Chapter 13

The first problem was solved rather quickly, as a Zeppelin made another pass over the rooftops, a muzzle flash identifying the shooter. How had they got a Zeppelin? It was way too difficult; unless they had access to a balloon factory or something. It couldn’t be hydrogen, or they wouldn’t be firing.

I ducked and got into cover, acting quickly. The longer I stayed out in the open, the sooner Id get pinned down, ripped to shreds by that ungodly machine. It floated above the streets like an obscene jellyfish, drifting over me trailing ropes, covered with small figures, and I racked my brains for options. They were too high; we had no guns, and no other way of hitting them. It wasn’t as if we could fly up and destroy them there.

I had an idea, and went to the tallest building I could- a church- leaving my lizardmen to find a place to put the prisoners. I could trust them to do that. Running up the stairway, I reached the top of the bell tower, and looked out over the city. What I saw was abominable. A fleet, a swarm of more Zeppelins, thirty or forty, flying over the city, the pops of gunfire and light of muzzle flashes as they fired on the people on the streets below. The rubble seemed alive with people running, taking cover, dying. Humans too, but I noticed that most of them weren’t being targeted. How typical.

One of them flew close by, and I could see the crewmen, through the windows. He looked at me, jumping with a start when he saw my arm- otherwise, I still looked human. He shouted something, and the Zeppelin began to turn. I took the chance, and did one of the stupidest things I ever had. I jumped, seeing the ground some twenty meters below me. Then the adrenaline kicked in, and I felt like everything was moving in slow motion. I reached out to one of the ropes, as it slowly glided by, and swung underneath the body of the Zeppelin, until I hung there. As I climbed, time resumed its normal course. Odd, usually things didn’t speed up until I was out of danger.

 

There was no time to worry about that. I’d reached the top of the rope, berthed against the balloon of the Zeppelin. It felt strangely hard, like a metal skin in the shape of a balloon. Knowing geniuses, it probably was. So I couldn’t get in that way, and I couldn’t hang on forever, with the wind threatening to pluck me off at any moment. If the fall didn’t kill me, getting shot would. I needed to find some way in. So I worked my way back down to the gondola, finding handles set at regular intervals- probably for services. I edged along the gondola looking for a doorway, or a service hatch; anything I could use to get inside, out of the wind. Eventually, I found a section of panelling that had been dented, and wrenched it off, clinging to one of the handles of the gondola one handed- or rather, one tentacled- with the metal rubbing against my scales rather unpleasantly.

Soon I was inside, the stench of oil and cordite thick in the air. The floor and walls were a kind of iron grating, with lights and piping glinting from within. Steam gushed from one of them, and I was reminded of one of those WWII films, inside a German submarine a few minutes before it sank. Meanwhile, I needed to get hidden, before someone spotted me. With my adrenaline screwed up, I didn’t want any fights where they had a chance to get me. Too risky. I needed to think like I’d thought before, so long ago, when Id been hiding from the mistress and her children. I threaded the fingers of my human hand through one of the metal grates on the floor, and pulled. It came up easier than I’d expected, though, and I fell backwards, clattering to the floor grate in hand. I heard someone coming, speaking some foreign language, probably going to check what the noise was. There was only one option, and I dove down into the hole I’d created, pulling the grate behind me so it fitted into the gap.

 

There was barely any room down there, amongst the heat and pipes. I reached out with one hand, to slide along the floor, and caught onto a metal pipe. It was burning hot, and I withdrew, hissing in a breath. Then the engineer showed up. He was noisy, with heavy boots and leather overalls, clumsy but presumably good for the heat. With every step, his toolbelt jingled, spanners and bolts and pliers clashing together. It was a little surreal, seeing such order after so long in the desolate streets of London. He looked around, whistling tunelessly, and pulled a panel from the wall, adjusting some bolts and valves with a massive spanner. I slipped along the ground, avoiding any pipes, and left him behind. I’d got aboard; I just wasn’t sure what to do once I had.

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Chapter 12

The operations took three days. I was awake for the last two. But that was unavoidable.

When I woke up, I was… different. My left arm had been cut off altogether, and now there was some kind of tail, like a snake. Everything seemed to be slower, like everyone was moving through treacle except me. The mistress said that she’d made several improvements, something to do with adrenaline, fast reactions. I was stronger, faster, better. And I knew what I had to do.

