Episode 2: Dark Side of the Moon

by Michael Robertson - 30.09.15

Emily sat cross-legged on her bed with an ocean of maths textbooks and jotters spread out in front of her. She'd been revising since early that morning and hit a brick wall with a sum too complicated for her to know where to start. Admitting defeat, she started sifting through the books and pages and scrunched-up scraps of paper for the equation she needed.

The sound of an argument downstairs floated up to her bedroom. Emily could never make out what the voices were saying and had learned not to go down to find out. Instead, she quietly reached underneath the bed and retrieved her headphones. Making sure they were firmly plugged in, she put on L-Billy's Super Sounds of the 4150s. This was more a gesture of politeness for her parents than for herself. The murmur of their voices could always be heard over the music.

Putting her communicator down on the bed, Emily turned her attention back to the maths problem in front of her. She decided that the book with the equation she needed was probably in her bag at the other side of the room, and she didn't care enough to go over and get it.

The voices from downstairs rose in volume. Emily, without hesitation, turned up the music to match.

Eventually she reached what looked like a sensible answer to her maths problem, and smiled to herself when the back of the textbook told her it was right.

The music in her headphones cut off and became a sharp buzzing sound.

Emily checked her communicator.

GWEN: "Ems. Junkyard. Now."

With a smile on her face, she threw a coat over her hoodie, pocketed her communicator, and ran out of the room.

"I'm going out!" she called as she ran down the stairs.

"Fine," her mother replied sharply, not hearing the door shut before she spoke.

Emily briskly jogged through the sleepy streets of Glasgow at dusk, all the way to the Lambert Junkyard. Standing outside the front gate was the daughter of the junkyard's owners: a girl with long ginger hair, thick black glasses, and a blue anorak.

"Well, you took yir time!" Gwen slurred through her braces.

Emily came to a halt and bent over with her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath. "What do you mean, 'took my time'? I ran all the way here!"

"You shoulda been here about twenty minutes ago so we could've found it together," replied Gwen.

"Found what?"

"This way." Gwen ran through the open gate with Emily following close behind. The pathways through the junkyard were lined with a vast array of forgotten relics; from keyboards to blenders, from paintings to bird cages, from monitors to holo-projectors. Emily loved rummaging through the piles of broken machinery, finding gadgets she could tinker with or discover a new use for.

Gwen led her down a twisting path through the electronics and general waste to the old ship parts. "So dad just got a new load of scrap in from the shipyard, including..."

She turned a corner and gestured with open arms: "Behold!"

Perched on a colossal pile of old junk and spare parts, smashed beyond repair, was a small starship. Parts of its dull silver exterior were charred black with burn marks or red with rust, and the curved window of the cockpit had been smashed in. Despite the damage, it dominated the junkyard from atop a mountain of hoverbikes and powerboards.

Emily's mouth fell open but no sound came out.

"I know," said Gwen, answering her silence. "Dad doesn't know what to do with it because it'll take too much work to repair and apparently it's not useful for parts."

"I'm not surprised," Emily nodded. "This is a Voyager class X-7. They run on Mark 7 Fusion Drive engines. If you tried to take it apart without the proper equipment you could melt half of Kelvindale."

"So, until he figures out where it should go, we can hang out in it."

Emily stared up at it in disbelief. "See, most dads just build their kids a treehouse. Yours has a starship in their backie."

"Come on! Now you're here we can finally look inside." Gwen darted towards the mound of rubbish and quickly found a safe route to climb up.

Emily joined her at the top and, being careful where they placed their feet, they made their way to the side of the ship. They shared a quick glance of nervousness, wonder, and uncontrollable excitement before Gwen reached out and opened the door.

[14 Years Later...4192 A.D. - Bakunawa: Planet of the Dragons]

"Get the fuck in!"

The crew charged through the airlock as dragon fire licked the outside of the ship. The five of them ran down the corridor, took a sharp right, and entered the cockpit.

"Hold on!" Gwen started the engines and pulled back on the captain's sphere.

The Treehouse blasted off with the emerald green dragon in close pursuit. An angry claw swiped the side of the ship, almost knocking it out of the sky.

"Damn it!" Odysseus desperately clung on to a handle on the ceiling as the whole ship was violently jolted. "You know, you should really get more chairs in here."

"Thank you!" sighed Dorian. "See? You bring an outsider into the ship and immediately their fresh eyes pick up all the design flaws."

Emily groaned. "Fine. You've made your point. I'll do it once I've fixed the escape pods. But I'm telling you, there'll be no room to move in here with four more seats."

"HERE!" Gwen shouted over her shoulder. "I'm trying to focus!"

The Treehouse dodged and dived back and forth as it ascended, avoiding the dragon's breath until finally it reached the edge of the atmosphere. As they entered space, the dragon stopped its barrage of attacks and, with one last almighty roar that roughly translated to "and stay out!", it flew back down to its cave, leaving them in peace.

The Treehouse and its inhabitants drifted onwards in silent relief for a while.

Emily smiled. "Well, that's over. Queen Meidon's baby dragon is now with its new mother."

"Who is so, so much angrier than its old mother," Redacted noted.

Odysseus shook his head. "You guys are insane. We'd just got done slaying one dragon and you immediately had to go looking for another one!"

"What's wrong?" Gwen smiled, leaning back in her leather chair, her arms on the rests as she stared out into the stars in front of her. "Too exciting for you? You're going to have to get used to this high-octane lifestyle if you want to be a part of my crew."

[14 Years Earlier...4178 A.D.]

"'YOUR' crew?" Emily raised an eyebrow. "And what makes you qualified to be the captain?"

"The sacred law of 'finders keepers'. And besides, you'll be far too busy to fly the ship, being my engineer."

Emily smiled at the prospect of having a whole ship to tinker with. "Fair enough."

Gwen leapt out of her chair. "Come on, I'll give you the tour!"

[4192 A.D.]

"This room on the right is Dorian's."

Odysseus poked his head in and saw what looked more like a greenhouse than a bedroom. The minotaur was sat at a desk beside the bed. The desk, the top of the wardrobe, and most of the other surfaces in the room were covered in plants, the likes of which Odysseus had never seen or heard of before.

"Huh. I've never seen a starship with a garden," remarked Odysseus.

"This is not a 'garden'. This is a labratory," said Dorian, turning to face the door. "These plants are all mine. I wrote them. 100% original genetic code, totally unique in the universe, all synthesised on my computer."

