Thibaudet looked at the three people who had managed to get into the Greenhouse. He knew that there had been six over there. He shuddered, knowing full well what had happened to three of them. He locked the door back up and watched as the werewolves slinked off to unknown corners of the ship once more, carrying the body of Sessions who had almost reached the door before they had killed him with them. He finally sat down, leaning his head against the door. If it hadn't been for that card of Anselm's he would have never gotten the door open. Rhodes had locked it from both sides, and his card hardly matched the security rating that Rhodes had. Of course, Anselm, being a Hasmonean, had a higher rating than even Rhodes did. Now they would have to use his card to lock the doors again.
He stepped over to Anselm, who had the card in one hand. "Can I have that for a moment, I need to lock these doors."
Anselm peered up at him, his lungs pumping hard for breath as he sat on the ground. "If you promise to give it back to me," he offered in that cheery voice of his. It was the same voice that he had used when reading Fulton Swiley's foolish book out loud to him. It was a very annoying voice, and Thibaudet couldn't quite tell why.
"Yeah, whatever," Thibaudet muttered as he took the card form his roommate's hand. He then quickly sealed both the door Anselm and the others had come through but also the door that Rhodes had left from only a short while before. It was quite a relief to have those doors sealed. After all, the last thing he wanted to have happen was for those werewolves to figure out that they could now use Dutton's security card to gain access to the Greenhouse. They might as well have left the door open for all the good Pierre's security rating did them. He then walked back to return the card to Anselm, but quickly changed his mind. He pocketed the card and stared at his roommate speculatively.
Anselm got to his feet then, casting a quick glance at the others, "Hey, you promised."
"I'll give it back in a moment, I'm thinking."
"Lots of things. Rhodes put me in charge here, but now that McGee is here, he can take..." Thibaudet stopped as he took his first look at the security guard. His right arm was bleeding, and from the look of the wound it was obvious that he had been bitten by one of the werewolves. He had seen the female jump on top of him, but he had also seen the female getting kicked off of him and had not noticed the biting of his arm. He shuddered seeing it, unable to continue with that thought.
"What is it?"
"McGee's arm," Thibaudet pointed.
McGee rose to a sitting position, putting his good arm to his head, clearing it form the fog of what had just happened. He looked at his arm and the blood exuding from the puncture wounds. "What about my arm?" he asked, looking nervous for the first time that any of them could remember. "Gorecki was about to eat my throat out, I had to stop her someway."
"You were injured. You're a werewolf," Thibaudet could barely say it.
"You are a werewolf now. I don't think you should be in charge anymore. In another hour or hour-and-a-half you will change and join your packmates out there." Thibaudet pointed out the door.
Handley let out a little surprised shock. All eyes turned towards her. Her hand was touching the slight scar on her cheek, "Does this apply to me too?" she whispered softly.
"Was that from a werewolf?" Thibaudet pointed at the scar.
"Then I am afraid so."
Handley looked distant for a moment, then finally settled down, her whole body shivering. Her eyes had a vacant expression to them, and she didn't say anything more. Her hand fell from her face, touching the scar no more. The one hand found its way into her pocket, where she pulled out what looked to be a bit of hair. Thibaudet took a closer gander at it and saw that it was not hair, but a thick tangled mess of the fur from one of those beasts. Her hand was pulling gently at it, tearing, stretching, and struggling to work free the knot at its center. The fur was grey with a hint of tan at its edges. Handley bit at her lip, the coppery curls of her hair unfurled, a twisted mess, but not nearly as disorderly as the knot of fur she was meticulously working at.
The others in the Greenhouse were coming over to take a closer look as well. Jansen for once did not look like he was about to rant, but instead wore an expression of genuine concern. Lassie was standing next to him, her eyes watering at the sight of the injured. Pillow and HuggyBear just shook their heads sadly. None knew just what to say or do; they all just stood there. Thibaudet tried to think of something he could say to comfort them, but what could he say? What does one say to a person who is becoming a slavering beast intent on killing others? What could he say at all? There were no words of consolation. He had none for Rhodes; he had none for McGee or Handley.
Thibaudet then turned back to McGee then who was cradling his arm in one hand, his eyes closed, his face scrunched up in concentration. "McGee, what did you say just a little while ago?"
McGee popped one eye open and stared up at him, a bit perplexed, "I said a lot of things. What did you want to know?"
