Dr. Everett Saltonstall stared at the flashing screen with a bit of trepidation. He fingered the glossy radio that sat on his bed next to him. He wanted to call them, he knew the frequency, but his orders were explicit; he needed to wait for a signal before he could call. He wiped his hand through his hair as he bored his eyes into the image. It was clear that Thibaudet was quite frustrated. He could see it in the body language, though he could not hear anything else. The way he fingered the gun at his side, the way he gesticulated with his arms, and the way he paced back in forth told him all he needed to know. Thibaudet wanted to know what was going on, suspected Anselm, and Anselm was giving him his usual treatment.
Saltonstall had been the recipient of the Anselm treatment enough times to know that it was indeed very frustrating. Anselm liked to hide things beyond the point of reason, unless he had absolutely no choice but to reveal it. He enjoyed watching others squirm about with the problem. The one good thing about Anselm was that he would admit to anything revealed, or properly guessed and for the right reasons. Still, his reluctance to explain things was certainly frustrating Pierre. He wished that he could call them and interrupt, that way giving both a chance to calm down and be more reasonable. Still, he had his orders. He looked at the radio for a moment, sighing at his inability to help. He turned back to the screen, and flipped channels a bit, trying to find where the werewolves had taken the three scientists whom they'd infected.
Dr. Thibaudet glared at Anselm, his fists clenching and unclenching at frequent intervals. He had to remain calm; he did not want to blow up, at least not yet. There had to be a way to get Anselm to confess to what was going on around here, to get him to admit his involvement. He was responsible for the deaths of many people on this ship, and he was not going to escape that. However, he first had him to admit to it. That was the trick. Confessions under gunpoint were simply hard to believe, and easily contestable. He was sorely tempted to pull that gun out and point it at that frustrating psychologist but he knew that it would solve nothing, at least not yet.
He took a deep breath, and then regarded the man once more. Dr. Frederick Anselm was sitting comfortably on the ground with his back to the wall. He still had that confidant smile on his face. His bright eyes pierced him, letting him know that he was not in control of the situation; Anselm was. That fact alone infuriated him more probably than any other. Here he was, placed in charge by Captain Rhodes himself, and he can't even order his former roommate about. Instead, the completely indomitable man with the simple question manages to turn everything around and set it on his own terms. Pierre was determined to change that, but he didn't even know how to start to go about it. Pulling his gun on him would certainly change the balance, but what would it really accomplish. He didn't know, and didn't want to find out.
Thibaudet stood directly before Anselm, Jansen and the three Shapeshifters at his back, and then lowered to his haunches. "So," he said in a soft voice, "let's take this back to the beginning again shall we. Now, are you a Hasmonean?"
Anselm nodded, "Yes. That has long since been established."
"And you admit that the Hasmoneans have been involved in reenacting ancient rituals that were believed to have some sort of supernatural power?"
"Absolutely," Anselm agreed rather quickly. He did not seem the least bit concerned that they knew about this government agency that had heretofore been unheard of outside the government itself. If he was willing to admit that, and that his agency might have been the cause of a girl's being committed to a mental hospital, then what in the world was he not admitting? Just how impossible was it? How could it be worse than the fact that there were now werewolves on board this ship? How bad could it be?
"Do you consider werewolves to be a supernatural phenomenon?" Thibaudet pressed.
Anselm shrugged. "Well that really depends on what you mean by supernatural. If you mean something that does not occur in the Universe then obviously the answer is no. We've both seen the werewolves, and they are very real, and I must admit, very frightening. I am glad I made it through all that in one piece." Anselm then pointed over towards Handley and McGee. Handley was still staring at nothing, her eyes completely vacant. McGee looked very calm, serene. It was obvious that he was meditating. Thibaudet wondered just how in the world he could do that at a time like this. "What are you going to do about them? After all, you said so yourself, they are werewolves now."
Pierre grimaced, "I already told them to tell me when they feel the wolf taking over. Now stop avoiding the question. Do you think werewolves are supernatural creatures?"
Anselm cocked his head to one side, smiling knowingly. "And I told you, by what definition of supernatural? There are many definitions of supernatural, and not all of them are correct. Let me assure you that I will be completely frank with you if you just give me enough information."
