He was supposed to be dead, but even though I hadn’t seen him in fifteen years, there was no way I wouldn’t have recognized him. He looked like he’d barely aged a day, so it would seem even death wasn’t final.
It was something I should have given more thought to, all things considered.
I’d been away at boarding school when I got the news his car had plunged off the side of a mountain in the Swiss Alps, in the middle of a snow storm. Witnesses said he’d tied one on in one of the local pubs that night and given his alcoholism after my mother’s death, no one was all that surprised he managed to kill himself.
But between the steep terrain, inclement weather, and the fiery crash, a body had never been found.
His death had been assumed.
I’d never felt like more of an ass because of it.
I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off of him. Not because I’d missed him – even though I had – but because I couldn’t reconcile the man I once knew with the man staring back at me now.
Whereas before – before my mother had died, at least – his eyes were always full of warmth and a hint of excitement, like he was constantly on the cusp of figuring out the secrets of the world.
Now his eyes were just…crazy. Wild, in a rabid sort of way, but the excitement was still there.
And not in a good way.
Still wearing a manic smile, he jutted his chin towards me and said, “Now be a good boy and step into the room, closing the door behind you. I’d hate for your friends to come looking for you and spoil our reunion.”
I highly doubted they would, but kept that to myself.
While I was still wearing my comm link in my ear – I could hear Jake and Alcide having another one of their heated exchanges, taking place in the garage – I’d turned off the mic when I was finally on my way to get Sookie.
I hadn’t wanted them hearing our reunion.
The irony was biting me in the ass now.
“Don’t test me, Eric,” he warned.
But more than his tone, what really got my attention was the small frightened gasp Sookie made, followed quickly by the scent of her blood.
He’d breached her skin with the tip of the needle.
“From your past reactions to my men, I doubt you’d still want her very much if she turned into a wolf at every full moon. But then again…this hypodermic needle is filled with a concentrated dose of the wolf serum. Three times the normal amount, so who knows what will happen.”
Quickly calculating the necessary speed and distance I would need to cover in order to take the needle from his grasp, when my enhanced eyesight discerned he was putting enough pressure on the plunger that he’d likely already gotten a miniscule amount of the serum into her bloodstream, I gave up on that plan and just did as he said.
I’d figure out another way to free her.
My mind immediately strayed to Godric. While there weren’t any sensors inside of the panic room to detect movement, it was wired for sound.
He should have heard our entire exchange.
There weren’t any cameras in the room either – I’d never seen the need to add them until now – but as soon as the door closed and the pressurized seal was activated, the sound of the guys coming in through my comm link was immediately cutoff.
At the same time my father breathed a small sigh of relief before saying, “Better. I wasn’t sure how far the range of my little cloaking device would work in an open area, but it’s already proven effective in this enclosure.”
When he said the words ‘cloaking device’ he’d lifted his shoulder, with the movement drawing my attention to a thin tubular collar – made of some sort of alloy, if I had to guess – that rested along the back of his neck and was open at the front.
It reminded me of a Bluetooth.
But with the door now shut, I could pick up the high frequency sound wave it was emitting that wouldn’t have been noticeable to human ears.
“Your AI is quite impressive,” he smiled. “Victor told me all about…Godric is it? He seems quite attached to your human, if Victor was correct. But then he must have been because your Godric was sufficiently distracted by my wolves, in his attempts to protect her, and all the while I was making my way into here.”
Then his smile disappeared, with his entire expression turning dark, while he said, “I made sure Victor told me everything before I killed him. That he would betray me and steal from my company – from my son – was quite the disappointment. I’m sorry for leaving you in his care.”
Well, that explained why we’d been unable to find him. I’d been pissed off enough to kill Victor myself, but now seeing what he’d been confronted with in his final moments, I almost felt bad for him.
While he’d been talking, my eyes had gone to Sookie’s. I was looking for any signs – visual or otherwise – she’d been dosed with the serum. Her heart rate was elevated, but that could’ve been from the situation we were in. Her normally sweet scent – now sweetened even more by the small droplets of blood dripping down her neck – was laced with fear, but nothing else that I recognized as specifically ‘wolf’.
