By Charles Matthias
Part VII - continued
He beat on the door with his fists a few more times, and then stood there, looking in at the figures that had escaped. He felt a bit depressed; he could not do what he had to do, what he knew to be the right thing to do. However, he didn't really have to get in there anymore, and there were others still on this ship. It was just a matter of following his nose. He sulked off, trying to find scents that he had yet to detect.
The five of them looked from one to the other, each catching their breath, each one not sure what he or she had seen was in fact real. Dutton clutched his arm, as if the blood dripping was evidence enough. He pulled off his shirt -- he was wearing a white T underneath -- and wrapped it about the wound, soaking it a deep crimson in mere moments. The man dropped the shovel on the ground, as he backed away from the door before tripping over an errant root and falling on his rear. Rhodes sat his paunch down against the wall, eyes closed, apparently offering up a silent prayer. The girl was still in shock, her eyes betraying both disbelief and wonder. Thibaudet tossed the card back at Rhodes's feet, and then stumbled over to the table, trying not to throw up. He hadn't eaten anything in the past six hours, and he was getting hungry, but after being chased by a creature that shouldn't exist, he was not in the mood.
After regaining control of his stomach, he slumped to the floor, leaning against the sole desk. He looked over the other four, and then just sort of shook his head. "Loup-garou." he muttered under his breath, each syllable flowing form his tongue as if they were meant to be the only words he ever said.
"What was that?" he heard somebody say, though in his contemplative state he could not tell whom.
"What was that you just said?" He turned and saw that it was Rhodes who was asking him. He was fingering the card in one hand, and holding the other to his chest, probably to restore his breath.
"That thing was a loup-garou." Thibaudet explained.
"A what?" Dutton asked, clutching his arm protectively.
"A werewolf." the girl supplied. "Loup-garou is French for werewolf."
"Francais," Thibaudet corrected.
"Whatever," the girl shrugged.
Rhodes nodded, "I'm so glad that we have you here to eliminate the impossible form the improbably for us, Pierre, but don't you think we could already tell that?"
Pierre shrugged, "Well, we know that one of the crew members is a werewolf now, and we know that it isn't any one of us five, and that it isn't Danielpour, Tembo, or Ascot."
"So who are you two anyway?" Rhodes asked, pointing towards the man who had not bothered to get up, and to the girl who was still staring out that porthole, as if expecting to see the face of the beast again.
"I'm Dr. Emil Jansen. I'm a botanist, which is why I'm here. This is where I work." Jansen laid there on the ground, pointing at the room about them.
"My name is Lassie," the girl offered, not even looking at Rhodes.
"Well, it seems that we five are going to have to figure out what to do about this werewolf. I think it should be clear now that the werewolf killed Tembo when we went first into the orbit about the full Moon. Now that we've gone into that orbit again, the werewolf is loose. If we are to save everybody else, we need to make sure that the werewolf, who obviously knows how to open doors, cannot reach them. Now, where are the other security guards, Dutton?"
"Ziegler is resting in his room, McGee is watching you know who, probably down at the research stations on this floor, Corigliano and Gorecki are patrolling the ship. Don't know where they are exactly, but if they were in the area, then they probably heard what was going on. This ship is insulated against sound very well, I doubt anybody on the second floor could have heard what was going on unless they stood next to the staircase leading to the bridge." Dutton replied, wincing every few seconds as the blood continued to flow.
"Are there any medical supplies here, that shirt won't last forever?" Rhodes turned on Jansen, who shook his head.
"All we have are gardening tools. Medical supplies are down in the infirmary."
"That's what I thought." Rhodes grimaced. "I'd better give Corigliano and Gorecki a call to let them know what's going on."
"Hey, if they are still out there, then perhaps they can move about and get some stuff for us. There isn't that much that's edible here either in case you haven't noticed." Dutton pointed out as he scanned the flowers and bushes.
"Good point." Rhodes pulled out the personal communicator and pressed a button, "Corigliano? Gorecki? Good, I want both of you to get into the nearest secure location that you can find. Immediately, lock the doors as well. Call me when you get there, and I'll give you further instructions. If you see anybody human wandering the halls drag him or her with you. Is that understood? Good, I'll talk to you in a bit."
