Werewolf in Space, by Robert Lee Frazier
I knew it was going to be a bad day when Captain Malik warned us we were headed to Artois 9, an uninhabited planet with two moons. Inflicted with Lycanthropy a dual mooned world meant nothing but trouble for me.
The disease wasn’t supposed to leave Earth. In fact none of the big three diseases – Lycanthropy, Vampirism, or zombification, were supposed to get off-world. That was one of the promises of Earths Unified Government. Space was to be free of the contagions. However, one generation after humanity pushed beyond our own galaxy the scourge followed us into space.
God knows how it happened that I’d contracted the disease. I suspect my own contamination came during a brawl in a spaceport salon. I’d gotten the better of some punk when he up and bite me. I hit him over the head with a bottle and that ended the fight, but thirty days later – I turned.
I was terrified when it happened. Those were the days before the Hermes Accords. When persons discovered to be afflicted were put down with lethal force. All that changed when the population of the spaceport Hermes revolted after a quarter of the population was zombified. I still hear rumors of witch hunts that periodically breakout on Stella the nearest habited planet to that spaceport. Now – technically – I’m a law-abiding citizen who has rights.
After my infection I bounced from port to port. Being a pretty-good machine salvage operator I usually found jobs wherever I cared to stay.
That’s how I landed the job working for Captain Malik. He’s the commander of a deep space salvage ship named the Royale. He is also a sea green slug-like humanoid, who doesn’t give a coin about my condition. In fact my normal twelve hour work day extends to fourteen when I’m under the lunar influence.
The other two employees on board the Royale are a set of androids named 501 and 362. I nick-named them Zip and Zap. They don’t seem to care either. They respond to me exactly the same way whether I’m human or covered in fur.
There are really just two issues that bother me being a werewolf. The first is in how the change makes me feel. There seems to be two versions of the condition. The first is I become a werewolf and then I’m along for the ride. I’m still conscious of what’s going on, but I’m not in complete control. The other is when I change – and it’s bad. Real bad. I black out – then come-to a week later not knowing what happened. Malik and I have an agreement. If I sense it’s going to be bad. I lock myself in the containment unit. This consists of a lead-lined vault that locks from the outside. My other issue is while I’m in werewolf mode I tend – in true dog-like fashion, to eat things I would normally find repulsive. I’ve a dread fear one day I’m going to change and lose control and try to eat the captain which I find disgusting as he leaves a grey slim trail everywhere he goes and gives off a terrible stink when he’s scared.
That day the two moons of Artois 9 weight heavily on my mind. So I didn’t even respond to Captain Malik when he lifted his head out of the vision-scope and said, “We’re going to try for the Princess tonight.”
That shook me. The Princess was the most legendary salvage job in the void. Stories of her were passed from spacer to spacer all through the star system.
A derelict spacecraft that appeared out of nowhere for short periods of time and then vanished again. Sometimes for years.
Originally a governmental junket that moved between Earth and the outer colonies collecting tax money and ferrying government property, it was claimed she held mountains of wealth in her holds. I’ve heard a dozen different versions, but the basic story goes one morning for unknown reasons the crew abandoned the craft. She’d been boarded twice that I know of, but both times no-one came back alive.
Before I’d had time to point that little fact out to our captain, an alarm sounded. Warning us we were in proximity to another space vessel.
Zip and Zap entered the command room and lowering the forward radiation shields we sighted the Princess. A few of her exterior lights were lit and her one single remaining engine fought against the gravitational pull of Artois 9.
It was a hair-raising site. There before us was the stuff of nightmares, a spaceship that caused so much pain and suffering.
The Captain brought the Royale about and alongside the Princess. Attached life-lines to her and extended a com-link line to the exterior lock. The two ships could then communicate. I knew it could take a few hours before the Captain gave the all clear, and me and the androids could then go over and investigate. I headed down to the cantina to get a bite to eat and right in the middle of my meal I changed.
I thanked the stars it wasn’t a bad one. The change into werewolf is always painful, getting transformed from a 5foot 8in human, into a 6foot 4in fur covered beast, but I didn’t kick down the door or trash the room. I did break into the food dispenser and downed half dozen meals before getting into my oversized space-suite and heading for the airlock.