All I wanted to do was take her in my arms and whisk her away from harm, but it was still too much of a risk to try and disarm my father, when the needle was still imbedded in her neck.
“That being said,” my father began, as though we were having a normal conversation over dinner, rather than him holding my girlfriend hostage. “I must say I’m a little disappointed in you Eric. I could tell by the shock on your face when you found me here that it never even occurred to you I was responsible for the wolves. That I am The Authority. Didn’t you find it odd there were lions, tigers, and bears on the city streets this time around?”
“No odder than finding men who turn into wolves,” I bit out, trying and failing to keep my temper in check.
Shaking his head, he explained in a tone full of regret, “Every year you watched The Wizard of Oz with your mother. Don’t you remember? And every year she would laugh and say how much she wished we could have lions, and tigers, and bears. And every year you would look up at her and promise when you were big enough, you would get two of each, just for her.”
I did remember that and while the memory tugged at something deep and warm within me, it angered me even more that he would ruin one of my fondest recollections of my mother.
And my emotions got the better of me, when I snapped back with, “So you thought by setting a bunch of killers loose on the streets where innocent lives could’ve been lost, you were leaving me what amounted to clues my dead father was back in town? Are you mad?”
“Determined, Eric,” he replied in a dangerously low voice. “I’ve spent the last fifteen years in seclusion DETERMINED to do right by your mother.”
“What are you talking about?” I shouted back, with my emotions still running high. “She’s DEAD!”
“No, Eric. She’s not.”
In spite of my superhuman strength, my knees nearly buckled where I stood. If I hadn’t been standing with my back to the door, I would’ve fallen to the ground where I stood.
As it was, I ended up leaning on it heavily, as I asked in a near whisper, “What do you mean? I saw her. I was there. You were there. Her body was ice cold and two days later you stood at my side on the cliff behind this house and watched me throw her ashes into the wind.”
It had been her favorite spot to sit, watching the sun set over the horizon and listening to the waves crashing against the shore below.
We’d even put a small granite grave marker on the spot, engraved with her name.
“That wasn’t your mother’s ashes you tossed into the wind,” he replied. “And yes. Her body was cold. Ice cold. It needed to be in order for her to be cryogenically preserved. I started the process before I came to tell you she was gone.”
“You what?” I asked in disbelief.
But there had been something in the way he’d said he started the process before he came for me that made me ask, “Did you start it before or after her heart stopped beating?”
Seeing his raised brow – another thing I’d apparently inherited from him – was answer enough.
“You killed her?” I accused, now standing upright under my own power again.
If he hadn’t been holding Sookie’s life – literally – in the palm of his hands, I could’ve very well killed him right then and there.
“Don’t you see?” he asked pleadingly. “I did it to save her! The technology didn’t exist then, but I knew it was only a matter of time. I knew it would happen in my lifetime, so how could I possibly live with myself knowing I could’ve saved her, if only I’d acted when the time was right?”
Gripping Sookie even harder in his hand, he shook her body like a ragdoll – which did wonders in making me back down from my threatening stance – when he animatedly explained, “You don’t know how heavily this decision weighed on me, Eric. I couldn’t even move forward for the first few years after she…was gone. I wrestled with my conscience over whether or not I was doing the right thing and I turned to alcohol to numb the pain. But then I had an epiphany. Sitting in that pub in Switzerland it all came to me. I was so busy focusing on my own pain – on a life I no longer found worth living – when what I should have been focusing on was her. I had to get rid of every other distraction. No more booze. No more building my empire. Nothing was more important than your mother, so I staged my own death and have concentrated solely on curing her ever since.”
While I’d taken in everything he’d said, the only word I could seem to hear was ‘distraction’.
As his son, he had considered me a distraction.
I couldn’t lie. It hurt, like no other pain I could ever remember feeling.