Thibaudet looked up at the captain, who seemed to be mostly recovered from the trauma of being chased by a werewolf. "What do we do now?"
Rhodes grimaced in thought, "We need to organize our personnel, and form a plan to stop this beast. First though we need to make sure that it doesn't kill anybody else on board. Kilpatrick and Penny should be in the engineering room. As long as they keep the door closed they'll be safe, but unreachable. Xenakis should be in the infirmary, and he always leaves his door open. We should probably send the closest one to pick him up, as well as some medical supplies."
"What about the other scientists?" Jansen asked.
"I guess I can check to see where McGee is." Rhodes mused. "I can lock them up in the research station for a time being, but the station can't be locked up indefinitely."
"Why not?" Thibaudet asks.
"Because they are on a separate air system from the rest of the ship. They need to have special filters to remove any chemicals that have come from the various research stations. The air ducts connect, but the filters systems are different. If those filters aren't changed properly, then they could die. Now excuse me, I have to call them." Rhodes turned his back on Thibaudet as he made the call.
Thibaudet looked over at the girl who was still staring absently at the door. She appeared intent, as if calling forth something from herself that she had long since vanquished. He studied her face for a moment, short dark hair, with wide framed cheekbones and a short nose. He did not find her that attractive, more spunky than anything else, but she was not ugly either. Of course his mind was on other things, still trying to come to terms with what he had just witnessed, however, the need to talk was too great, and here was a person who might understand, and might possibly be able to enlighten him.
"Lassie, what are you looking at?" he called out. Her head snapped around to stare at him, the first time that she had broken off eye contact. She seemed quite distressed about something.
"Was that what I think it was?" she asked in a soft voice.
"Loup-garou." Thibaudet nodded. "Trust me, I'm having a hard time believing myself. I saw it slash open a man's chest with its claws, and we all saw what it did to Dutton's arm. Things in this Universe have all become so different in the space of a few moments. Ten minutes ago I would have told you with great conviction that there was no such thing as werewolves, but now...." he drifted off, not sure what he could say to her. He himself was still having trouble reconciling the existence of the werewolf with his own understanding of the world. Surely there was a rational explanation for it, there had to be.
"What is it going to do?" she asked in a quavering voice.
"I think it means to kill us."
"But that's not how it's supposed to work!" she insisted in a petulant tone.
"How is it supposed to work?"
"They are not murderous, they are simply creatures of instinct. You all must have frightened it or goaded it to attack."
"You saw it with your own eyes, did that look like some peaceful creature? It jumped us, we were just talking amongst ourselves, when it attacked."
"But that doesn't make sense. Werewolves are more enlightened than that."
"Have you ever seen a werewolf before?" Thibaudet thought about that question for a moment then added a caveat. "That is, have you ever seen a werewolf that actually looks like a wolf?"
"Well, not when you put it that way, but I've known people that have been wolves."
Jansen snorted, "Like your friend that attacked me earlier?"
"You provoked him!" she shot back. "If you hadn't interrupted our ceremony, then he would have left you alone!"
"I had work to do, and you all were caterwauling!" Jansen started yelling at the girl, his face livid with the memory. "How was I supposed to work with the zoo in the same room?"
"Be quiet, I can't hear what Gorecki is saying!" Rhodes yelled over his shoulder. The two of them turned from each other in a huff. Thibaudet watched each of them, his own mind refusing to dwell on what he had seen moments ago. It simply could not fathom the existence of such creatures as werewolves. The next thing he knew, goblins were going to come swinging out of the trees. He was more interested in the conversation that Lassie and Dr. Jansen were having. He knew that Dr. Jansen did not even like having the Shapeshifters on board, he had made that clear at the first meeting. He also suspected that Lassie was not the type to give into demands from others too easily.
He was proven right a few moments later when she gave Jansen another snub, "You had no right to interfere. The constitution grants us any authority we deem necessary to the practice of our religion."
"How about stealing, does it give you the right to do that?" he muttered back at her.
"Why don't you get off your high horse, you're an animal too."
