The Perpetual


Thibaudet did not waste anytime in pushing the casing forward, and stepping out form the abysmally cold airlessness into the frightfully warm touch of the chlorine gas. The touch of it stung his skin, and he shut his eyes tightly together as the scent of it creeped into his nose. Breathing a little bit would not kill him, but he had to get out fast, and he needed to take a breath before his lung pulled the chlorine in anyway. His whole body convulsed just to keep himself from breathing it in. There was not time to make sure that Penny did the same. He could barely keep his own thoughts in order. His whole body wanted now to collapse in on itself after coming in from the vacuum of space. His skin was like ice and he knew that he had to be blue from the cold. His blood vessels calmed though, and the airplanes colliding in his ears came to a halt. There was only one thing he could do, because he would not be able to hold his breath long enough to step out of his room let alone get out of the research stations. It was sitting under his desk, and with one hand, he gripped the metal railing and dragged it out on its wheels, and with it brought the insulated bucket he used it with. Turning the hose attacked the to the tank to a minimum pressure setting, he quickly pointed it at the bottom of the bucket. The bucket, being only a foot wide was barely enough for him to even glimpse through the crack in his eyelids. Turning the vents open, he could see the blue liquid splash into the bucket, and quickly boil there, sending the green gas away. Pulling his head in close, he leaned into the chlorine free air, and took a deep breath. The pure oxygen was almost too much for his body after going without it for what seemed an eternity. Pierre had to control himself as he breathed it into his lungs, filling them, their aching emptiness now creaking under the amount of air that he was forcing in.

"Penny, get over here!" He said in a breathless whisper, his voice barely working. He kept a steady stream of the liquid oxygen gushing from the tank. If he set the vent for a higher pressure it could shoot at great speeds and turn the metal walls about them to brittle chunks that were breakable with a hand slap. However, that would waste a lot of the tank, it was not infinite, and they needed to breathe. Penny fell onto the floor beside him, leaning her own head over the bowl as the oxygen rose up displacing the chlorine. Even in the oxygen he could smell the aftertaste of that toxic gas. It was burning his skin, and he knew that it was probably going to do some permanent damage if he didn't get out of it quickly enough. Glancing up, his eyes open for the first time, still stinging he could see Penny breathing in the pure oxygen and nearly jumping when she did so. Her eyes snapped open. Her eyes were already slightly irritated. He wondered how red his own must look.

"We just need to get to the door." Penny said between gasps of air. Her chest was heaving, and her face was twitching. Her ears were a bright red, as were her hands. Thibaudet realized that his own were the same. He could feel the blood coursing through them, making them unbearably hot. He had walked in from the cold before. Having spent part of his life in Sept Iles, he knew about cold weather; at least he thought he knew what cold was. Never before in his entire life had he ever experienced anything quite like it. It was simply mind numbingly, painful beyond belief and more agony than he ever wished to experience again. Now he was back safely in the ship. Safely of course was a relative term. If they had stayed out there, they would have certainly died; here it was just a distinct possibility.

"But the werewolves." Thibaudet objected. They were here because neither liked the options that Anselm had given them. Become werewolves or die. Well, neither of them were going to submit to that. Thibaudet did not want to be a wolf, no matter how much Anselm lauded them. He may have volunteered for it, but Pierre certainly did not. He was here to conduct scientific investigations, not to grow fur or claws.

Penny reached around behind her, and slipped her hand down the back of her pants. Pierre watched though the green mist as she pulled a gun slowly out. She had a gun! "You had a gun all this time and you never used it?"

Penny shrugged, "I didn't need to show it before, and when I did need it, Anselm didn't give me the time to pull it out. But we survived right?"

Thibaudet waved a finger before her face, his other hand still holding the hose into the bucket, "Don't ever make me walk through space like that again."

Penny chuckled slightly and held up one hand, palm facing him. "I promise, now let's get out of here."