Thibaudet wanted to laugh at the irony of that request. Anselm wanted information? What more information did he need? He was the mastermind behind this whole affair, how dare he ask for more information! What could he give Frederick that he didn't already have? Thibaudet seethed from the audacity of the request. Why was it that he never gave a straight answer? Did he take some perverse pleasure in watching him flounder about like this? Thibaudet was not going to put up with it.
"Fine, you want a definition of supernatural, here's your definition. Supernatural, that which operates contradictory to the laws of science. Is that a satisfactory enough definition for you? Or would you rather me give you a list of synonyms? Perhaps you want to know all the different pronunciations of the word. Would you like to hear it in Français?" Thibaudet had to put his hands into the dirt to keep them from reaching to strangle the man. That would feel good, the flesh of his neck beneath his fingers, constricting and suffocating. The act of preventing him from taking a breath, that one thing he'd need to do to stay alive, somehow seemed like an alluring prospect.
"Calm down, Pierre," Jansen muttered softly behind him. Thibaudet wanted to glare at the botanist, but he kept his gaze focused on Anselm.
Anselm shook his head, "No, Français will not be necessary. What you have given me is enough." He took a deep breath, and turned to face the two new werewolves. He licked his lips, staring at their still human flesh, human faces, human hands, and human bodies. It looked like he was considering them, considering what they would become. He glanced at him from the side, not moving his head a bit. The smile that was usually there was gone, replaced by a speculative frown. "By that definition of supernatural, I would say that yes, werewolves are supernatural. They defy all science."
"Don't you mean science as we know it?" Jansen butted in, intent on taking part in the interrogation.
"No, I mean all science."
"That doesn't make any sense. How can we know all of science when we are discovering new things everyday?" Jansen asked again. Thibaudet stole a quick glance over his shoulder at the scientists who was standing off to the side, leaning over slightly. Lassie was behind him, watching, her face creased with worry and confusion.
Anselm yawned, "Like I said, you would not understand."
"Help us to understand then!" Thibaudet pressed.
"This I can explain, I think you might be able to grasp it. It has to do with what I and my fellow Hasmoneans have dedicated themselves to doing. I am under orders not to reveal certain things, I trust that you can respect that at the very least. However, I will tell you as much as I deem worthwhile."
"Fine, " Thibaudet leaned back a bit, folding his arms across his chest, "tell us."
Anselm took another deep breath, exhaling very slowly. He worked his tongue through his mouth, appearing to be dwelling on what it was that he could say. Thibaudet was running out of patience, but it seemed that Anselm was finally going to explain something, what more could he want? He folded his legs up underneath him, but did not remove his eyes from his quarry once. This was a war of attrition, and he had gone through more than he had wanted to already. He could not stop now, the memories of Rhodes, Dutton, Lovewolf, and all the others who had died or grew fur making that morally unconscionable.
"Let me try to explain this by comparison. Imagine that you are trying to solve a puzzle. You fiddle with it over time, and eventually you find the solution. But you find many wrong answers before that, many trails that did not lead you anywhere. Yet at the same time they showed you interesting things. Now imagine that you are the person who made the puzzle. If that is the case, then you already know the solution, do you not? Of course you do. You do not waste time going through the wrong possibilities, you just solve it. What is the difference between these two situations?" Anselm stopped, obviously intent on having Thibaudet answer it himself.
Pierre shrugged, "I guess it would be that in the first one I didn't know the solution and in the second I did."
Anselm shook his head lightly. "No, that's not quite it. Even in the first you were able to find the solution."
Thibaudet shrugged, "I don't know then."
Suddenly Pillow's voice chimed in, "The first time he didn't know how to look at it, and the second he did."
Anselm smiled, "Very good. It seems that the young Shapeshifter has beaten you to the answer, roomie."
Thibaudet grunted, looking back at Pillow who had an inquisitive expression on his face. The fierce anger and sorrow were gone, almost as if they had not been there. He was at ease now, and thinking clearly over this new problem. In a way he was glad about that, it meant that he wouldn't be as much of a burden when it came to doing his job. Then again, he might just be hiding that pain, and it could be released at any time, most likely at the worst possible moment. Still, he had to think of the solution, not the problem; he would accomplish nothing by thinking of the problem.
