Chapter 7

“Nigel Lancaster?” the orderly asked.

Nigel stopped starting at the concrete and refocussed his eyes on the room he was in. The infirmery. When he’d tried to enter the room with the infected people and nurses in protective gear he had been waved down the corridor. He skipped the scary black doors and found himself looking at the high-tech frankenstein laboratory. Surely not?

He sat on a stool and waited. Eventually someone had come and explained that the doctor would be late – complicated procedure was taking longer than expected. They offered him a small paper cone filled with cold water and propmptly left.

Time took on a strangely relative quality. Had been out in the field with his newly assigned partner, Shannon something-or-other, he knew they’d be bowling down a highway about now. He knew they would be heading to the location in the sealed orders and would be preparing themselves to take the next steps. Instead he was sitting and counting indentations in the bare concrete wall. As he defocussed his eyes he could make them merge. As they merged patterns seemed to extrude out into three dimensions, like the posters that folks had been so enamoured with.

A young male orderly in white trousers and tunic stood with a metal clipboard waiting for his response. He glanced at the paperwork and back to Nigel, “Nigel Lancaster?” he asked again.

“Yes, thats me.”

“We have a few tests to run. Nothing serious. I’ll need you to undress.”

The orderly stepped past Nigel and began pulling a green plastic curtain across the doorway and window cutting off the outside world. Nigel waited until the window was covered before he slipped out of the uniform he had been issued. Standing in just a pair of boxers he looked at the orderly who had moved over to the chair.

“Those too.”

Nigel blushes as he slipped them off and shuffled toward the chair attempting to maintain a sense of dignity. The metal chair was cold against his skin but quickly warmed. Too quickly Nigel realized. There was a slight hum begining at the base of his spine. Some sort of equipment spinning up. Without warning the heat intensified to painful levels at several points along his spine. Then the numbness came. He frowned and made to move his arm and found it unresponsive. Legs too. His head was free to move, eyes darting to and fro as panic rose. The chair moved dragging Nigel’s prone naked body with it. It straightening out into a shiny metal table and the orderly came back into view. He was holding a remote control device and was obviously controlling the table’s operations.

A door opened and several people entered.

“Is he prepped?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Good. Jenny – monitor vitals. Martin – start the drill, then I’ll need the saw soon after. Oh, and people, let’s not ruin this one like the last. We only have so many resources here.” People rushed to do the woman’s bidding.

She stepped into view and Nigel gasped, “Rom___”

”__any Jackson, yes. This will be more interesting than I thought Ni____”

”___gel Lancaster.” he finished. She smiled the smily of a Cobra. “Indeed.”

“OK people, lets proceed.”

—-

Those that knew him called him “Vermin”. Most others didnt call him anything at all, they just gathered their children to themselves and crossed the street. Six feet eight inches of muscle, hair and bad attitude. The bikers had found him three years previously in a side-street in Bournemouth. He’d been hungry. As a group they had taunted him, first circling their bikes and revving. One of them had made the mistake of landing a kick to his rear. As the offending bike circled, the big man coiled like a spring. He leapt. It took three of the gang to pull him off the gang member by which time he’d broken both of his arms and his jaw.

The initiation that followed was gruesome. When they’d found him he’d been hungry. The biker leader had directed two of his lieutenants to find a rat in one of the nearby dumpsters. They returned some time later with a dead rat and half a bag of old bread. The leader carefully wrapped the corpse with a slice of green bread and held it out.

“Eat it.”

Without questioning the alpha-male of the group and responding to the hunger that was growling within him he bit the head off the rat and began chewing. The leader’s eyes widenned with surprise but he held his silence. One of the bikers went pale and as the big man continued to crunch and chew through the rat sandwich, bones and all, he threw up. He was dubbed “Vermin” by the group from that point on. He pushed the limits, even by their standards. His unswerving loyalty to the group, the pack, brought an element of intimidation to passers by that they revelled in but there was something to him that kept them watching over their shoulders.

As they passed through Wiltshire on the way to the Glastonbury music festival the next summer they ran into a rival gang. At their leader’s direction Vermin had been first into the fray and they never knew what hit them. Two of the gang were sure they’d seen him take a shotgun blast to the chest but at the end of the fight when spoils were being divided among them Vermin was back to claim his share.

During the festival he seemed jumpy. He kept looking around apparently searching for someone in the crowds. At night he wandered off using the light of the almost full moon to continue the search. In the morning he was back by his motorcycle with inexplicable blood on his naked body. Finally one of them tailed him at a safe distance as he took a late night naked stroll. Vermin hugged the edge of the campground stopping to sniff the air. Occasionally he would stop and pee on a tree or fence. It got boring after a while and the biker gave up pursuit, lit a joint and stretched out under the stars.

