Saltonstall was out of his seat staring at the screen before him, watching with a terrified expression as Anselm waved the gun back and forth between Penny and Thibaudet. What was he trying to do? It could have been done much more smoothly than this! Why reveal himself now and why did he have to threaten their lives? It was so useless; there were much simpler ways to accomplish their orders. Why show himself now? Saltonstall began pacing about the room, turning his head to look at the screen every few moments to remind himself that it was really happening. It would not be long now before this all came to an end, that much he knew now. Plus, they might discover him. He hoped that Anselm wasn't the talking type, he hoped and prayed that Anselm would not reveal everything to them, but somehow he knew that he would. Anselm was like that, he enjoyed telling people how stupid they were and making them realize how little control they had over anything. Anselm did not tell a person who could make a difference anything, but those already lost, what did it matter?
Pacing back and forth, he nibbled on his knuckles, trying to calm his heart down, it was beating in his chest faster and faster with each passing moment. There was no way that he could stop the man of course, nothing he could do with jeopardizing them all. Oh he had a few things that he might be able to do, but nothing that would be expedient. It also might cost some their lives. That was a price that he was not really willing to pay. A few already had, and Saltonstall certainly did not want to add to that tally.
"What the Hell are you doing, Anselm," He muttered as he continued to pace back and forth. Looking at the screen one last time, he shook his head, wondering just what he would hear from over the radio. Whether he liked it or not, he was definitely going to find out.
Throckmorton stood up in his chair again, his old body still strong and fit. Yet his mind was going for a roller coaster ride. What had he just seen? He had just seen Dr. Fulton Swiley, the noted futurist and secretly the head of the Hasmoneans, levitate his smoking pipe. There was no other way to describe, it had just moved as if by sheer force of will. It was like the Force or something from those Star Wars movies he'd enjoyed as a kid. Swiley was blowing another smoke ring, this one almost too perfect to be real. Was he using more of his apparent nonscientific abilities? He loathed to call it magic, something in him distrusted the very notion of magic. "How did you do that?" Edward asked in a very quiet voice.
Swiley held the pipe in one hand, "As I said, you have yet to see creepy." He puffed on it again, a wide boyish grin on his face. He still clutched Simmons to his chest; his right hand petted the back of her head, almost as if she were a dog. "Let us just say that it was one of those things which must certainly have some sort of scientific explanation, but it is so complicated and advanced that it is useless. There are other ways to the same thing that make much more sense and are much easier to understand. Telekinesis is the proper name for what I just did. It is really not that hard a trick, just requires a bit of practice and the right sort of mindset. Believe me, I was shocked the first time I saw it done too. And the funny thing is, I believed it could happen." Swiley shrugged, and went back to smoking his pipe.
"But, you shouldn't be able to do that, it's not possible." Those words felt somehow so weak to him. Throckmorton barely had control of the world anymore. It was spinning wildly out of control, escaping him with every new revelation. The world had once been an easy place to understand. There were so many things that he had just taken for granted. Certainly he did not know everything, but he knew that it worked a certain way in general and that was that. Everything made logical sense, and the world was a small place that had been catalogued. That was all changed now. With each new discovery the world became more uncertain, and it fit less and less within his mental framework and image of it. There was so much more to the world that he did not know. It was much larger than he had ever anticipated, and it was somewhat frightening. What else could there be out there? How much of this world did he not know that could kill him without him ever realizing it? He took a quick breath, trying to calm himself.
"What do you know of what is possible or isn't? If it had not been possible, I would not have done it now would I? Are you going to leave this room telling yourself that somehow I tricked you, and that I had set all this up on wires and mirrors? Well don't. It was very real and I can do it again anytime you wish, and in any manner you wish." Swiley still smiled, his voice reassuring, yet at the same time there was a veiled threat. Throckmorton had a feeling he knew what it was too. Swiley hated skeptics, and could never hide that. He absolutely hated those who would doubt him. What had happened to him that made him this way, Edward wondered.
Throckmorton pushed the remote across the table. "Pick that up, and bring it back to me using that power of yours."
"Certainly." Swiley stole a quick glance to see where it was, and then faced him again, smiling. The remote suddenly lifted up into the air and floated gently across the table towards the Colonel. Edward reached out to grab it, but suddenly the remote darted out of the way, moving suddenly to the left, and then up higher into the air. Swiley laughed, "Can't catch me!"
Throckmorton tried to grab the remote out of the air, but it averted his hands once again. He glared over at the scientist, "Swiley!"
