Summary: A woefully late Christmas tale of misadventure and metamorphosis. And blobs.

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Never did, never will. Only Dr. Joseph Carter is mine.

Author's Note: A Christmas fic. Long after – or before – Christmas. I'm soooo sorry… Life just… kinda interfered. But it can be argued that when it's too hot, you should think 'cold,' and what's Christmas if not cold? In most places? Well, think of it as Christmas in July, okay? Anyway, I never expected to get this far in the series. I'm rather excited now; some of the ideas I have for upcoming fics are quite fun. In my opinion, anyway, which doesn't matter that much. Now, on to the warnings. This fic contains shameless self-insertion, blobs (Ovo's fault!), bizarre shape-shifting, and general Christmas oddness. You've been warned.

I didn't intend to make this a multi, but it was getting too long… and my computer nearly reformatted my disk, so I decided to put it up while I still had it.

Old-Fashioned Christmas

The Misadventures of Dr. Sid, Aging Werewolf

(The non-Christmassy part)

She didn't look like a powerful woman. She was of medium height and build, with mousy, shoulder-length brown hair that was more frizzy than wavy, and blue-grey eyes hidden behind glasses. She was neither so great a beauty that all eyes were drawn to her, nor so ugly that everyone could only stare at her in horror. She was, in fact, so ordinary-looking that one tended not to notice her at all, a fact she used to her advantage.

Gray, for example, had been playing poker with her for the past hour before it finally registered that she was there.

"So, uh, General Phillips! What brings you to New York?" he asked.

The woman he'd admired so much at the HMA that he'd had her initials tattooed on his butt gave him a "you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me" look.

"I've been here for over a month," she said, exasperated. "Since General Hein's been ill, remember?" Her voice was practically dripping with sarcasm as she added, "I see your powers of observation have improved." She, on the other hand, hadn't changed a bit. Same old sarcasm. Same inability to suffer fools. Gray wondered why he was attracted to women who seemed to think he was mentally incompetent.

Jane smirked at him over her cards, and Gray wanted to slink away. Maybe he would; he was the only man at the table, and he was losing to the women he was playing against. Spectacularly. Did he have an excuse to leave without looking like a coward? "Oh, gee, look at the time! I promised, er, Ryan that I'd, uh, help him wrap Christmas gifts." Gray got to his feet, setting his losing hand of cards down on the table. From the expressions on the faces of the women gathered around the table, they didn't believe a word of it. Probably because Ryan was on guard duty until midnight, and it wasn't even eight in the evening yet.

So he turned tail and ran, painfully aware that he wasn't exactly impressing New York's new general. She probably thought any soldier who fled from a handful of women playing cards would be hopeless against attacking Phantoms. And the fact that he still owed the general about a hundred dollars really wasn't good. He'd seriously be in trouble tomorrow…

He'd turned several corners and had put half a building between himself and the others before he slowed to a walk. He'd been rounding corners blindly and it took him a moment to realize he'd come to a halt in the scientific wing. Despite the fact that it was still relatively early in the evening, the labs were practically empty. Dr. Sid had made himself scarce, and had given all the assistants and techs the holiday off. Most of the labs had been closed down, except for the main bio-etheric labs, and Gray had already passed those. Really, there shouldn't have been anyone in the back labs.

But there was. Gray heard a sound like a metal tray falling to the tile, with the instruments it contained scattering everywhere. The sound was out of place in what should have been a vacated area. It's probably just someone coming in to check an experiment. Except that… there shouldn't be any experiments running now. Which meant it was either someone running unauthorized experiments, or a thief. The former would need to be reprimanded; the latter had to be stopped. Either way, Gray would have to go in there and stop whoever it was.

Suddenly all business, Gray glanced around for a weapon. He was trained in hand-to-hand combat, but it wasn't something much put into practice because the enemy couldn't be beaten with fisticuffs. Nothing presented itself, so Gray crept quietly along in the direction the sound had come from. There was another sound, a strangled gasp, followed by a meaty thwack. Gray's steps quickened; whoever it was sounded like he was in pain. No longer caring how much sound he was making, Gray sprinted toward the half open door of the occupied lab, hitting it with his shoulder and sending it slamming into the wall.