Thibaudet licked his lips, trying to recall just what it was that had latently sparked a thought. "You said somebody had bitten your arm. I assume it was a werewolf, but you gave a name to it. Who was it that bit you?"
"Oh, that was Gorecki. I know because she's the only one it could be. I mean, there are only five females on this ship all together, and only one of them knows any martial arts. Besides, I knew her style, it was her." McGee pointed out, his other coming open then, the momentary weakness at the telling of his fate gone. Had he accepted it so easily? Had he grown used to the idea of being a werewolf so rapidly that it no longer bothered him? Thibaudet shuddered at how simple it seemed for the security guard. He would rather die than be a werewolf. The loup garou was not a fate that he wished to pursue or even accept. The albatross, perhaps, but not the wolf.
"Gorecki." Thibaudet mouthed the word, looking back over the others. He stared at Jansen who was giving him a perplexed look.
"What are you thinking, Pierre?" Anselm interrupted.
Thibaudet ignored him for the moment and instead asked, "Emil, what did Rhodes say about Gorecki, I remember hearing something."
Jansen cocked his head to one side, scratching his chin. "I think he said that she was dead."
"That's what I thought too."
"I remember something like that," Lassie piped in.
"I thought he just assumed she was dead," McGee pointed out. "I mean, I know that was really Gorecki."
Thibaudet leaned against a nearby tree, rubbing his side contemplatively. "I don't really know. I mean, we never saw the body. Still, we do know a few people who are dead, Xenakis, Danielpour, and Tembo. How many werewolves did you see out there?"
Thibaudet began counting off on his fingers. He held eight of them up, and took one down for each name. "All right, let's assume for the sake of argument that Corigliano and Gorecki both survived whatever attack struck at them. That leaves six werewolves unaccounted for. We know that both Rhodes and Dutton are werewolves, so that leaves us with four. Who is left out there to become a werewolf?"
"Darkwolf," Lassie supplied. "Darkwolf and Black-Tiger."
Thibaudet nodded, glancing at Anselm briefly. Anselm was just listening in, a near clueless expression on his face. "That leaves two more werewolves."
"Lovewolf we know, and there was one more in the Engine Room," Lassie added again, the tears still in her eyes as she looked at Handley who was blankly staring past them all.
"That would be either Kilpatrick or Penny then." McGee pointed out. McGee then had a very skeptical look. "I doubt that either of those two were among the eight out there. The door to the Engine Room was damaged in such a way that it was impossible to get out from the inside. Was the door closed that you saw?" That last was directed at Lassie.
"I'd say then that those two are still locked up in the Engine Room and that whichever one it is - Kilpatrick or Penny - the other is quite dead."
"Why couldn't the other werewolves just open the door up from the outside?" Jansen asked.
McGee looked stunned, "I don't know. Perhaps they just haven't gotten around to it yet. Still, is there anybody else unaccounted for?"
"Three more scientists," Thibaudet nodded. "Arkady, Bowman, and Saltonstall."
"Well, in that case, we could be dealing with at most thirteen werewolves," McGee concluded.
Jansen shook his head, "No, that's eighteen, maybe even nineteen."
All eyes turned towards Jansen, each wondering just how he had come up with that number. "How do you figure that?" Pierre finally asked him.
"Well, there were six in your party when you left, correct McGee?"
"Three of them didn't make it, that means they might be werewolves. Plus, we know that there are at least two more werewolves. Yourself and Dr. Handley there. That makes eighteen."
"And the nineteenth?"
"Well, there is a possibility that both Kilpatrick and Penny are still alive, and Lassie just missed the second. That would make it nineteen."
"Nineteen werewolves?" Thibaudet was stunned by the enormity of the situation. If there were that many than what hope did they have of making it back to Earth without any fur of their own. "That leaves how many of us as humans, six?"
Jansen looked about the room, counting the heads, "That's right, just six."
"This is hopeless." HuggyBear sighed suddenly. "Every half-hour it seems like somebody else is joining their ranks. What are we going to do?"
Thibaudet took a close look at them all, "We are going to stay right here, that is what. And McGee, Handley, I'm sorry but we are going to have to kick the both of you out as soon as you start to get funny sensations. Tell me the moment you do, because I do not want to risk another person getting infected."
"I understand." McGee nodded, returning to his meditative state.