And maybe it was because he’d been ‘dead’ in my mind for so long – or maybe it was because I just loved Sookie that much – I dismissed it just as quickly, knowing losing her would be the ultimate pain.
It would easily surpass being more or less abandoned by the only parent I’d had left.
“That’s how I came up with the wolf serum,” he went on to say. “I wasn’t trying to turn men into wolves, of course. But in my attempts to figure out human regeneration, it was an unfortunate – and yet valuable – side effect.”
His eyes then took on that crazy haze again, when he stared back at me and added, “A side effect you seemed to have overcome.”
Only then did it occur to me what he really wanted the serum for.
To bring my dead mother back to life.
As if he could read my mind – or maybe I’d read his – he said, “I need that serum, Eric. You, my boy, have somehow succeeded where I have failed. Initially, I’d hoped to appeal to the egocentric in you and obtain it that way. Appeal to the side of us all that craves absolute power. You know as well as I do there is no certainty in experimental science, so if it didn’t work on your mother, you would’ve been none the wiser. But after speaking with Victor, I know now that you have your mother’s moral compass. She would – and will – be so proud of you son.”
I felt like I was standing on the deck of a ship in the middle of a raging storm. I couldn’t seem to find my balance, even though my feet were firmly planted on terra firma.
I didn’t know what to do.
“Come with me, Eric,” he offered. “I’ve brought her stasis chamber with me. She’s not very far from here and you can be there to see her when she finally wakes up from her long rest.”
The ship I wasn’t standing on tilted violently to the starboard side, but I somehow managed to remain upright.
While I still didn’t know what the right thing to do, where my mother – or even my father, really – was concerned, I did know that I had to get him away from Sookie, so I bargained, “I’ll come with you, but first you have to let her go.”
During his longwinded explanation I’d noticed the open floor panel, revealing the shaft that led to the small equipment room below, which powered the panic room, so I figured that was where he must have come in from. Whatever that thing was he was wearing somehow kept him from being detected by Godric’s sensors, so theoretically, if we left through the same way, then Sookie would be able to communicate with him at the very least, if she couldn’t get out of the room on her own to alert the others.
“You look at her, like I look at your mother,” he chuckled in a sinister kind of way.
It made me nervous.
But instead of elaborating further, he only smirked and said, “The serum, Eric. We’re not going anywhere – least of all your dear sweet Sookie – until I have that serum.”
After Sookie had been nearly killed by the wolves, all four of us had taken to carrying a single dose on us, just in case the horrific situation ever happened again.
I’d managed to save her with my blood the last time, but I had no way of knowing if that would always be enough or if their blood would do the same thing.
I wouldn’t lose her, if I could help it.
And once again I saw myself in my father.
We weren’t all that different after all.
It was something I would have to think on later.
Pulling the auto-injector from my pocket, I showed it to him and said, “Then I guess we’re ready to go.”
It would seem I hadn’t been the only one standing on land, but suffering a case of vertigo nonetheless because only a few moments later, Sookie crumpled to the ground unconscious. I could still detect her heart rate and breathing patterns were normal enough, but I was already moving towards her when my father reminded yet again of the needle he still held in his hand.
Seeing it was no longer stuck in her neck, I thought briefly about charging him until he said, “I sent six wolves inside, but there are more than fifty men outside, just waiting for my signal to come crashing through this house. Your men might be able to take out a few, but they won’t be able to take them all on before they are taken out.”
I had no way knowing if he was telling the truth.
But I did know math and the odds told me that it was unlikely John, Alcide, and Jake would be able to take out fifty whatever-in-the-fuck-they-turned-into all at once.
I suddenly felt tired.
And a little like I’d gotten lost inside of a box of Animal Crackers made with LSD.
To say I was overwhelmed with all of my newfound knowledge – my not dead father; my not quite dead mother; my unconscious girlfriend – would be an understatement.
I never realized until that very moment how much I’d come to rely on everyone I surrounded myself with.