The figure doubled over one of the stainless steel metal tables glanced up, mouth open in a wordless scream. Gray staggered to a halt as his eyes struggled to make sense of what he saw before him.

Whatever it was, it wasn't human. Mismatched eyes stared at him out of a molten, gold-skinned face; clumps of hair the color of dried blood alternated with patches of short, course fur pushing its way out of the scalp. Its mouth was filled with jagged, uneven teeth, too large for the oral cavity. It reached a hand out towards Gray, and the writhing flesh revealed by the tattered remnants of a lab smock made him feel nauseous. "What the hell-?" he began.

And then the creature moved with a swiftness belied by its awkward frame; it sprang over the table, razor sharp claws sweeping downward. Gray didn't even have time to scream before the tips dug into the soft flesh of his throat, he fell limply to the floor.

XXX

The smell of blood nearly drove what remained of his sanity from his mind, but Joseph Carter fought down the urge to gorge himself on the soldier's body. Don't give in… he willed silently. Don't… The metamorphosis was nearly complete, and if he didn't get to the suppressant, no amount of willpower would stop him from what he longed to do. He dropped to all fours, searching desperately for the hypospray that had rolled from the fallen tray and under the table. He probed under the dark recesses of the table, his fingers become stubbier and less tactile all the while. And then he brushed against something, and he hooked it with his claws and drew the hypospray toward him. He didn't waste time tapping it to clear the air bubbles, figuring the fall must have shaken it up enough to do that for him. He rammed the tip into his writhing arm, between two bubbles of flesh that threatened to burst and become something more horrifying. Clumsily, he pushed the button, injecting himself with the serum.

It coursed through his veins, and as he watched, his skin shrank to normal, smoothing out. Carter fell to his side, biting his lip with still-sharp teeth to keep from screaming. Finally, the transformation fully receded, and Carter lay gasping on the floor, too tired to move. But as his breathing became steadier, quieter, he became aware of a harsh gurgling sound someone nearby. He'd forgotten the soldier!

He crawled around the table, feeling his stomach plummet when he saw the mess he'd made of the man's throat. He hadn't meant to do it; the transformation had come upon him quicker than he'd expected, and his arm had spasmed, smacking against the tray holding the syringe and sending it to the floor. The short time it took for him to realize what had happened had been enough for the transformation to take hold almost completely, and he hadn't been able to stop himself from attacking. And now… that left him with a dying soldier. Carter cursed inwardly; this wasn't going to be easy to cover for. Even if he could conceal the body, the disappearance of a soldier – and an officer, Carter realized when he saw the man wore captain's pips on his jacket – would be investigated.

Carter was already under suspicion of illegal activities; this would not help his reputation any. But what do I do? I'll never get him to the infirmary in time, and his injuries would spark too many questions even if I did. Blood continued to flow sluggishly from the wound; he'd only grazed the jugular, rather than severing it completely. The man was dying slowly. Carter grimaced. Not a pleasant way to go. But what could he do? There was no way to keep the captain from dying. Even if Carter tried to stitch him up, he'd still probably die from blood loss. The only way the captain could survive this would be if…

If he had a lycanthropic healing factor. Carter's eyes widened. If he injected the man with a pure form of the virus, the change would happen fast enough to save his life. Carter staggered to his feet and stumbled towards his own lab, unlocking his freezer. He extracted a clear vial, the culmination of his experiments with lycanthropic blood samples. He'd filtered it of all animal traits, extracting the part that was the same for all were-creatures. It gave him a better look at the virus, enabling him to concoct the serum he used to suppress his own bizarre transformation. It would save the captain's life… but only if blended with animalian DNA. Without that DNA to shape the virus's effects, the result could be… catastrophic. Even Carter couldn't bring himself to test the effects.

The vial slipped from his shaking fingers, and he cursed as it shattered, the contents pooling around his boot. He grabbed another, identical vial, careful this time to make sure his grip was secure.

