By Charles Matthias
Part VIII - continued
John Corigliano put his ear to the door of the infirmary. He licked his lips tentatively as he waited, hoping that nothing would come to his ear from the outside, yet afraid that even if nothing did, the creature would still be waiting out there for him, silently waiting to snatch him up in its jaws and rip his throat out. John did not consider himself a coward, rather he thought of himself as rather daring and brave, but he could not help but shiver at the thought of that werewolf stalking him down like a snack. Humans were supposed to be the top of the food chain. He found that their relegation to second place quite disconcerting and unsettling.
He peered over the remnants of Thordegaard's corpse, with the dried blood caking into the table and onto the floor. Many of the bones were broken, and some had scraps of flesh remaining on them. Only the blood soaked clothes, which were tattered and torn, gave testament where the boy had laid. This thing had nearly eaten every last bit from him. He must have eaten all of Tembo, for nothing aside from the blood stains and the scraps of clothes remained of him.
The biggest mystery to John was not Tembo or Thordegaard, but as to the death of Dr. Philip Xenakis. It appeared that the werewolf had slashed his throat, and even still, the blood flowed from his wound. John did not consider himself a morbid man either, but out of some strange sense of curiosity, he felt compelled to walk over and touch the wound, to feel the claw marks, to feel what it would be like to make them. He put his hand over the wound, noting that the claws of the beast must be large indeed, for his hand could only span three slash marks. He touched the open wounds, pushing down on the severed flesh. It gave way a little drenching his fingers in a sudden flow of blood. What was odder was that the body was still quite warm.
With a chill, Corigliano realized that Xenakis must have been killed only recently. Most of the blood on the floor was probably not his but Tembo's and Thordegaard's. There was no way that Xenakis could have lost that much so quickly. He pulled his hand back, and looked into Philip's eyes. Dilated, a sure sign of death. He pushed the lids closed, and then stood back up again. He had no time for sentimentality; he needed to get to the security office right away.
He moved back to the door, and placed his ear against it. There was no noise coming from the hallway; it was completely silent. He held his breath for a few moments, listening to the beat of his heart. It thumped solidly, gaining in speed as he stood there, the fear coursing through his veins. It was true, he was scared -- he was scared shitless -- of this beast. Yet, he needed to remain calm, he needed to stay cool and collected. If he wasn't frosty, then he'd be toast. That werewolf would not give him a second chance, but then again, not much in life did give him a second chance. Everytime he'd crossed the street, he'd taken the chance that a car or truck would slam into his body, killing him instantly or slowly on the way to the hospital. How different was this?
He breathed deeply a few times, his heart slowing back down to a reasonable pace. There was no difference really, only this time, the trucks and cars would be aiming for him. He listened harder, the sound of his own heart reassuring him now. At least he was still alive. That was more than Thordegaard, Tembo, or Xenakis could say. While he alive, he had to keep on living, and he had a job to do, to save the lives of others still living. It was a dangerous job, and he might very well die in the process, but if he gave up, then he would certainly die, and they might die as well.
He continued listening, but he still heard nothing. Unable to stand it anymore, he stepped back from the door cautiously. He secured the backpack containing the medical supplies behind his shoulders, and tightened the straps a bit. He did not want it to get in the way at an inappropriate moment. He held his gun tightly in his right hand, and with the left, he pushed the button to unlock the door. He then opened it. How he wished that he could have slowly, soundlessly drawn it open, but not in this technological age. With a whoosh it slid into the wall, certainly alerting anybody nearby.
He grimaced, and waiting a few moments, he stepped out the door and into the hallway. He quickly looked both ways, but saw only empty space down both directions. The hallway to the left dead-ended almost immediately into another door. That was the forward compartment, which contained replacement equipment for various modules. He never had been in there himself, nor had any desire to go there, for it was a dead end, and if the werewolf followed him in, then he was as good as gone.
The other pathway led back towards the living compartments, though there was a set of stairs leading to the third floor just before the hallway bifurcated. The command crew had the closet of the compartments in a sealed off section of the ship not fifteen meters down on either side of the hallway. The security officers were housed in the next horizontal compartment. He had wanted to check on Ziegler to make sure that he was all right, but Rhodes had told him that Alan had already locked his door and was safe for the moment. As long as he still was on crutches though he was in danger. There was no way to get food automatically in the rooms, so Alan would have to be resupplied at some point. However, right now he had a job to do, and that did not involve Ziegler, at least yet.