"What's the matter, Colonel? Haven't you ever tried catching fireflies before? I remember standing barefoot in the fields of tall grass and chasing after the fireflies in the summer evenings. I have fond memories of those days. There was something magical about those warm summer evenings." All the while he was talking, the remote continued to dance just out of Throckmorton's reach. Edward finally just gave up, and sat back down in his chair, shaking his head, and resting his chin on his fist. He was certainly not going to play games with somebody who could float objects around the room, and who knew what else. Just what could this man do? He had only talked about the werewolves, and claimed to have met some, but now he was doing something that Throckmorton could not explain. He had never seen a werewolf, though he knew Simmons was one. However, this he could see, and possibly touch, if he could have ever caught hold of his remote again. However, he really did not want to waste his times playing children's games with this Hasmonean.
"Look, just put it down, I believe you," Throckmorton grunted, slightly annoyed by the sudden foolishness of the situation.
Swiley nodded, and the remote came gently to rest on the table in front of Edward. Throckmorton picked it up, and rubbed his hands over the cold plastic. It didn't feel any different. Grimacing, he put it back down and stared back over at Swiley. The futurist was gently letting Simmons back down into the wheelchair. Simmons was wiping her eyes with the back of her hands, and trying to smile. Swiley sat down in the closer seat, and pulled out the little pouch from his tan jacket again and poured a bit more into his pipe. With a small bronze stopper he tamped the powder down again. Throckmorton finally found himself to be too sick of the smoke and in the most solicitous voice he could muster asked, "If you don't mind, can you please not smoke that thing anymore. It is making me feel sick."
Swiley looked at his pipe, and then set it down on his table, replacing the lighter in his jacket, unused. "Certainly, Edward. I sometimes forget that not everybody likes the scent of it. I find it exhilarating. Plus, it helps me do things that others cannot because they do not know how. Don't ask me why, the explanation is really too long for now. I don't want to even consider how it could work scientifically, I know I would never begin to understand it. I would wish there is a shorter path for something's, but often that is just not the case."
"Don't worry so much about them, they are not really that important. You wanted to know about werewolves, and I have told you. There is so much in this Universe; I am startled and amazed at each new discovery. Don't you feel like a child again to think how magical and wonderfully beautiful the world is and can be? There is so much to discover, our horizons are only going to continue to broaden." Fulton's voice had a slightly reverent tone to it. It was as if he was speaking of things far greater than himself and he did not wish to blaspheme them. Throckmorton wished that he could share that sense of awe, but it frightened him. The world had once been a place he could understand, but now it was beyond his control. He liked having things, neat and orderly. He was a computer programmer, everything had its place and function and it all fit together perfectly. If something was not in the right place, then the program did not work properly.
"Look, I'm of the old guard, I am not really sure I like any of this."
"I did not expect you to. Change is often very hard."
"You talk about all this as if it is a good thing. I'm afraid of what might happen."
Swiley nodded, stroking his pipe with one hand, "And well you should be. There is much to fear from the new age that is coming. Yet at the same time, there is also much to look forward to. You work with the space program; you basically oversee everything that goes on from start to finish. Do you not fear every time one of those ships launch that something bad will happen, some tiny error will occur that will cause the shuttle to explode like the Challenger did nearly eighty years ago? Or one of the pilots takes the wrong dosage and causes the shuttle to crash as with the Testament thirty years ago? Or even one under your own stewardship. A malfunction in the engines causes them to detonate and crash the ship on the moon, as with the Marco Polo only five years before; are you not afraid these things might happen?"
Throckmorton put his hands in his lap, and gently tapped them together, "Yes, I am."
"Do you not think that I fear that accidents will occur in the pursuit of discovery? Yet I will press on. Where would we be if it weren't for those who believed, as Columbus had almost six hundred years ago?" Swiley's smile returned once again, big and boyish. "I think the possibilities for good are too important to pass up for fear of an accident."
"What about those who would use the discoveries for evil or to hurt others?"
"That will happen whether we like it or not, and whether we discover anything or not. We cannot get rid of evil. People are always going to be hurt. These new discoveries can be used for so much good though, that I refuse to believe that leaving them untouched is in the best interest of humanity. Fears or not, we are in a New World."
Throckmorton shook his head. "But it goes against everything we know."
Swiley rolled his tongue is his mouth for a bit. "You are a computer programmer are you not?"
Throckmorton grunted, "I am a legend in the computer programming industry."
"All right, then suppose I wanted to write a program that would need to move elements onto a stack and off the stack many times. Now say I included all of my code in the main program. What would say?"