But what kind of animal DNA should he use? Carter didn't have much time to decide. He had a rack of animal extracts he used for his experiments, and he grabbed the nearest one, glancing at it only long enough to make certain it was usable. Carter wouldn't wish his own transformation on his worst enemy…

He dumped the extract into the pure form lycanthrope virus, mixing them gingerly as he walked back to the soldier, hoping he still lived. He grabbed a hypospray still sitting on the table, placed the tube in the chamber, and leaned over the soldier's limp form. He still bled, and his chest rose and fell, though barely perceptibly. Carter peeled the jacket and shirt away from his chest, injecting it directly into his heart to help it spread faster. Then he backed away, turning his attention to cleaning the lab. If the man died, Carter at least would know he'd done all he could.

XXX

Gray felt as if he had one hell of a hangover, but try as he might, he couldn't remember drinking. Come to think of it, he couldn't remember anything that had happened the previous night. Gray slowly sat upright, where he was, why he hurt… and why he was naked. His heart sank as he recognized the decorative fountain that sat outside the USMF building. What… what happened? His last clear memory was of playing poker with Jane and the girls, and losing. Had they done this to him as a way to collect on his losses? Take his dignity since he had no money? He groaned as he got to his feet, wondering how he was going to get back to his quarters unseen.

Naturally, right then General Phillips and her entourage chose to emerge the building, getting an excellent view of him in all his naked splendor. Her eyes widened, and her hand rose to cover her mouth, as though she were stifling a giggle. And then he realized that she was giggling. He blushed, suddenly becoming aware of just how far along his body that flush went. Things can't possibly get worse… He turned away, intending to slink of with what was left of his dignity, when her commanding voice stopped him.

"Captain Edwards," General Phillips said, her voice betraying none of the amusement he saw in her eyes. "I didn't realize you kept the tattoo." Several of her staff members snickered.

"Uh… ah…" Under their scrutiny, he couldn't find anything more intelligent to say.

"Maybe you should get into uniform?" the general said, arching an eyebrow. "Preferably before you're fined for swimming in the fountain.

"Yeah…" Gray managed.

But, while the general was clearly enjoying this, she wasn't without compassion. "Give him your jacket, Rose," she told one of the women standing beside her. Rose was one of her civilian staff members, so instead of wearing a uniform, she wore an elegant jacket over her blouse. A bright pink jacket. Smirking, Rose handed him the jacket, and he tied it around his waist. "Er, I'll return it later."

"Keep it," she said, turning her back on him.

Gray didn't even pause to thank them; he sprinted towards the building's entrance and his quarters, covered in a hot pink jacket, and his dignity in shreds. He gave no further thought to the events of the previous night that had brought him to this embarrassing situation.

XXX

Dr. Sid rubbed his brow as he sat back in his chair, his mind entirely focused on his patient. Beside him, Neil shifted his weight from foot to foot, waiting for the prognosis. Finally, he couldn't contain himself any longer. "Well?" the young tech demanded.

Irritably, Dr. Sid snapped, "No change." He examined the man in bed before him, heaving a sigh. Ever since General Hein's encounter with a vicious werewolf/vampiress, his health had been failing. Worse, the woman's attempts to make him like herself had partially taken hold, and Dr. Sid's most recent attempt to destroy the vampiric virus had failed. "I've got one more serum we can try tonight," he said wearily, without much hope; it had been several months, and they still hadn't found a way to cure Hein. It didn't help that he could only try his concoctions during the full moon, the only time Hein's body was strong enough to handle the experiments. The one attempt Dr. Sid had made to cure him without the moon's strengthening influence had caused the general to go into cardiac arrest, and he'd slipped into a two-week-long coma.

Dr. Sid finally turned from Hein's too thin, too pale form, choosing instead to gaze at the tiny fake Christmas tree with its winking lights and miniature ornaments that sat on the nightstand. It had been Neil's attempt to bring some cheer to the atmosphere, but it seemed out-of-place in the gloom.

Neil followed his gaze. "It's hard to believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve," he said with forced cheer. "Want to hunt down eight tiny reindeer?"