He cautiously tiptoed down the hallway, his ears alert, his headset on, and his gun pointed ever forwards. He took brief glances back over his shoulder every few steps. There was nothing behind him, and unless the werewolf was in the storage compartment, there never would be anything behind him, at least as of yet. However, precaution dictated that he not take any chances. He moved as quietly as possible, not silent like McGee or Gorecki could walk, his footsteps making only the slightest of noise. It took him a minute or two to make it to the stairwell, but he moved slowly, and cautiously, listening for any sound that would betray the werewolf's location.
There was nothing of course. Either the werewolf was not around, or he was very quiet. He remembered the time that the werewolf had stalked about him for sometime; it had made a distinctive clicking noise with its toe claws. Occasionally it had stepped silently, but most of the time he had heard that faint clicking noise. At least the hard floors were good for something. It had been a tense time there as he had hid underneath the bulkhead, it had been the only place he could go. He knew that the beast had smelt him, and could still smell him, but it could not find him. He had securely sealed himself in the bulkhead as he'd watched through a tiny crack in the dense grating. He had hoped that it would not try to pull up the floors, and it had appeared like it might for a brief moment, and then it had quickly disappeared down the hall, as if after something much easier to catch. He shivered at the memory of it, the jaws drooling slightly, and the claws clenching and unclenching, as it made rasping noises with its throat, probably from frustration.
He peered around the corner and up the stairs. There was nothing that he could see. Tentatively, he put one foot on the first step, his gun pointed upwards. He could hear nothing coming from up there, but that did not mean much. He sniffed at the air, knowing that while it probably would mean nothing, he knew that it did have an odor. The air was stale, though there was a faint hint of blood. That did not help much, he had just left a room that stank horribly of it. He took another step, taking a momentary glance backwards. He was still alone. He rose another step again, his head only a few feet below the next level. He looked to each corner of the floor above, checking for any form of ambush. He even looked to the ceiling above, happily seeing nothing there.
He breathed a sigh of relief, and took a few more steps up the staircase. He finally was at eye level with the floor, and did a quick sleep of the next level. He saw nothing there, only the empty passages that he had been seeing for quite sometime. He then dashed as fast up the stairs as he could, turning back and forth, breathing quickly. So far so good, he was on the third floor and no sign of the beast yet. He looked down the hallway past the stairs. The security office was only ten meters away, a brisk stroll. The bridge was in the opposite direction of course, also only ten meters from hsi current position. He knew his orders; he was to get the weapons first.
He cautiously, foot over foot, made his way towards the security office. The door was closed, so he would have to use his card to get in. He reached with his left hand into his pocket, and slid the card from its sheath. He held it firmly, hoping to get in as quick as possible. He took a brief look behind him into the bridge, and saw a figure there before him. He nearly jumped from fright before he realized what it was. Slumped in his chair, with his chest ripped clean open was Malcolm Danielpour. Corigliano grimaced at the sight; even though Rhodes had mentioned that he was dead, seeing him really brought the reality home. There was another fine person dead, their life snuffed out before it had really begun. He gave a final salute to his communications officer, before turning back around to enter the security office.
He started towards it again, nearly halfway there. He kept his eye son the hallway, and constantly stared at the staircase behind him. Who knew what was lurking just beneath him, the werewolf could have been following him, and was waiting for him to make that fatal mistake. He did not intend to make it at all, he was alert, he knew what was going on about him, he was aware of the card in his hand and the slot not four meters from it. He held his left hand out gingerly, as if to bring him closer to his goal. His ears listening intently, afraid not only to hear a sound, but of not hearing anything at all. He breathed deeply, each step more laborious than the last. He crept closer, his footfalls barely noticeable anymore.
Then he heard that squeak as if somebody stepping on a loose floorboard.
His reaction was instantaneous, and quite irrational. He jumped from his position straight to the door, swiped the card through the slot, and pushed his way into the security office. He then pushed the button to shut the door, and swiped his card through again to lock it. He fell into one of the two swivel chairs, and let out a deep breath. He dumped the backpack onto the ground, and continued to breathe heavily, he had made it safely to the security office.
He chided himself then on reacting the way he did. There was no way anybody could have made that sound by stepping on the floor, it was not that flexible, and certainly did not squeak when walked upon. It was obviously structural pressure throughout the ship as it readjusted itself. It was not a regular event, but it did happen quite often; at least often enough that he shouldn't have been frightened by it.
