By Charles Matthias
Part III - continued
Lassie had found her way back to the greenhouse after returning to her room for a brief momet and then wandering aimlessly for a few minutes. She noted that the greenhouse was now empty, even of that scientist that had disrupted their little ceremony. She laughed to herself, what a putz! Though that security guard sure took down Black-Tiger without much difficulty. She hated being by herself, but the others had all gone off to their own little worlds. Who knes where any of them had gone? It didn't matter, she was in the greenhouse, and she could look at the moon.
Of course, it would have helped if she could have seen the moon. Where before it had loomed in the canopy bright and impossing, but now there was just empty space. She walked the length of the greenhouse, her eyes always going up to the canopy, trying to see if it was anywhere to be found. Even though she tried to see absolutely everything, she could not see the moon, nor any other heavenely object except the multiplicity of stars. She pouted for a moment, stomping her foot slightly on the turf.
She then turned her eyes to the scientist's desk which was still open. She walked gracefully over, peering down at the table of calculations and charts which he had begun to enter data upon. The computer at the one side was turned off, though the monitor was still flahing a few flickering grey smears. She let her hands touch every object, feeling it, letting their shape become known to her. She gingerly sat down in his chair, feeling the cushion give way. It was a very nice chair, she spun about in it a few times, letting her hair fall into her face and about her shoulders. "Whee!" she called out in a mildly amused voice.
Her eyes then fell upon something that glinted from inside one of the drawers. She pulled the drawer open carefully, her eyes peering into the blackness. It was a diamond ring, set perfectly in a silver princess band, nestled amongst the cushions of a jewelry case. Her mouth went wide, and her eyes became dreamy. She looked about the greenhouse one more time, and then, seeing nobody about, she lifted the case from the drawer. "Ooooh." she cooed to herself, lifting the ring from its case. She turned the desk light on, and began to examine the ring more closely. It was a beautiful piece of work, a decently-sized diamond; it certainly was a diamon, Lassie could tell that by the slight crescent-shaped flaw on the left side. She gingerly slipped the ring onto her right ring finger, and admired her hand in the light. It was dazzling, a bit loose, but otherwise it was perfect.
Suddenly she felt a sense of unease come over her, as if there was somebody watching her. She lowered her hands, putting them firmly behind her, as if to hide the ring. She looked into the foliage, trying to see thorugh the thick rows of ferns, flowers and bushes. She could see nobody, but that did not mean that somebody was there. "Is somebody there?" she called out, looking through the brush, not daring to set one foot out from behind the desk. It was now her refuge, for nothing could come at her form behind, and she had a quick means of exit to her right or left. She felt the irrational fear settle into her being, and unconsciously she began to shake.
"Is anybody there?" she called out again, this time with a little catch in her voice. Once agian, there was only that pervading silence. This place was unnatural, a forest made amidst the confines of metal and regulated environments. This place did not have the serene calm that all the forests she knew had. There was not the pleasant sound of the chirping birds to accompany her on her path, the occassional deer that instincts in her told her was good to eat. In the forest at home she could have let the wolf inside her take over, and she would have loped gaily about with that somber pride wolves always seemed to have. Here, she could not even begin to let go of her human aspect, for the wolf in her was cringing in worse fear of this place.
She tried not to think about what might be out there. However, thoughts of monsters kept coming back into her mind, some demonic force that could not exist on Earth would ceratinly find a home here. Something in this room was not right, there was some malevolent being hiding among the bushes, and she could not bring herself to even move away from the spot that she stood in. Those her legs were frozen, she on a sudden impulse put the case back into the drawer, and closed it shut. She fingered the diamond ring on her finger, contemplating the action she was taking. She just couldn't take this ring, it belonged to somebody else. Perhaps whatever was out there was mad at her for taking this ring away from the scientist. Perhaps he had a lady that he wanted to propose to. How could she deny that lady her happiness?
She was about to move to put the ring back when a voice comgin from her right startled her. It was a calm voice, deliberate in execution, but soft almost lucid in quality. "What are you doing here?"
The fear that had overtaken her suddenly vanished completely in that instant. SHe turned about, putting her left hand over her mouth in surprise, her cheeks flaming from embarassment. "Oh! I didn't see you come in. Sorry if I disturbed anything." She turned the monitor off as well as the desk lamp, and tidied a few out of place pens and mechanical pencils, and then returned her gaze to the short man who looked to be in his forties.
"What are you doing here?" the man reiterated. She saw that he had a name patch on, but standing in the doorway as he was, it was too far away for her to read it. She unconsciously held the ring behind her.
"I was just looking around," Lassie replied, feeling very embarrassed.
"You will have to come with me to your room." the man told her, stepping into the room a bit further.
Lassie immediately dropped the nice girl act. Her usually rough and tumble personality emerged in an instant, and she looked quite haughty. "We were given permission to be in the greenhouse at all times! I don't think you can order me about!"
"That permission has been temporarily revoked," the man said, calmly approaching her. His face was clean shaven, and it looked firm for a man of his age, though his hairline was receding.