Thibaudet nodded, and quickly turned the vent off - there was no need to waste the liquid oxygen; they might need it. Both were up on their feet in moments, taking one long last breath of the oxygen. Pierre squinted into the chlorine, slamming his hand into the green button on his wall. The door slid open into the hallway, and more of the green gas. Running out into the hallway, they quickly went to the right and for the door the sealed the research stations from the rest of the ship. Thibaudet was there first, and saw that the door was locked from the glow of the red light above the control panel. Holding his breath in as best he could, exhaling a bit of the used gas in his lungs bit by bit, he waited as Penny pulled her card from her pocket and slashed it through the slot. The light stayed red. She tried the door, but it did not budge. Lucille put her card through the panel again, but the light was still red. Once more she tried it, but that obstinate light would change. Thibaudet knew that was an onerous sign.

Pierre grabbed her by the arm and raced back to his station. He dived for the bucket; almost all the oxygen had evaporated, but there was still a bit left to breathe. He took another gasp, and so did Penny. He opened the vent on the tank again and took another breath, calmly regarding her once more, "Anselm has us locked in here." Penny nodded, not wasting anytime to speak. "We have to find a way out, is there any other way out of here?"

"No. That door is the only way."

"I could make the door as brittle as ice with this stuff. "He inclined his head to the oxygen tank that was continuing to gush forth the smoking blue liquid. "I just need to turn the pressure up. It'll use up a lot of the oxygen, but we'll be out of here."

Penny shook her head. "No, then the chlorine will flood the rest of the ship. It shouldn't have even flooded this compartment. It had to clog all the filters before it could get this dense. Something has to be generating the chlorine. We have to find that first. Then we have to get to the filter room and change the filters, otherwise we are still going to flood the entire ship." She took another deep breath, her face twitching at a slight draft from the chlorine gas. "Can you bring this out into the main hall?" She pointed at the bucket and large tank.

Thibaudet nodded, and she flashed him a quick smile. "Good, leave it there so we can breathe when we need to, how long do you think it will last us?"

"This wasn't designed for breathing purposes. Five minutes at most."

"Okay, well let's not waste anytime." Lieutenant Penny took another deep breath, and then was back up and out the door. Thibaudet carted the bucket and the Oxygen tank over to the front of the compartment near the main door. He had brought the tank along with the intent to use it to test out some of the materials, to prepare them before placing them in the container. That way they would already be chilled and not slip free from the restraints when they shrunk in size from the cold. A few of the substances he was testing out had quite wide differences in density per temperature. Setting both down, he tried to rub the stinging sensation from his eyes. If it was possible, the stinging sensation hurt even worse than the numb freezing that he had felt out in space.

While Penny took the left-hand corridor, the same one that he had his own station on, Thibaudet started down the right hand corridor. Stepping into the first room, he saw that it was Arkady's. Mushrooms lay all about in various states of life and death. The chlorine was killing some of them, but not all. Pierre could not make out any details though; his eyes were squinting so badly that he could only glimpse what they were. Holding his breath back, he waved the green mist away, the sting upon his exposed skin great. If he stayed here too long, he would suffer from permanent chemical burns. However, nothing he could see in Arkady's room - from the pallets of mushrooms housed in dark and light chambers with varying degrees of moisture, to the overturned stool behind the desk cluttered with stacks of papers, and an examination table with microscopes, beakers, flasks, burners, and several other instruments that Thibaudet had seen but never used - was generating the chlorine. He was not really surprised; he had not suspected Arkady in the least. The fat Russian was too laid back to also be working along side Anselm.

Moving down to the next door along the hall, his skin burned and started to itch. As he opened up the next door, his hands instinctively went for his wrists, scratching and clawing at the red skin. Every part of him that was exposed to the chlorine was getting red and swelling form the constant irritation. Chlorine was one of the most reactive elements in the universe, and it was burning the water right out of him. Of course, it would have been as bad if he'd tried to grab sodium or potassium with his bare hands, that would have burned it all out immediately. Still, it was enough to drive his mind into a frenetic desperation. He needed to get out of this chamber! Yet until he could find the source of the chlorine they could not safely leave or the chlorine would spread throughout the entire ship. Peering through the slits of his eyelids, he stared into each new room, investigating and probing for whatever it was that was causing all of this gas to appear. He saw various nick-nacks, from all sorts of scientific equipment like microscopes, cyclotrons, magnets, and few things that he did not recognize, to personal objects such as books of various genres, hand-held computer games, stereo equipment, and multiple playthings that caught the eye but served no significant purpose. Still, not in any of them was there anything of the sort that might be producing the chlorine gas.

