Third corridor. Turn right. Two corridors. Turn left.
Avon's steps were confident as he headed to the flight deck. With a guiding hand, he kept a light touch on the cold walls. Now that he knew what was happening, at least partially, his world made sense again.
Not being able to trust the mental map in his head had been annoying at first, then frustrating and finally deeply disturbing. It was comforting to know that he hadn't been losing his mind.
The tips of his fingers absently registered surface sensations. Normally minor indentations and imperfections in the ship's panels, unnoticeable to the naked human eye, became metallic landscapes beneath his receptive fingers. An unimportant detail, but such sensations were part of his world now.
Where is Argus?
Being given help he couldn't find meant it was no help at all. With the internal comms still disabled, he had to rely on shouting.
"Argus! Follow the sound of my voice! Argus!"
It seemed a long time since he had woken up and found himself seemingly alone on the ship. Nothing mattered now except defeating the Thaarn and rescuing Cally and the others.
"I'm going to count until you find me!"
He had a purpose and a plan but first he needed to get to the flight deck. The Thaarn's vessel had to be located and the ship's systems checked.
How long did he have? What technologies did the Thaarn possess?
"Two!" He felt an edge and turned right.
Was the crew still on the ship or were they all with Cally?
The Thaarn had formidable technology the last time they met.
Energy isolators to render force weapons useless and a full field gravity generator to capture any unfortunate ship.
Had the Thaarn developed the ones to move planets?
If so then they were all in trouble.
But he was doing something different this time.
Manipulating minds on a mass level.
"T…Ah!" Avon fell crashing to the ground.
The Wolf's footprints were light, barely touching the ground as it raced through the ship, looking for its pack mates. It felt lighter now without all the restricting clothes. It didn't know how humans could stand such itchy materials on their bodies. One did not require such elaborate coverings but it did keep the most important one.
All the humans it found had the strange sleep. It must find its mate first. That was most important. The Wolf lifted its head and sniffed. The stale, tasteless air made its nose wrinkle. No smell of its mate yet. It would have to search farther.
Its sensitive ears caught a faint vibration of sound coming from the right. "Nine!"
The Wolf cocked its head and a growl formed low in its throat. It was a human voice. "T…Ah!"
All of its pack had the strange sleep. The voice must belong to the one who caused it. It was an enemy. The Wolf knew how to deal with enemies. Its lips peeled back in a meaningful snarl and it rushed towards the voice.
Avon rubbed a sore knee. Fortunately, he had landed on something soft.
With shock, he realized he couldn't feel his hand on his knee. Searching fingers felt around. It was a knee. But not my own.
Avon rolled away quickly and sat up. Finally a member of the elusive crew. It meant they were still onboard.
He bent forward and felt along the body. Not overly muscular. That narrowed down the possibilities considerably. The clothes…Vila!
A brief pleased grin lifted the corners of his mouth. Unfortunately, I can't say you're a sight for sore eyes. He placed his hand over Vila's heart, just to verify he was still among the land of the living. Strong steady thumps.
There were two breathing sounds. Avon reached out and felt for the other body. Soft, round…he jerked his hand away. And feminine. It must be Corinne.
They were both safe at least.
Avon held the wall for support as he got up. He still had to find...Ah! Something big and hard rammed into him, smashing Avon to the ground and knocking the breath out of him.
At the same time, his stunned mind heard a low, menacing growl and he felt a sharp knife-edge along his throat.
Recognizing the growling sound, Avon gasped angrily, "Argus! Are you insane?"
The heavy, muscular body pinned him to the floor but he could feel it tense, accompanied by a questioning growl.
The growl was definitely Argus-like but this was not Argus. It was an animal in human form. Muscular…it was Argus. But it wasn't.
Avon demanded, "Argus! Get off me!"
The Wolf had been prepared to kill this human because it was hurting one of its pack but the name stopped it. It gave another growl, this time one that rose in tone, indicating a question.
This human knew the other's name. It gave the Alpha orders. The Wolf shook its head in confusion. Was this one of its pack? But there could not be two Alphas. The Wolf dropped the knife and sniffed the human.
Its eyes narrowed. This one was injured. It could smell the weakness of its body. This must be the Alpha before, but injury made it lose its position in the pack. It was no longer the Alpha but it did not accept it.
The Wolf nodded its head vigorously as it worked this out. This one had to learn its new position in the pack. A light lesson. Not too hard because of its injury. The Wolf raised his hand to administer a light cuff to the side of its head along with a warning bark.
No! A sluggish mind pushed its way back to consciousness. Don't hurt Avon!
The Wolf barked in annoyance and shook its head. Did the Alpha-human not understand this must be done?