"I'd say you wasted a lot of time. You could have just taken all the stack subroutines and placed them in various procedures and just called them from the main program when necessary. Otherwise you'd have to write it all out each time. Very inefficient."
"Exactly my point. There are easier ways of doing things. Why not find the easiest way to accomplish something, regardless whether it is scientific or not?"
Throckmorton tapped his thumbs together thoughtfully. Now that Swiley had put it in terms of a computer program, it all became quite clear to him. Of course they should try for the most efficient means to accomplish a task. It was so obvious to him now that he had to stifle a laugh. He'd wished that Swiley had gotten around to it sooner. It was something that he, Colonel Edward Throckmorton, could relate easily to. He smiled, and looked back up at Swiley's face, "You know, you are right. I can't believe it, but it should have been obvious to me before. I feel like an obstinate kid who wouldn't eat his peas until his mother forced them down his throat, and then much to his surprise realized that he loved peas. Do you know what I mean?"
Swiley nodded, fingering the pipe absently, "Yes, I think I do."
Throckmorton sighed, leaning back in his chair. It all made sense now, the werewolves, the telekinesis - well maybe not the telekinesis - the secrecy, and why Fulton thought it had to be done. He wanted to make life simpler and at the same time open a New World of discovery. They had almost exhausted their own world, only the deepest trenches of the ocean remained untouched. Space travel was made almost comfortable by the most recent of advances. However, there was still so much that had yet to be accomplished. They had not sent a manned mission past the Martian orbit yet, though they had long since landed there. The likelihood of ever getting a space shuttle into interstellar space was slim at best, and even if they did so it would take so long to reach any destination that it would be unfeasible to send a manned crew, all would die from lack of oxygen even with an extensive greenhouse network. Even if somehow they managed to maintain their oxygen supply, they could never pack enough food. Cryogenics was still a theory that could not be unraveled or solved. For all intents and purposes, the age of discovery was coming to a close. It may take another hundred years, but it was ending. He hated to admit it, but there was nothing he or anybody else could say to argue. Still, this New World that Swiley was offering and bringing to fruition would certainly hold many new discoveries, and would gather the attention of so many. Then perhaps one day, they could reach the stars. Perhaps one day, they would meet life on other planets. Yet, without getting beyond the blinders of skepticism, it would be impossible.
"So, now what do we do?" Throckmorton finally asked.
"Well, do you happen to have any coffee?" Swiley pondered, looking back over to the main desk that was in his offices.
"No, I have cocoa though."
"That's even better."
"Would you like a cup?" Throckmorton got up from his seat and began walking around the conference table over towards his desk where he kept the instant hot chocolate mix.
"Yes I would, thank you." Swiley smiled, taking his pipe and dumping the powder back into his little bag and slipping the pipe into his breast coat pocket.
"I would too," Simmons called out, her voice gentle, calm, almost pleasant. It was the first sign of the real Lt. Michelle Simmons coming back. Perhaps Swiley was right; things were going to be fine. Captain Harper would get to the Pytheas and his men would subdue the others, and they would come back to Earth, human again. Then they would be taken care of and shown how to enjoy their new selves. He grimaced, still it sounded terrible, but as Fulton had said, it was time now to do what they could to help and not point fingers and whine about the misfortune. He quickly grabbed three mugs from his desk, and poured the mix into each, and then put the water pot on the steamer to boil it. After a few moments the water was hot enough and he poured the drinks, using the spoon to gently stir each. He then set the spoon aside, and brought the two mugs over to Simmons and Swiley, and then grabbed his own, and sat down back in his seat. He savored the rich dark aroma and then took a small sip. The liquid was hot enough to nearly burn his tongue, but not quite. It also managed to fight back that lingering scent of the tobacco.
"So," Swiley asked, after setting his cup down, "have either of you ever been to Maine?" Throckmorton shook his head no. Simmons did the same. "Well, Maine is a beautiful state, underrated. The tidal forces are wonderful in some parts as well. I'm thinking of moving there. I've always wanted to live there, but fate hasn't given me the chance. Where would you two like to go, after you retire that is?"
Throckmorton chuckled, "Me? I don't know I've never thought about it."
"Well, you have only the world to choose from," Swiley smiled. Throckmorton wondered just what that cryptic remark meant, but for some reason, he didn't really wanted to dredge that up again. This nightmare had been going on too long. This sunshine might be brief, and he wanted to bask in it as long as possible.
