After finally getting Dr. Handley into a sitting position in the group - she had been very difficult to move, throwing her arms about every once in a while and her voice making very odd noises - the each sat down. Thibaudet crossed his legs as he watched Penny sitting down on her rear as well. Anselm was sitting next to McGee on the other end, and his eyes were very intent on her. Pierre wished the man would just go away and leave them alone. He had no good intentions for them, that much was clear. He'd rather he not be here at all. He found himself wishing that Anselm had been jumped back there instead of Dr. Sessions just before they reached the exit. However, the past was the past and there was nothing they could do about it. He certainly didn't want to have to figure it out again. He remembered standing at that door hoping that they could figure out how to open it because it was locked with Rhodes's card, and until they had gotten through he did not have any card of that authority. Now he had the card that McGee had given him, it was supposed to be Anselm's card.
He leaned a bit into Handley's shoulders on the left side, while Jansen leaned against her form the right, which would keep her up. She was completely out of it, but they were not going to leave any voice out of the planning. Actually he had not originally planned on bringing her over here but Penny had insisted she be there as well. Of course, Lassie was sitting next to Jansen, while the other three Shapeshifters were between him and McGee. It was the first time he could remember all of them being this close together in the Greenhouse; usually they stayed away form each other. However, if Penny had a plan, then Pierre was sure that they all would want to hear it. Of course, her plan could be completely screwy but they would never know until they heard her out.
"So what's your plan?" Jansen asked again. He did not sound as impatient as he might have been. Thibaudet hoped he would stay that way.
Penny looked about, "Well, it is kind of complicated so I think I should explain it a bit first. Being the engineer here on this ship, I know ever nook and cranny about here. If I could get to a computer terminal, I could lock the werewolves up very easily. That is as long as we can figure out where they are. Now if they are in a pack as it seems to me they are then they are probably going to be in one section of the ship most of the time. Now that I have helped Dr. Saltonstall reconfigure his screen, he will be able to tell me where the werewolves are at all times. Now, if we can lock them up behind the blast doors, then there is no way that they can escape, short of crawling through the airshafts, and from what I've heard they are too big to make it through them. Now, the only difficulty is going to be getting to one of these computers."
"How many of them are there?" Pierre murmured.
"Four, well five if you count the one in Rhodes's office. That one is useless however because I don't know Rhodes's personal password to gain access."
"Can't you hack into it?" Jansen pressed.
"I'd rather not. I think that one of the others will do just fine."
"So where are they?" Anselm asked.
Penny took a breath, "One of them was in the Engine room."
Lassie shook her head, "Don't go there, Lovewolf is in there."
"As is Kilpatrick," Thibaudet added.
"I wasn't planning on using that computer. The other three are all on this floor though. The first is on the bridge, and the second is in the Security Office, but that was smashed. The last one is just outside the brig. That is just a short walk from the rear starboard exit to this place." she pointed over her shoulder at the door to the back. Thibaudet wondered if she even knew she had used that confusing terminology. Probably not, she must have been so used to dealing with other Space Force personnel, and now the only person in here that she was familiar with was McGee the middle aged marital artist turned security guard who was now a werewolf as well.
"So you want to go for the computer by the brig?"
"Yes. Going all the way back to the bridge would be too risky; it's much too long a walk. This one is much shorter, and I think we could make it if we ran fast enough and if we had a distraction of some kind. Does anybody have any suggestions about what we can do for a distraction? I know that once I get there I can close the blast doors around that hallway sealing myself off from the werewolves. However, until then I am very vulnerable. I need some sort of distraction to keep the werewolves from paying much attention to me."
There was a moment of silence about the room as others began thinking about the situation. There seemed to be no one wanting to make a suggestion. Either that or nobody could think of one. Thibaudet knew that he was clueless as far as a distraction went. What would get the werewolves's attention for any length of time? The only thing he could think of would be to open the doors, and that was really too risky to try. Perhaps somebody could take a step outside; but then again that was just too risky to be tried. Who would volunteer to go? Well, perhaps one of the Shapeshifters, but that was still too much to ask of any one person. Penny was willing to take a step outside, but she was the one that had to, because only she could do what was necessary. Thibaudet certainly didn't want to go anywhere. He had seen what had happened to the last group that had gone outside, only half of them had made it, and two of them were still going to become werewolves.