His lungs aching from holding his breath so long, and his mind urging him on to just breathe in the air, though he knew it would kill him, Pierre raced back to the bucket and turned the hose on once again. He took a deep breath of the oxygen gas as the blue liquid boiled and bubbled away beneath him. He filled his lungs with it, before turning the hose back off and continuing on down the passageway. His footfalls were loud and fell upon his ears. It was a joy to hear himself walk again. When he'd been out in space his footsteps had been silent, even though he had been running as quickly as he could. Thibaudet was not sure which was more painful, the deep emptiness of space, where there was nothing to breathe, or the chlorine filled research station. Out in space there had been nothing to breathe. There was plenty to breathe in here, but any breath he took would kill him. Oh, he could smell the chlorine, it's pungent and strident odour nearly enough to knock him on his back gagging, but there was nothing more he could do. His skin felt horrible, as if it would crack open and spill out his insides. He tried to keep from scratching it, but his hands always found themselves twitching and reaching for his wrists which were swelling and ready to burst forth from the dry heat that coursed through them.

The fifth and last occupied station that he came to was of course, Dr. Frederick Anselm's. Pierre considered it almost ironic that his would be the last door that he would approach. For all he knew, he should have started with this one; after all, it was Anselm that had wanted to kill them or make them werewolves, which was tantamount to killing him. Who else would be responsible for it? He could not think of anybody else who would have been more likely except his psychotic roommate. There was definitely some truth to that. Something had changed in Anselm that he could hardly miss perceiving. There was some hint of dark danger in his eyes as they had been locked in their room. Oh, Anselm had quickly rebounded and started reading Swiley's ridiculous book out loud. Still, there had been a brief flash of something beyond his comprehension. At the time he took it for irritation. Now he knew it for what it was: madness. He'd seen the same look, only stronger when Anselm had come into the Greenhouse. There was something there that did not equate. There was something about him, some calm insanity that sent shivers up his spine.

Shaking the memories from his oxygen deprived brain, he tried to door. It was locked. He tried it again, not believing what he was seeing. The door remained where it was. Of course, if Anselm had a card with higher security than even Captain Rhodes, then of course his door would be locked. He would say anything about what he was doing here, and he did not let the others into his place. Of course, Pierre knew that he had moon rocks in there, but that made no sense in itself. Perhaps they were his way of generating the chlorine? Still, unless he could get inside, there was nothing he could do about it. For a moment, Pierre considered going back and asking Penny if she could get in, but knew that was pointless, her access was not high enough. No, he had to risk it. Running back to his oxygen tank he hoped that there would still be enough left over to get out through the main door, it was thicker than the regular doors for the same reason that the research stations and the rest of the ship were on different ventilation systems. He grabbed the metal ring about the top where the hose was attached and began rolling it along the floor. He was glad it had wheels, otherwise it would have been impossibly heavy to carry, and he did not have the time to drag it over to the door. Setting it down, he checked the gauges. Much to his pleasure, a good nine-tenths of it was left. He had plenty left. Turning the pressure on the vent up, he aimed the hose towards one side of the door. Twisting the hose, a fast stream of the liquid oxygen shot forth, striking and sputtering against the door as it creaked and cracked as the metal was flash frozen in place. Thibaudet quickly traced out an opening big enough to climb through, and then turned the hose off. With one elbow, he smashed into the metal, causing it to fall inwards, the door crumpling along the frozen lines. Taking a peek at the gauge he was pleased to see that it had only taken up a fifth of the fuel tank. That left more than enough to finish the task.

