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
but hit a brick wall with a sum too complicated for her to know
where to start. Finally admitting defeat, she began sifting
through the books and pages and scrunched-up scraps of paper for
the equation she needed.
The sound of a heated argument downstairs floated up to her bedroom. She could never hear exactly what the voices were saying and had learned the hard way not to go down to find out. Instead, she quietly reached underneath the bed and retrieved her headphones. Making sure they were securely plugged in to her handheld communicator, Emily put on some music: L-Billy's Super Sounds of the 4150s. She did this more because she felt it would be polite to her parents rather than because it served any practical purpose. 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 couldn't muster the enthusiasm to go over and get it.
The voices from downstairs rose in volume. Emily, without hesitation, turned up the music to match them.
Eventually she reached what looked like a sensible answer to her maths problem, and smiled to herself when the back of the textbook confirmed its accuracy.
The music in her headphones cut off and became a sharp buzzing sound.
Emily checked her communicator to see that she'd got a message.
GWEN: "Ems. Junkyard. Now."
Itching for any possible excuse to get out of the house, 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 brown 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!"
"The correct time to be here would have been about twenty minutes ago so we could have found it together," replied Gwen excitedly.
"This way." Gwen ran through the open gate with Emily following close behind. The pathways through the junkyard were lined with a wide array of items; 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 its mountain of hoverbikes and powerboards.
Emily's mouth fell open but no sound came out.
"I know." Gwen answered her silence with a grin. "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.
"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 onto the ship and their fresh eyes instantly pick up on the design flaws."
Emily groaned. "Fine. You've made your point. I'll get on it once I'm done fixing 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, glad 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."
"'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!"
"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 and 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. "And these are my plants. 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 more closely. 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. I thought you were supposed to be the heroes."
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, I mostly just do it because they look nice. Civilisation doesn't factor into my plans at all."
Odysseus smirked. "A mad scientist gardener. I like it. Hey, why's that the only 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 dancing on its petals 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. Whatever you do, don't get them confused. We like to break out some beers every now and then, so make sure you clean up after yourself if you accidentally end up going for a piss on the spare bulbs."
Odysseus laughed as he and Gwen made their way down the corridor. "That's the engine room through the back, downstairs. You'd go through there to get to the escape pods but they aren't working right now. 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!"
"Well surely I should have the biggest room, given that I'm
the captain," Gwen reasoned smugly.
Emily wasn't convinced. "Um...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."
"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 which was piled high with boxes. It seemed that in the absence of a fifth crew member, this room had been repurposed 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 room. Odysseus slowly nodded to himself. "Yes, this'll do nicely."
"I have to admit, this does feel strange," 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, it was just me and Emily to start off with. Dorian saved both our lives pretty early on. Then Red won us in a card game."
Odysseus blinked. "Wait, wha-"
"So anyway, that's our story. How about you? If you're not really a simple farmboy from Albion, where are you from? And no lies this time. We need to be able to trust each other."
An alarm blasted from speakers in the ceiling as the Treehouse was flooded with red light.
Gwen rolled her eyes. "Ladies and gentlemen: the world's most dramatic ringtone." 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 from Laneria. Castle G.R.I.M.M."
"Oh, for 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 stopped blaring and the static cleared to reveal a woman's smiling face. Her long silver hair and flowing violet dress gave her an air of elegance and wisdom. Leaning on her throne was a silver staff covered in ornate gemstones. "Ah, there you are. How is my old apprentice?"
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."
"Captain Lambert, I require your expertise for a secret operation, the details of which-"
"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 in her leather 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 base of operations in Andromeda, surely it's the safest place there is. Not many planets can claim to be home to 'the greatest sorceress in the galaxy'," said Gwen, making airquotes with her fingers.
Kendra allowed herself a small smile. "You flatter me. Unfortunately however, G.R.I.M.M. can't stop this threat because G.R.I.M.M. helped create it. Four other people know what I'm about to tell you. I'm putting you on this job because I trust you more than anyone in my own ranks."
Kendra seemed to visibly ready herself. "About 40 years ago, there used to be a theme park on Laneria's moon."
Gwen raised an eyebrow. "Um...Oookaaay?"
