the end where Lapwolf still lay unconscious. Pillow must have realized it too, as he screamed in anguish, running after the werewolf as fast as he could. Jansen reached an arm out to stop Pillow, who was still as of yet uninjured, but Pillow broke free of his grasp without so much as a twitch. Thibaudet could do nothing more but stare as the two raced down the corridor, the much faster werewolf reaching the far end, and slicing the card through the door. It finally snapped to pieces and fell from his hand after the door slid open to reveal the hallway. Pillow tried to grab for the body of Lapwolf, but the werewolf, a fire in its eyes hot and great with hunger reached down and grabbed Lap's leg with one paw, and tugged hard. Pillow didn't have a chance.
Pillow lay in the dirt, crying as the beast dragged the still prone body of Lapwolf from the door, and then disappeared down the hallway. Thibaudet finally got his legs working again, running down the length of the hall, and stepping outside, the gun at the ready to see if he could see where the werewolf had gone. He saw the trail of blood, either Lap's or Rhodes's he didn't know, leading back towards the bridge. He saw no other sign of the werewolf's presence, but he could hear the fiendish sounds of delight at the return from the kill. With a sudden start, Thibaudet realized that Lapwolf was dead, and there was nothing more anybody could do to help him. He was gone, and Rhodes and his packmates would eat well.
With a sick feeling in his stomach he returned to the Greenhouse, and shut the door behind him. Pillow was bawling on the ground, hitting it with his fists. Jansen was standing by his desk watching both of them, his mouth hanging open slightly in stunned amazement, but he said nothing. HuggyBear was shaking from fright and sadness, his own tears starting to come freely and copiously. Thibaudet turned and looked at the shattered red card. It was in several different pieces, and utterly useless to them now. He looked at the locking mechanism on the door. His own card would have to do. He slipped his blue card through the slot, seeing it lock and put it back.
He sat down next to Pillow, not sure what he could say. His mouth tried to speak, but the look of absolute disgust and sorrow on Pillow's face made everything he wanted to say freeze in his mouth. Pillow was suffering more than Thibaudet could ever know. HuggyBear leaned over and held the crying young man in his arms, Pillow embracing him as best he could. This was not a time for words; this was a time for consolation. He had none to give, they could not come out. He pulled the gun out, examining the contents of the magazine. He had four shots left in the case. Only four more bullets that he could use, four left to defend their lives. Each one worthless. The gun might as well not even be here. It had done them no good.
He leaned against Jansen's desk, feeling as if he were to be sick. Because he had been trying to solve a stupid word game, Lapwolf was dead. He let himself get distracted, and it had cost a life, just as he thought it might. He was not a leader. He was not fit to command these people, they would all die at his hand, and not a single one of them would be left alive. Perhaps it would be better if all of them were werewolves; at least then they would be alive. As the rate they were going, that would not take too much more work. Perhaps they should all stick their arms out the doors of the Greenhouse and let the werewolves slash them to ribbons. That would accomplish the task. They would grow fur, just as Rhodes had done, as had Dutton before him, and most certainly Darkwolf had to begin with.
Three perfectly good men, ones that he had gotten to live in the short period of time he knew them. All of them, werewolves. All of them just as likely to rip his throat out and masticate upon his flesh than they were to completely ignore him or possible even tear about wildly like a dog with rabies. They were animals; but worse, humans were their prey. And he had given them a meal in Lapwolf. If only he had insisted that Rhodes bite him, if only he had just stayed quiet. He could have tried what Pillow had done; waited until he was an actual werewolf and risk getting killed to take an injury. If he had done that, then he might still be alive, instead of making his way to several werewolves' gullets.
He looked over at Pillow who was still crying in HuggyBear's arms. Huggy was trying to reassure him by whispering things in his ear. Pierre idly wondered what they were. What did it matter though? He had gotten Pillow's friend killed and that was that. He, a bloody scientist! He thought he could lead, and look where in his first five minutes he had led them? He had gotten one of them killed because of his arrogant presumption to be able to control the situation. He should have known that Rhodes was going to want to leave immediately after finishing what he was saying. He should not have delayed at all! He had plenty of time to think about that riddle now. He now could spend his time contemplating where that quotation originated from.
Why would he want to though! That sort of contemplation had gotten Lapwolf a free trip to visit the digestive track of a werewolf. What would it do if he let it bug him again? It might very well get himself killed. That might be a much more pleasant possibility than seeing another one of these people die. He could not say he liked Lapwolf, in fact he found him to be an offensive, rude, and completely indomitable. He deserved some punishment. But to be eaten? Was that what it would take to make him learn his lesson? Of course not, one cannot learn a lesson when they were dead.
What about him though, what about Dr. Pierre Thibaudet, the respected Superconductivitist? Could he learn a lesson? He needed several it seemed. What did it mean to be a leader? Was he to accept the losses that they had so far incurred? Rhodes had seemed very determined to go on, to just keep on fighting, even after he knew that his fate lay with the side of his crew's enemy. Thibaudet should not let this mistake destroy him, but he could not help but see that abjectly terrified expression on Pillow's face as the werewolf began to dash to the other side of the Greenhouse. How he wished to abjure that image.