I felt lost without having any of their input. I needed to hear their voices, even if it was only in the background. I’d become so adjusted to having them around all of the time, the silence was literally deafening.
I would even gladly suffer through hearing another one of Alcide and Jake’s ridiculous fights.
Each and every last one of them were within a hundred yards of where I stood at that very moment and yet I’d never felt more alone.
So perhaps it was seeing the defeat on my face that made him add, “Now relax, Eric. Your girlfriend is fine. I merely increased the amount of pressure on her subclavian artery, cutting off the supply of blood to her brain. It’s a much more humane way to knock someone out. I figured you would appreciate the gesture.”
I would’ve appreciated more if he’d just stayed dead.
Then gesturing to the open floor panel, with nothing more than his eyes, he said, “You first.”
Taking one final look at Sookie, I could only hope Godric would figure out something was wrong sooner than later, before I took an unnecessary breath and jumped down into the rabbit hole.
Walking into the warehouse felt surreal. During the entire trip there my father kept talking about how great it was going to be to be a family again.
As weird as it was to even think it, given our interactions so far, it almost seemed as though he was seeing me as a child again.
My emotions were running the gamut from pity to fear to pissed. Everything was jumbled up inside of me, so much so that I barely gave the men guarding the room a second look, even though I knew they were more than likely other.
But then it was hard to notice anything but the huge capsule in the center of the room.
Wires ran into it from all sides and I could hear the compressor working to keep the inner temperature cooled to what was likely 77.15 Kelvin.
The theory of cryonics operated on the fundamental notion future technology would be able to reverse not only the effects of whatever possible terminal disease the person had, but to also survive suspended animation at the cryogenic temperatures. Ice naturally forms within the body’s cells and – theoretically – reanimation wouldn’t be feasible unless – theoretically – a cryoprotectant solution was circulated through the blood beforehand to remove and replace the water inside cells that prevent it from freezing.
Nothing like this had ever been attempted – that I knew of – with even an iota of success. I couldn’t even be sure my serum would work in this scenario and I sure as hell couldn’t rely on the ramblings of the man I once thought to be the most brilliant person in history.
My father had clearly gone off the deep end.
He hadn’t even thought to take the auto-injector from me and instead had gone on and on about all of the things they would do once she was back. In all honesty, I hadn’t thought about trying to stop him or even getting away from him myself.
I had to see her, if only to know everything I’d learned tonight was true.
But walking forward and seeing my mother lying there, I was both elated and heartbroken. She looked exactly how I remembered her.
But in my heart, I knew she had died nearly twenty years earlier.
She was already gone.
My mother hadn’t been overly religious, but she believed in a supreme being and she believed in an afterlife. I remembered many times when my parents would debate both sides of the issue, with my father taking the scientific approach of course.
We’d come about as a natural progression, just as someone or something else would come along billions of years after we were gone.
I’d taken after my father in that aspect too, but at what cost?
I was hit with another ass biting bit of irony, realizing both my father and I were guilty of playing God and that’s exactly what had gotten us into this mess to begin with.
Putting my hand on the window just above her heart, I stared down at her and softly said, “She wouldn’t want this.”
“I’ve been gradually raising her temperature since we first arrived here from Estonia,” he responded from where he hovered over the equipment controlling the chamber, acting as though he hadn’t heard a word I’d said.
But I’d heard every one that he’d just said.
It was weeks earlier that John had first come to me with the files they’d recovered from the Estonian site.
Had he somehow known I’d already been working on human regeneration and that was why he moved closer to me?
Or did he think I would actually want to be a part of his Frankenstein fantasy?
“Once she reaches seventy degrees, I’ll start the ECMO and the heart-lung machine and then we’ll inject her with the serum.”
Finally glancing up at me, he smiled and said, “It won’t be long now.”
“She wouldn’t want this,” I repeated, staring back at him. “When she first learned she was dying, she told me everything happened for a reason. She told me she wasn’t afraid and that she had no regrets because she’d lived the life she wanted. She wouldn’t want this.”