"I still don't see what the difference is," Thibaudet admitted. In truth, he didn't. He did not know why he was wrong and the boy was right. Wasn't the way a person looked at a problem just a circumlocution for the solution itself? Perhaps there was some vagary of the nomenclature that Anselm was abusing and he'd missed it. Whatever the subtlety was, he was sure that Anselm was going to make it obvious.
"There is a very powerful difference between the two. There is a difference between seeing the problem and solving the problem. Let me put it this way, the problem here is that you have a puzzle. Let us, for simplicity's sake, say that this puzzle is a maze. Now, there is only one path through a maze, correct?" Pierre nodded. Anselm smiled and continued speaking in very scholastic tones, "That implies that every other path is incorrect. Therefore, to find the way out of the labyrinth, you must be able to see the solution. Now, have you ever solved a maze before?"
"Certainly, my Dad used to give me mazes on paper to solve when I was little. They're in all the little activity books." Thibaudet suddenly remember the one that his father had made himself. It had been a very tricky maze, especially considering the fact that there was no conventional solution. There had been some very elaborate rules that had to be applied, and they could each only be applied once. He could move the location of one wall, and he had to do it in such a way that he didn't hamper the structural integrity of the maze, since there was apparently a weight pushing downwards. It had been more like a physics problem than a maze, but it had been very entertaining nonetheless. The visage of his father's smile at seeing his son proudly demonstrate the solution was heartwarming. How he wished he could tell his father that yes, he too could still solve such things, but that depended on him getting back to Earth alive.
"Have you ever been in a life-size maze? Such as the type found in extravagant palace gardens or in amusement parks?"
"Once I think. There was a hedge maze at the chateau of a friend of my father's back when I was very young that I once went into. I got so lost that it I cried until my parents came and found me. I never went back in there again." Thibaudet wasn't quite sure why he was telling him this, but for some reason it felt good to say it. He was supposed to be trying to get Anselm to explain why the werewolf defied explanation from any science they could ever know. He was not sure where at all he was trying to go with this argument.
"Well, I'm glad your parents found you," Anselm replied sympathetically. "They must have been very worried."
"Yes, but can we please get back to the topic at hand?"
"Oh, of course," Anselm replied sheepishly. He put a finger into the dirt and tried to draw a line, and then changed his mind. "Well, did you not have to use a different method to find the solution for mazes on paper and the hedge maze?"
"I don't know, I wasn't really old enough to know what I was doing."
"Well, still you see what I mean. With a maze on paper you can see all the paths at once, you may not be able to follow them all at once, but you can see them. With your hedge maze, you can only see one path at a time. Do you not think that you will have to apply other methods to solve the maze?"
"I could just take all right turns, and then if I hit a dead end, go back to the last intersection and take the other path. I'd find the exit eventually."
"Yes, but still, it's not quite the same thing as seeing whether the path will dead end quickly or not. You can develop better strategies with a paper maze can you not?"
Jansen piped in, "I always started from the exit and found which path went back to the entrance."
Anselm nodded, "That is a way to do it that you can't do in a life-sized maze. Very good, Emil."
"Okay, I think I'm beginning to see what you are saying about that, but I still don't know how this applies to the werewolves," Thibaudet protested, sounding a bit bored.
Anselm held up a hand, "Let me explain a bit more and then I will get to it." Thibaudet regarded him coolly. Anselm had better get to the point quickly; he was getting quite frustrated. Anselm once again stole a glance of the two new werewolves before continuing, "The difference is in the manner of perception. We can perceive the whole problem at once, or we can perceive a part at a time. Depending on which we do, will in part determine our strategy to working out a solution. Is it becoming clearer to you now?"
"Vaguely. Continue please."
"Okay, so we are given the same system, it has all of its vagaries and differing properties, and we have found that there is more than one way to look at it. Is it still the same thing regardless how we examine it? Of course it is! Have you ever heard the story of the men feeling a statue of an elephant in pitch-blackness? One feels a leg and declares it to be like a tree, another finds its trunk and claim that it is like a hose, and another finds its underbelly and says that it is like a ship. All three are right in the particular area that they are describing, but they do not see the complete picture. If we just turn on the light, they cannot deny that they are seeing an elephant.