Dr. Sid gave him a tiny smile. The wolf in him would have loved to taste fresh meat, but, alas, there wasn't much hunting any more in their ravaged world. But his stomach growled anyway at the thought, and his smile became rueful. Transforming always made one ravenous, and he hadn't even tried hunting the previous night; he and Neil had stayed in Hein's room, in case the general found the strength to escape. Dr. Sid wasn't certain that the taste of human blood wouldn't be enough to complete Hein's transformation to a vampire/werewolf hybrid. The wolf had chafed at being trapped with an obviously sick pack member; instinct told him to flee from the sickness before he became infected, leaving the ill member to die.

"Want to get some lunch?" Neil suggested. "If it's safe to leave him, I mean?"

The doctor glanced down at his patient; Hein seemed to be sleeping peacefully, but restraints had been fastened around his wrists and ankles to keep him immobile. This had been done with the general's permission; he'd come to realize his 'episodes' were too dangerous and unpredictable for him to be left free for too long. "It's safe," he said. "Where do you want to eat?"

Dr. Sid shrugged. Practically all of soldiers who had families or friends in the city had left to stay with them rather than be confined to their USMF quarters – still close should Phantoms choose to attack the city, but far enough to feel like they were on a vacation – so many of the small cafes in the building were closed, and Dr. Sid didn't feel like venturing out into the city to find somewhere to eat. The soldiers' mess hall was open at all hours over the holiday, and it was closest, so Sid suggested it. The food was barely adequate, but it would do.

Neil had chosen to stay rather than go home to his family because the rest of his squad had nowhere else to go – that was the official reason, anyway. Off the record, Neil was staying because he didn't want his family to find out he turned into a giant rat every full moon. And his desire to be close to the ailing general probably played a big part in his decision, as well.

The mess hall was nearly deserted, and the pickings were slim. The ham-flavored shapeless gray lump, the runny not-so-scrambled and the strong, foul swill that was laughingly referred to as coffee was the best of what was offered, and Dr. Sid tried not to wince. Maybe he'd have been better off eating the moldy macaroni in his fridge… And the fact that there was a rat now perched on the table didn't make Sid feel any better. It eyed him warily, perhaps remembering the doctor's war on their species, before twitching its whiskers at him and skittering across the table towards Neil. As it squeaked at the its ruler, Sid watched it idly. Then he blinked. Was it wearing miniature reindeer antlers? Dr. Sid rolled his eyes. Neil was taking his attempts at holiday cheer a bit too far…

Then the peculiar look on Neil's face drew his attention away from the antlered rat. As it sprinted away, he turned to the scientist. "Templeton was just telling me that there was some peculiar activity in the labs last night. There was a… well, a bad scent, to use their term. Something so awful it frightened them away. Later, they got a glimpse of something big fleeing the lab, something they refer to as the 'many legs.'"

"The 'many legs?'" Dr. Sid repeated. He wished the rats' simple minds could comprehend more. Even Neil couldn't always understand their cryptic messages. Then he focused his attention on the rest of the rat's report. "The labs?" he repeated. "Did they say what kind of activity?" Damn it; it's got to be Dr. Carter again!

Or was it? Carter had survived a vicious encounter with a lycanthrope with minimal injuries – it had seemed miraculous at the time, but later, Sid had wondered if the man had been infected. Perhaps he was even this 'many legs.' But, if so, what could he do in the labs while transformed? "No," Neil said. "They didn't actually see anything. But Templeton thinks he scented blood."

Dr. Sid pushed aside his tray of half-eaten sludge. "I think we should investigate," he said.

"Now?" Neil moaned. "I still have Christmas shopping to finish and sleep to catch up on!"

Dr. Sid glowered. "You're the one with the spy network; I need their input. Scant though it may be." When Neil looked affronted, Sid added, "What if Dr. Carter is up to something again?" Neil frowned. Sid had told him about what he and Hein had found in the lab over Halloween, and the tech had been sickened. If he was up to some other ungodly experiments involving Phantoms… One Phantom alone in the city could cause total devastation if it escaped.

"I'll see what I can do," Neil said.

