Captain Harper stood at the airlock looking over the faces of each of his men. They wore the armor proudly, with the Hyperion's symbol emblazoned along the front and with the United States flag marked upon their shoulder. He ran his hand through his hair, through the blond with black stripe along the one side. This was it. The trip was over, and the docking procedure with the Pytheas had gone along smoothly. There was nobody on the command bridge of the Pytheas, but they hadn't expected anybody to be. Looking back at the tranquilizer rifle in his hands, he checked to make sure it was fully loaded. It was. Taking a deep breath he looked over at his Executive Officer. She was rubbing her palms together, the rifle slung over her shoulder.
"Are you ready, Lt. Commander Hoskins?" he asked, a worried glint in his eyes.
"Yes, sir," She replied, briefly smiling.
He nodded then, pushing his heart back down out of his throat. "Good, now open the hatch."
She walked over, and pressed the release button along the side of the hatch. The airlock opened up, and fed the intership walkway with air. The closed airlock on the Pytheas stood before them. Hoskins looked back to him, her face filled with apprehension. Through the panes of glass they could see something standing in the passageway beyond, but could not yet quite tell what. He motioned for her to continue. He hoped that the werewolves were not standing there waiting for him. This assignment was probably the most dangerous that he had ever in his entire career ever undertaken. The assurances that he and his crew could handle it that he'd given to Colonel Throckmorton had been heartfelt, but now he was reconsidering. Never in his life had he dreamed that he would be fighting things that had once been his fellow officers in the Space Force.
The airlock to the Pytheas opened up, and he moved forward in, insisting on being first in. The others of his team followed. The reserves left on board the Hyperion would be watching from the Command Bridge. They should already be refueling the Pytheas; after all, both of them would be coming home when they were finished. Beyond the other doorway, he finally saw who it was. Though he did not recognize any of them, he knew that they were human beings. The final hatchway opened up, and he saw five figures standing there. Two middle aged men, one badly injured with sores and swelling over his body, as well as a blood soaked rag tied about his right shoulder. The other three, two young men and one young woman were standing in between them. They all had relieved looks on their faces. Harper looked along each of their clothes, and saw that none were in uniform. None of them were Space Force personnel.
"I'm Captain Harper of the Hyperion. Who is in charge here?" He introduced himself, swinging the rifle back over his shoulder while Hoskins and the others fanned out along the corridors to each side.
The badly injured one stepped forward, wincing as he did so, "I am. Captain Rhodes put me in charge himself before he became a werewolf. I'm Doctor Pierre Thibaudet."
"Well, Dr. Thibaudet." Harper did not salute him, but held out his gloved hand instead. Thibaudet shook it, a good strong grip despite the obvious pain he was in. "We have a medical doctor on the Hyperion. I think you should see him immediately. Where are the werewolves?"
"The werewolves are up in the Greenhouse.' one of the young men, a thin fellow with a serene face. "They went willingly."
"Willingly?" Harper asked. How had they reasoned with the werewolves? Last he had heard they were going about killing people. "You mean they didn't try to kill you?"
"Well, only a short while ago, they just came to. It was like they were who they were, but still locked in those forms," the other older man replied, the young woman holding onto his arm.
Harper nodded, now thoroughly confused. "How many on board are dead?"
"Four." Thibaudet said in a detached voice. "Just four. Two kids and two adults. Lars Thordegaard, Andrew Ball otherwise known as Lapwolf, Alan Ziegler one of the security guards," he paused, licking his lips, "and Doctor Frederick Anselm. Everybody else is a werewolf."
Harper nodded, "Hoskins, head to the Greenhouse. Try to get them to come willingly. If they attack you, of course subdue them."
"They won't attack," the skinny kid said quietly. "I know they won't."
"Just get them in the cages on the Hyperion," Harper told her. Hoskins nodded, and led the detachment over to where the Greenhouse was. Harper returned his attention to Thibaudet. "So, can you tell me all about what happened?"
Thibaudet walked forward, shuffling on his feet. "I'd rather see that doctor." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the other middle-aged man. "Ask Jansen. He knows everything. I've told him. I just need some sleep."
Harper nodded, "You'll get it." He pulled out his radio, "Dr. Avenue, get down here as fast as you can. We have a patient in severe condition that needs your attention right away." He put the radio back on his belt and looked from one relieved face to the next. "I don't know what happened, but I can assure you that the nightmare is over." Each of them smiled at him as he said it. Surely they knew that better than anybody else in the entire world.
Throckmorton chuckled as Swiley continued to regale the two of them with tales from one of his fishing trips up in the lakes of Montana. Simmons looked to be doing much better, and the way he described using his unique gifts to catch the fish proved to be one comical disaster after another. It seemed that sometimes just using the reel and line would have been more successful. Of course, then they wouldn't have something to laugh about. He was already on his third cup of cocoa, he was sure that they could tell stories till the sun rose again on the day. It would be too long now anyway. Swiley seemed much more animated now that they were all friends and just sharing stories. Simmons even seemed to be enjoying herself, having told a few herself. When the call over the radio came, he felt a bit disheartened that he had to ask Swiley to stop.