"I'm not the thief."
"I don't have your stupid ring!" she declared between clenched teeth. "I wish I did, that way I could throw it to the ground and stomp on it."
"Better that than to see it wasted on a hand like yours!"
"Dutton, separate those two." Rhodes called back irritably, "Now you were saying, John?"
Dutton walked over, and put his good arm on Lassie's shoulder. She swatted it away irritably with the back of her hand. Dutton grabbed her more firmly, and pushed her down the field. Jansen turned about and faced in the other direction, not wanting to watch. Lassie began bitching at Dutton, but she couldn't break free from his grasp. Thibaudet finally managed to push himself to a standing position, and he looked over at Rhodes who was talking quietly into his radio. He knew that things were well out of his area of expertise, and that he was indeed very lucky to even be alive. Jansen looked like he was still debating whether what he saw had been real or not, but he had been convinced of it. At least in some part.
The very existence of this creature could not be doubted. Everywhere he turned, he could still see the image of that beast slashing open Malcolm's chest, with the blood spraying over the creatures already sticky fur, making even more of a mess. He felt the brush of that touch, just barely, it communicating more to him than any simple view could have. The creature was real, it had fur, it had claws, it had a large muzzle with sharp canines beneath the lips, it had a black nose that flared with each breath, it had yellow eyes that pierced him an sent a shiver down his spine. It was a wolf who had been a man. To think, that he might have met this man, talked with him, and now it was a beast that by the light of the full moon that stalked the halls of the ship.
Rhodes put his communicator down and motioned for Dutton to come back over here. The man still was holding his shirt to his arm. The blood had mostly stopped flowing, though it was still dripping. However, Dutton was no small man, so would not be too weakened from the loss of blood. He certainly did not show any signs of slowing down. Thibaudet leaned a little closer, not wanting to miss any of this. Rhodes noticed the subtle movement, but far from disapproving, he seemed resigned to the fact that Thibaudet was going to know, "You might as well hear this, Pierre, we are going to need everybody we can get to solve this problem. You too, Emil, I want your input as well."
The two scientists approached as Rhodes explained the situation. "Well, both Corigliano and Gorecki are still alive, and McGee has locked the research station up. He says that there are five scientists with him, Anselm, Arkady, Johnson, Panufnik, and Sessions. That leaves three that we cannot confirm, Bowman, Handley, and Saltonstall. Gorecki had seen some of the Shapeshifters in the cafeteria earlier, but that was about ten minutes ago. I told her to go grab them and make them come here to the Greenhouse. Also, I instructed her to bring as much food as she could reasonably salvage from the cafeteria. I don't know how much longer we're going to be staying here, but it might be some time, so I want us all to be prepared.
"Corigliano is going to go check on Dr. Xenakis to see if he is still alive. I tried calling his communicator, but I got no response from him. That can mean two things, he won't answer, or that he can't answer. Corigliano will let us know when he gets there. Regardless what happens, he is going to pick up some medical supplies. I also instructed him to stop by the Security office to pick up some ordinance for the rest of us. We almost certainly are going to need it. He's then supposed to go to the bridge and see if he can communicate with the Engineering room. If he can, he's instructed to tell them to alter our course just enough to get us out of the full moon orbit. If not, then he's to come straight back here."
"Why can't you guys call them from here?" Jansen asked.
"The engine reduces all wireless communications within a certain distance inoperative. It has something to do with the magnetic field; I could never figure it out. At any rate, the only way we can talk to them is from a communications port. There are only three of those on the ship, one on the bridge, the other in the engineering room, and the third in the security office, which has unfortunately been destroyed," Rhodes replied.
"If wireless is not completely effective throughout the ship, then why use it at all?" Thibaudet pondered.
"It was more cost effective, and when they designed these shuttles, they were looking for anyway to cut corners that they could. Nobody thought that not being able to communicate wirelessly with the engineering room would prove to be a problem."
"Well, why doesn't Kilpatrick and Penny just reorder the ship to a new orbit anyway?" Jansen asked, a bit puzzled by the roundabout method they were working with.