Wait, perhaps that was it. If they were already infected, what would the risk be?
"I think I have an idea," Pierre said, looking about the faces, detecting a bit of relief from some.
"What is it?"
"Well, we could always send others out before you going in different directions to draw the werewolves off of you. That way you can get there in time before they realize that they have been duped."
She nodded, "True, but that sort of requires somebody to sacrifice themselves so that I can make it. I don't really like doing that."
"You don't have to. Let McGee and Handley go out and do it. They won't be sacrificing themselves because they are already werewolves. I mean, we were going to have to kick them out soon anyway. Now we'll just do it and get some use out of them at the same time." Thibaudet looked at McGee as he said it. He could feel Handley shifting beside him, and he was afraid he was going to get a slap from her or something. McGee looked impassive as he listened to Pierre's words, not really moving much, nor expressing any displeasure. What was going through his head? He could never tell the man was so quiet and unfathomable. Thibaudet wished that he knew, but there was nothing that could be done about it until he spoke.
There were a few intakes of breath, Anselm included. "You would ask them to do that?" he seemed shocked.
"Yes, why not?" McGee chimed in. "I am not going to be useful much longer. I have told you all I know, and I would be glad to do this one last thing for each of you. If it means that the werewolves are locked up, then all the better. Captain Harper will have no trouble detaining us. That is what this was all supposed to be about. I am sure he would be very pleased if all he had to do was to cage us. While I don't want to be in a cage, I understand that it will be necessary. I am very willing to be a distraction. Does this bother anyone?"
"I guess not, not if you are willing to do it," Anselm replied, patting him lightly on the back.
"I don't see a problem with it," Jansen added.
"Well, fine then, McGee you can be a distraction. Dr. Handley? Emma?" Penny looked at the very out of it scientist who was propped between Thibaudet and Jansen.
Pierre pushed back some of her coppery curls, getting them out of his face and then adding, "Come on, Handley, you don't really have a choice about it. We need your help."
Handley suddenly stirred, probably because she was being addressed personally. Her eyes were alert, though they looked to be hurt very badly. They seemed as if ready to cry, but her impulse was to hold it. Somehow Thibaudet could see it all written on her face, the warning signs, the subtle shifts of mood. It was as if she were digesting the whole of their conversation in a few seconds. She seemed unable to talk for a few moments, each one lasting longer than the last. Her voice, when it finally did break free from her depression and stupor was shaking and terrified, "I don't want to leave! I don't want to be one of them!"
"It's too late, Emma," Thibaudet continued, leaning away from her finally, glad to see that she was still a living thinking being. He regarded her face as he spoke. It was full of anger, her cheeks almost as red as her hair. She was obviously not dealing well with it. He wondered how far the wolf had managed to get with her. Just what had it told her. The things Rhodes had told him of the wolf were enough to make him realize how horrible it was. Of course seeing what it did to Rhodes in those last few moments of his humanity was even more painful. To seem him begging to be let free to go join his packmates had been more than he wanted to bear. The wolf had mated with him, and had made them into one being. He was now as much the wolf as was the wolf him. He appeared on the outside as what he was on the inside. Yet only on the full moon. That made very little sense to him, he was not sure just how that worked. Why the full moon? What did it have that the other phases of the moon lacked? Or what did they have that the full moon lacked? Shadow perhaps? Yet what would shadow do to cause a person with a wolf inside them to become like those horrifying monsters? An even better question occurred to him: just what was the wolf that was in their heads anyway? Some sort of spirit? Darkwolf had talked of knowing Wolf as if he were a higher being. Perhaps that was what it was, a part of Wolf, and a reflection into the human psyche that merged the two together.
Pierre shook his head; that was probably even stranger than God. Still, it was all speculation, who could tell if it was true or not?
"Too late? No it can't be. I don't want this to happen! She frightens me. I don't know what to do!" Handley wailed, putting her head in her hands, and covering her face up. Her tears flowed easily, and quickly. Her sobbing was quite loud, and Thibaudet felt very uncomfortable sitting next to her all of a sudden. He looked over at Jansen and saw that he felt much the same. Penny was sitting quietly, keeping her mouth shut. The others looked very reluctant to do anything at the moment. Thibaudet hoped that they were not leaving her in his hands. He did not believe he could carry her sorrow any further than he already had. And even that wasn't very far.