"Colonel, Captain Harper is on the line," Brucker's voice was calm, and quite contented. "He insisted to talk to you."
"Well, put him on then. I'd almost forgotten that he'd have been boarding the Pytheas by now."
"Yes, sir." Brucker's voice disappeared for a few moments, and Throckmorton gave Simmons a thumb's up when she gave him a concerned look. Everything should be all right now.
"Colonel Throckmorton?" Harper's voice came through the radio. He sounded quite confused.
"What is it Harper?"
"Well, we just left the full moon orbit about ten minutes ago. Dr. Jansen has been telling me about what has happened on the Pytheas. You will not believe this. Apparently from what he tells me, this was a setup. Lieutenant Penny confirmed it after she changed back. My Lord that was eerie. Apparently, the Hasmoneans were behind this, a one Dr. Anselm heading the group, and a Dr. Saltonstall working along side him. I've got Saltonstall detained now in special quarters. He was a werewolf too."
"And Anselm?" Throckmorton noticed Swiley's smile disappear at the mention of that name. He wondered just what in specific had gone on that ship that he had not known about.
"Anselm is dead. Thibaudet shot him. Thibaudet is in the infirmary being treated for multiple wounds and inflammations. Seems he walked through a room filled with chlorine gas as well as taking an unprotected space walk when Dr. Anselm tried to kill him by ejecting him and Lt. Penny out into space. Apparently, Anselm was ordered to make sure that everybody on that ship was a werewolf; Penny told me so. He almost succeeded too, only five humans left, and four people dead, including Anselm. Saltonstall has denied it though. And you are not going to believe this either. Neither I nor any of my men had to fire a single shot. The werewolves just walked into the cages when we asked them to. They just walked in there. I don't understand it, and none of the others can give me an explanation for it."
"What's he saying?" Swiley asked curiously.
Throckmorton stared at the head of the Hasmoneans. For some reason, he felt used. This man had manipulated the conversation around so many issues that he had made himself out into a saint of sorts. He had been ready to call this man a friend. Yet he had ordered that every person on that ship be a werewolf! How could he so blatantly use those people's lives like that? Throckmorton wanted to throttle the man, but he knew that it would accomplish nothing. Perhaps he would have an explanation for it. "Well, he's saying lots of things. One of which is that the werewolves willingly walked into the cages. He just had to ask them, and they went. Harper never fired a single shot. Do you have an explanation for this?"
Swiley nodded, "Ask him if anybody dumped some moon dust into the filtration system."
"Just ask him that."
Throckmorton nodded, and repeated the question to Harper. There was a bit of silence on the other end for a moment. Apparently Harper was consulting with people on the other end. He came back soon though, but he was still confused, "Yes. Apparently some kid named East or something dumped a box full of it into the system just over ninety minutes ago."
Throckmorton nodded, "Hold on a second, Harper, I have to talk with the head of the Hasmoneans for a moment." Throckmorton put the radio down and stared at Swiley, who was twirling his pipe in his fingers. "Somebody dumped a box full of it into the filtration system. Now, why does that matter?"
Swiley smiled as if he had something that nobody else did and was proudly displaying it for all to see. "Remember I told you there was a way for those with the wolf to come to grips with it easily. Well that is the way. It saved their minds and restored their humanity to them. The reason that they were out of control, and why Simmons here is out of control when she is a werewolf is because they try to fight it. The human side and the wolf sides are in a constant state of warfare. When the change comes upon them during the full moon, the human side struggles against the suddenly more powerful wolf side and drives them both to act insanely and without reason. The instincts of the wolf are supreme, and the person does not know who they are, or who others are about them. The closer one is to the moon, the more the spiritual connection grows in intensity. Remember the moon acts as a battery for the spiritual powers. Well, the moon dust is connected in some way to the moon directly, so that when they breathe it in or come in contact with it, it would be as if they were touching the moon itself. What that does is it brings the two sides together instantly, and harmonizes them immediately. What would have taken years to accomplish is done in a moment. The fight ends, and their humanity returns, though it is forever then after entwined with their new lupine nature. The two are completely inseparable. They are in complete control of themselves, and would never attack another human being unless provoked to do so. Yet at the same time, they have the freedom that being a wolf brings to the human spirit. They may be mad that this was done to them without their permission, but I certainly doubt that they could ever bear to part with the wolf now. It is as much a part of them as their heart is."
Throckmorton leaned back in his chair. He pulled the radio up again, "Harper, I got the explanation. How are they?"
"Well, they've all changed back now. Except one of them. Seems that one of them turned into a wolf completely." Harper was obviously very confused, and Throckmorton could understand why. This situation was probably going to take years to sort out. "Oh, Captain Rhodes would like to speak to you."
Throckmorton shifted in his seat, a smile crossing his lips, "Well put him on then!"