"What if I don't want to go, what are you going to do?' Lassie challenged.
"I will take you back to your dorm. You can cooperate, and make things easier for us all, or you can force me to us other methods?" the man told her, finally stopping a respectable distance from the desk. He stood sqaurely, feet beneath the shoulders, with his arms hanging limpy, his wrists crossed at the navel. She finally got a chance to read his name tag, 'McGee'.
"Look, Mr. McGee, I am the one who gets to say where I go and what I do, not some short balding middle-aged man with an authority complex." she spat back.
McGee nodded, "I see, you chose the other way. Then I will have to make sure that you go." McGee approached her swiftly then, faster than she had expected, and he had grabbed her by the middle and lifted her high over his head within moments. Lassie was taken completely by surprise, and let her arms and legs drape downwards, not sure what to do. She felt the ring slip off her finger, and fall into the soil. She let out a little sound of shock, keeping her eyes on the piece of dirt that it fell upon, wishing that she could climb down form this brute and retrieve it, but alas, his grip was too strong. She assailed him with her fists and knees, but he then just poked her once in the side, and she recoiled from the pain. He had a deadly poke! She continued to struggle out of principle though.
McGee finally set her down outside the greenhouse, and pointed in the direction of the rooms. "No, are you going to cooperate?"
"No way!" she spat back, knowing that the man would probalby only do something worse. "How dare you pick me up like that! What kind of a gentleman are you?"
McGee smiled at that, "I'm the kind of gentleman with a plan. My plan is that you head back to your room. Now." He emphasized the last word by actually raising the volume of his voice. Lassie, stared at him, and past him, back into the greenhouse. She would have remained obdurate had she not see that one fern shake slightly. She saw a bit of pink flesh then pass by it, not enough to see who, but enough to know that a caucasian was in that room somewhere, hiding in the bushes. The fear that had been with her before then came back even stronger. The tough girl evaporated, and the submissive Lassie returned. She turned immediately around, and began to stride towards her room at the quickest possible pace.
She glanced once behind her and noticed that McGee was effortlessly keeping up with her. However, what she was more interested in knowing was whether that man had decided to follow them. She saw nobody except McGee whose placid expression did not aleviate her concern. Something had been back there, something hiding, something that had been watching her. She shivered once, and was glad to hear McGee activate the system lock on her door, preventing her from leaving, or anybody from entering.
Thibaudet heard the knocking down the hall, and he began to wonder what was going on. He had calibrated his instruemnts, and all of his instruments were in their proper place. Despite the brief period in which the ship was suddenly accelerating for some odd reason, he had not had any difficulty in organizing his materials. That the ship had changed orbits concerned him a bit, but he was sure that whatever had happened the crew were capable of dealing with it. His main concern was in making sure that his superconductors were properly aligned and were set to receive the sun's rays. It had not taken him long, using the computer terminal to make sure that all of them were in the proper order, and that each was still in prime working condition. He then flipped on the power, and watched as the ammeter on every one of the gauges flipped completely to the right. So far, so good.
Then the knocking came to his door. He set his instruments aside, and then opened up the portal to see the sole female guard standing before him, her face set grimly. "You need to return to your room immediately," she told him in a voice that was obviously angry.
"My room? Why?" Thibaudet asked, surprised.
"I'm afraid I can't tell you. Go to your room now," She told him sternly. For a brief moment, Thibaudet had flashbacks of his mother who chastised him with a similar phrase when he had been naughy, but the image quickly faded. Mrs. Gorecki did not look anything like his mother, thank goodnees! His mother had been stern, but gentle and quite graceful. Mrs. Gorecki was not gentle in the least, and she certainly was not very good looking in Pierre's estimate. Women should not strive to have such powerful muscles as this one had, for it made them less attractive in his eyes.
"May I at least secure my instruments, they are very delicate?" Thibaudet asked what he thought was a reasonable request.
"No, you must go to your room immediately," Gorecki replied, her eyes narrowing as she looked at him.
Thibaudet cried out ,"Merci! But I have valuable equipment, I need to secure it. If the ship makes any sudden moves they could fall to the ground and break. Then my research would be fruitless!"
Gorecki grabbed his collar, and yanked him from the room. He begrudginlgy admitted that her muslces were good for something at least. "Do you understand the word now?" she enunciated every word, putting a large emphasis on the word 'now'.
"Fine." Thibaudet declared, glaring back in her face. "I'm going." She put him down, and Thibaudet stormed off towards his room. He took a glance back and saw that Gorecki was knocking on the next door down as well. He stormed off toward his room, climbing down the stairs, and turning past the cafeteria. He then on a whim decided to be crazy, and took a wrong turn down a part of the ship that he had never been down before. He didn't know why he was doing it, but frankly, he felt like it and well he was going to do it. He stormed off down the hall, finding himself down a series of corridors with doors marked storage. He tried one of the doors, locked of course, and then continued on his way, examing the amazing size of the vessel as he moved about.