Being careful not to touch the fractures along the door, he slipped on leg through, and then and then his upper body. Stepping the rest of the way through, Dr. Pierre Thibaudet got his first look at Anselm's research station. It was dark in the room; Anselm must have turned off the light on his way out. He flipped the switch by the door, and the room was filled with an eerie green glow. To his left he could see the empty box that had held the rocks that he with Arkady's help had carried for Anselm. There was very little in the room at all, no posters, no books, nothing. There were no electronic equipment anywhere, aside from the security camera over top the door. There was a small metal container on his desk, roughly a foot wide in every direction. A sizable mortar and pestle was sitting on the other end of the desk, it looked to have been used a lot. He saw no sign of the rocks. Blinking quickly, he stepped over to the desk, and opened up the top of the container. Inside was some fine sparkling dust. He put his hand into it, feeling it scratch against his sensitive skin. He let it fall through his fingers, and then he stepped back. There was nothing in here. His guess had been wrong; Anselm's room was purely innocent. Probably the only thing of his that was innocent.

Nearly gagging from the sharp chlorine that poked it's way up his nose, he almost jumped through the hole in the door. The tank was gone. Penny must have grabbed it and taken it back down the hallway to get some air herself. Running back down, he saw her taking a few breaths. She was very deliberate about it. He leaned in as well; glad to see that she had reset the pressure to a very low level so only a bit of the oxygen came out. Thibaudet stared into her eyes, they were bright red, and very puffy looking. "Have you found anything?"

She shook her head, still filling her lungs to capacity. "No, I searched all the scientists rooms and saw nothing. It must be in one of the unoccupied rooms."

"But there have to be at least twenty of them!"

"Ten on my side, ten on yours. We can make it. Just scan the rooms, they should be empty. If you see anything in one of them, that is probably what we are looking for." Penny was up and running back down the hallway.

Thibaudet took a deep breath, and then turned the valve on the tank closed. His legs were aching from the amount of running he was doing. They cried out to him to just take it easy and walk a little bit. He didn't have time to rest though, and he certainly didn't have time to massage them like they desperately needed. After this was over he was going to lie down for a month. He probably needed that much time just to convince himself that he had lived through it and there was no more reason to fear. Of course, that was all providing that he did survive this. Even if they could get out of here without endangering the rest of the ship, they had to get through the werewolves to get to the filter room. If they failed in that, well then all of this effort was for naught.

The first door past Anselm's was empty, as was the next. They opened at his touch, which was refreshing after facing Anselm's obstinate door. Like everything else that belonged to that man, his door had been obstinate. Did he have to put a hole through the center of anything that belonged to Anselm to get his way with him? He shrugged those thoughts away, slowly exhaling a bit of air as he went. He dare not breathe any in. Each door came open to his touch, and each one was as empty as the last. They were all the same, not even a desk or a chair was in any of them. All of that was specialized by the scientists going up. He recalled having to design his own research space months in advance of the launch. These last few months of his had all been spent in preparation for this trip, and all of that time had been wasted. Wasted! How could have ever imagined that he would be battling werewolves, a mad psychologist - now that was ironic - and running through space basically naked?

The seventh door was locked. There was no other way to explain it. When he pressed the button, it, like Anselm's door did not open. Perhaps it had just been an oversight. He was not going to grab that oxygen tank unless he absolutely had to. Moving on to the last three doors, he found each one to be empty as well. It had to be behind that locked door, but still, it was best if he consulted with Penny first before doing anything else. Moving his aching and sore legs as best he could, he ran through the chlorine gas, the tank at the center of the room becoming clear to him once again. Keeping his eyes nearly shut, he fell to his knees beside the bucket and started the hose up again, and quickly breathed as soon as it was safe to do so. Penny was next to him only a few moments later. Each took several breaths before even considering to look at each other. Her face was red, almost as red as her eyes, and he could see swellings on her skin, obviously from the irritation. He probably had much the same thing on his own face.

"Did you find anything?" She asked. Pierre didn't need to ask her. From the worried tone of her voice, it was obvious he hadn't seen anything.

"One of the doors was locked. I think it's in there."

"Well, I can open it." Penny began reaching into her pocket.