She did not move, her hands still fiddling with the tuft of fur, and her eyes locked on nothingness. Her mouth was hanging open in a stupor. Thibaudet reached over and shook her shoulder, "Dr. Handley?"
She turned her head to face him, the color washing back into her face and her eyes blinking several times as she stared at him. She dropped the piece of fur, but quickly picked it back up again. She stuffed it into her pocket and then let her hands come to rest in her lap, "Yes?"
"Do you understand?"
"Understand what?" her face was perplexed. It was obvious that she had not heard a word of what any of them had been saying.
"I said that as soon as you start to feel anything remotely odd you are to tell us. I am going to be forced to put you out of this room, for the safety of the others here. Do you understand?" Thibaudet patiently reiterated.
Handley looked shocked and terrified. "Put me out there? With those beasts?"
She reached up a hand and gripped Thibaudet arm's so he couldn't stand up straight, but was forced to lean over as he tried to calm her down. Her nails were digging into his shirt, and for a moment he got a very terrible thought. What if Lapwolf had been correct, that a simple bite or a slash even while they still looked human would be enough to spread the disease? He grabbed her hand, and applied pressure to her knuckles, making them come loose. "I don't have a choice. Those beasts won't hurt you anymore. In a little while you are going to be just like them."
That was the wrong thing to say and he knew it immediately. Her other hand shot up and grabbed his other arm, though this time her nails did not dig so fiercely into his muscles. She was shaking with fright, "I'm going to be like them?"
"Yes, you are a werewolf, Dr. Handley."
"Yes, a loup garou, changes into half-man half-wolf when the moon is full. Well it is going to be full for quite sometime now. I don't quite know what to expect, other than you are going to get large and very hairy. You will look at us as food, and that is simply something that I cannot accept. Deal with it Handley, there is no other way out."
"Please, there has to be a way," Handley was practically on her knees begging him now, her eyes pleading with him to stop the inevitable. How he wished he could.
Thibaudet took another sidelong glance at Anselm. He was watching the scene - everyone was in fact - but his face betrayed nothing else other than his concern for her. Thibaudet steeled himself, he hated doing this, "Dr. Handley, there is no way to stop it! At least none that I know of. I really can do nothing to help you other than try to tell you what to expect. Rhodes described it to me, he said it was like a wolf trying to invade all of his thoughts. I don't know what he meant by it, but I am sure you will."
Handley leaned into his legs and sobbed at what he said. There was no energy left in her but to weep, and Thibaudet could think of no better reaction. She was mourning her own death, a death caused by a simple scratch. That it was unfair could not be contested. Very little in life was fair though. There was nothing she could do, and there was nothing neither he nor anybody else could do for her. With one possible exception. If his suspicions were correct, then Anselm knew exactly what to do. That he was the only one to make it to the Greenhouse without a scratch bugged him in a way. That he was affecting that very affable fellow routine again irked him in a way that he could not even begin to describe. It was like a constant itch, only this one kept changing places every time he scratched.
"I'm sorry," He finally offered, though he knew it would do no good. Handley's grip on his arm loosened, and he pulled it free. He let her lie back down in a weeping slump against the wall. She crumpled there, crying into the ground, her whole body heaving with her sorrow. Thibaudet felt sick from the sight of it. It reminded him of the kind of crying that Pillow had done when Lapwolf had been dragged form the room by Rhodes only a short time ago. Pillow had long since stopped crying, but he could see the accusation in his eyes every time they met. It was unsettling, and he found himself staying away from the Shapeshifters all the more since it had happened. Despite Jansen's reassurances, he still felt that it was his fault. Yet, he was not going to let it stop him from doing his job of saving the lives of the rest of them. That much he had learned.
Glancing at McGee, Pierre saw that the man was indeed meditating. His face was perfectly calm, the creases all gone, the receding hairline perfectly smooth. Everything about him seemed at peace. He wondered just what was going through his mind, if anything at all. Was he trying to lock some part of him away so that the wolf could not have it, no matter how much it wanted it? Was he trying to conduct peace negotiations with the wolf to only cede so much, and at certain times? He wasn't sure that he would ever understand it. Eastern philosophies were a mystery to him, probably more so than theology was. He had been raised a Catholic, so he knew some of God, yet still, it was not his concern. He had always worried about what he could see, what he could observe. Eastern mysticism and religion in general did not supply that.