He’d had bad trips in the past but nothing seemed this real. Clouds had parted and given a clear monochrome view of the camp ground and spotted Vermin in the distance. The big man was running down the hillside toward a huddle of tents separate from the rest. As his speed increased he seemed to trip and fall only to continue a fast legged lope straight into the small camp. There were screams as he emerged on the far side dragging a limp human form in his jaws. The rat seemed minor compared to what the biker saw next: Vermin plunged head first into soft belly of the figure and feasted. He lifted a blood covered face to the sky and howled with delight. Shifting position his now elongated face calmly bit down around the figure’s neck and chewed off the head.

The biker shivered at the horror of the previous few seconds. Then rain came and with it lightening. Prayers seemed to be answered as bolt after bolt of elecricity coursed through the air around Vermin’s body. White mist, perhaps steam from the electrical discharge, enveloped him and the biker thought he heard wimpers in the rainy air. He took off back to their camp vowing never to smoke another joint. The next morning Vermin was found sleeping soundly by his bike, hair a little more matted than usual, blood flecks on his face.

Over breakfast someone called him “an animal”. Little did they know that during the height of the black death in 1348, he had been. He was the runt of a litter of snow coloured wolves forced down out of the Alps by a hard winter. They fell on a village killing the livestock without any resistance. Fires were burning and death hung in the air. They trotted through the buildings and not a single person was found living. He fell ill and was left for dead some days later. A blur of towns and villages passed as he grew, feasting off livestock. Soon news of a lone wolf reached one of the larger cities and hunters were dispatched. They cornered him in a ravine, shot him, and left his carcas to rot.

He didnt understand why he woke up with his skin burning where the bullets had ripped through him. He didnt understand but as time went on he enjoyed his new-found immunity to the knives, pitchforks and bullets of townsfolk. His reputation spread and he began to notice an edge of desperation to the methods they were using to keep him from their livestock and their children. Silver was used. Then holy relics of the church were melted down and turned into weapons. All to no avail. He was unkillable.

One night as he was stalking a lone cow he felt a low buzzing in his head. It intensified to almost painful levels just as he came upon a middle-aged farmer in the field. He held a sword at the ready clearly offering the white wolf a challenge. The battle was short and bloody with wounds inflicted on both parties but eventually the sheer animal rage won out and the man was defeated. The wolf returned to stalkng the cow only to feel the sting of the man’s sword on his flank. He turned and battle was resumed. Two immortals facing one another in a midnight field. The wolf killed the cow’s defender and this time dismembered him dragging pieces of the body apart. A mist had enveloped him and lightning soon after. When it was done new feelings coursed through his brain, new patterns of thought, new cunning.

It took time but the more quickennings the wolf enjoyed, the more his animal nature was overpowered by the humanity of the immortals whose heads he now hunted. A shade over two hundred and fifty years later, as the sixteenth century turned to seventeenth, physical changes began. Energy spilled upward from the hidden core of his being. A week of agony followed as bones and sinews stretched. Muscles tore and healed. Night and day his body was wracked with agonizing pain as electrical energy coursed through every joint and blood vessel. Villagers found him laying naked in the snow near a wagon train he had attacked previously. They assumed him a victim and hurried him back to town for fear that the wolf would come. A young family nursed his broken body back to health.

Over the next century he travelled as an itinerent farm worker. He exchanged hard labour for a place to sleep, usually a barn. They assumed him mentally ill or mute as he learned patterns of human speech. Occasional wolf attacks followed as his animal nature surfaced demanding he return to his true form. The agony of the trasformation fueled his bloodlust and the killing sprees were short and bloody. The human part of him pushed every time to find a better channel for the animal lust. Finally a target was found: other immortals. The buzz he felt became a taunt to his wolf nature. It began to lurk alongside the human the two working with greater cunning to bring down the ultimate of prey. He was faced with a variety of edged weapons over the years and as he toured Spain and Portugal, though France and Germany and up into Russia.

The thrill of war lead him to join the Russian army and he advanced back through Europe during the latter years of World War II. His unit was butchered – peasants advancing on German tank brigades bogging their tracks down with soft bodies. He was left for dead on the battlefields. His body tossed into an unmarked mass grave. Forgotten by comrades in arms he returned to the solitary life shunning company.

Finally the biker gang found him hungry and alone in a back street of a sunny seaside town in Southern England. He had considered dragging one of the young tourists back into the alley but something restrained him. Fueled by hunger and the annoyance of motorcycle engines in his ears and exhaust in his lungs he’d snapped nearly killing one of their number. Finally though, for the first time in nearly six hundred years, he’d been accepted back into a pack. He’d been named. Been included. He bided his time to challenge the alpha-male as the immortal hunting had been good especially after they’d reached Glastonbury.

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