He tapped his communicator on his headset, realizing that he was in a safe position for the moment. "Rhodes? This is Corigliano, I made it to the security office."
The voice coming over the other end was calm, though a little frustrated, but he did seem happy to heard from him, "This is Rhodes, what have you got Corigliano?"
"Well, I just got here, I thought you might want to know that I made it safely."
"Thanks for the report. Collect arsenal for seven if you would please. Call me back if anything happens." Rhodes sounded a bit busy, but that was what happened when a werewolf was loose on the ship. Of course, he was not so blase to brush it off like that, but he did need to keep some semblance of humor about him, or he would go crazy. The mere presence and existence of such a creature was torturous on the brain. He had grown up believing such things as fanciful myths and the ignorance of the past generations. They must be laughing at him now, for it was they who were ignorant.
Corigliano began to pull open the safes where the weapons were stored. He glanced once at the smashed video screens. He knew that the cameras were still working, but unless they had a receiver, they could do nothing with them. How he wished even one screen were still unbroken. He could find the werewolf then. Perhaps that had been the idea; perhaps the person who had busted these screens did not want the werewolf to be found. Who better to do that than the werewolf himself? It would have been able to take Tembo's card quite easily and gotten in here. Of course, that assumed that it had problem solving intelligence. It had not found him after what seemed years of searching, it was unlikely that it had the foresight enough to use a card to smash these screens, or have stolen a magnet to wipe the recorders clean.
He broke of his train of thought to focus on the weapons before him. They were all low caliber, to prevent anybody from firing them through the hull. Even had they been of high caliber that would have been unlikely, but they were taking no chances. He pulled out the two rifles that they had, the most powerful weapons that were allowed on a spaceship, and which were only used under the most extreme of circumstances. He had never before had ever seen a need for them until now. He looked at his backpack, and saw that it was not going to be able to fit more than one, and even then, that one would have to stick out the top a bit. Well, he'd just have to use the rifle himself until he got to the Greenhouse.
John pulled out five pistols, and easily dropped them into the backpack. They were all identical in make, Colt 45's with fifteen round clips. He made sure that each one was full, before moving on. He saw that there wasn't much room left in the bag, but he needed more ammunition as well. Dumping five more clips into the bag, he also grabbed four clips for the rifles. He could only fit two more in before the bag became so full it was nearly bursting at the seams. He stuck the other two into his pocket, and then lifted the backpack with one arm. It was much heavier now, but still manageable. He hefted it over his shoulders, and readjusted the straps. This was going to weigh him down a bit, but he had no choice. This was the best chance that he had to save the others.
He walked to the door, and was about to open it when he noticed the face in the mirror. The werewolf, yellow eyes gleaming fiercely, was peering into the room, and it had seen him. It beat on the door with its claws, pushing at the button on the other side. His eyes became glued for a second as the beast growled in furry at the still closed and locked door. He was safe for the moment, but that werewolf was probably going to wait for him to come out, and he still had his job to finish. If he had to blast his way out of there, he would.
Still, John knew that this was probably a good time to let Rhodes know what was going on. He tapped his communicator again, "Rhodes, this is Corigliano. I think you need to hear this right away."
"What is it, John?" Rhodes asked.
"I'm staring at the werewolf right now. He's pounding on the door to the security office, and he looks very frustrated."
Rhodes sounded suddenly excited. "Keep him there! Do whatever you have to do, keep him there for at least a minute!"
"Just do it, and do whatever it takes." Rhodes called back.
"All right." John nodded, cutting the communicator off. He stared at the werewolf, not sure quite what to do in this sort of situation. He cautiously waltzed up to the door, and put his lips to the glass, and blew with all his might. The werewolf beat on the door again, shocking him back a step. Not to be outdone, he stuck his tongue out at the beast. John had to admit that it was kind of fun to taunt the creature from behind a solid an unmoving door.
Rhodes put the radio down, and looked at Thibaudet and Jansen who were both trying to look relaxed. Neither accomplished it very well. Jansen was jittering every few seconds, and Thibaudet was usually dazed. However, everytime Pierre opened his mouth, he usually had something insightful to say. Jansen usually came up with obscenities most directed either at the werewolf or Lassie. Lassie and HuggyBear were both sitting together in the middle of the Greenhouse; they seemed to be crying, or communing with their totemic spirits, he couldn't tell which. Dutton was massaging his arm lightly; the bloodstained shirt abandoned for a fresh rag that he had found in one of the storage closets.