Odysseus entered the room properly and inspected the flowers. Their bold pinks and purples and reds and blues were so striking that they looked slightly unnatural, almost like they'd been painted. Their oddly-shaped petals and leaves with luminous veins gave off the finest aromas that Odysseus had ever smelled. Some smelled like chocolate and freshly-cut grass, others like new books and popcorn. "Very impressive. And very, VERY illegal. People get beheaded for gene modding on some systems."

Dorian shrugged. "They're just plants. It's not like I'm experimenting on people. That, and they never leave the ship. 'Interplanetery waters' and so on. I'm not planning bioweapons or anything, they mostly just look nice. Civilisation doesn't factor into my plans at all."

Odysseus smirked. "A mad scientist gardener. I like it. Hey, why's that one in a case?"

Dorian followed Odysseus' pointing finger to a shelf where a dome-shaped glass case protected a glowing orange flower. The golden light danced on its petals and made it look at first glance like it was burning. "Oh, the phoenix flower. That's because it's the only one that was made with a purpose in mind. Long story."

"Anyway," Gwen interrupted, directing Odysseus across the hall. "This is Red's room."

"Really? The robot has their own room? I thought they'd just need a cupboard with a power socket."

"Well, they've got to put their record collection somewhere. Speaking of which, general storage is through that door and just opposite is the bathroom. Don't get them confused. I've already had to clean piss off the spare bulbs once."

Odysseus opened his mouth and to speak.

"That's the engine room through the back by the way, downstairs. You'd go through there to get to the escape pods, if they worked. Over to the right there is my room and just opposite is the armoury and the med bay. And over here on the left we have the lounge."

"Great. And who's room is this? It's massive!"

[4178 A.D.]

"Well surely I should have the biggest room, given that I'm the captain," Gwen reasoned smugly.

Emily wasn't convinced. "I'm pretty sure a good captain would give the biggest room to her crew."

"Fine. How about we toss for it?" Gwen reached into her pocket and pulled out a 50 credit coin. "Heads or tails?"

Emily hesitated. "Tails."

[4192 A.D.]

"That's Emily's room," said Gwen with a twinge of regret in her voice. "And that makes this room over here yours! You're lucky; you're opposite the lounge."

"Excellent," said Odysseus, stepping into the room. It was a fair size, and was equipped with a bed, some cupboards, and a desk piled high with boxes. In the absence of a fifth crew member, the room was being used as additional storage space. The far wall, opposite the door, sloped to the right ever so slightly to match the shape of the ship's exterior, but there was still plenty of space. Odysseus slowly nodded to himself. "Yes, this'll do nicely."

"This feels right weird," said Gwen, leaning on the doorway with her arms folded. "It's been a while since I've brought on someone new."

"You mean you four weren't always together?"

"No, me and Emily are the original cast. Dorian saved both our lives pretty early on. Then Redacted won us in a card game."

Odysseus blinked. "Wait, wha-"

"So anyway, that's our story. How about you? A simple farmboy from Albion, who happens to know space pirates?"

"Um...well...you see-"

An alarm blasted from speakers in the ceiling and the Treehouse was flooded with red light.

Gwen rolled her eyes. "Fuck's sake!" She walked a few steps along the corridor and shouted through the ship. "It's not a bloody call centre again is it?"

After a short pause, the voice of Emily replied. "It's Laneria. Castle G.R.I.M.M."

She took a deep breath. "Fuck's SAKE!"

Odysseus followed Gwen as she stormed into the cockpit where Emily, Dorian, and Redacted had already assembled. She stabbed a small button on the ship's console and the curved window in front of them crackled with static as it went from being transparent glass to an opaque viewscreen.

The alarm cut out and the static cleared to reveal a woman's smiling face. She had long silver hair and a flowing violet dress. Leaning on her throne was a silver staff covered in ornate gemstones. "Finally. How are you today?"

Gwen, still standing, held her finger over a button marked 'end call'. "FIVE."

"Ah, I see you've added a new member to your crew," said the woman, hastily, gesturing to Odysseus. "How do you do? My name is Kendra."

"FOUR."

"Captain Lambert, I require your expertise for a secret operation, the details of which-"

"THREE."

"A SECRET SCIENCE LABORATORY IN A THEME PARK ON THE MOON."

Gwen stopped counting and moved her finger away from the button. She slumped down into her chair. "I'm listening."

"Laneria is in danger," said Kendra. "And I need a team I can trust to save it."

"Why? Laneria is G.R.I.M.M.'s Andromeda HQ, surely it's the safest place there is. Not many planets can claim to be home to 'the greatest sorceress in the universe'," said Gwen, making airquotes with her fingers.

"'Galaxy'" Kendra muttered through gritted teeth. "G.R.I.M.M. can't stop this threat because G.R.I.M.M. helped create it. There are only four other people who know what I'm about to tell you. I'm giving you this job because I trust you more than anyone in my own ranks."

"Go on."

Kendra took a calming breath. "About 40 years ago, there used to be a theme park on Laneria's moon."

Gwen raised an eyebrow. "The backstory is good already."

"After a few accidents with the artificial gravity generators, the park was forced to close down and was abandonded. Now it's used by G.R.I.M.M. as a research facility where we conduct experiments which, let's just say, aren't for public eyes. The location was ideal, both for keeping the experiments hidden, and for ensuring that if something went wrong, it was far away from the civilian population. Now, an experiment HAS gone wrong, and I need an outsider who is beyond G.R.I.M.M. and the Lanerian authorities to go to the moon and take care of it quickly and quietly."

"We can handle it. What sort of experiment are we talking about exactly?"

"Gene modding."

Odysseus shot Dorian a look.

"A brilliant scientist called Dr Dolon Eumedeson was experimenting with the DNA of wolves." Kendra pushed a button on her desk and a picture of Dr Eumedeson appeared next to her on the Treehouse's screen. He was a thin man in his mid-50s with dark hair and round glasses. "He sought to create a potion that could transfer the heightened senses of wolves to our human G.R.I.M.M. troopers."

"And you approved of his experiments?" Emily interjected.

"My soldiers would only be given the potion if they desired it," Kendra explained calmly. "Dr Eumedeson even volunteered to test it on himself first. That brings me to the problem. He thought he would've been able to control his new abilities and deploy them at will, but instead the potion turned him into...a monster. I received a distress call from a member of his team who claimed he went on a killing spree through the facility."

"So you need us to get up there and sort him out," said Gwen.

"You'll need to be quick. For now, Dr Eumedeson is contained to the moon, but the computer systems in the facility are programmed to respond to him and his team, including those aboard their ship. I need you to stop him from leaving the moon and endangering the lives of Laneria's citizens."

Gwen straightened herself in her chair. "Okay, fine. Where are we meeting you?"