"Who is she?"
"She!" Handley looked frantic, her eyes were wild, but then they softened after a moment and she just kept crying.
Thibaudet sighed and spoke in a very soft voice, "Who is she?" Handley didn't reply. Thibaudet shrugged, and looked about at the others helplessly. They each looked just as helpless as he was. None seemed to know quite what to say. None except for McGee that is.
McGee stepped over to her, and scooted Thibaudet out of the way. He cautioned the others not to say anything with a quick glance. Thibaudet did not want to meet his eyes like that again. Those were eyes that knew just what the body could do and knew that nobody could stand against him. He put his arm around Handley's middle and brought her close to his chest. She dropped herself in his lap, sobbing uncontrollably. Her hair was all frazzled, going in so many different directions that it would probably take a good amount of time to get organized again. Her chest heaved up and down as McGee patted it reassuringly. Thibaudet watched for a moment as McGee's voice spoke very quietly. He couldn't quite make out what he was saying, but it had something to do with everything being all right. McGee then moving back and forth with his back, and it confused him for a moment as to just what McGee was doing. It suddenly struck him then and he began wondering whether the security guard had any children. He was rocking Handley back and forth, most likely to sleep or either to calm her down. He hopped the latter; they might need her conscious.
It took a few minutes, minutes in which nobody said anything. Nobody had to. They each knew that what they were dealing with was a very dangerous foe. One slash from its claws and you were suddenly very involuntarily switching sides in the battle. Who wouldn't be dismayed about that? Who would want to find themself working for the enemy? The worst part was that they had time to get to know about it before it became irresistible. Rhodes had been so calm about it at first, knowing what was going to happen, dreading it slightly, but not really talking about it. At the end though it was all he could do. He talked, at first to keep his mind off of it. Then he talked to try to earn his way to freedom from Thibaudet himself so that he could join his pack. Dutton had done much the same thing before them, only he had resisted leaving them until he had acted like the wolf and slashed Rhodes across the chest. Each dealt with it differently. McGee meditated while Handley zoned out or cried it seemed. Those were probably not the most ideal methods of handling with it. Pierre wondered how he would deal with it if he happened to be injured by them. It was always possible, thought he wished otherwise, it might happen. He had to shudder at the very thought of it. He knew that the only way he would deal with it would be not well.
"Who is she?" McGee finally asked in a very soothing voice, just loud enough for them to hear. It had been a tense few minutes while they had waited, and each appeared to be glad that it was over. Thibaudet was rather interested in hearing what she thought of who must be the wolf. He did not want to be a wolf; he'd rather know albatross. They were graceful birds, full of dignity and power. He smiled at the thought of flying with outstretched wings over the turbulent waves of the ocean. His home was there in the sky that he so wished to see again. He remembered the shores of Sept Iles where he grew up; remembered seeing the birds fly in over the waves and land on the shore. That was beautiful, that was what he had enjoyed of his time. The albatross was just the most beautiful of them all. He wished he could have spent more time watching them, but he had pursued his career. There were so many things he had missed out on. He definitely needed a vacation after this was over.
Handley's voice was broken, but she managed to sound somewhat coherent. "She is the wolf inside me." Thibaudet was not surprised. He looked about and did not really see anybody surprised about that either. Handley came to a sitting position, though she was still leaning into McGee's thick chest. "She keeps chasing after me. Oh my...she is there even now. I can feel her next to me, brushing me with her fur, and licking at my ears. I don't like the look in her eyes. It frightens me."
McGee brushed her hair back with one idle hand, "I understand. I have talked to the wolf inside me a lot. Have you tried talking with yours?"
"I don't even want her near me!"
"Perhaps you should try starting up a conversation. Wolves are very sociable, you might find that she likes you and is just trying to get to know you." Thibaudet couldn't tell whether McGee was lying or not. His voice sounded sincere, but he doubted that anybody could have a pleasant conversation with an animal that might want to eat the person they were talking to.
"Why does it have to be there at all?"
"Because it chooses to be with us. It does not want to hurt you, Emma. I have talked with the wolf in me. He calls me brother, and I do the same for him. He only wants to help. I'm sure she does too."
"Help how? By making us big furry things that eat people?"