Rhodes's voice was a welcome sound t his ears. He had been worried about his friend, and to find out that he was alive and well, and human again was a relief beyond words. "Hello, Colonel. I understand that the head of the Hasmoneans is in the room with you."
"Yes, he is. Good to hear your voice Rhodes."
"Thanks. Can I talk to him for a moment? I have a few things to say to him." Rhodes sounded a bit testy.
"Of course." Throckmorton smiled at the futurist as he passed the radio over to him. "Captain Rhodes would like to have a few words with you."
"He would?" Swiley took the radio, and put it up to his face. His smile withered quickly, and a pained expression crossed it. He closed his eyes and nodded solemnly at whatever verbal lashing Rhodes was delivering to him. Throckmorton wished for a moment that he could hear what was being said, but after Swiley winced a few times he decided it was probably better that he didn't know. He glanced over at Simmons, who seemed altogether excited by the news that a way was possible for her to reconcile her pain. Before they only had Swiley's word to go on, now they had actual proof. How he wished they would land soon so that he could see them all again. It had really been too long of a day.
Swiley said a few short words into the radio, and then handed it back to Edward. Edward put it to his ear. "Is that you, Throckmorton?" Rhodes asked over the line, his voice calm.
"Good. I didn't tell him what Anselm said his orders were, I figured you'd like the pleasure of that."
"Thank you, I guess."
"Well, I already told him he's responsible for the deaths of four people. One of them my own men. He got Ziegler killed; Alan was a good friend and a funny guy. I'm going to miss him. Captain Harper just left to go prepare a report. I think we'll leave you alone for now. I'm sure you and Mr. Hasmonean have a lot to talk about." Rhodes then was gone, and Throckmorton lowered the radio. His ire was up again. He had been manipulated and manhandled by this man into thinking many things, some of them were most certainly true, others were most certainly wrong. Such as the fact that he was an innocent man. That was completely wrong. Four people were dead because of him. And many more were werewolves against their will because of his orders.
"So, Dr. Swiley, why did you tell Anselm that he was to make sure that everybody on board the Pytheas was a werewolf?"
Swiley took a quick glance at Simmons and then back at him, his face confused. "That is not what I told him."
"That is what Anselm told Penny his orders were. To make sure that everybody on board was a werewolf."
Swiley shook his head. "Those weren't his orders!"
"Then what were his orders? And what were Saltonstall's orders?"
Swiley took a breath of air, blinking several times. "Saltonstall was ordered to get footage of a werewolf transforming. A few other clips as well. That was all he was supposed to do. Anselm was ordered to take care of the moon dust as soon as he possibly could to prevent the spread of the werewolves from getting out of control. I don't know how he interpreted that as making everybody into werewolves. Are you sure that is what Harper told you?"
"Absolutely sure. Why should I believe you over him?"
Swiley grabbed his briefcase and opened it up. "Because I have copies of the orders given to them right in here." He slid the open briefcase over to Throckmorton. It was filled with stacks of papers. "It's all there. Everything on this mission is in that briefcase. Peruse at your leisure."
"So why did Anselm do what he did? He must have had some reason."
Swiley rubbed his chin, thinking. Suddenly a gloomy look crossed his face, and he shook his head, "How could I have been such a fool."
"I've been a fool! I should have known it would happen."
"What would happen?"
"Anselm lost it. He flipped out. He had a relapse."
Swiley nodded. "A relapse. When he was ten years old he got himself caught in a refrigerator. He couldn't get out; he was locked in there for a while before anybody found him and saved him from suffocation. He had an acute case of claustrophobia for a few years after ward. However, the incident helped him develop some powers that were of interest to us. We thought he was cured, he was in therapy for five years, and he's had regular checkups for the last twenty. All of them have said that he was perfectly sane. I knew going on the Pytheas would present a serious threat to his stability, so I had him tested for weeks before this. He seemed perfectly fine and completely normal. Every psychology test performed on him showed him to be perfectly in control of himself. I don't know what went wrong."
"You sent a person with a history of mental instability up on that ship to run your little mission?" Throckmorton asked incredulously.
Swiley nodded, his face crestfallen.
"What kind of incompetence are you dealing with here?" Throckmorton tried to keep his voice under control, but he felt like there was no reason to.
"My own." Swiley looked up at him once more. His face determined. "I will take the responsibility. I will take full and complete responsibility for everything that happened on that ship. Rhodes told me I should, and he was right. I am responsible for those deaths, and I responsible for them being werewolves. It is my fault. I may have done something foolish beyond belief. It would not be the first time. I will take responsibility for my actions. I will."
Throckmorton wasn't sure that he believed him on just his word. He reached into the briefcase and pulled out the stack of papers and set them on the desk. "You will. Oh yes, you will take responsibility. I will see to that." For the first time since this all started, Throckmorton realized that he was not going to go down at all. His career had been saved, and he was going to stop the ones responsible. He was a hero. He smiled to himself. To think, that it had all started with him just writing one little computer program to get in contact with the Pytheas. Indeed, this was not a bad day at all.
End Part XXVII