"No, you can't. It will be locked by Anselm, your card won't open it."

"Are you going to use the oxygen like you used it on Anselm's door?"


"Do we have enough?"

Thibaudet peered at the gauge, and saw that it was still about seven-tenths full. "Plenty enough."

Penny nodded, "All right, lets do it." She grabbed one end of the tank, and Pierre picked up the other. They ran, dragging the tank behind them, down the hallway. Thibaudet had left the doors open, just to be safe. The seventh door was still there, closed, mocking them by its resilience. He pushed the button one last time, just to convince himself that it was closed. The door did not budge. Grimacing, he turned the pressure back up, and began spraying it in the same fashion that he had sprayed Anselm's door. This one proved no more immune than it had, and he was quickly through. The metal plate crashed to the ground inside, making a loud clanking noise, and soon a sudden thick gust of the chlorine flew in their faces. Thibaudet put his hand over his eyes, the sting from the nearly impenetrable chlorine too much. He leaned over, wishing there was some way to get it out, but the fire lanced through his corneas, burning them deeply. He could very well be blinding himself, and he would never know. He grabbed the edge of the hole, and felt the ice-cold metal bite deep into his swollen palm. Refusing to let the pain cripple him any further, he vaulted through the opening, tumbling into the room. Penny was groaning on the other side, but she too was slipping through after him. Thibaudet tried his best to move through the room, but his foot bumped into something in the impossibly thick blackish green. He reached out, and touched something, something mechanical. Moving his hands over the smooth metal, he could feel that it was set on a pulley system, and there was no tension in the wire it was attached to. It was at its lowest height.

He tried to feel around the base of it, and met what felt to be a small tank about the same size as the metal object. Moving his hand underneath the metal, he could feel what appeared to be slightly corroded rods of some sort. They burned to the touch, but he was beyond that pain now. His body was crying out in agony, but it felt like it had been for so long, that he hardly noticed this. Penny was suddenly beside him, her hands on his back. He reached around and grabbed her arm, and placed it on the metal. To stop the chlorine they were going to have to lift this thing out of the tank. There was probably some liquid in the tank that reacted to the rods, which was why the tops were corroded. He could feel the chlorine still moving up out of it. He pushed her hand along the edge, and the pulled it upward, hoping that she would understand. His eyes were firmly shut, he could see nothing. The pain of opening the to this highly concentrated chlorine was more than he could bear. He gripped the shorter side of the metal structure, underneath the base, and began lifting upwards with his legs. Already his body ached to let go, this was heavy. It seemed like Penny was not pulling on her end. His breath was running out, and soon he would need more air. He pulled, his muscles straining; the intense cold still lodged in them somewhere. His mind was blanking out, and still this thing was not moving. Perhaps Penny had not understood and was only standing there helplessly? Or perhaps she had collapsed from the gas, having accidentally taken a fatal breath? Still, he had to lift this thing out, there was no other option, and he could ill afford diffidence. Yet he was weakening even further the longer he stood there, legs tensed, back straight, and arms straining.

Suddenly, it felt like the weight was gone, and the metal object began to lift slowly up. He pulled harder, trying to tip it over so that it might fall to the ground. However, the rods were still strong and would not let him do much. Pierre pushed higher and higher, trying to ignore the burning sensations all over his body and the very needful urge to breathe. This onerous task had to be completed, and yet still it was almost more than he could bear. Finally, the entire thing toppled to one side, crashing against the floor. That was all he needed to hear. He turned back to his left, and, with his arms outstretched feeling the way, searched for the opening in the door. He found it at the same time as Penny, but waited for her to get through before he himself jumped back into the relatively nicer air out in the rest of the compartment. He squinted to see Penny trying not to pant at what they had just done. It was hardly over yet. Grabbing both sides of the liquid oxygen tank, they made their legs move and pump. The door out of this greenish Hell was standing before them, the insulated bucket at one side. Thibaudet didn't even bother to check the pressures or move to take a few breaths; he sprayed the doorway at full blast, icing along the wall big enough for them to get through. It would use up a lot of the oxygen, but they did not want to wait any longer. Finally, he had completed the circle, and Thibaudet rammed his shoulder into the fractures. It did not move at all. Not believing what he was seeing through his barely parted eyelids, Thibaudet slammed his shoulder into it again. It was once again solid. It couldn't be that thick that it would not even break under his pressure? He pushed again and again, and finally, on the fifth try, he heard it crack. It was still there, but he knew that he could get it out now. Taking the hose, he quickly splashed the entire hole once more, though not with as much as before. He then rammed his right shoulder, which was now quite sore and bruised. The hole cracked and fell through to the other side.