"The same principle applies elsewhere. The Universe can be viewed through different lenses, differing perspectives. When you only look at it from one angle, you miss part of the picture. Getting lost in the hedge maze gave you a unique perspective I'm sure. It is the same principle. Everything can be seen if only it is looked at from the right perspective. The werewolf is a perfect example of that. It can make perfect sense as long as you do not hold it to the laws of biochemistry. If you try to apply it to science you find that it does not fit anywhere. That is what I meant when I said that it can never be a part of science."
"I still don't see it. What if we discover something in another ten years that accomplishes much the same thing as the werewolf does now?" Thibaudet asked, wondering why he wasted so much time on the maze illustration when he could have jumped right into the discussion of perspectives. He could follow that. He did have the capability to think abstractly after all.
"Well, let me try again then. What I am saying is that science can only see that which fits its particular perspective, or lens if you will. The werewolf falls outside that lens. There is no way it can be harmonized."
Anselm took a deep breath. He looked past Thibaudet at the others, his eyes darting over them each, trying to gauge what he should do or say next. He sighed, "I can't quite explain that I think. I think you're pushing the limits of my understanding now. I am not the genius who figured this out, I'm just somebody who can appreciate the implications."
"What implications?" Thibaudet pressed.
McGee's eyes suddenly popped open, "I think what he is trying to say is that there are other ways to model the Universe, not just science." He stood up, stretched his legs, and felt his injured arm once more, noting that the wounds had stopped bleeding. "I should wash this off." He began to walk towards the open utilities closet, but turned back for a moment, "Pierre, you need to let your imagination handle these questions. You won't figure out what Anselm is saying unless you can deny that you know anything."
Thibaudet shook his head, "I don't quite think that is what he means, I think Anselm here is running us over the same ground we went over just ten minutes ago. I think he's deliberately making what he said before about the werewolf falling outside the purview of science is exactly the same as what he's saying now. Only this time, it's a bit more philosophical. I don't care for philosophy. I want to know what is going on. I want to know how to stop it."
McGee shrugged, "Still, I think you may need to listen to his words if you want to stop them, and soon me. Have you ever heard the wolf's voice before, Pierre? He is a very interesting character, benign as far as I can tell."
"Benign? Eating Lapwolf is benign?" Pillow exploded suddenly at McGee, his arms shaking in anger. Thibaudet looked at the kid, his cheeks were red and his eyes were flaring. He'd expected this; John H. West had only been hiding his feelings beneath a veneer of complacency. He was still as hotheaded as he had been before. He wondered if he would start crying anytime soon.
McGee shrugged his shoulders, "I said the wolf seemed benign. I did not say it was. Once again, perception is key. I think we may find that it is the only thing that ever really matters. Excuse me, I must take care of this." He gestured at his arm, and then walked past the still fuming Pillow. John seethed for a moment, before a comforting touch from HuggyBear got his nerves back in control. Thibaudet watched McGee march over to the utility closet before turning his head back to Anselm. Dr. Frederick Anselm was idly cleaning his fingernails with his teeth. He pulled his hand away and smiled once he noticed Pierre.
"So there are different ways to look at the Universe, I thought we'd said that already, but I'll let it pass. What I want to know is why we know that the werewolf might not eventually fall under the principles of science, and just what implications there are of this lens theory of yours?"
Anselm sighed, "As to the first, it should be obvious. The underlying principle, the lens of science is the observed repeatability of events. The werewolf does not meet this criterion. End of discussion."
"Sure it does, it changes under the full moon and can't be killed by normal means. What more do you want?"
"Do you realize how silly you sound?"
"Do you realize that up until six to seven hours ago, I didn't believe in werewolves?"
"So, why doesn't the werewolf fall under this lens?"
"Because there is no consistency to the change." Anselm stared intensely at McGee for a moment, and then looked back to Pierre. "I'm sure you realize that tests have been run on them to see if they could fit into the scientific mold."
"So you knew about werewolves before you set foot on this ship?"
"How much do you know?"
"That I cannot tell you."
"Will you try to be useful to us, just this once?"
"Only if it is allowed. I do have my obligations after all."
Thibaudet finally jumped to his feet, unable to stand the evasions and the half-explanations and the way he so deftly turned the questions back on him. He stormed off to look out the door that those three had just barely managed to get through for a few moments. He noted the fresh blood on the ground, and privately wished that some of it were Anselm's. No, that wouldn't be good. If Anselm became a werewolf, then the only one who could answer his questions would be gone. Whether he liked it or not, he needed Anselm. He looked back at the man, noting that Handley was starting to come out of her daze. Slowly, but surely she was becoming aware of what was about her. Her eyes scanned things, moving every once in a while, and her hands were rhythmically opening and closing. Thibaudet felt sorry for her. She was going to be faced with a fate that horrified him. It was a fate that none should have to face. Anselm did not seem concerned about it. Of course not, he'd been the one who'd caused it!