Only now could I truly appreciate her words. I’d lived them to some extent, but I’d conveniently warped them to suit my own selfish needs.
I’d lived a fast life in every sense of the word, but I’d found a reason to settle down in Sookie.
Standing there now, if I was faced with her death and had the auto-injector in my hand, I don’t know what I would’ve done, not knowing what she would want me to do.
We really needed to have that discussion.
But I knew without a doubt that my mother would be horrified to learn that the man she loved more than any other had done unspeakable acts – that lives were lost – all in the name of bringing her back to a life she had already said goodbye to.
Catching on that I wasn’t on his let’s-reanimate-mom bandwagon, he stared at the auto-injector still in my hand and said, “Give me the serum, Eric.”
With my free hand still on the glass window, I could feel the temperature rising within the chamber and quickly glancing down, I could see on the digital thermometer within, her core had already risen to fifty degrees.
The other men in the room shifted where they stood, hearing my father’s tone, and once again reminded me of their presence.
I counted a half dozen standing in the room, with at least another six on guard outside.
Still in their human forms, I knew I could kill at least three before the other three would be able to shift into whatever in the hell they turned into.
With my luck I’d get thrown sideways by a huge Stay Puft Marshmallow Man because my father remembered me laughing at the Ghostbusters movie when I was a kid.
I would have to fight my father.
Because he would surely fight me to get a hold of the serum.
Even after everything he’d done – everything I knew he was responsible for – I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it.
Despite everything, he was still my father.
But looking down at my mother’s face in the next moment, I knew I would do it.
My father had already begun walking towards me with his arm outstretched and his hand open, palm side up. He came to stand on the opposite side of the cryo chamber, with my mother – his wife – the only thing left standing between us, when he repeated, “Give it to me.”
She’d been the only thing that’d held our family together, so it was only fitting she would be the last thing that finally tore it apart.
Flying straight up into the rafters of the warehouse, I pressed the button on the auto-injector at the same time, with the serum spraying out into the room like a mist, as my father screamed in outrage beneath me.
“Remember this day when you’re holding the remains of your precious girlfriend, Eric!” he yelled. “You just sealed her fate!”
The tide of emotions I’d been riding on crested high, with fury rolling through my entire body and my fangs snapping down on reflex. As much as the thought had pained me before, it was a foregone conclusion now.
He’d just sealed his fate because I would never leave Sookie at risk with him still running free.
But hearing the other men barking orders at one another, I swooped down and snapped the neck of one and then another. The other four in the room were all in the process of shifting into their animal forms, so I pulled my still bloodied blade from its sheath and flew like an arrow through the room, not caring anything about finesse, as I sliced, stabbed, and decapitated along the way.
It all happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to think about much more than doing what needed to be done. The bloodlust I’d felt in past fights was nowhere to be found.
Instead I only felt determined.
I doubted my father would appreciate that irony either.
Just as the battle in the room had begun, I could hear the men outside shouting too, but I hadn’t paid any attention to what they’d been saying. The fact they hadn’t yet entered was my first clue to listen to the sounds coming from outside and from what I could tell, they were involved in their own battle.
“Yee haw!” yelled an unmistakable Jake.
I would’ve smiled had my eyes not landed on my father then. Staring back at me with pure hatred in his eyes, he slowly unbuttoned his shirt and draped it neatly over the back of a chair, while he said, “It’s time you learned what it’s like going up against a true Alpha.”
Yet another glaringly obvious thing that hadn’t occurred to me until then.
Of course he would’ve experimented on himself.
I probably would have too, had Sookie not beaten me to the punch.
I could see by the readings on the machines keeping my mother in a cryogenic state that he’d reversed the process again, cooling down her core temperature until – in his mind – he could get his hands on another dose of the serum.
Imagining she was somehow aware – that if her beliefs had been true and her soul had been languishing in limbo for nearly twenty years – tore apart what little sympathy I still had for my father.