Dr. Pierre Thibaudet looked at the gun that was pointed at his head, and at the man wielding it, Dr. Frederick Anselm. Anselm had been his roommate, a man who would never say much of anything about why he was here. He knew the man was a psychologist working for the Hasmoneans, but that was about it. Pierre had always suspected that the man's intentions for them were not good, and this only proved it. He should have kept a better hand on that gun. He had let himself get distracted, and now Anselm had them at pointblank range, and who knew how many more bullets there were in that gun. Thibaudet certainly didn't. He had not thought to count.
"Your orders were to kill us?" Thibaudet asked, his whole body enraged at the man, and at himself for being so stupid as to let him get a hold of that gun. He should have known better.
Anselm did not change his expression, "No, they were not."
"So what are your orders, Dr. Anselm," Penny growled.
"My orders?" Anselm put his free hand to his chest, as if mocking them. "My orders were very clear. I'm afraid that I cannot tell you. Well I could, but then I would have to kill you if you did not agree to do as I said. Like I told you before Lt. Penny, I rank higher than you do. Frankly, I have been happy to let you all run things, because you were all doing what I wanted anyway. Now, I cannot let you go through with this because it interferes with my orders. I must ask that you please step away from that console, over there please." Anselm nodded to the closed inner hatch of the air lock, and waved with his left hand for them to move.
Penny took a few steps over, moving away from the console. Thibaudet followed after her a bit reluctantly. "Look, I am not going to die for you Anselm. You think I even like you?"
"Pierre, I'm sure under better circumstances we could have been friends. I really don't like having to do this to you. I like to think of you as a friend." What made Thibaudet even more disgusted was that he believed that Anselm was telling the truth. Anselm could not see that what he was doing was alienating others. It was as if he naively believed that everybody would want the same things that he did.
"A friend? You point a gun at your friend?" Thibaudet felt as if his skin was going to burn.
Anselm sighed, "I know it seems strange. I feel awkward about it myself. I just don't have a choice. I don't want to do this, please don't make me do anything that might hurt you."
"Don't make you? You seem awfully willing to do it!"
Anselm shook his head, his eyes never leaving them, "I'm just trying to help."
"Help! What sort of help have you been? You find ways around every question. You won't tell us anything about the werewolves. And you are holding a gun to our heads! Does that sound awfully helpful to you?" Thibaudet had never remembered a time in his life when he was angrier with somebody before. Anselm had done something nobody had ever done before to him, threatened his life. He had never had a person tell them that they would kill him or even joke around that they would. It was just not something people did anymore. Yet here was Anselm, pointing the gun that Rhodes had given him at his head and claiming in the same breath that he wanted to be his friend and the he only wanted to help him. What in the world had been done to Anselm's mind to make him believe that one could do that and still be taken seriously? Well, regardless, Anselm may be crazy, but he still had the gun, and there was no telling if there were any bullets left inside or not.
"I admit my actions have not really been in the best interests of promoting an air of congeniality."
"Congeniality? What world do you live in Anselm?"
Anselm finally grimaced and glared at Pierre, "You were the one who threatened my life first! I don't want to hear anything from you, Pierre. You threatened my life first!"
Thibaudet glowered, wanting to say something back, but like always, he was right. Why did he have to be right about this? It only fueled the fire of his wrath. He clenched his teeth together, and did his best not to lunge for him. There had never been a person in his whole life that could infuriate him the way Anselm did. First it had been by reading that infernal book by Fulton Swiley, which he had to admit now made a lot more sense to him. Then it had been by those cryptic half-responses that weren't really responses at all. When he had refused to answer any questions and had practically invited him to kill him in cold blood, that had been the turning point in the relationship. After that he knew that he could no longer trust Anselm. He was an enemy to be dealt with at a later time though. It seemed that Anselm now how the drop on him. Curse his stupidity for not keeping a better watch on that gun. He let himself get distracted by Penny's work that would have made all their lives easier. Now, that too seemed to be a false hope.
"What do you want, Dr. Anselm," Penny asked, her voice calm, but cold.
"What do I want? Why, I'd like to get off this ship eventually, but that is not important right now. What I am going to do is. I need both of you very much to do as I say. I do not want to hurt you."
"But you will if you have to?" Penny pushed, her hand inching around behind her back.
Anselm nodded, pointing the gun directly at her head. "Please keep your hands in front of you." Penny stopped and kept her hands before her. She glared back at him softly, her eyes very hard. "Thank you. Now, I just hope that we can keep this to ourselves, after all, nobody has to know. You all just do as I say, and when Captain Harper comes, everything will be put right again."