"I take it that you aren't going to tell me anything are you?"
Anselm shook his head, "Now that's unfair. I've admitted many things to you. Many things that you did not know. I've revealed myself, made myself vulnerable to you in a way that you cannot understand, or apparently appreciate. I've done my best to explain the things as I understand them. Just because I don't tell you something doesn't mean that I'm hiding it or not telling you anything at all. I simply don't understand some of it myself. Do you think I am completely in control of everything that goes on in this ship? Hardly! I too am at the mercy of the lupines. The fact that I made it here unscathed is not because I mystically was controlling everything, no, it was from luck. I could have died out there just as easily as anybody else could. I've done my best to be honest with you. There is just certain things that I cannot say."
"Are you going to tell me that you had nothing to do with any of this? You've admitted already that you knew about werewolves before you came on board this ship."
Anselm looked away a moment. "I'm not completely free of that responsibility."
"So, you are responsible for all of this?"
"No! I am not responsible for all of this. The only thing that I stand at fault is that I knew about werewolves, and haven't said anything about it yet."
"Then tell us everything you know."
"Because, I told you, I am under orders not to reveal that information."
Thibaudet felt himself reaching for the gun again. But instead decided to change tactics, he was only getting more infuriated by this man. "You created the werewolf didn't you? You did something to Darkwolf that made him become a werewolf. I know you did. Darkwolf has not been seen by anybody. He is a somnambulist, and I found him naked in the hallway after we went to Venus. Don't tell me you had nothing to do with it. It's obvious he's the werewolf, and it's obvious that you slipped him something that made him a werewolf. I know he'd agree to it, I've talked with him before, nice fellow, wants to be a wolf. Are you going to tell me you had nothing to do with that?"
"Darkwolf!" Lassie shouted in surprise. "Darkwolf would never do something like that! He'd tell us all about it first."
HuggyBear then spoke, softly, "I can't imagine Darkwolf keeping a secret like that."
Thibaudet shrugged, "I'm sorry, there is no other explanation."
"I'm sure there is because I did not make Darkwolf a werewolf, " Anselm replied to the charges in a calm voice. His demeanor was still upbeat, and he was obviously in control of his emotions. "I've never even met the boy you're talking about."
"How did you know he was a boy, I never said he was male!" Thibaudet accused, his voice shrill.
"You called him a he so I assumed."
Thibaudet wanted to shout back at him some witty retort, but could only manage a grunt of disappointment. "I know you did Anselm. Don't lie to me."
Anselm finally rose to his feet, the calm demeanor was evaporating fast, "Pierre, I have never lied to you. I have been completely frank with you about everything we've discussed. Just because you don't understand or I am ordered not to tell you does not give you the right to be wroth with me and to make accusations you cannot back up!"
"Are you going to tell me you had nothing whatsoever to do with this?" Thibaudet was now shouting, his anger flaring intensely.
"With Darkwolf? Absolutely!" Anselm shouted back.
Jansen stepped up to the two of them, his face grave with concern. He wiped the hair back over his head and then put a hand on each of their shoulders, "Um, I think you two are getting too excited. Perhaps this discussion should be held later?"
"Stay out of it, Emil!" Thibaudet snapped, not breaking his gaze with the inscrutable psychologist. Anselm met his gave with a ferocity all his own. It was almost worse than looking into the yes of Rhodes when he knew that he was going to change soon. That memory only spurred on his anger and hatred of this man who acted as if they were best buddies. His cavalier treatment of the situation only infuriated him further. Rhodes had lost his will and mind to the wolf because of him. Yet, Anselm did even shed one tear over it all. Rhodes had been unable to control himself; he had given in to the wolf that had been put inside him. Thibaudet had his own monsters, and Anselm seemed to be trying to draw them out too. He had certainly gotten his anger riled up. How far was he going to push him?
"You two are going to kill each other if you keep this up!" Jansen protested.