McGee shook his head, "No, I don't think so. I think it is about understanding our own deficiencies and how we can be better. I do not know everything that will happen to us. The wolf is not there to torture us. It wants to be more than just our friend. It wants to be our constant companion and guide. I think it wants to be one with us. I don't really know all the answers, but I know one thing. We have nothing to fear from anybody, especially not the wolf that lives within us." McGee's voice was so smooth that Thibaudet was finding himself being convinced of the words. What if he was right? What if there was nothing to fear? What if the mind was not really destroyed as he had at first thought it would. No, he had seen what it had done with Rhodes and Dutton. Just because McGee seemed to almost welcome it changed nothing. There was something wrong with it; something very insidious and psychologically disturbing. However, he would not say anything as long as McGee got Handley to help them out.
"But it is still going to do that to us isn't it?" Handley insisted.
McGee sighed, 'Yes, but remember, only during the full moon. I know you are a smart girl. Just remember though, that Penny is asking our help in a plan that should prevent anything like that from happening, and if it does happen then we will be locked away so that everybody will be safe. Nothing is going to happen, you are not going to hurt anybody, Emma. Trust me. I know her plan will work. You just need to have a little faith. I am watching out for you, and I know that you will do a good job." McGee then smiled whimsically. "Besides, you'll be able to get those samples that you wanted first hand."
It was probably not the best thing he could have said, because Handley stood up immediately, her whole body shaking. "I don't want to be a lab animal!"
"Nobody is asking you to be." McGee pointed out, rising to his own feet, standing a couple inches over her.
"They don't have to, I'm going to become one anyway!"
"For what? So that you can tell me I should go wandering the halls and change into one of those things? Or so that I can talk to that bitch inside me that just wants to take over my life and destroy me! I don't want to have anything to do with it! I just want to be left alone! Can't you leave me alone, oh Lord please help me, I am so lost!" Handley turned and ran from him back towards the other end of the room. McGee shook his head in dismay. Nobody said anything for the longest time as they all just watched Handley crumple in the corner crying herself into a stupor again.
Penny finally stood beside her fellow crewmember, "It's not your fault, McGee. Nobody blames you."
McGee nodded, his own face downcast. "I believe what I said. I don't think the wolf means anybody any harm."
"Tell that to Rhodes, Dutton, or better yet, tell it to Lapwolf." Thibaudet snorted derisively.
McGee looked crestfallen, "I don't think it means to hurt anybody."
"We heard you the first time," Jansen retorted coldly.
"I don't think the wolf wants to hurt anybody."
"We get the point!"
"Calm down, please." Penny interjected finally, glaring at Jansen, who quickly turned away. Lassie patted him on the shoulder and whispered something in his ear that seemed to calm his foul temper down somewhat. Penny leaned in a bit, and invited the others to get closer. She then began whispering in a very low conspiratorial voice. "Now, Dr. Handley is not taking this well, so we are going to have to do something else to make this plan work. I want her as a distraction. Pierre's right, she has to leave at some point anyway. I think making use of that is in our best interest. If we put her out the opposite exit I'll need to use, that would be best. McGee, you may go anyway you want, but draw the werewolves away form me. Stay on the second floor if at all possible. Try to keep them chasing you as long as possible. If they get to close, feel free to engage them in combat. I don't care what you do, just keep them away from me."
"How are you going to get Handley out?" Anselm queried.
"Anyway I can, at gunpoint if necessary."
"Do you need the one that Rhodes gave me?" Thibaudet offered.
"No, you keep that for now." Penny shook her head. "I think I might be able to use you anyway. At any rate, once you leave this room, I don't want either of you coming back. If Handley bangs on the door to be let back in, do not let her. Is that understood, you are to ignore her? I hate doing this but we don't have a choice. She is a danger to us now. She is becoming a werewolf, and she won't realize that she doesn't have a choice in the matter. She is too lost in her misery to see what needs to be done. That means we have to move her out of the way. Does anybody have any problems with this?"
Nobody said anything for a little bit, till finally Thibaudet decided to break the silence, "I don't think so. Also, what do you mean you might have another use for me anyway?"
Penny smiled winsomely at him, "Why didn't you know? I'm afraid to leave you and Anselm alone together. You both are going to be coming with me. After all, a stray werewolf might come our way and I need to be protected till we can get to that computer and get the passage sealed off."
End Part XXIII