"All right, we are going to try and save Lovewolf and get him in here. It's going to be risky, but I need everybody's cooperation. Corigliano is keeping the werewolf distracted down at the security office. He'll call me immediately if there are any problems. Lassie, HuggyBear, please stand by the door when I open it. Pierre, Emil, I want you two to dash out and carry Lovewolf back in here. Carefully though, we don't know how badly he's injured. Dutton, I want you to go out with them and cover them with gunfire in case the werewolf dashes back here. I'll stay in contact with Corigliano and will be able to tell you in case danger is coming. Once all four of them are through that door, Lassie, you and HuggyBear shut it and seal it again with my card." Rhodes tossed his card to Lassie who caught it in both hands, touching almost like it was magical.
"Is everything clear?" Rhodes asked looking to each face. Some were skeptical, but all understood his desires. Each nodded in turn, some expressing their willingness quite openly. HuggyBear came up and hugged him about the middle expressing his fondest and deepest gratitude. "Thank you would have been enough," Rhodes pointed out as he squirmed out of the young man's embrace.
"Thank you then," HuggyBear smiled as he stepped over to the door.
Rhodes shook himself out, and then pulled the radio back up to his mouth, "John, is it still there?"
"Yes, captain. It's still beating against the glass," came the almost laughing reply.
"Lassie, open the door on my mark. Dutton you go out first, keep your weapon trained towards the bridge, as that is where the werewolf will be coming from. Thibaudet, Jansen, as soon as he is out of your way, run and grab Lovewolf's body. Get him back in here as fast as you can. Dutton, as soon as they are back in, you come in to. Lassie, Huggy, you know what to do." Rhodes looked at each of them one last time before he was ready to commit. It was now or never, there only chance at saving Lovewolf from that werewolf. There could be no more delays.
"Now!" Rhodes shouted. Instantly, Lassie slipped the card through the door, and Huggy pushed the button. It slid open, making a quick mechanical clicking sound as it did so. Dutton jumped out the door, the gun in his good hand, pointing down the right passageway. Thibaudet and Jansen wasted no time in following him out, gathering about Lovewolf's limp form. They picked him up by the shoulders, forming a little cradle in which to carry him with their arms. Each of them grew tense as the two hefted the body up, the blood from his wound spilling over their arms and shoulders. Neither said a word, nor did Lovewolf who looked to be half-conscious.
"The werewolf just ran off in your direction!" Rhodes heard over the radio, and his reaction was delayed only a fraction of a second.
"Get back in here now! It's coming fast!" Rhodes yelled out the door.
Indeed it only took moments before the staccato clicking sound of its claws against the floor could be heard even in the Greenhouse. Thibaudet and Jansen hurried, moving as fast as possible while carrying somebody. Dutton continued to back up, his gun pointing forward, and his knees trembling from the sound of its approach. And then he fired, one twice and again. There was the sound of screeching just outside the doorway, as each of them shouted encouragements to the four still outside. Thibaudet and Jansen made it to the door, and slipped in sideways, carrying the prone Lovewolf with them. Dutton backed off, still firing, until he too passed back through the doorway. He stumbled though as he stepped onto the loam, and he tripped, leaving half of his body outside the door.
Rhodes dived down, and grabbed Dutton about the shoulders, and pulled him forcibly back in. The werewolf was there already, jumping down in front of them, and grabbing Dutton's legs with its own claws. Dutton kicked at it, but it had a tight grip. HuggyBear reached down and grabbed the gun that had slipped from Dutton's hand, and shot at the creature. His aim was terrible, but he did manage to clip it in one arm, and it released Dutton's legs involuntarily. It was just enough for Rhodes to pull his comrade back through the door.
"Shut the door!" Rhodes called out as they were all back in. HuggyBear dropped the gun to the ground, and pressed the red button, even as the werewolf gathered himself together and leaped at the open entrance. It managed to slip part of one arm through as it collided with the sliding frame. Lassie leaped back involuntarily, dropping the card to the ground. Dutton scrambled backwards as Rhodes reached down for the card. He jumped back just as quickly, as the arm slashed down at his unprotected back.
"Somebody do something!" Rhodes called out in frustration, as the werewolf began to push open the door again. Huggy put all his strength into keeping the door shut, as did Rhodes who came up behind him. It was Thibaudet this time who took the spade, and instead of bludgeoning the werewolf with it, he stabbed at it, tearing a great hunk of flesh from its hide. The creature jumped back in pain, and it was enough for the door to slide shut again. Rhodes quickly swiped the card through the lock, sealing them in the Greenhouse once more.