"I'm sorry, I can't help you. I have duties to attend to, and people would start to ask questions if the head of G.R.I.M.M. suddenly decided to take a day trip to the moon. I'm talking to you over a private communication channel in my office because I know it can't be tapped into. I'm sending the location to your ship's computer now. Oh, and the facility is equipped with state-of-the-art anti-spacecraft defences that would detect you immediately. I'd recommend putting your ship into orbit and finding a different way to reach the surface."

Gwen smiled. "Oh, that shouldn't be too difficult."

[Space]

The crew huddled around Gwen's chair as she took them closer and closer to Laneria. It was a large orange and purple planet surrounded by a thick ring. The deep oceans and vast deserts were visible from orbit beneath a layer of light pink cloud.

As the Treehouse drifted around the planet, its moon crept into view; a small grey sphere suspended in the coldness of space.

Lit up in the middle of its barren landscape was a giant glass dome containing, as Kendra had promised, an abandoned theme park. The twisting metal frames of the rollercoasters had all rusted over long ago. The bright colours of the rides were starting to fade away.

"Wow," said Emily, breaking the silence. "That's one haunted snow globe."

"There's an entrance for ships at the very top of the dome but the security will see us coming," Gwen explained. "We should get our spacesuits on, approach from the side, and cut our way in."

"Are you sure cutting a hole in the side won't...you know...let the air out?" asked Odysseus.

"Compared to the size of that dome, one small person-sized hole wouldn't be enough to massively disturb the artificial atmosphere. The machines inside will still be pumping out new air," said Redacted.

Gwen put the Treehouse into orbit around the moon and turned off the power, plunging them into dark silence. The starship moved effortlessly through the frictionless void propelled by momentum alone.

The crew exited the cockpit and made their way through to the armoury. Hanging on wall hooks were four jetpacks and four spacesuits. Each of the spacesuits were identical; navy blue with a large glass bubble for a helmet, except for one which had a helmet almost three times the size of the others.

Odysseus looked over at Dorian with his large, protruding bull horns. Dorian stared back. "See one you fancy?"

Odysseus quietly walked over to a hook and started climbing into one of the three spacesuits with small helmets.

"Good choice."

Ensuring that their weapons were all safely secured to the outside of their suits, the crew made their way to the airlock. The usual ramp which covered the outside of the ship retracted down and folded underneath the vessel, allowing them to open the door straight out into space.

"We'll just let the Treehouse drift and hopefully it'll have done close to a full rotation by the time we're done," explained Gwen. "If not, we can always just call it down remotely once the security isn't an issue. Ready?"

"Ready," replied Emily, who stood first in line to jetpack down to the moon's surface. "See you soon!"

With a rapidly disappearing "WEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeee..." Emily jumped out of the ship, followed by Redacted using their own built-in jetpack, followed by Gwen.

Odysseus stood on the very edge and stared down at the moon below. He fidgeted with the hilt of his sword. "Y'know...uh...what is it with scientists injecting themselves with their own potions?" He looked back at Dorian, the last person in line to jump out. "Am I right?"

"It's actually a serious issue in the community, with numerous and varied socioeconomic factors at play. My old university friend, Dr Samuel Scorpio, was researching arachnid DNA to enhance the human immune system but he couldn't get funding. He drank his own formula and hatched from his nest-womb three days later, having been transformed into a little dog."

Odysseus burst out laughing. Dorian kicked him into space.

Odysseus screamed and flailed as the Treehouse fell further and further away from him. He could feel his limbs being dragged backwards endlessly without ever making contact with the ground. It was the longest time he'd ever been without a floor; enough time for him to be engulfed by the primal fear of death, calm down, assess his situation, spin around in the air, and activate his jetpack.

He gently flew down to the surface of the moon to join Emily, Red, and Gwen. Once Dorian had landed behind him, the five began their trek to the dome.

Using two lights embedded in his spacesuit's collar, Odysseus carefully navigated the jagged, dark landscape of Laneria's moon. When he looked up, he couldn't see the Treehouse anymore, but what he could see was believed by many to be the most beautiful sight in the universe.

In the middle of the dark sky above was a round hole in space the size of a planet. The hole was a dazzling mass of gold and white and pink and blue, swirling and melting into one another like an endless whirlpool of light. Around the edges of the hole was a giant ring of white marble and shining gold that kept it open so ships from all over the galaxy were able to cross through.

Emily joined Odysseus in staring up at the hole in space. "There it is," she said, making no attempt to mask the admiration and wonder in her voice. "The portal. A bridge between Andromeda and the Milky Way. Built by one of the earliest civilizations we know of-"

"I know," replied Odysseus. "I've seen it before. In pictures," he quickly added.

"Oh. Right. Well it's better in person."

Odysseus stared into the brilliant shimmering light in the darkness. "Yeah. Yeah, it really is."

The crew continued across the surface of the moon, their feet making deep prints in the crisp, fine powder beneath them. They walked in silence except for the rasp of breathing heard through their helmet radios.

"So," Odysseus continued. "How come you guys know the leader of G.R.I.M.M.?"

"We have a history," said Emily. "Ever since we were young the plan for Gwen and me was to travel the universe having adventures, but my parents...weren't exactly supportive. They wanted me to have a proper education first, so they promised to let me go travelling if I did well in uni."

"What subject?"

"Mechanical Engineering. Got a masters degree," she replied. "During the five years I was busy, Gwen couldn't go travelling without a crew so she joined G.R.I.M.M.'s Department of Daemonologie. That's where she got her implants and learned how to use magic. She even became Kendra's apprentice. It was all going well...but..."

Odysseus looked at her. "But?"

"I CAN hear you back there. Radio," Gwen muttered from about thirty metres ahead.

Eventually the crew arrived at the dome. Redacted aimed one of their silver pistols at the glass. Twisting a dial on the handle to change the setting, they held down the trigger to unleash a concentrated red laser beam. A quick circular flourish and a large hole had been cut in the glass, big enough for them to climb through.

 As soon as they entered the dome, they felt the weight of their limbs return. The rollercoaster in the centre of the park was so tall that it almost reached the dome's roof. Next to it was a rocket ship which they guessed was how Dr Eumedeson and his team got here in the first place. To their right was a three-storey haunted house designed to look like an old gothic manor with gargoyles lining its walls. The only sound to be heard was a single rusty roundabout which creaked in the artificial wind like nails on a chalkboard.

"Well then," Dorian started. "Where to?"

"Kendra's co-ordinates point to the haunted house," said Gwen.

"Of course they do. Of fucking course they do." The minotaur reached into a pocket on his suit to retrieve his tablet.