XXX

Back in his room, Gray was standing before his bathroom mirror, staring at his reflection. It wasn't vanity that made him narrow his whole world down to what he saw in the mirror, though his narcissistic tendencies had previously caused him to spend hours in front of the mirror, but, rather, something that hadn't been there last night. He'd caught a glimpse of it in the mirror and had been staring at it ever since, forgetting that he was only half-dressed.

It was a series of puckered red lines across his throat, looking like nearly-healed scars. He'd thought at first they were an impression from the stone during his awkward sleep next to the fountain, but that would have faded by now. And closer examination revealed that they were scars – but his throat had never been cut! And the wounds looked old, to be this well healed, yet they hadn't been there the previous night. This can't be right… He ran his fingers over the uneven ridges, confirming that they were real, and not some sort of make-up from one of Neil's pranks.

There was a knock on the door, and Gray quickly grabbed his off-duty T-shirt and pulled it over his head. It was Ryan at the door, and whatever reason he'd come for was quickly forgotten as Gray yanked the other man inside. "I need you to look at this," Gray said, drawing his collar away from the scars. "Tell me what you think."

Ryan didn't question him, just leaned over to get a look at the marks. "They're scars," he said after a moment. "And they look deep! Captain, when did you hurt your throat that badly? I never noticed them before."

"I don't know… they weren't there last night!" Gray said frantically.

"You're kidding, right?" Ryan grinned at what he thought was a weak attempt at humor, then frowned. "You're not kidding."

Gray shook his head. "First I wake up naked in the courtyard, and then I find this." His voice was higher than he would have liked.

He saw Ryan's eyes gleam at the mention of the fountain incident, but then his humor faded. "You're frightened about this, aren't you?"

"Wouldn't you be?" Gray asked. "Ryan, I don't even remember what happened after I left Jane's poker game last night. One moment I'm fleeing – er, excusing myself – because I'm a thousand dollars in the hole, and the next moment, I'm lying in the courtyard, totally nude, and I have these marks."

"You were at Jane's poker game? You poor - but that's not the point," Ryan hastily changed the subject when Gray glared. "You don't remember anything? Were you drunk?"

"No."

"Drugged?"

"No."

"Did Jane smack you upside the head again?"

"No."

"You got off lightly," Ryan said, kneading his forehead as if suddenly bothered by some phantom pain. "Jane's poker games aren't friendly to anyone with a Y-chromosome."

"So I noticed."

"Is there anything you remember? Anything at all?" Ryan asked. "Calm down and think about it. Maybe you missed something significant."

Gray sat atop the toilet, brow furrowed in thought. "Let's see... I lose the money, and excused myself before Jane's buddies could collect. I ran – I wasn't really paying attention where I was going – and I…" Gray trailed off, struggling to remember what had happened next. "I think I ended up by the labs," he said. "Yes… I was definitely by one of the labs – I remember the doors. But, beyond that…" He shrugged. "Nothing."

Ryan looked thoughtful, but he didn't say more on the matter. "I'm sure we'll figure it out eventually," he said finally. "For now, though, I seem to remember you volunteering to help wrap those presents the USMF gathered for the orphans..."

Gray smiled faintly. He'd forgotten about that… Well, at least it would take his mind off this new conundrum… And, hopefully, it would keep him away from Jane and her debt collectors, as well…

XXX

After a quick stop to check on the unconscious General Hein, Dr. Sid and Neil headed towards the labs. Freya, the female rat that seemed to have surgically attached herself to Neil rode on his shoulder, and Sid thought he heard the skittering of claws in the air vents as other rodents followed along. It was fortunate the labs were pretty much deserted, because they were probably going to make quite a spectacle.

"Which lab?" Dr. Sid asked.

Neil turned to Freya, and she squeaked. "That one," Neil said, pointing. Sid's lips thinned and his eyes narrowed; it wasn't Dr. Carter's lab – but it was close to it. Anyone going to Carter's lab would have to pass through this larger, public lab area first.

Immediately, half a dozen rats poured out of the air vents and began running around the room, shoving twitching noses and trembling whiskers into every nook and cranny. If there was anything left from the previous night, they'd find it. And after about three minutes, they did. One of the rats stood up on its hind legs and squealed, and Neil and Sid went over to investigate.