Rhodes took a deep breath, staring out the glassplate in the door at the screaming werewolf. He glared at it, this was the thing that was making his last voyage up a nightmare, this thing would not put him into the grave, or anybody else on this ship if he could help it. He picked up his radio one more time, and called into it, "Corigliano, the path to the bridge is clear, go now."
"Yes, sir!" John's voice rang from the other end.
Rhodes then put the radio down as he walked over to lean up against the desk. This was too much excitement for one day, but what choice did he have?
Corigliano dashed down the hallway as fast as he could towards the bridge. He made it in plenty of time; the werewolf hadn't even managed to get back down to this hallway. He sealed the door behind him, swiping his car through the lock. It was against standard procedure to lock the bridge for any reasons, but this unfortunately was a time that afforded it. It would do him no good to try to send a message to Kilpatrick and Penny, but get slashed open by the werewolf like poor Danielpour already had.
He gingerly stepped past Danielpour's body, accidentally knocking it out of the chair as he did so. He paid it no heed; he had other things on his agenda. He stared at the communications console, looking over the latest information, trying to remember how to send a message to the engine room. He pulled up the cable communications window, and selected the engine room from the icons. He took a quick glance at the other screens in the area and noticed the communications net with homebase. Another idea struck him, what if he sent a message to homebase explaining the situation? Certainly a rescue team would get here much sooner.
He closed out the cable communications window, and pulled up the homebase network. He began to examine the features, trying to figure out just how Danielpour did this. Gosh if he were alive then they would have no problem alerting homebase, and they probably would already be on their way by now. Of course, he wasn't alive anymore, the werewolf had seen to that. As if in response to his thoughts, he heard the body gurgle a little, presumably as the blood continued to flow.
Corigliano wondered whether he should type the message, he had found that window, but he much preferred vocal interface. However, it seemed beyond his understanding of the equipment, so he settled for the keyboard interface. He began to type as fast as he could. He kept his sentences short, brief, and to the point. He listed the dead -- that he knew of -- and a physical description of the creature. Having seen it twice now, he felt he was competent enough to describe it.
He did jump once in shock when the werewolf began to pound on the door to the bridge. He looked back over his shoulder momentarily, just a brief glance, and saw that the door was holding steady. He continued to type however, trying to ignore the sounds coming from the door behind him and the faint gurgling noises as Danielpour continued to bleed -- he wished he had taken that typing class in school he was simply way too slow. He finally finished the message though, draining all other sounds from his ears. Getting back to the Greenhouse was going to be a trick, but he was prepared to go down shooting if that was what it took. He sent the message, it would take about a minute to arrive and be processed. He wondered if he should wait for the results before calling the engine room.
John shrugged that idea off almost as soon as he had it, since the sooner he talked to Kilpatrick and Penny, the sooner they could get the ship into a different orbit, and the sooner that the werewolf would theoretically return to human form. At least that was what the legends claimed. He wondered briefly who the werewolf really was, but he had no time to speculate about it, he needed to give the orders to change the orbit.
He pulled up the cable communication window again, and clicked on the engine icon. Immediately he saw a message screen come up. He sent the signal that would alert that that a call was coming; now they just had to pick up. As he stood there waiting, the gurgling noises from Danielpour became more pronounced. He began to feel very suspicious, for a bleeding dead body really shouldn't be making that much noise. He looked down towards the ground where Danielpour had fallen from his seat, and saw something that made his blood run cold.
Where Danielpour had once laid were a pair of feet that even as he watched began to lengthen, with thick black claws protruding from the toes. Grayish hair began to poke from every pore of the skin, and the flesh reshaped itself to fit around the moving bones. He began to let his eyes rise, looking at the thick and powerful thighs, also covered in that grayish fur, to the last remnants of the pants that Danielpour had been wearing stretched about the crotch. The tail that lengthened as he watched, unable to move. The chest barreled out, muscles rippling fur spreading everywhere as the torn shirt fell to the floor in tatters. He looked at the arms, which became thicker and harrier, ending in sharp claws. The head, still somewhat human, the last vestiges of Danielpour's identity erased behind the lupine visage that stared back at him. The thick red tongue lolled out for a moment as the amber eyes caught sight of the frightened security guard.
The call to the engine room was no longer a concern, nor even a thought in his mind. He raised his rifle, and began to fire into the beast that was before him, even as the other werewolf continued to beat upon the door outside.
Onto Part IX!
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