He turned back to the others; each was looking slightly shaken by this latest turn of events. Nineteen possible werewolves! That was an insane number. If there were that many, then what were their chances of surviving? If they stayed put, they were pretty good. Still, it would not take long before other considerations stepped in. He doubted that any of them were going to get any sleep. He knew that he certainly wasn't. The adrenaline rush was just too much to overcome. Restrooms were not a concern either, as there were plenty of trees about and bushes were people could take care of their business. Food was the only real concern. They had none of it, and he certainly knew that he was getting hungry. Still, he was not going to risk everybody's humanity over an empty stomach.
However, he had many questions, and there was finally a person here who could at least try to answer them. Or at least, he knew the answers. Whether he would give them was a different story. Thibaudet still had a few bullets left in his gun, though he'd hate to have to use them on his roommate. No matter how much he did not trust the man, he was not going to kill him. He turned to Anselm and walked over to sit down in front of him. Anselm smiled at him, a weak smile, as his eyes darted to look over at the two still human looking werewolves. "What's on your mind, Pierre?"
Thibaudet sighed, "Lots of things. I was hoping that perhaps you could help me alleviate some of them."
Anselm gave him a reassuring smile, and pat on the shoulder, "Hey, you know I'm always there for you, roomie."
Thibaudet nodded, smiling a little at that. "Well, first off, let's get one thing straight. I know that you are a Hasmonean, everybody in this room knows it now as well. Now, tell us what exactly you are doing here. You've hedged me on that question long enough. I want answers."
The directness of his words had the desired effect. Anselm's face fell quickly, and he leaned back to the wall, taking his hand of Thibaudet's shoulder as he did so. Frederick took a deep breath, considering his face with a very clinical look. He then smiled again, "Why Thibaudet, what makes you think I am doing anything that concerns you?"
"You didn't answer my question," Thibaudet pointed out in harsh tones. He most certainly did not like the way Anselm so easily smiled and so condescendingly turned the discussion away from what he wanted to talk about.
"I'm acutely aware of that. Still, I want to know. What do you suspect me of?" Anselm did not flinch at his rash tones.
"I'm the one asking questions here," Thibaudet spoke through his teeth while glowering at the psychologist. "Now, what are you doing here?"
Anselm shrugged, "Same as you, I am conducting experiments in my particular field of study."
"Psychology? Just what sort of experiments are you working on?"
"Sorry, I cannot tell you that?" Anselm shook his head, sighing.
"What the Hell can you tell us then?" Jansen snapped at him as he stood over Pierre's shoulder. Pierre hadn't noticed him come behind him. He took a moment to see that the three Shapeshifters were idly sitting behind him listening in. Handley was still crying into the dirt, and McGee was lost in his own world. Was there such a thing as private conversation?
"Well that really depends on what you want to know," Anselm pointed out, the smile widening on his face. "I'm very happy to talk about many things. This is just one that I am afraid I cannot go into."
"Does it have something to do with werewolves?" Thibaudet prodded.
"I cannot say."
"Do you care if we die?"
Anselm's smile faded, "Believe it or not, but I care a great deal. I will not lie to you, ever. I want all of you to live. I want us all to live. I don't like death anymore than you do."
Thibaudet sighed, "Why don't I believe you?"
"Because you think I'm a Hasmonean and because of what you've probably heard about them you think they are untrustworthy folks," Anselm replied drily.
"Are you a Hasmonean?"
"Yes," came Anselm's surprising response. "I am a Hasmonean. As I said, I will not lie to you. Would you like to see my ID to prove it?"
"That won't be necessary."
"I don't admit this lightly. We are very secretive about what we do, and in fact, I'd be happier if you all did not know about us at all. However, I think you all have endured enough for me to say a few things. I trust you all not to go about spreading silly rumors."
Thibaudet stared at him. He was a very strange man; he was not quite sure what he wanted. He did not want to talk, but he was freely admitting he was a Hasmonean, somebody who seemed to be bordering on the edge of reality, at least from what Rhodes had told him it seemed that way. He sighed, "Speaking of rumors, care to validate a few that I've heard?"
"Of course, lies are always our worst enemy," Anselm smiled again.
"I heard a story about this guy who lead a bunch of college students in some strange ritual. The department of comparative theology or something along those lines. Well this guy, I'd heard he was called Bob had them perform some ancient Babylonian ritual."
"It was Norse." Jansen interrupted.
"Who's telling this story?" Thibaudet asked petulantly.
"Sorry," Jansen shut up again.