"Okay, everyone," announced Gwen. "We don't know what's in that building. From now on, we're going to need to be as careful and as quiet as possible."

She took a step forward.

Red and yellow and orange flashing neon lights snapped on with a deafening slam. A carousel next to them lit up and started to spin as the electronic signs on several carnival games began competing for their attention. From speakers on tall wooden poles all over the park, fairground organ music started playing and an enthusiastic ringmaster's voice bellowed "WELCOME TO MARVAK SHINDALAR'S WORLD OF WOOOOONDER!!!"

Gwen exhaled through her nostrils, slowly. "I see."

Slowly, the crew climbed the steps of the haunted house. The eyes of the gargoyles were now glowing red and a purple neon sign above the double doors dubbed it 'The House of Horrors'.

They entered the building and shut the door behind them, failing to notice a trail of large paw prints connecting a small side door to Dr Eumedeson's ship.

[The House of Horrors]

Everyone popped off their helmets as Gwen led them through the old, dusty halls. The dull paper was peeling off the walls, exposing a tangle of anachronistic wires. Standing with their backs to the wall were suits of armour guarding large portraits of expressionless women in ragged clothes.

"Just looking around at all the horror movie clichés, and yup the gang's all here," said Emily. "Next we'll probably find out this abandoned theme park is being haunted by an old caretaker in a white sheet."

A floating white sheet with a scary face drawn on it in felt tip pen glided past their field of view at the end of the hall.

They stopped. They slowly looked at each other.

Their attention snapped back to the hallway in front of them as the floating white sheet returned, this time moving in the other direction. Odysseus stared at it with raised eyebrows. "Really?"

They went to the end of the hallway and all watched the white sheet floated seemingly unaided to the end of the hall, turn around so that the side with the scary face drawn on it was at the front, and come back. On its way past, Gwen held out a hand and grabbed the sheet, pulling it off to reveal a small, spherical, flying robot.

Emily laughed. "Amazing."

"It's nae a caretaker though, so I'm taking away half a point," said Gwen. "It's just a security drone."

The drone stopped and turned to face them. For a few seconds it stayed absolutely still, watching them silently. Then, a crackling noise came out of a small speaker grill on its side. It sounded like someone fumbling with a microphone. An old man's voice boomed out of its speaker. "Who are you? You're not one of the scientists. You look far too competent to be one of the scientists."

Gwen stepped forward. "I'm Captain Gwen Lambert. Dr Eumedeson, is that you? We're here to help. We've been sent here by G.R.I.M.M.."

The small camera on the front of the robot focused in on her with its cold lens. "...I see."

There was another crackle and the voice was gone. With a loud spark, the security drone short-circuited and dropped with a thud.

"Weird," said Emily.

Dorian examined his tablet. "Most of the heat and electricity in the building is coming from a room on the second floor. I'm guessing that's Eumedeson's lab. Let's say hello properly."

They climbed a flight of stairs and followed the twisting hallway until they saw a light blinking from an open doorway at the far end. Approaching with caution, the crew followed Gwen as she peered around the corner of the door. Once she was sure there was no immediate danger, she pushed into the ruined laboratory.

The long steel tables and smooth tiled floors were littered with broken glass test tubes and torn pieces of paper. The blinking was coming from a strip light that dangled from the ceiling by its wires, casting crooked shadows across the walls. In the far corner of the room was a huge pile of debris under a hole in the roof.

Dorian walked over to one of the work stations and held his hand over the smashed vials. "This science..." he gravelled dramatically. "It's still warm."

"Hey. Look at this." Emily ran her fingers through five parallel scratch marks buried deep into the wall.

In the corner of her eye, she saw the flickering of a computer terminal. The screen was black with green lettering which read 'Program LCW-002: Chemical Synthesis. Ready to Run. Authorisation Required.'

Gwen joined Emily in inspecting the computer. "Probably needs Dr Eumedeson's DNA or thumbprint or something."

Light crept into the room through the stained-glass windows that looked out onto the moon's surface. "Looks like we're moving towards the sun," said Emily, nodding towards them.

"Let's get started then, shall we?" Dorian walked over to a desk on the far side of the room. "We need to comb through this incredibly detailed paperwork very carefully." With a sweeping motion, he shoved piles of paper and glass off the desks and dumped them unceremoniously on the ground. "All good scientists keep a log of their experiments."

Behind the piles of paper, Dorian found a small screen built into the wall. He tapped the black square and it lit up: "PASSWORD REQUIRED."

Dorian looked at Redacted, who was already trudging towards him. "Could you hack this for me?"

The robot let out an electronic sigh. "If you mouthbreathing chucklefucks want to understand what it is you're asking me to do, I want you to imagine, with all five of your senses - individually - the feeling of mind-melding with a monkey up through its anal corridor."

Redacted stabbed their finger straight through the screen, jolted stiff with electrical currents, and spoke with the faint microphone hiss of Dr. Eumedeson's pre-recorded voice: "Datalog 2068-B. 26th of October, 4192. Despite his occasional condescending remarks, Professor Daedalus' visit was most enlightening. He showed a much deeper interest in my work than I expected, based on our private messages about the possibilities of gene modification. He implied my application of wolf DNA to help create the perfect soldier was a childish pursuit and that a 'man of my talents' should be setting his sights higher. He told me his theory about pre-human life in the Milky Way, and how he thought we could somehow reverse-engineer the evolution of all the species in the galaxy into some kind of common ancestor. I don't know, it just sounded crazy. I stopped listening when the phrase 'divine purpose' was used. Although, as unsettling as he was to work with, it turns out my attempt to bring in help outside of G.R.I.M.M. paid off after all. Daedalus was instrumental in helping me perfect the potion. I have decided, after running the necessary tests and ensuring that the safeguards are in place, that the next phase of my experiments should be to test the potion on a human, and seeings as I couldn't ask anything so dangerous of my staff, I have elected to test the potion upon myself. I am confident that Professor Daedalus' contribution to the formula will allow me to control and harness its power without the power controlling me."

The pile of rubble in the corner audibly moved. Everyone's heads whipped around. Nobody dared to speak or move. They just watched in silent horror as everything started falling off the pile.

There was an endless clattering sound as several tons of rock, glass, and metal shifted from the top of the mound and cascaded to the floor. Rising up, slowly forcing its way out from underneath the debris, was a colossal brown shape standing 9 feet tall. The creature shook a fine layer of dust off its fur, stretched its muscular arms, and unsheathed its claws. It flared its nostrils and locked on to the scent of a robot, a minotaur, and three humans.