"After a few accidents regarding the artificial gravity generators, the park was forced to close down and quickly fell into disrepair. 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 into the facility and take care of it quickly and quietly."
"We can handle it. What sort of experiment are we talking about exactly?"
Odysseus shot Dorian a look.
"A brilliant scientist by the name of 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.
Kendra explained calmly, "The soldiers would only be given the potion if they desired it. In fact, Dr. Eumedeson even volunteered to test it on himself first in case there were any ill side effects. Unfortunately for him, there were. He thought he would have 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.
"Precisely. You'll need to act quickly. 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 getting on that ship and endangering the lives of Laneria's citizens."
Gwen straightened herself in her chair. "Okay, fine. Where are we meeting you?"
"I'm sorry, but I am unable to assist you this time. 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 only talking to you over this private communication channel in my office because I know it can't be tapped into. As for the location of the facility, I'm sending the co-ordinates 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 an alternative way to reach the surface."
"Oh, that shouldn't be too difficult."
Kendra smiled. "Good luck, Captain. Right now, you are Laneria's only hope."
The crew huddled around Gwen's chair as she took them closer
and closer to Laneria, 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 just starting to fade away after years of neglect.
"Wow," said Emily, breaking the silence. "It's like the most depressing snow globe ever."
"There's an entrance for ships at the very top of the dome but the security system will see us coming if we fly straight through the front door," Gwen explained. "We should get our spacesuits on, approach the dome 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," Redacted explained.
Gwen put the Treehouse into orbit around the moon and turned off the power, plunging them into undetectable radio silence. The starship moved effortlessly through the frictionless void, propelled forward by momentum alone.
The crew exited the cockpit and made their way through to the armoury. Hanging up 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.
Ensuring that their weapons were all safely secured to the outside of their suits, the crew made their way to the airlock door. 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 the vacuum of 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 system isn't an issue. Ready?"
"Ready," replied Emily, who stood first in line to jetpack down to the moon's surface. "See you down there."
With a rapidly disappearing "WEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeee...", Emily jumped out of the ship, followed by Redacted, who used their own built-in jetpack, followed by Gwen.
Odysseus stood on the very edge and stared apprehensively down at the moon below him. He fidgeted with the golden 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 very 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 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.
A sudden terrified panic set in as Odysseus saw the Treehouse fall 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 apart from solid matter; enough time for him to become 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 too, the five of them began their trek to the dome.
Odysseus took in his surroundings. Using two lights embedded in his spacesuit's collar, he started to carefully navigate the jagged, dark landscape of Laneria's moon.
Eventually his eyes gravitated upwards. 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, 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 which 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 feeling of admiration and wonder in her voice. "The portal between the galaxies; a bridge between Andromeda and the Milky Way. Built by one of the earliest civilizations we know of."
"I know," replied Odysseus. "I have actually seen it before."
"Oh. Right. Well it's still amazing."
Odysseus stared into the glistening portal; a shimmering brilliant 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 complete silence except for the rasp of breathing heard through the radios built into their helmets.
"So," Odysseus continued. "How come you guys know the leader of G.R.I.M.M.?"
"We've known each other for years now," said Emily. "See, ever since we were young the plan for me and Gwen 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."
"Mechanical Engineering. I ended up with a masters degree," she replied, a smile of pride briefly flashing across her face. "During the four years I was busy, Gwen couldn't exactly 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. 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.
In a matter of seconds, 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.
Standing shoulder to shoulder, the crew looked out at the park. The rollercoaster in the centre of the dome was so tall that it almost reached the roof. Next to it was a huge 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 wind like nails on a chalkboard.
"Well then," Dorian started. "Where to?"
"Kendra's co-ordinates lead to the haunted house," replied Gwen.
"Of course they do. Of fucking course they do." The minotaur reached into a pocket on his suit to retrieve his PDA.
"Okay, everyone," announced Gwen. "We don't know what's in that building. So from now on, we're going to need to be as careful and as quiet as possible."
She took a step forward.
The park burst into life. Red and yellow and orange flashing neon lights switched on with a deafening slam that made the crew jump out of their skin. 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 stood frozen by frustration. "I see."