"What'd he find?" Sid asked. He didn't see anything except a blank expanse of floor.

"Nicodemus says he smells blood – a lot of it. It's been cleaned up, but the scent lingers."

Dr. Sid would have bent down and sniffed the spot for himself, had his joints allowed it, but he decided to take the rat's word for it. He was trusting a rat. He wouldn't have thought it was possible for his world to get any stranger, but it had. "Have there been reports of any deaths?" Dr. Sid asked, wishing now that he'd taken the time to watch the news that morning. He'd been keeping both television and radio off; he didn't think he could stand any more Christmas carols.

Neil shook his head. "If there had been, we would have heard the gossip in the mess hall. No mysterious deaths, not even any disappearances have been reported – though it's possible no noticed that whoever it was disappeared yet." Neil shrugged. "The USMF information network may not match what my rats can do, but it's good enough. If anything drastic had happened, we would know by now. Maybe it's from an animal," he suggested.

"It's possible that Carter was infected and he comes in here to eat," Dr. Sid mused. Disturbing, but not against any rules. As long as Carter kept his urges under control, and wasn't performing vile experiments, then he wasn't really doing anything wrong – though Sid wondered where he could have gotten fresh meat. He almost salivated at the thought – it had been so long since he'd been able to hunt real food…

There was a sudden loud squeak of alarm, and the rats abruptly cleared the room. Neil whirled, and Dr. Sid turned more slowly to face the man who had stealthily come up behind them. "Sarge!" Neil said, surprised. "What are you doing here?"

Dr. Sid hid his relief; the easy-going sergeant was preferable to the creepy Dr. Carter. But what was he doing in the labs? Did everyone just barge in here whenever they felt like it? It would be just my luck if the labs were declared the official make-out spot during Christmas vacation… Maybe that was what the rats had considered to be 'wrong'; Sid himself had witnessed liaisons that had made him want to gouge his own eyes out.

"I'm not sure," Ryan admitted slowly. "I was just… just checking something out for a friend."

Dr. Sid came alert; Ryan was hiding something. "Checking what, exactly?" Sid asked.

Ryan was silent as he mulled it over. "Captain Edwards said he was here last night," he said finally. "Or so he thinks; he can't remember. But he apparently woke up naked in the courtyard," Neil snickered at this, until Ryan gave him a dirty look, "with a peculiar set of scars."

Had he been wolf, Sid's ears would have perked up. "What kind of scars?'

"It looks like someone slit his throat… but the scars are old. He swears they weren't there before," Ryan said, shrugging. "I don't know what to think."

Dr. Sid and Ryan exchanged glances. From the look on the younger man's face, it was clear that he was thinking along the same lines as Sid himself. Blood spilled, healed scars… It sounds like Captain Edwards is the victim of a lycanthrope attack. Both he and Neil had been with General Hein all night; that left Carter, who may or may not be a lycanthrope. "I'd like to talk to Captain Edwards," Dr. Sid said.

"He's busy right now. He volunteered to wrap up the donations for the orphans." Ryan smiled wickedly. "The store room is packed to the rafters with presents, and the other volunteers are some of the most annoying individuals the USMF has to offer. I think he'll be ready for any excuse to get out of it by dinner time. But let him suffer for now."

Sid nodded absently; their explorations had taken them to the entrance to Carter's private lab, and he wondered if he dare enter. What would he find inside? Now more than ever, he was convinced Dr. Carter was somehow at fault. Dr. Sid paused before the door, peering through the glass at the darkened interior. There didn't seem to be anyone inside, so he tried the door. Locked, of course, but as the head of the science department, Dr. Sid had top security clearance, and had an override code to unlock every lab in the building. He punched it in, and the door clicked as it unlocked. The door opened under his touch, and Dr. Sid slipped inside, with Neil and Ryan at his heels.

"What are we doing in here?" Ryan's voice was subdued, as if he expected any loud noise would bring some sort of vicious monster down on them. The darkened lab's gloomy atmosphere did feel like something out of a horror film…

"The source of last night's disturbance," Dr. Sid said. He noticed that his own voice also came out softer than he'd planned.