Zip and Zap were there waiting on the captain to give the all-clear. Without warning the air-lock opened and a strange odor rolled out from the other ship. I craned my neck for a better look into the Princess when a set of blinking lights moved into the airlock and onto the Royale. It passed by and turned the corner. I glanced at Zip and Zap, but neither of them appeared to have noticed. I opened the com-link to Captain Malik, but he claimed to have seen nothing on the remote camera, and none of the ships instruments picked up anything either.
I shrugged it off and followed the androids onto the Princess. Zip and Zap headed for the engine-rooms I moved in the direction of the ships hold. I wanted a glimpse of the treasure. Luckily I came armed. I had picked up my sidearm. A Deter Deluxe. A twelve round pistol loaded with exploding shells.
I found the hold, but it took some time for me to open the lock. My oversized paws are nearly useless for those kinds of jobs.
Piled up in the middle of the hold was a heap of fiery-orange gems reminiscent of a dragon hoard. Along the walls were stacked up jewel cases. You would think I would have asked – who made the mound, but all of that eluded me at the time. After all, this was one of fifteen holds. All I could do was imagine the vast fortune in the other fourteen.
I exited the room, and then that strange smell brought my werewolf senses to full alert. A moment later those creepy lights came down the hall. I stood noiselessly unmoving, but I did not retreat. The lights settled on my chest momentarily, but whatever in the void this thing was it didn’t react. The lights scanned the open vault then the door closed and locked. I still couldn’t discern how it did that, but I was sure this was no play of lights and smell, but a living being. The lights turned and moved away from the vault and I followed it straight down the corridor. Using my dog-like senses of sight, and smell I stayed on the heels of this invisible enemy.
I followed it into the engine-room. I leaned into the doorway and stared down the instrument panel. Zip and Zap worked on the engines unaware. Standing before the damaged engine wile small amounts of radiation wafted off in heat-waves, stood an alien-form. Those strange lights were emanating from some kind of helmet apparatus.
I yelled a warning at the androids, “Don’t move!”
It didn’t matter the creature raised a tube-like weapon and fired. Both Zip and Zap imploded and flashed into flame.
I aimed my pistol at the alien’s lights and pulled the trigger. The force of the blast blew the head-like appendage into dust. A wretched stench wafted up from the corpse. It slowly turned visible. I was glad I hadn’t seen the head as the body was hideous.
I opened a com-link and hailed Captain Malik, but he didn’t respond. I started into a run. Utilizing my werewolf strength I moved through the airlock and back into the Royale quick. These creatures were beyond my range of sight, but I knew I had to act. A ran into the command room and found Captain Malik dead on the floor. The three-lights and smell gave the other creature away. It stood over the control panel. Ripping out wires and doing its best to disable the Royale. I pulled my weapon and fired. The first shot missed. The exploding shell blew a hole in the wall behind him. I fired again this was followed by a bursting sound and then the smell. The second corpse appeared on the floor. It was over.
The exterior communication still functioned so I sent out a distress call. We were so far out in the void I had little hope of being rescued quick.
True to form a life raft reached me thirty two days later. During that time both of the moons rose again. This time it was a bad one. I awoke days later with a pounding head and deep cuts on the backs of my hands.
Everything seemed in order on the Royale. After searching the Princess I discovered I’d punched holes in the crew cabins doors. Worse still, I couldn’t locate the bodies. I felt some-what better when I checked my ships log and discovered I jettisoned refuse. I tried to reassure myself those nasty corpses were among the trash pitched out into the void. Yet, I still have doubts, because I can’t explain the metallic taste in my mouth that lingered on for days.
Robert Lee Frazier is an award winning author and poet who lives in Hagerstown Maryland. You can follow his authorial trials and tribulations on his blog www.robertleefrazier.com
Posted on December 28, 2012, in Issue 6: Big Bad Wolf in a Big Bad Universe and tagged e-zine, genre blender, horror, science fiction, short stories, The Were-Traveler, werewolves. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.