"I'm surprised at you, Emil. I would have thought that you'd have enjoyed joining in a screaming match like this." Thibaudet knew he was being impertinent, but he was not going to get answers out of Anselm with him interfering like this. His anger needed to be calmed down, but it was not yet satisfied, it needed to know that Anselm had paid for the crimes he had wrought on this shuttle. He had caused the death and transformation of so many, and he wouldn't even lift a finger to help save any of them by telling them what they needed to know to survive. That was an affront that could not be forgiven.
Dr. Jansen reacted as he expected, hotly. His ace went red, and he stormed off away from the two of them, "Fine kill yourselves! I don't care anyway! You two belong together like that anyway. You both are impossible!"
Thibaudet wanted to calm down, but he couldn't, he just could not release the anger. "Anselm, what are you doing on this ship?" His words were quiet, each one of them a threat. He was prepared to do anything to get his answers now. Anselm would respect that, or he was not going to be too well off in the foreseeable future.
"That is my business. I would hope that you could respect my privacy!"
"Not when your privacy jeopardizes the lives of everybody aboard this space ship! You are withholding information that could be vital in keeping these people in this very room alive. Do you have any idea what you are doing? You could be killing us all, and yet you won't tell!" Thibaudet's voice grew in volume with each word. Though he was not screaming, he was very close to it once again.
"I have my orders."
"Don't give me that! Human life is more important than your stupid orders!"
"Nobody else is going to die, as long as you all do exactly as I say."
"As long as we do what you say? I'm not going to do a thing you say! I'm going to make sure that we do things my way, and I will save everybody's life! I am not going to listen to you, you who don't even care about anybody else on this ship. You've destroyed the lives and minds of many very good people. You should have seen Rhodes when he transformed. He was confessing everything to me before hand. He was begging me to let him go, begging me to release him so that he could join his packmates!" He spat out the last word, finding it distasteful. "Before that, he was a strong man with a clear goal in mind. He wanted to save these people's lives. Yet you don't know about any of that. You were sitting in the Research Stations congratulating yourself on a job well done. Well I saw it; I saw how terrible it was. I know what it is like to be responsible for death; it isn't a good feeling. There is a pile of vomit over in that far corner. I vomited after seeing Rhodes snatch up Lapwolf's body so that he could eat him. I felt guilt. What do you feel, nothing as far as I can tell! You'd rather talk about your mazes and hedges and lenses and perception and all this other crap. Well I've had it with you! You will tell me what the fuck is going on right now! Do you hear me? Right now!" Thibaudet gestured at the floor, his voice nearly cracking as his words filled the room, bouncing back and forth from the walls.
Anselm almost looked frightened for a moment by his outburst. His sickeningly inappropriate smile came back then, "As I said, I have my orders. I cannot go against them. Sorry."
Thibaudet then did something that he did not want to do, but found in himself no other choice. He pulled the gun from his pants pocket and aimed it straight at Anselm's chest. His voice was deadly, and his eyes were flashing. He felt like he was going to explode at any second, sending his flesh all across the room. "If you don't tell me what you are doing here, I will pull this trigger. If it doesn't kill you immediately, then McGee and Handley might fancy you for lunch."
Anselm stared at the gun for a moment and then locked eyes with Thibaudet once more. The rapport between them was almost eternal. Thibaudet could seen the clear sadness in those eyes, could see the shame that he felt, yet hid. It was startling, Anselm was telling him more in those few moments than he had ever told him in all his words. He was genuinely sorry, yet there was nothing he could do. Was he valuing his own life over that of theirs? He certainly valued something over his own life, or he would confess. So far, he had not yet said a word. Thibaudet did not know how long he stood there locked eyes with the man, it seemed like an eternity. He was no longer so sure of himself, as if the mere act of staring into Anselm's eyes had convinced him of it. He was threatening to kill a man! It was a very serious charge. Was it warranted? His anger told him so; it wanted so badly to end this man's life. Yet, what did reason say? Reason was out for lunch at the moment though. Empathy was the only voice speaking in favor of not killing this man, and empathy did not have much of a vote when it came to such things.
Anselm did not break the connection, but instead asked, "What does it benefit you in killing me? You will be just as ignorant as before."
Thibaudet tensed, but did not look away. Not even for a brief second.
End Part 1 of Part XX
Continued in Part 2 of Part XX