Slowly, she and the others ascended the steps of the haunted house. The eyes of the gargoyles were now glowing red and a large neon purple sign above the double doors dubbed it 'The House of Horrors'.
The crew 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.
Everyone removed their helmets as Gwen led them through the
old, dusty halls of the building. The dull, faded paper was
peeling off the walls, exposing a tangle of anachronistic wires.
Standing with their backs to the wall were shining suits of
armour, guarding large portraits of expressionless women in
"Well, they've definitely nailed all the horror movie clichés," Emily remarked. "Next we'll probably find out that 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.
The crew stopped. They slowly looked at each other.
Their faces 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 a look of exasperation. "Really?"
They ran to the end of the hallway as it once again travelled back the way it came. They all watched the white sheet float 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 white sheet, pulling it off to reveal a small, spherical, flying robot.
Emily stared at it in baffled amusement. "Amazing."
"Well, it's not an old caretaker, so I'm taking away half a point," said Gwen. "No, this is just a security drone."
The drone stopped in its tracks and turned to face them. For a few moments it stayed absolutely still, watching them silently. Then, a crackling noise came out of a small speaker grill on its side. It sounded like somebody fumbling with a microphone. An old man's voice boomed out of the speaker. "Who are you? You're not one of the scientists. You look far too competent to be one of the scientists."
Gwen cleared her throat. "I'm Captain Gwen Lambert. Dr. Eumedeson, is that you? We're here to help you. We've been sent here by G.R.I.M.M.."
The small camera on the front of the robot focused 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 to the ground.
"Weird," said Emily.
Dorian examined his PDA. "Most of the heat and electricity in the building is coming from a room on the second floor. I'm guessing it's Eumedeson's lab. Let's go and 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 entered 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 light 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.
Odysseus walked over to one of the work stations and held his hand over the smashed vials. "This science..." he gasped dramatically. "It's still warm."
"Hey. Look at this." The others turned to see Emily running her fingers through five parallel scratch marks buried deep into the wall.
In the corner of her eye, Emily saw the flickering of a computer terminal.
The screen was black except for green lettering which read 'Program LCW-002: Chemical Synthesis. Ready to Run. Authorisation Required.'
Gwen walked over to Emily's side and inspected the computer. "Kendra said that all of the computer systems in this facility are programmed respond to Dr. Eumedeson and his team. Maybe it needs his DNA or thumbprint or something."
Light started to pour into the room through the stained-glass windows that looked out onto the moon's surface.
"Looks like we're moving towards the sun," noted Emily. "It's so weird to think about sunlight on a moon. I guess this one isn't in geostationary orbit."
"Technically, it could be classified as moonlight, bouncing off the moon's surface," said Redacted.
Dorian walked over to a desk on the far side of the room. "Let's get started then, shall we? We need to comb through all 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. 42nd century, we're looking for a computer."
Sure enough, Dorian quickly 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 and the computer. "Could you hack into this? It's a touch screen, so I don't know if there's a-"
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 that my attempt to bring in outside help beyond G.R.I.M.M.'s jurisdiction 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 it and harness its power without the power controlling me."
A piece of rubble fell off the large pile in the corner and smacked onto the tiled floor. 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 started to shift from the top of the mound and cascade down 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. Finding its bearings, it flared its nostrils and locked on to the scent of the robot, the minotaur, and the three humans who were staring at it.
Gwen cautiously took one step towards the hulking beast. "Hello."
The creature unleashed a deafening roar that blew Gwen's hair back and sent test tubes and equipment flying across the room.
Gwen cleared her throat. "Yeah. Thought so."
The room exploded into action. 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 in midair with Gwen's red force field which 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.
Picking himself up, Odysseus charged and swung, 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 side.
The creature stumbled backwards, letting out an ear-piercing howl of pain.
From behind, Emily jumped off a second table and sunk her daggers firmly into its back. The beast cried out as it 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 was sent 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."
The crew were given a few seconds to catch their breath before it was stolen from them again by the sight of the dead creature transforming.
Impossibly, the thick brown fur that covered the beast 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, trying to form thoughts.
"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. "My sensors are picking up wounds that we aren't responsible for."