"You think we'll find something here?" Only Neil seemed unaffected by the environment. Probably came from scrambling around in air ducts. He looked frustrated, and Sid couldn't blame him; if Ryan hadn't been here, Neil could have used his rats to search. But they couldn't just send the sergeant away; he was here on behalf of his friend, after all – and if they did dismiss him without explanation, he might think that they were involved.

Glass crunched under someone's foot. Dr. Sid saw Ryan bend down to investigate, and both Neil and Sid came to see what he'd found. The sergeant was crouched over what looked like the remains of a small vial, and Ryan carefully poked at the largest curved piece, which still had a label. "Ouch," he muttered, jerking his fingers away. He wiped the blood from his cut on his pants, then pulled his hands away, puzzled. "Something spilled on the floor; it's soaked into my pants." He got up and went straight to the sink, washing his hands. Curious, Sid crouched down, bones groaning in protest. Taking more care than Ryan had, he flipped the shard over, exposing the label.

He pursed his lips. It didn't tell him much… There was a locked cabinet right beside the broken vial, and Sid presumed it had come from there. "Neil, can you open this?" he asked. If the liquid from the vial was still wet, then it had spilled recently. Last night, perhaps.

The tech grinned. "Just gimme a sec," he said. He positioned himself between Sid and the lock – a professional hiding the tricks of his trade – and after a few bleeps, the freezer opened. "Whoa, Doc, check this out!"

The freezer was filled with dozens of vials filled with fluids of varying colors. Dr. Sid picked up the nearest and examined the label – the serial numbers gave no indication of what the vial held. He replaced it and extracted another. More incomprehensible numbers. "Do you think they're important?" Neil asked.

"I don't know. They could be… or maybe they're a perfectly legal experiment, and we're nosing around where we don't belong." He found a vial with the same number as the one lying on the floor. "I'm not going to take that chance, however." He got to his feet and glanced over to Ryan. "Are you all right, sergeant?" The sergeant had removed his pants and was running the legs under the water tap.

"Fine," Ryan said. "But I think my pants are ruined. What was that stuff?"

"That's what I plan to find out." A quick glance around the lab showed there was nothing else of immediate interest, so he let Neil lock the freezer, and the trio left. While the two squad members chatted about their Christmas plans, Dr. Sid trailed silently behind, holding up the vial thoughtfully. He couldn't wait to get the chance to examine it; but he didn't have time. He had to prep the second serum he'd concocted for Hein before they tried it out tonight.

XXX

Dr. Sid didn't have time to give the vial any thought the rest of the day as he created the serum; he didn't even find the time to visit Captain Edwards because darkness fell so early in the winter, and the transformation would take him before dinner. He nearly didn't make it to Hein's room before he changed; he was halfway there when Aki found him.

"Sid! I need to talk to you!" she said, her voice urgent.

Dr. Sid rolled his eyes. Aki's definition of 'urgent' didn't match his own. Whatever was panicking her was likely to be some simple problem that could be solved with a little use of intelligence. Unfortunately, ever since she'd begun her liaison with Major Elliot, intelligence had been something that Aki was lacking.

"Not now," Sid brushed the girl aside. "I have to tend to the general."

Aki grabbed his elbow, nearly jostling the serum from his grip. "It's important," she said. "What are you doing tomorrow night?"

The moon was full, so he planned to spend the night as a balding werewolf curled up under his bed. "I have plans," he said shortly.

"Can you cancel? There's this girl-"

"I really have to give this to the general. He's on a tight schedule." He broke free of her grip and headed away as rapidly as possible. Why was Aki here, anyway? Wasn't she supposed to be with Elliot in the city?

He hurried inside Hein's room, shutting the door and locking it behind him before Aki could follow. The general was awake; Sid could see it even from the door. One of his eyes was the same cold blue it had always been… the other was a glowing scarlet, the legacy of the vampire/werewolf's kiss. "Ready to give this another try?" Sid asked, raising the hypospray.

The restrained general just shrugged, his movements weary. "Let's do this," he said dully.

He didn't sound very confident of success, either.

To Be Continued…