However, an even worse one was before him. Pillow's weeping was ceaseless, only gaining in intensity as the moments passed. It seemed like everything that he had ever cared about had been dragged out that door in one fell swoop. Lapwolf, the complete object of his desire. He could not imagine anything more repulsive than what he had done. Yet what had Pillow been thinking by standing in front of the werewolf like that? What possessed him to risk his life in such a fashion? There had to be a reason behind it.
He finally stood on his feet, and approached the pair that were embraced in sorrow. Jansen grabbed him by the shoulder to pull him back, "Are you sure you want to say anything to him now?" Jansen whispered to him. Apparently all the excitement had killed Jansen's usual surly temper.
"I have to say something," Pierre pointed out, wishing it were not so.
Jansen sighed, turning his head to the side, unable to look at him in the eye anymore. He patted his shoulder a few times and then turned about to walk away. Thibaudet stared after Emil for a few moments, trying to decide if he should change his mind. Jansen seemed to think that talking to these two at this time was a bad idea. Whether he liked it or not, Emil might be right. He started to turn around, and then stopped again. How would it look if he said nothing? How could he look himself in the mirror if he didn't try to console him? How could he look in the mirror anyway? He had been responsible for that boy's death, and it was something new to him. Rhodes may have seen people die before, he may have known what it was like to watch a friend die, but Thibaudet was new to death. It just never happened to him.
"Mary mother of Jesus help me." He pleaded despite himself. He looked down at the individuals wrapped in each other's arms. Pillow had buried his face in HuggyBear's shoulder, while HuggyBear rocked back and forth gently, trying to offer him comforting words. There were no words that were going to comfort that boy. Thibaudet realized it, and turned back away from them again. There was nothing he could do, and he was just deluding and wasting his time if he thought he could try.
He started to walk away, when he realized that he still had the gun in his hand. He stepped over to Jansen's desk and dropped it resoundingly on the flat of the table. He stared at it solemnly. With that gun he thought he was saving a life, but in the end somebody still died. He had done what he thought was right, but it had not been. Yet what else could he have done? What other action lay open to him? If he hadn't fired, Pillow might now very well have been dead. Was he in a catch twenty-two? Was this the situation that was impossible to solve?
He looked back at the weeping figures. No matter how much he kidded himself, he had to do something. There had to be something he could say. He walked back over to them, and saw HuggyBear's glare as he approached. He was not wanted, but the sound of his footsteps brought Pillow to looking around. Thibaudet opened his mouth to offer his condolences, but Pillow gave him a look of sheer venom that once again froze his voice. This time however, Pillow stopped his weeping long enough to ask him a simple question, one that nobody could have answered. "Why?" came from his mouth a plaintive cry to bring back the dead, to change the events of the past. It was the cry of a soul tormented by the loss of a loved one. It was not a soul that could be mollified by mere words.
Thibaudet managed to find his voice though, "Why what?"
"Why did you shoot Rhodes?" Pillow spat back.
"To save your life." Thibaudet was now confused. Pillow was not making any sense.
"I was never in any danger, you idiot!" Pillow shot back through clenched teeth. HuggyBear patted him on the back to reassure him.
"The werewolf was right there in front of you, John. What did you want me to do?" Thibaudet addressed him by his real name. He had no intention of calling him Pillow.
"You should have let him injure me. He would have then left the room through that door and everybody would be fine!" Pillow snapped back. He was quite hot looking now, the anger of the loss flaring in his eyes. Thibaudet felt uncomfortable under their glare. He knew that it was his fault Lapwolf had died, and there was nothing he could do to mollify his spirit.
Thibaudet however, was left unsure by John H. West's words, and the expression on his face must have told Pillow the same thing. Pillow looked like he wanted to get up and strangle him. "If I had been injured, then I would have become a werewolf too. I could have bitten Lapwolf so that he too would have become a werewolf. Then both of us would be alive right now, and Lapwolf would be healing form his injuries. Instead, you had to distract the werewolf and it took his body to eat him! How could you do that?" Pillow was nearly screaming with the rage that was building up inside him.
Thibaudet felt empty and cold inside. He had never thought of that. He had never even realized what Pillow had in mind. "You would have become a werewolf to save him?"
"I would have died to save his life." Pillow spat back. "You should know what that means."
Thibaudet felt sick to his stomach. He began to shiver from the top of his head tot he very bottom of his feet. His arms quivered, unable to remain steady. He just peered at that face full of hatred and loss, and then mumbled "I'm sorry, I didn't know," before turning and running towards a secluded part of the Greenhouse and emptying his stomach. He could taste the bile and the gastric juices as it passed over his tongue and out his mouth. He felt like he was upchucking Lapwolf himself. Not only had he killed him, but also he had stopped a possible chance at him being saved in some form of condition. He was not fit to be leader. They were all going to die, and it was all his fault.
End Part XV