Gwen took one step towards the hulking beast. "Aright mate?"

It blasted her hair back with a deafening roar.

She cleared her throat. "Honestly? Same."

The creature pounced. Gwen raised her hands and powered up her magic implants. Odysseus unsheathed his sword. Emily readied her daggers. Dorian grabbed his blaster. Redacted pulled out their silver pistols and flew up to the ceiling.

The beast collided with Gwen's force field with such an impact that it shattered, pushing her off her feet.

Dorian and Redacted rained laser blasts on the monster from afar as Odysseus ran forward, jumped onto a table, and launched himself sword-first at its neck. The creature swiped its claw, knocking him out of the air and ripping through his spacesuit. He steadied himself and charged again, trying his best to block the beast's attacks with his shield. He ducked out of the way of its claw swinging from the left and, finding a clear opening, slashed his sword into its right. The creature stumbled backwards with an ear-piercing howl of pain.

From behind, Emily jumped off a second table and sunk her daggers firmly into its back. The beast tried to shake her off but she held on tightly, her legs wrapped around its waist.

"Emily, over here!" shouted Odysseus with his sword ready.

Emily planted her legs on the table behind her and kicked off from it. She let go of the beast just in time as it went stumbling towards Odysseus who ran it through the heart.

He retracted his blade from the beast and it collapsed, slamming down hard on the laboratory floor.

A wave of relief travelled through the room. "Thanks," Gwen nodded to Odysseus. "I owe you one."

With the sickly cracking of bones changing shape, the dead creature transformed. Impossibly, the thick brown fur that covered it from head to foot retracted into its body and its limbs shrunk down to the size of a human. In a matter of moments, the body of the wild animal had become the body of a woman.

The crew stared down at her.

"Unless he's had some serious work done," Odysseus started, "I'm pretty sure that's not Dr Eumedeson."

"Look on her neck," said Redacted. "Those wounds aren't ours."

Gwen turned the woman's head to the right to reveal four large teeth marks in the left side of her neck. She stood back up and turned to the others, gauging their reactions as reality set in. "Okay. So. Bit harder now that we know there are more of these wolf...things."

"Oh, don't worry," said Dorian. "We're allowed to call them 'werewolves'. Fuck it."

Gwen continued. "We have to spread out across the dome and kill them all before they infect anyone else."

"Whoa, hang on," Emily interrupted. "We just learned that innocent people have been turned into monsters against their will. You're very quick to want to 'kill them all'."

"They WERE innocent people," Gwen corrected. "But they've been changed. They've regressed into beasts. All we can do now is kill them to contain the virus."

"That's not all we can do. We can find a cure. Can't we? We've got a lab, we've got a scientist." Emily looked at Dorian. "Not just any scientist, but a scientist who deals in gene modding."

"Believe it or not, people are a bit more complex than plants," said Dorian. "I don't know the first thing about how to reverse this. Not that I don't think it's possible, or preferable. If there is a way we can cure them, we should try. Dr Eumedeson clearly has a brilliant mind, and we'd learn a lot more from him at a lecture than an autopsy. If we can salvage his human intellect, we should."

"Making a cure could take ages," said Gwen. "That's time we don't have. Not only could he go on a killing spree if he gets back to Laneria, but now we know that he can transfer his...condition to others with a bite. It could spread like a plague. We need to stop him before that happens."

"I'm up for that too if anyone's interested," remarked Odysseus. "We kill him and any other werewolves he's created and be done with it. I'm sure they were perfectly lovely back before they became giant wolf monsters, but they're all too dangerous now."

"Well, we don't know if they've ALL been infected," Gwen pointed out. "I'd say step one should be to find Eumedeson. Odysseus, you come with me. Emily, take Dorian and Red. It's best if nobody is left alone, in case we run into more werewolves."

"And if we DO run into more werewolves?" asked Emily. "We should try locking them up or knocking them out or something before we resort to killing them."

Gwen gave a slight frown. "Fine. Whatever. Let's go."

[The Ground Floor]

Emily, Red, and Dorian crept through the hall with Dorian's tablet held out in front of them. The rusted brass chandeliers which hung from the curved roof swung gently in the breeze and broke the silence every few seconds with a slow, uncomfortable screech. "Of all the places to set up a laboratory, an abandoned haunted house is probably the most...aesthetic," remarked Dorian.

Red took another step forward and their metal foot sunk slightly into the ground. In less than a second, a portrait on the wall swung open and a luminous green plastic skeleton flew out to the pre-recorded sound of evil laughter.

Dorian stared at the skeleton that hung limply an inch away from his face. Slowly, with a loud mechanical whir, it retracted into the portrait which swung shut behind it. The minotaur turned to look at the others with a wide eyes.

"It's definitely a mood," said Emily.

Dorian stopped. "Heat signal up ahead. This way." The three of them continued down the hall with their eyes glued to the small tablet screen. There was a large flashing red dot on the layout of the building and they were steadily approaching it. "The trace seems to be coming from in..." Dorian looked up. "Ah."

On their immediate right was a door covered in deep claw marks. Further up were a series of thicker, shorter indentations that looked like something had tried to gnaw its way in.

Nodding to Emily, who slowly pulled out her laser bow, Dorian kicked the door open and charged in.

Red flicked the anachronistic light switch which illuminated the old bedroom, dominated by a king-sized four poster bed. The moonlight was blocked by a pair of old, dusty curtains, creating the murky, artificial atmosphere of a room that hadn't been used in centuries. Dorian examined the heat source on his tablet before silently gestured towards a small cupboard door.

Once again, the three of them lined up by the door and, taking a deep breath, Dorian ripped it open.

An ear-piercing scream came from inside. Sprawled on the floor with his arms above his head, a scientist with his eyes screwed shut screeched in terror.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! PLEASE!!!! PLEASE DON'T TOUCH ME!!!!"

"No, no, no, it's okay!" Emily said gently.

Slowly, he opened his eyes and looked up at the three figures standing above him. "You...HIM!" he cried, pointing at Dorian. "Get away from him! He's a thing!"

"'He' is a minotaur, you fucking racist," growled Dorian. "I'm a cow man, not a wolf man."

The scientist was wearing a pair of black glasses which looked out from under an explosion of long blonde hair. His thin build and pale skin made him look frail and sickly. "Oh. Sorry. It's just...your lab coat kinda gave me the impression you'd been changed."

"Nope. I've always been a minotaur of science, ever since I was a little calf."

"Whu...what?"

"Cow joke."

"We were sent here by G.R.I.M.M.," explained Emily, helping him to his feet. "We're here to get you home safe. What's your name?"