"Anyway, it was this Norse ritual. Apparently the girl they performed it on is still in the asylum and half the participants converted to paganism, even the atheists. Did that ever happen?" Thibaudet finished saying all that he remembered.
Anselm looked thoughtful for a moment, "I don't know if it happened or not, but it does sound like the sort of thing that might have happened. We have been involved in that area of work before. Not me personally, but others in the agency I know do specialize in Norse rituals."
"You admit to being a party to making a girl go mad?"
"No, I admit that it might have happened. I don't know if it did or not. Some minds are just not ready for the things we show them."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Just what I said. Some minds cannot comprehend the things that they have seen through our help. How many different ways do you want me to phrase it?"
"As many ways as you can."
Anselm gave him a sarcastic look, but didn't say anything else.
Thibaudet sighed, "That isn't the only rumor I've heard. I also heard about this Hasmonean who hired a bunch of people to go to this ancient cave community in the Rocky Mountains. Apparently the central room in the caves was some powerful place that would change any human into the race of the creatures that used to dwell there. Supposedly, not everybody the Hasmonean hired came back. I'd heard that they were rebuilding this community of things that were once human. Is this true?"
Anselm laughed then, a bright cheery laugh. "I can assure you, that is a total fabrication. I've never heard anything quite so ridiculous in my time. I've seen some strange things, some that you couldn't imagine, but I know for a fact that that particular rumor is completely made up."
Thibaudet nodded, "For some reason, that is reassuring. All right, I don't really have anymore rumors to ask you about. Those were the only ones I could recall. Now, I have another question for you. What is the Hasmonean interest in the moon?"
"The moon?" Anselm looked surprised by the question. "I don't know what you mean."
"Don't give me that. What is your agency's interest in the moon?"
Anselm sighed, "I think you are asking one of those questions that I don't want to answer again."
Thibaudet did not want to lose the focus of the discussion so quickly attacked. "So you're saying that your research here does have to do with the moon then doesn't it?"
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to. What was it you asked Arkady and I to do shortly after launch? You needed help carrying a cartload of rocks to your office? You said they were moon rocks. Now just what is a psychologist doing with moon rocks?"
Anselm sighed, "I'm afraid you won't understand."
"You never know until you try to explain it."
Anselm smiled at him. "For me to do that, you would need to assume everything you know is wrong. And that includes all of science. What I am studying goes beyond the purview of science."
"How can you go beyond the purview of science?" Jansen interrupted a bit testily.
"Do you believe in God, Dr. Jansen?" Anselm asked pointedly.
"Why of course I do."
"Then you have just gone beyond the purview of science."
"There is no but, Dr. Jansen. Religion and Science are two different ways of looking at the world. They have their crossovers, but they are distinct. To accept one does not mean you have to deny the validity of the other."
"Well that makes sense," Jansen admitted.
"Perhaps I can explain it after all," Anselm mused.
"The moon is more than just the only major satellite orbiting Earth. It is a nexus point of powers that we cannot describe using science. It has spurred on the imagination of many a dreamer. That is its power. It awakens things in us that we would not have otherwise known or been able to accomplish."
" '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.' Or at least, that's how I think the quote goes," Thibaudet supplied.
"Yes, from the opening of the second chapter of Fulton Swiley's book," Anselm agreed. "Very accurate assessment if I might say so myself."
"Odd, that's not what I thought I was quoting." Thibaudet was lost in thought for a moment trying to remember just where he'd heard it from. "No matter. So what does this have to do with werewolves? I know that you are responsible somehow for all of this."
Anselm looked at the others and shook his head, "This is not my fault! I have a feeling this would have happened with or without me. I did nothing to spur it on. I did not even know that this was going to happen." He gestured to McGee and Handley as he spoke. "Do you think I wanted this to happen to them?"
Thibaudet took a deep breath before continuing on. "You are dodging the question again."
"Infuriating isn't it?" Anselm remarked with a sudden smirk.
Thibaudet sighed. That rescue ship better get here soon. If they took too much longer he was certain that he'd change his mind about killing Anselm. Strangulation sounded like the most satisfactory method. Getting his hands about his neck and throttling him a time or two would really make him feel a lot better. He looked at Anselm again. No matter how he felt, he couldn't do it. If he just kept it up, eventually Anselm would break and reveal something that would be useful, or merit that strangulation. It was just a matter of time.
End Part XIX