So while he began to shift into whatever big bad he turned into, I flew as fast as I could straight into the chamber, taking as many wires as I could with me.
An inhuman roar sounded behind me, but I didn’t take the time to look and see what would’ve made that sound.
Dear old dad was pissed.
I didn’t need to be a genius to know that.
Instead I said a silent apology to my mother before ripping the hinges from the lid of the chamber and breaking it open. I made sure to lay it down on the floor as I did, so my mother’s body wouldn’t go sprawling across the dirty concrete.
It was early March in L.A., so the temperature was a pleasant seventy degrees outside. Inside a steel enclosed warehouse, it was easily ten degrees warmer.
Unless he had a spare cryogenic chamber lying around, there was no way he would be able to get her body back to 77.15 Kelvin in time.
No sooner had I softly cupped her cheek in my hand, when I was roughly lifted by the back of my collar and turned around to face…
“What did you do?” I asked, not sure what I was actually looking at.
He was a wolf.
But he was the size of a small elephant, so he looked distorted.
Like an ogre wolf, if there was such a thing.
Maybe one could be found in a box of LSD Animal crackers.
Being so tall, he stood on his hind legs and somehow managed to hold me up with his huge paw, so that my feet were dangling six feet off the ground.
He was breathing heavily and the saliva dripping out of his mouth blew across my body with every panted breath he took, but when he bared his teeth and looked like I was about to become a Scooby snack, I decided it was time to retreat.
My jacket was ripped from my body and was still attached to his claws by the time I was hovering in the air above him, while I tried to figure out my plan of attack.
Looking like he did, it was easier to pretend that wasn’t my father trying to kill me, but a monster.
And I supposed he was.
In wolf or human form.
But I didn’t know where to even begin to try and subdue him. He was easily ten times my size and while I was strong, his reach was far greater than mine.
Then spotting a steel girder with rusted support braces to my left, I grabbed onto it and tore it free from the rafters, with rivets flying out in all directions while the entire roof shook. I would estimate the warehouse had been built in the early 1950’s and by the looks of it, had been abandoned for at least a decade if not longer.
It probably wouldn’t take much for it to fall over.
Keeping that in mind, I flew lower and held onto one end of the girder, like a huge baseball bat and swung it at him as hard as I could.
Catching him in the lower back, he fell back down onto all fours and skidded across the floor, somehow managing to leap over the chamber where my mother’s body was quickly thawing.
So I couldn’t be sure if it was the sight of her or my Joe DiMaggio impersonation that made me roar out again, before he turned back around and charged straight at me.
Because his reach was so long, he was able to take a flying leap and manage to swipe his paw across the front of my body before I could get out of the way.
My body followed the momentum of his swing and I dropped my makeshift weapon when my back slammed up against the far wall of the warehouse before I slid down to the floor in a daze.
I could both feel and smell my own blood flowing from the gashes his nails had torn into my skin, but I could hear the heavy thuds of his paws as he came for me again, so I forced myself back up into the air and into the shadows of the rafters out of his reach.
Waiting for my body to heal itself, my eyes kept darting from my mother’s body to my father’s new one and I felt somehow responsible for both of their miseries.
If I had been a better son maybe I would’ve been enough for my father to live out his life normally and then my mother could have rested in peace.
As it stood now, he was pacing like – well – a wild animal beneath me, lifting his nose up in the air and trying to scent my location. I’d hidden myself in between two girders that formed a brace support for the roof, but feeling the whole thing shift with any slight movement on my part, I knew it wasn’t sturdy.
Years of neglect and exposure from the holes littering the roof made it unstable and when my eyes landed on the section where I’d torn the girder free, I knew what I had to do.
Another piece of steel had come loose with it and was now bent at a downward angle, with the tip pointed like a twisted blade from where the metal had given way.
So I watched and waited and when he finally paced underneath that section of the roof, I made my move.
Using every bit of strength I had left, I shot over to where that piece of steel hung down and pulled at the support beams above it, bringing the entire roof down with a crash on top of us all.