Relief washed over man's face. "Oh! Oh, thank fuck. I'm Edwin. Edwin Jones. Do you have an escape ship?"

"Yeah, it's in orbit. We'll take you right there but first we need your help. Do you know how to cure the disease that turned those people into werewolves?"

Edwin avoided eye contact. "Y-yes. I do. There's a cure in the laboratory. It's all my fault that this happened. Dr Eumedeson prepared a safeguard; a theoretical antidote in case it all went tits up. I was the one he assigned to administer it. But...I couldn't. It all happened too fast. I froze."

Emily put her hand on his shoulder. "Anyone would've. If you come to the lab and get the cure for us, you can put everything right."

He smiled. "I'll see what I can do."

"Awesome. Are you okay to walk?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. One of them caught me on the arm but I'm alright now. The others...didn't get away. They're downstairs. Dead."

Dorian looked at Red and Emily. "That doesn't make sense. Why would he kill them and not infect them all like the woman in the lab?"

Emily pushed a button on her communicator. "Gwen? It's me. We just found a scientist who says there's a cure. We're escorting him back to the lab now. Listen. Dr Eumedeson killed all the other scientists. Be careful."

[The Top Floor]

"Don't worry, we will be." Gwen ended the call.

She and Odysseus continued through the hallway until they came to a pair of heavy double doors. Pushing them open, they entered a huge library with what seemed like an impossibly high ceiling. A spiral staircase at the far end of the room connected the ground level to two further balconies full of books.

"What are the chances that one of these bookcases is actually a secret door?" asked Gwen.

"What are the chances that one of these secret doors is actually a bookcase?"

Gwen laughed, and was immediately shushed by Odysseus. He held a finger to his ear. She listened, and heard the unmistakable sound of breathing. Together they moved across the library's wooden floor, trying to avoid any sudden creaks. The breathing was coming from the corner of the room, where the bookcases were divided by the entrance to a small alcove. Slowly and silently, they approached the row of bookcases and looked around the corner.

They whipped their heads back. Then, sure they hadn't been seen, they took another look.

Heaving in the centre of a collapsed pile of books was a man in his mid-50s. He sat staring down at his hands, his face obscured by his greying black hair. Gwen and Odysseus both instantly recognised him as a dishevelled version of the picture Kendra had shown them.

Gwen shared a glance with Odysseus and stepping forward. "Dr Eumedeson?"

His head snapped back to stare at Gwen with wild eyes. They were yellow and bloodshot, and looked at her like a starving man looking at food.

"Just settle doon, I'm Captain Gwen Lambert. This is Odysseus. G.R.I.M.M. sent us."

"My laboratory." He growled. "Take me to my laboratory. I need to activate the cur-AHHHH!!!!!"

"Odysseus, take his other arm," ordered Gwen, as she put Eumedeson's left arm over her head to lift him.

His entire body wretched and convulsed in pain. He tried to stand and stumbled against one of the book shelves. "I'm learning to control it. I can fight it but not for long! AHHH!!!" He let out a scream which became a piercing howl as his body transformed. Hair grew rapidly out of his skin, his arms and legs became longer and more muscular, and his teeth sharpened into razors.

Gwen and Odysseus backed away and Odysseus drew his sword.

The werewolf looked down on the two of them with a confident smile on its face. He wasn't hunched over like the one from the lab. He stood upright and looked slightly bemused. "Really? You think this is a fight you can win?"

Gwen did a double take. "You can talk?"

"Of course I can talk! I'm more than a beast. More than a man. Doesn't it amaze you, the power I hold? Join me, and I can make you stronger."

"Doubt it," said Gwen, bored. "So that's what you want to do? Infect everyone? Why did you kill your team instead of biting them then?"

"Alas, my initial transformation caused me to act rashly. Without forethought. For a brief moment, I was robbed of my intelligence. But now, I will not make the same mistake twice. Soon, everyone on Laneria will know the power I possess!"

Odysseus moved forwards with his sword pointed at the werewolf. "What do you mean?"

"I have taken this facility's oxygen generator and moved it to my ship. From there, I intend to fly it into Laneria's atmosphere and use it to turn the air into an aerosolized form of my potion. And if you're wondering why I'm telling you this, it's because there's nothing you can do to stop me. I am the first and best of my kind. And you two flimsy humans are among the last of yours."

"There are five of us," Gwen corrected. "Or did you forget about the others you saw downstairs?"

"Downstairs?" The beast cocked its mighty head in confusing. "What do you mean?"

"You know, when you used the security drone downstairs to talk to us. I assume you could see us as well as hear us."

The werewolf grinned to expose its teeth. "You're making up nonsense to distract me. Well done. You have succeeded in prolonging your life an extra nine seconds."

Odysseus whispered into Gwen's ear. "So if the voice from the security drone wasn't Dr Eumedeson, who-"

"BORED NOW!" The werewolf pounced.

[The Ground Floor]

"I wonder if the others have run into trouble yet," said Emily, leading Dorian, Redacted, and Edwin back the way they came, through a corridor with large windows looking out onto the park.

"AHHH!"

Everyone stopped to see Edwin clutching his right arm. "You okay?" asked Emily.

"Yeah, It's nothing. It's just where that werewolf got me earlier."

"Well, it's not much further to the lab. Once we have a cure, we'll take you home."

"How would Eumedeson have been able to cook up a cure in advance?" asked Redacted. "He couldn't have known the full extent of his symptoms before they developed."

Dorian thought about it. "Well he did expect to change, he just expected to be able to control it instead of regressing into savagery. Centuries of scientific innovation leading to a chemical formula that turns human beings back into animals."

"OooooooOOOOOOOooooo," Emily gasped. "Deep."

"HAAAAH!!!" Edwin screamed again and fell against the wall.

Dorian kept walking. "It wasn't THAT funny."

"Dorian!"

He turned to see Emily helping Edwin as he clutched his arm in pain.

Dorian looked around. The places Edwin seemed to be in pain were the points in the corridor opposite windows, with moonlight streaming in. "Show me your arm."

With a face screwed up in pain, Edwin slowly rolled up his sleeve to reveal a large bite mark.

Everyone took a step back. "Well, shit."

With one final scream, the scientist tore through his clothes and transformed into a werewolf. Dorian and Redacted armed themselves.

"Don't kill him!" shouted Emily to the others.

The werewolf stood up and charged. With the back of its claw it smashed Emily across the corridor, slamming her against a door. Redacted and Dorian blasted a hail of laser fire at the beast. Picking herself up, Emily checked the door she'd been thrown against to find a small cupboard. "Put him in here!"