Pierre motioned for Penny to slide through, and that she did, as the chlorine slowly seeped out after it. As soon as she was through, Pierre followed after, falling onto the ground, blinking at the clear air about them, and gasping for breath as his infected skin touched the cold metal floor. His whole body was just too weak to even move. He just wanted to stay put, and not move a muscle for as long as he could. He gasped for breath, gagging on his own tongue as he did so. They were out; they had managed to make it out of the research stations. They were back in the ship proper. Finally, they had made it. They had beaten Anselm and had survived the airlock. For a brief moment, Thibaudet felt like patting Penny on the back, as well as himself, but that would require him to move, so he decided against it. He just wanted to lie down and let his body recuperate.

Penny however, was getting to her feet, slowly though. The chlorine gas was seeping along the ground, and Pierre could see it encircling his legs like some shadowy beast trying to drag him back to the netherworlds from which he had escaped. He crawled away from it, but still lay on the ground as it swirled and coalesced in the air. Penny was reaching back into the hole, and pulling the tank out. She was struggling, but it finally came free, and rolled on the ground up to were he was lying down. "Come on, Pierre, we have to get to the filter room."

"Where is it?"

"On the bottom floor."

"Why are you bringing the tank?"

Penny shrugged, "If we run into any werewolves, this should be able to change their minds. Do you want to use it or should I?" Penny hefted the hose in one hand, looking at him, and down the passageway in front of them warily.

Thibaudet climbed to his feet, shaking the soreness out of them. He was still in pain, but it was more of that dull scratching itching pain from the chlorine than anything else. Plus his whole body ached from the strenuous lift and the freezing cold of the space walk. However, he was not going to be so weak as to make her carry everything. He grabbed the handle in his right hand, feeling the icy metal in his palm. "I'll take it. You just show me where we need to go."

Penny nodded, and started carefully down the hall, moving quickly, but not so fast as to make any nose. Thibaudet rolled the tank behind her, glad that the wheels did not squeak. Turning to the right, they peered down the corridor. Nothing. The werewolves were not there. He wondered how long it would take Anselm to find them, especially since they were practically next to him already. Turning to the left then, they saw the passageway forking off in both directions, with the twin staircases between them and the rest of the ship. They would be going down this time. Saltonstall had said that the werewolves seemed to like the second floor. He hoped that they were not there for very long.

As they came to the staircases, Thibaudet note something else. Down the right hand passageway was a closed blast door. He knew what lay behind it as well. It was none other than the mad psychologist himself, Dr. Anselm. Thibaudet tensed at seeing that. In fact, he couldn't take his eyes off of it. He wanted to go there right now and kill him. That was what he had promised he would do. That was what he would do. Anselm was going to die if he had anything to say about it. Of course, he had to live first. He felt somebody pulling at his sleeve, "Not now, Pierre, he is not going anywhere. Come on!"