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. Our job just got a little harder because now we know there are more than one of these wolf...things."
"Oh, don't worry," said Dorian. "We're allowed to refer to them as '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 a second," 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 I'm certain 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 mere 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 all perfectly lovely people back before they became giant wolf monsters, but Kendra is counting on us to save Laneria, and that means wiping them all out."
"Well, we don't know if they've ALL been infected," Gwen pointed out. "I'd say step one of the plan should be to find Dr. Eumedeson. Odysseus, you come with me. Emily, take Dorian and Red. It's best if nobody is left alone, in case we run into any 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 looked doubtful. "Fine. We'll try to avoid killing them. But remember, the priority here is Eumedeson. We know that other people have been infected but he's the original werewolf. If this is just what his bite can do, we don't know what he himself is fully capable of."
Emily, Red, and Dorian crept through the hall with Dorian's
PDA 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 screeching sound.
"Of all the places to set up a laboratory, an abandoned haunted house is probably the most...unsettling," remarked Dorian.
"Relax," said Emily. "The PDA will tell us if there are life signs approaching. We'll be ready for anything."
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-eyed look of confusion.
"Haunted house," said Emily, by way of explanation.
They continued in silence for a few minutes before Dorian stopped. "Hold on. I'm detecting a heat signal up ahead. This way."
The three of them continued down the hall with their eyes glued to the small PDA 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 unsheathed her daggers, 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. All outside sources of light had been blocked by a pair of old, dusty curtain, creating the murky, artificial atmosphere of a room that hadn't been used in centuries. Dorian examined the heat source on his PDA 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 combined with his 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 too."
"Nope. Not me. I've always been a minotaur of science, ever since I was a little calf."
"Sorry. 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 to safety. What's your name?"
A look of 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 have any idea 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. "I don't blame you. If you come with us back to the lab and get the cure for us, everything can be put right."
"Uh...sure. I'll see what I can do."
"Awesome. Are you okay to walk? I saw from the markings on the door that one of them chased you."
"Yeah, I'm fine. It caught me on the arm but I'm alright now. The others..." He paused. "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."
"Don't worry, we will be. We still haven't found Eumedeson
but we'll keep you updated." Gwen ended the call.
She and Odysseus continued on 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, before immediately being shushed by Odysseus. She turned to see him holding a finger to his ear. She listened, and heard the unmistakable sound of heavy breathing.
Together they carefully moved across the library's wooden floor, trying to avoid making any sudden creaking sounds. 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, thinking that they'd been seen. Then, after hearing no change in the breathing, 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 nervous glance with Odysseus before stepping forward. "Dr. Eumedeson?"
His head snapped back to stare at Gwen with wild eyes. They were yellow and bloodshot, and looked at her as if he was going to pounce at any moment.
"My-my name is Captain Gwen Lambert. And this is Odysseus. We've been sent here by G.R.I.M.M."
"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!!!"
Dr. Eumedeson let out a deafening 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 from him and readied themselves for a fight.
The werewolf looked down on the two of them with a confident smirk on its face. He wasn't hunched over like the werewolf from the lab. He stood upright and looked slightly bemused. "Really? Do you intend to fight me?"
Gwen did a double take. "...You...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 like me."
"You'll make me like you? A monster?" spat Odysseus.
The werewolf threw back its head in laughter. "Ah. 'Monster'. Such a convenient word. A way to Other what you don't understand. I am not a monster. I am...the future. I will bring salvation to the human race. I will make them strong!"
"So that's what you want to do?" asked Gwen. "Infect everyone? Well why did you kill your team instead of biting them?"
"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 on yours."
"There are five of us," Gwen corrected. "Or did you forget about the others you saw downstairs?"
"Downstairs?" The beast tilted its head slightly. "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. "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 charged.
"I hope the others don't run into any trouble," said Emily,
leading Dorian, Redacted, and Edwin back the way they came,
through a corridor with large windows looking out onto the park.
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 exactly would Dr. Eumedeson have been able to produce a cure in advance? He couldn't have known the full extent of his symptoms before they developed," asked Redacted.
Dorian thought for a moment. "Well he did expect to change; he just expected to be able to control it instead of regressing into savagery."