Dorian roared at the werewolf to bait it to attack before dodging out of the way, putting it in front of the open cupboard. Redacted fired up their jetpack and charged forward, arms outstretched. They latched onto the werewolf in a violent bear hug around its waist, using the force of the jetpack to propel them both into the cupboard at high speed.

Redacted stepped back and let Emily and Dorian lock the door behind them.

They all stood for a moment and listened to violent scratching against the inside of the cupboard door. "When you say a werewolf 'got' you, you really should specify whether its a bite or not," said Dorian. "Same for zombies and vampries."

"Come on," said Emily catching her breath. "Back to the lab."

[The Top Floor]

Odysseus and Gwen's fight with Dr Eumedeson raged through the library. He swiped at the two of them like flies as they dodged around it, Odysseus swinging his sword and Gwen casting her magic.

The werewolf swung its claw down at Odysseus who barely avoided the blow. In one quick motion, the shield was knocked clean out of his hands and Odysseus fell backwards. He lay with his arms pinned to the ground, staring upwards at the vicious teeth above him that were moving towards his neck.

"OI, BAWBAG!"

The diamond of metal studs on Gwen's hands glowed red until the light was too bright to look at. She braced herself and unleashed a massive blast of energy that launched the werewolf off of Odysseus and through a door behind it.

Gwen stumbled forward and helped Odysseus up. "Now we're even."

Odysseus grabbed his shield. "Thanks." He noticed her breathing heavily. "You okay?"

Gwen nodded. "A little light-headed. Being a badass magic queen really takes it out of you sometimes."

"To be honest," said Odysseus putting a hand to his forehead, "I'm feeling a little dizzy too. Sort of...weightless."

Hearing a groan, they turned to the werewolf and the door it had been thrown through. It led to a small room that was clearly intended for staff of the haunted house as it broke the Gothic aesthetic. In the centre of the room, the beast lay slightly dazed against a machine that it had smashed beyond repair; a large silver box labelled 'Gravity Generator'.

Gwen, Odysseus, and the werewolf slowly floated off the ground. The werewolf visibly started to panic as it flailed madly in the air, unable to regain control. Eventually, it righted itself and kicked off from the broken gravity generator, launching forward with its claws outstretched. Making the shape of a gun with her hand, Gwen fired a bolt of magical energy at the werewolf. The force of the blast was enough to push her backwards.

Odysseus kicked off a bookshelf and swam through the air. When he was close enough he started hacking at the beast with his sword. Each swing felt heavy, like he was dragging his arm through water. They spun around in the air until the two of them were standing on the roof, using a chandelier as cover.

The werewolf stood upside down directly between two bookshelves and in front of a window. Gwen smiled. She charged up her magic implants, held her hands behind her, and unleashed a blast of energy which propelled her across the room with her leg out.

Her foot connected with the werewolf's jaw at 70 miles an hour and sent them both crashing through the third storey window.

Very slowly, the two of them fell down the side of the building. Odysseus turned and kicked as hard as he could into the room with the broken gravity generator. He examined the huge dent in the side. He punched it.

[The Ground Floor]

The chandelier that Emily, Dorian, and Redacted had been clinging to broke under their weight as gravity returned to the dome.

They collapsed onto the floor and the fixture came crashing down on top of them followed by a shower of old plaster. Emily coughed and spluttered. "What the hell was that?!"

"I think Gwen and Odysseus just found the dome's gravity generator," said Redacted.

"Come on," urged Dorian. "Before they 'find' the oxygen generator too."

Finally they made it back to the lab. Emily looked around. "Okay. If I turned into a big wolf, where would I put the cure? It would have to be in a place where someone would immediately notice it."

"I think you already did notice it," said Redacted, pointing to the computer in the corner. On its screen flickered the message 'Program LCW-002: Chemical Synthesis. Ready to Run. Authorisation Required.'

"'Chemical synthesis'," read Dorian. "Sounds about right. 'Authorisation Required'."

"Right then, let's take a look." Emily and Dorian jumped when they heard Edwin behind them, looking healthier than ever. He approached the screen. "Here, be an absolute babe for us and run the program."

A red light under the monitor turned green. "Welcome, Dr. Jones. Program running."

After a few moments of machinery wurring, an orange liquid was pumped through a thin clear tube and into a large bottle next to the computer.

With the program complete and the cure fully synthesised, the scientist's appearance shimmered and glowed for a brief moment before turning back into Redacted. They took the tube and held it next to their blank screen face, then recoiled. "I don't have a nose and I can tell this stuff is absolutely honkin."

"Good job," said Emily. "I didn't notice you scanning him."

"Oh honey. I'm always scanning people."

"That's-"

"ALWAYS."

[Marvak Shindalar's World of Wonder]

Gwen's magical blasts and Odysseus' slashing gradually pushed the beast backwards through the park towards the rollercoaster. The whimsical carnival music couldn't drown out the savage growling of the werewolf and the battle cries of the humans it was trying to destroy.

In the midst of the action, Gwen's communicator started buzzing. Choosing her moment, she quickly stabbed the button on the side, shouted "NOT NOW YOU NEEPS!" and ended the call.

The werewolf charged at them, forcing them backwards towards the bottom of the rollercoaster, where a cart sat next to a small control panel. Odysseus skilfully rolled under a wooden barrier which read "You must be this tall to ride!" before the werewolf turned it into splinters.

Avoiding the beast's claws, Odysseus and Gwen jumped backwards onto the stationary cart. The beast climbed on after them and they slashed at each other while jumping from chair to chair. Gwen overarm-threw magic blasts at the werewolf, who howled in pain as they connected with its face. Recoiling, the werewolf dodged one of Gwen's blasts which flew past it and hit the control panel next to the rollercoaster.

The cart jolted forward and then steadily started to move.

The werewolf stood in the middle of the cart, in between Gwen and Odysseus as the ride got faster and faster. Soon, everyone was leaning forward as the track curved up further and further until it was almost completely vertical. Holding on for dear life, Gwen and Odysseus swatted at the werewolf in an attempt to knock it off. Again Gwen's communicator buzzed but she was in no position to answer it.

The wind blew through their hair as the ride continued to climb until it gradually came to a halt. Suspended in place for a few seconds, Gwen and Odysseus braced themselves for what they knew was about to come.

The rollercoaster plummeted downwards, feeling like it had fallen out from under them. The force of the cart's descent ripped Odysseus' hand off the railing he was clinging to and send him falling past the werewolf and Gwen. Reaching out, he was just able to grab on to the railing at the bottom of the cart.