Thibaudet turned to look at Penny, who was quite red in the face, and on her body. There were swellings and puffiness all about her. The chlorine had done its work, and they were poisoned with it. Oh there were ways to make sure that they were all right, but he did not know what they were. Suddenly, just behind her he saw them coming. The werewolves. He knew what they were, recognized them once again. They were racing up the staircase behind her, claws and jaws outstretched. He grabbed the hose, and tried to push her out of the way, but her arm was locked solidly on his shoulder, and he knew there would not be enough time. He could see the slash coming, but there was nothing he could do to prevent it, and so when Penny buckled, her face gritting in pain, Thibaudet turned the valve open, heedless of anything that might happen. The liquid oxygen splashed on the werewolves, and they had the profoundest look of surprise on their faces that he had ever seen. The one that had slashed Penny's leg fell back down the staircase yelping in pain. Pierre checked behind him at the other staircase, and he saw two more coming up after him. He turned the hose on them, and watched as their fur froze. He continued to spray any that he had missed, and there were quite a few of them, but soon they had all backed up and run off. That didn't stop him from spraying a bit longer than necessary to make sure. Looking about, down both staircases, and around him, there were no werewolves to be seen. The hose was no longer spraying liquid oxygen anymore either. The tank was empty.

Thibaudet leaned over his fallen comrade, "Penny, are you all right?"

"Yes, it only nicked the back of my leg." Suddenly her face froze, and her eyes went wild with fear. But only for a moment. "Let's not worry about it. We have to get to the filter room now."

"Can you walk?"

"Hell, I can run." Penny got to her feet, and winced as she put weight on her injured leg. Thibaudet reached an arm out to steady her, but she shoved it away, "I can make it. Let's just go."

Thibaudet felt sick to his stomach at what he had done. His moment of distraction and hate towards Anselm had caused Penny to become one of them. She certainly wasn't letting it get to her, or at least she wasn't showing it. They ran down the steps, and Penny then took the passage back towards the rear of the ship. There was another set of staircases back there, this one going down. It was the only one on the ship that led to the bottom floor. She leaped down the sitars, heedless of any dangers that were in her path. The blood exuding from her leg was wet and sticky on the floor, and Pierre made sure he didn't slip. He felt as if his stomach would erupt, but he had already done that once. He had nothing left. His stomach was trying to convince him otherwise. Nearly tumbling down the stairs, Thibaudet took a quick look around. There was a closed and sealed door at the far end, presumably the engine room. Behind him was another doorway, this one sealed as well, wit a keypad as well for extra security. That must have been were the fuel tanks were. Penny would probably have the combination for that, but he did not really want to ask. There was one more door set in the side to the left. Penny went for that one.

It opened at the touch of her card, and she motioned for him to come in as well. He could hear the sound of werewolves howling behind him. He didn't waste another second, but dashed into the room as Penny closed it behind him. The room was a narrow chamber with monitors along on side and rather large paneling along the other, each with a specific marker. There were storage containers along the side nearest him, each about as big as the ones on the other side of the room. They must contain the filters. There were no real chairs, so he slumped to the ground, glad to finally be off his legs and to safety. Turning back around, he saw that Penny had removed the panel next to the doorway. She had dragged out a bunch of wires connecting to the control panel, and was thumbing through them. She finally pulled a blue wire out and separated it from the others. Her hands went for her pocket, and patted them. She had a very frustrated look on her face.

"What are you doing?" Thibaudet asked, his voice hoarse.

"I'm trying to disconnect this door from computer access. That is what this blue wire does, connects this door to the central computer. If they find we are in here, Anselm can send a command here that will open this door and make it impossible for me to close it again. Do you have anything I can cut with? I seem to have left my tools back in my room." Penny looked a bit frantic, her whole body quivering from the stress.

Thibaudet searched his pockets, but finally shrugged, "I don't have anything. Do you want me to search the room for anything?"

Penny shook her head, slipping her watch off her wrist. "No, we don't have the time." She smashed the watch against the wall, shattering the face. The shards fell to the ground, and she gingerly reached down and picked up a small piece of glass. She then neatly severed the blue wire, and sighed with relief. She let herself sink to the floor, her legs splayed out in front of her. She took a deep breath, and then let it all out again. "I'm going to miss that watch. But I guess it's better than being interrupted before we could finish."

Thibaudet nodded absently amazed at her quick thinking and ingenuity. "No wonder you're the ship's Engineer."

She smiled, and then took another deep breath before getting to her feet. "Now, let's change these filters."

End Part 1 of Part XXVI

Continued in Part 2 of Part XXVI

Charles Matthias