The walls of the ship were quite plain, an offwhite, with directional arrows pointing the way towards the dorm-like rooms, and another towards the main cargo area, while another pointed towards the cafeteria. Thibaudet even saw the main door for the JUDEs on this level. Thibaudet wondered just how often people came back here, the place seemed awfully quiet and still. The air of course had that particular sterilized quality, but it too seemed somehow motionless. Thibaudet gathered that this particular set of passages saw very little of human life. He wondered whether he was the first person on the whole trip to have ever come back here since they had gone into space.
He was not the first. As he turned a corner, he saw the naked form of one of the kids, a slightly overweight one. The kid was sitting on his haunches just around the corner, and he looked up at Pierre with a bewildered expression. Pierre stared at the kid with a look of absolute horror. What in the world was this kid doing naked in the middle of a hallway, sitting on his haunches like some animal to boot! Pierre stepped back, and exclaimed, "Merci! What are you doing?"
The kid looked up at him with a confused expression, and then he shook his head, and collapsed on the bare floor, his thick matting of chest hair wet. He heaved a few times and then looked up at Pierre, "Assalam Alaikum?" Pierre might have been mistaken, but he gathered that the kid was not sure of himself.
"What are you doing here?" Pierre asked again.
The kid opened his mouth to answer, but then shrugged, "I don't know."
"You don't know how you got here?" Pierre was astounded as well as bewildered by this kid. Of course, he couldn't help but be sarcastic, "I would have thought that being naked might have made the trip a little more memorable."
The kid looked frustrated. Thibaudet estimated him to be about twenty, but he still had the juvenille look to his face, a sort of innocence or defiance that all teenagers possessed. "Look, I went to bed after feeling ill, and then I found myself here!"
"Are you a sleepwalker?" Thibaudet asked, coming to the most logical conclusion.
The kid nodded, "I have sleepwalked before, but not recently."
Thibaudet, now recovered mostly from seeing the naked kid in the hallway, decided to help the kid out. He offered a hand, the kid took it, and Pierre helped him stand up. "Now, we're all supposed to be going back to our rooms for some odd reason, so I'd head back now if I were you. I don't know what they'd do if they caught you naked."
"You're probably right," the kid said nodding. "Oh, by the way, I'm Darkwolf."
Pierre was taken a back by the odd name, but smiled and introduced himself anyway, "Pierre Thibaudet. It's a pleasure to meet you, Darkwolf."
"You too, Pierre. You don't mind me calling you that now do you?" Darkwolf said as he held one hand in front of his private parts. Thibaudet saw the action, and averted his eyes. He'd done a good job of ignoring them so far, he was not going to succumb to viewing them now.
"Go right ahead, but as I said, we should be heading back to our rooms. The security guards were rather adamant about it." Pierre insisted, hoping to get away from this kid as soon as he could. The kid seemed nice, but most definitely odd. There was something about people who worshippe the moon that bugged Pierre. Of course people worshipping almost anything bugged Pierre. He considered himself an agnostic of sorts, but he never really worried about it.
"Yeah, I guess I should head back. Nice meeting you, Pierre." the kid turned around and began to walk in the opposite direction that Pierre had come. Pierre turned about, not really wanting to look at his rear, and began to march back toward his own room. He was not looking forward to spening any time with the irrascible Dr. Anselm, but unfortunately that was going to be the case. As long as Anselm didn't try to talk to him, or didn't pull out that stupid Swiley book!
In the greenhouse, a solitary figure rose from the bushes, looking about to make sure that nobody was around. He glanced up at the canopy, only the stars of the night in the sky before him. He recognized several constellations immediately, but he did not see what he had hoped. He thne shook his head free from the clutter. Why had he done this? What was possessing him to hide amongst the bushes and ferns? He was going to have to change now before he did anything else. He casually strode out of the greenhouse, still shaking his head, wondering just what he had been thinking.
Dr. Philip Xenakis finished patching up Ziegler's knees, and had applied the proper splints to them, when he finally turned his attention to the dead bodies. It would take some time for Alan's knees to heal up to the point where he could walk, but there was nothing left that Xenakis could do for him at that particular moment. He looked at the dead bodies, and he carefully plugged a thermometer in each of their ears. He then took a peek inside Tembo, and saw that his organs were damaged slightly from the wounding, but not much else. The kid who had been identified as Ascot from the medical forms was in fine shape except for his head, of which he was missing the front half.
Xenakis wanted to wait until the bodies had cooled to room temperature before performing the autopsy. It was his personal preference, and he could not stomach doing them on somebody who was still warm. It made him feel like he was cutting up a live person, and that offended his principles. Being the doctor, he had to stay in the infirmiry during a medical emergency, so he was not going to be able to make it to the conference that Rhodes had called. Instead he decided to get a bit of his memorization done. He already progressed far in the first chapter of 'Cycles of the Universe: Science Rediscovering Myth' by Fulton Swiley and he was hoping to have the entire book by memory when they finally returned to Earth.
He sat down in his chair, back to the bodies, he did not particularly want to look at them. He cracked the book open, but before he started reading, he took a peak at the gauges for the thermometers: Tembo 98.6, Ascot 95.3.
Onto Part IV!
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