No! The voice was stronger this time. He's human. Not a wolf. It works differently.
Avon attempted to push him off but trying to move an armoured vehicle with one hand would have been easier. He said coldly, "What are you doing?"
Argus tried to speak, "Sorry, Avon. It's a long story." But it came out in barks and howls. He said to the Wolf, Let me have control. I need to talk to Avon.
One's pack cannot have two Alphas, the Wolf said, shaking its head stubbornly.
This pack does. Now get off him and let me talk to Avon.
The Wolf huffed and carefully lifted its leg from the injured Alpha.
Argus placed his hand on Avon's shoulder and helped him up. "Sorry, Avon. It wasn't me."
"What the hell is going on?"
"I…" How was he going to explain this without sounding crazy? "I have a wolf in my head."
"On your head?" Avon tilted his head and regarded him with sightless and what would have been incredulous eyes.
"No. It's…" He tapped the side of his temple, "Inside my head. It talks to me and sometimes, it has control."
Avon backed up warily. "You're possessed." He never thought he would experience the day when another member of the crew, other than Cally, was possessed by an alien.
“No, I’m not. I mean...I don’t think I am. Am I?” He hadn't considered alien before. In this crazy universe, anything might be possible. Argus put his hand to his head and asked the creature, Are you an alien?
One does not understand alien.
It’s something not human.
It said with pride, One is Wolf.
No. I mean, not of the Earth.
One is of the pack.
But is that pack on Earth... He held his head in both hands, “Oh my god, Avon! I think, I’m going insane.”
Avon, who had been listening to assorted animal sounds and the random word that escaped Argus’s lips during his conversation with the Wolf, said dryly, “The thought had crossed my mind. How long have you had this delusion?”
Argus asked the Wolf, How long have you been here?
One just arrived.
I mean in my head.
One does not understand the question.
Avon asked, "Are you talking to the wolf in your head? The imaginary one?"
"I…" He let out an exhale of exasperation. "This is bad."
Can one be of assistance? asked the Wolf helpfully.
"No!" Argus shouted.
Avon shook his head. "We don't have time for your mental problems."
"You're right." Argus bent down to check Vila and Corinne. "Something's knocked the crew out."
"I did that."
Argus looked up in surprise. "You?"
"We were being boarded."
"That was the Admiral. He's a friend." Reassured that Vila and Corinne were fine, he stood up. "He was chasing an invisible anomaly when he found us."
Avon's head tilted in thought. "That must be the Thaarn."
"Who or what is the Thaarn?"
"You said it was invisible?" asked Avon as his information hungry mind processed this.
"Yes, the Admiral said it caused havoc on three Federation ships. On one of them, they all killed each other. It must be what happened to us."
"Are the scanners working?"
"Zen scanned but he didn't find anything."
"It must have an anti-detector screen."
Argus said, "It's probably moved on though. Off to find another ship."
"It's still here."
"How do you know that?"
"Cally is his prisoner."
"What?" Argus exclaimed in alarm.
"We've met the Thaarn before. He has an interest in Cally."
"Oh. I'm sorry, Avon."
"We must get her back."
"We will," Argus said fiercely. He was instantly in tactical mode. "You know the Thaarn. What do we need to do?"
One can do something now? the Wolf asked.
Yes, now let me work.
The Wolf blew out a breath of satisfaction and its body flooded with liquid energy. Argus became even more alert and he felt very good. He was ready for action.
Avon held out his hand. "We need to go to my lab."
Argus guided the hand to his shoulder and they began moving down the corridor.
The shoulder was bare. Avon asked in a very dry tone, "Are you naked?"
Argus groaned and stopped suddenly, causing Avon to bump into him. Argus rolled his eyes upwards to look for help somewhere above the ceiling. He said in a tight voice, "Yes."
He asked the Wolf in irritation, Why did you take my clothes off?
I suppose I should be thankful you left my briefs on?
One needed them.
Argus said to Avon, "Not entirely naked." They began moving again. "It was the Wolf's fault. He said they itched."
"You're placing the blame on your delusion?"
"No doubt. Can you manage for now?"
"Don't worry about me. Let's just get you to the lab."
"Cally has arranged a contest. We need to defeat the Thaarn before he can complete his plan."
"And how do we do that?"
"You'll have to trust me."
"You're not going to tell me?"
"The Thaarn is monitoring us."
"Alright. Why do you think he hasn't done anything yet?" They neared the lab. "We're almost there."
"The subjects may need to be conscious for his machine to work."
"Oh." Argus laughed. "And you just knocked them all out? That's clever."
"It was luck," Avon said with a frown of disgust. He didn't like relying on chance.
They entered the lab. "We're here."
"I need ORAC."