"Hold on!" Gwen shouted, making her way down the chairs to him. The track started to even out and run flat high above the ground.

"Gwen! Take this!" Odysseus shouted, throwing his sword over the side to her.

Gwen grabbed the sword and turned to face her enemy. She lunged at the werewolf, knocking them both off the rollercoaster. Gwen landed on the ground with the blade through its chest.

A final desperate howl, and the werewolf's body went limp.

Gwen blasted the control panel with her magic a second time to bring the ride to a stop. Odysseus made his way down from his now-stationary cart as the body of the werewolf shifted back into the form of Dr Eumedeson.

"Gwen! Gwen, we've got the cure!"

She looked up to see Emily, Dorian, and Red running from the haunted house. Emily stopped, her feet kicking up a faint cloud of dust in front of her. She looked up at Odysseus, unarmed, and at Gwen, wielding a sword covered in wet blood.

"Did you find any other survivors?" asked Gwen.

"No thanks to y-"

"Did you find any other survivors?" she repeated.

Emily glared at her, her eyes burning. "No, just the one guy we told you about. Eumedeson killed the rest."

Gwen gestured to them with outstretched arms. "Well? Where is he?"

"He was infected, so we locked him up in a cupboard. Safe. And alive."

Gwen's looked down at Eumedeson's body. She looked back at Emily. "Odysseus?" She threw him his sword. "Go find the other one, make sure he takes his medicine. I'll call the ship down and then we're leaving."

[Laneria]

South of the Trendar wastes and just north of the diamond plains towered Castle G.R.I.M.M.. It was here, in this stone fortress, that the largest peace-keeping organisation in the known universe ran all of its major operations in Andromeda.

On the castle's top floor, Kendra sat in her silver throne at the head of a long wooden table. The sounds of Hyperball Championship '93 playing on her computer echoed off the stone walls.

"And she's diving over the tank of sharks..." the virtual commentator narrated breathlessly. "She's made it over the lava, she's dodged the knives and OH!!!!! GOOOOAAAL!!!!!"

"Yes!" Kendra screamed into her headset. "Yes, get that one up you, camping fucking noob!"

A speaker in the table buzzed. "Ma'am?"

"Oh! MagicQueen AFK." She took off her headset, closed the tab on her computer, and cleared her throat. "Jeremy."

"There are some visitors here to see you. Captain Gwen Lambert and her crew."

"Ah. Excellent. Please send them in." She placed the headset and controller next to the computer monitor and pushed a button which lowered them into the table. She quickly smoothed down her elegant violet dress and resumed her straight-backed posture on the throne.

The double doors at the end of the room opened and two guards in platemail ushered Gwen, Emily, Odysseus, Dorian, and Redacted into the room.

Kendra smiled. "Gwen. I assume everything went well?"

"Do you seriously just sit on that throne all day?" asked Gwen.

"There are so many mysteries of the universe to ponder, my old apprentice, that I have little time for much else. That'll be all, ladies."

The guards nodded and left the room. As soon as the doors shut behind them, Kendra stood up and walked over to Gwen. "So? How did it go?"

"It went well. Sort of. We managed to find a cure that we gave to one of the scientists, but..."

Kendra looked concerned. "'But'?"

"But we couldn't save Dr Eumedeson. We did all we could."

Out of the corner of her eye, Emily shoot her a disapproving look.

"The potion warped his mind beyond repair," continued Gwen. "Whoever Eumedeson was before the transformation, he was gone. The werewolf was planning to use the dome's oxygen generator to infect all of Laneria. Proper evil genius stuff."

"We dismantled his machine and took the potion," said Dorian, placing a bottle of green liquid on Kendra's desk. "This is the cure," he added, as he placed a bottle of orange liquid next to it. "And THIS is a data card containing everything you need to know about the team's research."

"Wait," Odysseus interrupted. "You kept all that stuff?"

"Of course," replied Dorian. "Many boffins died to bring us this information."

Kendra walked around the group, examining the bottles and the silver data card. "I see. Where is the scientist you cured?"

"He's hanging out in the Treehouse downstairs. I didn't want to bring him into the building in case someone recognised him."

"Clever. After he gives his account, I'll see to it that he is fairly compensated and sent back to his family." Kendra's eyes met Odysseus'. "So you're the latest addition to Captain Lambert's crew? We haven't been properly introduced."

"Well I...uh...know who you are." He straightened himself, switching the charm back on. "I'm Odysseus."

"Odysseus...?"

"No ma'am. Just Odysseus. Like Aristotle, or Beyoncé."

"Oh...well, um, thank you all for helping me today. I'll ensure that you are rewarded. And as always captain, if you ever need my help, just call me and I'll be there. Work permitting obviously." Kendra sighed with relief as she returned to her throne. "It's good to know that this nasty business has been taken care of. And you're absolutely certain there are no loose ends to be dealt with?"

"Don't worry," Gwen reassured her with a smile. "You'll never have to deal with werewolves again."

[Marvak Shindalar's World of Wonder]

Dr Eumedeson's eyes snapped open.

With a groan, he tried to sit up but his body felt too heavy to move. Hearing footsteps in the dust, he looked up and saw a figure in red robes standing over him. Underneath the shadow of the figure's wide-rimmed galero, a humanoid shape was visible but its face was covered by a silver mask with glowing red eyes.

From behind, a floating security drone from the haunted house drifted into view. Its empty black lens focused in on him as the old man's voice boomed out of the speaker. "Why, Dr Eumedeson! How nice to see you in your newfound glory. You're an awful lot less...dead than I anticipated."

The doctor chucked. "What kind of supersoldier project wouldn't include cellular regeneration?"

"Quite. Cardinal Sinn?"

The man in the red robes stepped forward. From inside his long, bellowing sleeves, a silver pistol with two magazine clips, one on the bottom and one on the top, dropped into his hand. He pointed the pistol at Dr Eumedeson.

"WHOA!" he shouted, raising his hands. "What are you doing?!"

"A silver bullet," Cardinal Sinn explained. "Custom-made for you and your children. It carries a hyperactive strain of necrotising fasciitis which will rip every atom of your body asunder."

"It'll take more than that to kill me, you idiots!" Eumedeson screamed.

"I certainly hope so," said the security drone. "I have allowed you to carry out your experiments and now I must carry out mine. Namely, observing true artificial cellular regeneration in action. It's time to find out whether or not my investment in your work paid off."

Cardinal Sinn pulled the trigger.

The fairground rang with a howl of rage and terror before it was once again plunged into silence.

The adventures of Captain Gwen Lambert and her crew will continue...

IN

Episode 3: The Call of the Siren