"First off, neither of them probably knows what's going on yet. Secondly, Kilpatrick won't do anything without my authorization. Even if they know about the danger, Kilpatrick isn't going to move the ship until he can be sure that it is safe to do so. Right now he is operating under the orders of homebase, only I have the power to override that, as long as I'm alive." Rhodes pointed out.
"So he's valuing his career over the lives of others?" Jansen seemed horrified.
"As I said, he probably doesn't even know that there is a werewolf on this ship. Besides, he's got other things to occupy his mind down there." Rhodes remarked slyly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Thibaudet pondered out loud.
"Well, I don't know about you, but I hope Corigliano gets back here soon with those damn medical supplies. My arm is stinging like a real bitch!" Dutton swore between clenched teeth as he flexed and unflexed his fist.
Gorecki stepped from her room, closing the door behind her. Her gun ahead of her, she looked both ways very quickly, nothing in sight. She then stood there for a moment, her hands tense, her ears listening to the faint echoes in the air. There was nothing about her, at least nothing making any sound. From what Rhodes had described this creature, this werewolf, could come upon her suddenly and leave her dead before she knew it. Not likely, she was tougher than most and no dog was going to hurt her. She slid her card down through the slot to her door, no sense in letting it loot through her stuff while she was gone.
She put the card between her teeth, at the ready in case she had to use it fast, and pulled out a long knife in her other hand. With the gun waving before her and the knife at the ready in her other hand, she began to take measured steps down the hallway. She continuously looked behind her, and above her, no sense in letting the werewolf get the drop on her. She was going to be prepared, as her feet moved silently, none could hear her. She would sneak up on that wolf and slice it up before it knew what had happened. Of course, that would have to come later. She had to see if the Shapeshifters were still in the cafeteria before doing anything dangerous.
She leaned up against the wall at the first intersection. Nobody was down the opposite hall, she could see that easily. She took a deep breath in through her nose, and then spun around the corner. The hall was empty. She sighed, so far so good, no sign of any monster. Not even a speck of blood or hair. She put her back to the wall around the bend. This was a maintenance corridor; the cafeteria was down a couple more turns. She slowly, step by step made her way down the passage. What would normally have been a brisk ten-second walk, had turned into an hour-long crawl. It did not take her that long of course, but it seemed that way. Time dilated with each step, the moments growing tenser. There was nothing about her, only a few doors where supplies such as air filters and frozen food could be found. She even saw one JUDE facility. After she was done with the werewolf they would really need him to clean up the mess.
She smiled to herself, and then continued on down the hallway. She was halfway through, each step silent, the gun before her, her finger ready at the trigger, the knife in her other hand sharpened, ready to spill blood. She bit down hard on the card in her mouth, knowing that she might need it fast, for if the werewolf was really as sneaky as they claimed, then there was no telling when she would have to use it. She stepped in front of a storage room door when she first heard it. A faint clicking sound, as if somebody were tapping something hard against the floor. She stopped where she was, looking ahead, and then behind her. There was nothing in sight, and she couldn't quite tell where it was coming from.
She waited there, no daring to move. Perhaps she had not been so quiet as she had hoped to be. Perhaps the creature was just in the area, and did not know she was there at all. Perhaps she could lie in wait for it, and take it by surprise? It seemed like a worthwhile idea, certainly, if she could kill it, then all of their problems were solved. It may be tough, but a shot to the head would be enough, it always was. She looked about the hallway; not sure where exactly it was that she could lay in wait. Around a corner would be nice, but then she'd have to face the creature face to face. An attack from behind would prove much more effective and risk free for her. She contemplated quickly, her eyes returning to the door in the wall behind her. It had possibilities, but the creature might hear it open and be alerted to her presence.
All of a sudden, she heard that faint clicking noise again, this time, it seemed closer somehow, but still, she could not quite tell which direction it came from. She pulled the card from her mouth, and then looked at the panel on the door, it was already unlocked. She did not take the time to think about hat as she pushed the button to open the door. As she had predicted, it made some amount of noise, sliding into the wall as it did so. She stepped inside quickly, and then noticed the figure that was already inside.
She only had time enough to fire a single shot.
Onto Part VIII!
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