"Centuries of scientific innovation have led to a chemical formula that turns human beings back into animals."
"Whoa," said Emily in fake awe. "Deep."
"HAAAAH!!!" Edwin screamed again and fell against the wall.
Dorian kept walking. "It wasn't THAT funny."
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.
Dorian took a step back. "Well, shit."
With one final scream, the scientist tore through his clothes and transformed into a werewolf.
Dorian and Redacted immediately armed themselves and prepared to strike.
"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 broom 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.
Letting go, Redacted stepped back and let Emily and Dorian lock the door behind them.
They stood for a moment and listened to violent scratching against the inside of the cupboard door. "So, what do we do now?" asked Dorian.
"Whatever the hell we can," Emily answered, bent over with her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath. "Come on; let's get back to the lab."
Odysseus and Gwen's fight with Dr. Eumedeson raged through
the library. The beast 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.
Without his shield, Odysseus took a second to respond, which was all the werewolf needed to spring and knock him backwards.
Odysseus lay with his arms pinned to the ground, staring upwards at the vicious teeth above him that were moving towards his neck.
"Oy, auld yin!"
The beast turned its head to see Gwen charging her magic implants. The metal studs on her 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. "I just feel a little light-headed. That was a lot of magical energy I had to conjure."
"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 around 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 didn't have the same Gothic aesthetic. In the centre of the room, the beast lay slightly dazed against a machine that its body 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 itself forward with its claws outstretched.
Making the shape of a gun with her hand, Gwen fired a bolt of magical energy at the werewolf. Without normal gravity, the force of the blast pushed her backwards slightly.
Odysseus kicked off a bookshelf and swam through the air and 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 poised upside down directly between two bookshelves and in front of a window. Seeing her chance, Gwen charged up her magic implants, held her hands behind her, and unleashed a blast of energy which propelled her across the room with her left leg out.
Her foot connected with the werewolf's jaw at over 60 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 for a few seconds before making the reasonable and calculated decision to punch it.
The chandelier that Emily, Dorian, and Red had been clinging
to broke under their weight as gravity returned to the dome.
The three of them 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 suspect Gwen and Odysseus just found the dome's gravity generator," explained Redacted.
"Come on," urged Dorian. "Before they 'find' the oxygen generator too."
Eventually 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, perhaps, 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. "Yep, sounds about right. 'Authorisation Required'. Most likely the authorisation of Edwin given that he was supposed to administer it."
Emily and Dorian jumped when they heard a man's voice from behind them. "Right then, let's take a look." They turned to see Edwin, looking healthier than ever in human form. They backed away in shock as he moved in front of the computer screen. "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.
"Brilliant!" beamed Emily, carefully removing the bottle from the machine. "Come on! We have to tell Gwen and Odysseus!"
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 battlecries 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!" 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 with a single swipe.
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 started to move steadily.
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.
"Odysseus! 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 charged forward and lunged at the werewolf, knocking them both off the rollercoaster. She landed on the ground with the blade through its chest.
With a final desperate howl, the werewolf's eyes closed and its body became limp.
Gwen blasted the control panel with her magic a second time to bring the ride to a halt. 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.
"Well, no thanks to y-"
"Did you find any other survivors?" she repeated.
Emily glared at her, her eyes burning with rage. "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, this time with a twinge of guilt. She quickly regained composure and glared 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."
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 warmly. "Captain Lambert. How nice it is to see you."
"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, Gwen saw Emily shoot her a disapproving look.
"He had turned into a madman," continued Gwen. "The potion had warped his mind beyond repair. Whoever Eumedeson was before the transformation, he was gone. The werewolf he became was planning to use the dome's oxygen generator to infect all of Laneria. If we hadn't acted quickly, millions would have been turned into beasts."
"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
Kendra walked around the group, examining the bottles and the silver data card. "I see. Where is the scientist you say you cured?"
"He's hanging out in my ship downstairs. I didn't want to bring him into the building in case someone recognised him."
"Ah, very wise. After he gives his account, I'll see to it that he is fairly compensated for his troubles 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."
"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."
Gwen nodded. "Thanks."
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."
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 finally meet 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...
Episode 3: The Call of the Siren