"Perhaps we will agree to do as you say, in exchange for some information. Otherwise, you might as well kill us, because I am not going to let you get away with this." Penny replied tersely, her voice having a steel edge to it.
Anselm moved over behind the console, his legs passing carefully in front of him. He was now well out of reach, but that gun would get them quickly. "That sounds fair. I am willing to give you some information."
"What are your orders?" Penny asked.
Anselm smiled, "As I said, I would tell you, but if you do not submit to my instructions afterwards, I was going to have to kill you."
"You've told us as much already, now what are your orders." Thibaudet noted how Penny's face got hot as well. She must have had enough of this man as well. It had been a good plan, but perhaps she should have left him behind. That was almost certainly was a better plan than she had undertaken. Still, it was too late to change that now. However, how were they going to stop Anselm, he seemed to have all the cards in his hands? Anselm had the gun, and the willingness to use it. They had nothing.
Anselm took a deep breath, "Do you really want to know?"
"I wouldn't have asked otherwise."
"Fine. My orders were to ensure that as people as possible on this ship, preferably everybody on board, became a werewolf." Thibaudet had to gasp. They were being betrayed to life as an animal by their own government. They were being turned into beasts because of some scientific experiment for some other sick and twisted scientists. Psychologists perhaps were wanting to see the effects of being a werewolf on the mind? Well the effect was pretty obvious; you went stark raving mad and started killing things! Okay so it was most likely true that those killed by a werewolf became werewolves themselves, but still, what kind of life was that?
"Everybody?" Penny asked, not wavering once underneath the barrel of that gun.
"Even including myself."
"Why did you agree to do this?" Thibaudet asked, unable to fathom what sort of personal commitment and abrogation of morals that Anselm must have used to be able to do what he had done.
"I volunteered," Anselm smiled. "I knew that as long as the werewolf was able to strike early and quickly, there wouldn't be any way to stop them. The only thing that stopped it from spreading to everybody within a few hours time was that brat Ascot who took us to Venus. If that hadn't happened, then we would all be werewolves now."
"Yes, Lars Thordegaard. You remember seeing him die don't you?" Anselm pressed, obviously not afraid of anything he was saying.
"I'll never forget that." Penny whispered.
"I didn't think you would."
"So now what?" Thibaudet prodded.
"Now, you two are going to walk over to that blast door and wait while I open it, and then you are going to step into the hallway beyond while I close it. The werewolves will be by soon to slash or bite you. Either way, you will be injured. There will be no place safe left; I will make sure that you cannot hide anywhere. You may run, but I guess that in five minutes you will have been injured in some way, and from then on, there is no stopping the change. Captain Harper has what, at least ninety to a hundred more minutes before he arrives. I'd say that is time enough for the both of you to have changed into werewolves. I'm sure you both will look very nice in fur. As soon as I make sure that the others in the Greenhouse are also werewolves, then, well, I'll be changing too." Anselm replied, with a sunny smile on his face the whole time. Thibaudet couldn't think of anything more enjoyable to do than to smash Anselm's face into the wall repeatedly.
"So that's it then?" Penny asked, her voice unchanged. "You just want us to accept that we have to be werewolves?"
"Yes, it really is not that bad. I know for a fact. I would not have volunteered for this if I thought that it was a terrible thing."
"Did you ever want to be a werewolf before this?" Penny pressed, her eyes showing a bit more strength than Pierre had given her credit before. She was up to something, yet he did not know what.
Anselm shook his head, "No, not that I can recall. I thought about it, but never actively sought it out. Well, this opportunity promised great benefits, so I figured, why not? Besides, being a werewolf would be something that I knew I would enjoy."
"Because you could kill people?" Thibaudet sneered
"No, because then I would have a time when I could get out my frustrations without difficulty. It would be very freeing. Also, the wolf has a great amount of honour. I pride myself on my honour. What couldn't be more perfect?"
"Seeing you dead would be pretty perfect," Thibaudet remarked.
"Well, I'm sorry to hear that. I thought that you, Pierre, would be more understanding."
"Oh I understand all right. You don't. I told you, I don't want to be a werewolf."
"We can't always choose our path in life."
"You did, and you think to choose it for us?"
"You fate was sealed when you set foot on this ship, Dr. Thibaudet. I had nothing to do with the orders. I am just the one who has to execute them. And I will do it. If you do not start walking towards that blast door, I will shoot you."
End Part 1 of Part XXV
Continued in Part 2 of Part XXV