 

The mistress had told me where the rebels were, and now all I needed to do was destroy them. Better that than to let them carry on, fighting in ignorance, ruining the mistresses plan. We would spread across the world, bringing order and peace, but first we needed to get full control here.

 

They were staying in a sewer, cowering in filth. I remembered that much from my past life, when I was afraid and alone. Now I strode in, following the echoes of their pathetic shanty town, with an army of lizardmen left. We would destroy any resistance, and take the citizens to be reborn. I stepped around the corner, found the hive. I was struck with nostalgia, remembering my weeks here preparing for the first strike to deal with Shewin, but I silenced that part of myself. I knew that Shewin was right, that my work was necessary. There was no need for any dissent, especially not from myself. I stepped forwards, cupped my hands around my mouth, and delivered the ultimatum.

“Step outside and come with us. You will not be harmed. You will not fight back or you will die.” It wasn’t a threat. It was a promise.

 

Sadly, they were too stupid to realise the truth. One of them stood, hefted a brick towards me. It spiralled in the air for what seemed like an eternity, and I reached out, calm, and took it from the air, spinning it back towards the one who threw it. It hit them in the head, crushing their skull, and they landed, painting the ground red with blood and skull fragments. With that, we charged, walking straight in. No hurry- we could track them down if they fled, kill them if they fought. One of them swung a knife at me. I was struck by deja vu, and swung my left arm at him, breaking his neck. I had no life before I was made, and people trying .

 

All around me, people were fighting, lizards stabbing and slashing with their claws as people ran, or tried to fight back, with an odd array of anything they could find. It wasn’t an entirely clean victory, sadly; I saw one lizard surrounded, dying as people jabbed at him. Another was beaten with a hammer, her skull crushed. I lashed out at the one who’d killed her, fury turning the world red, my whip arm slashing through their throat while I beat another one of them, carrying a knife dripping with green blood to death, my fist smashing into them again and again, feeling bones break as my fist pushed through, again and again. I felt something break against my back, and turned to find someone holding splintered fragments of a wooden folding chair. He tried to run, but I lashed out with my whip, felt the crack of bones giving as it wrapped around his leg. He was still trying to crawl away as I reached him, stamping on his back, feeling the spine give way as I pressed down, before walking over to his arms, crushing them to stop him trying to escape. He fell still, paralysed, and I left him there. We could pick him up and convert him later. There was no rush.

 

After the dust had settled, there were very few survivors. Most were dead, while the few who survived were surrounded by my lizards. Almost all of the lizards were still alive, albeit not uninjured; the humans hadn’t expected us to be strong enough to take their home so soon, but damned if they hadn’t fought back. On the other hand, the humans had been crushed, with the corpses lying in the streets and floating in the sewage below. Still, we could take the survivors back to the hospital fairly easily, and then simply show them the true way. Soon, there’d be more of us, and then we’d be able to crush all resistance, push through Europe, unify the entire world. We made our way back through the sewers, leaving the death and destruction in our wake. I only wish I could’ve seen the humans who came back through there- so that they could see where the revolution led. Of course, there were a few lizardmen there; enough to make sure no-one tried to rebuild. They would be able to stay indefinitely- after all, they had plenty of food.

We made it to the surface, specimen in tow, and made our way to the surface. It was uneventful, fr a while, then there was a sudden crack, and a lizard fell, blood seeping from a hole that’d just punched through its chest. Gunshots. And I didn’t know where from.

Chapter 11

I woke up on a table, held down with some kind of leather straps. Like one of those old, abandoned lunatic asylums in horror movies, where the victim is tied down and… operated on. Claustrophobia gripped me, and I pulled at the straps, thrashing around as I tried to break free, but they held firm. Looking around, I could see that there were several other gurneys, empty, in rows, and several machines, with piping and dials, eerily reminiscent of a hospital. I knew where I was, of course. I knew what was going to happen. I’d get hooked up to one f those machines, and whatever came out, it wouldn’t be me. It’d be something else, something dangerous and inhuman and mindless, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

A figure stepped into the room, wearing medical scrubs and a surgical mask, but I knew who it was. Her face had been plastered all over the news. Shewin Wu, the greatest scientific hope for Britain. Shewin Wu, the psychotic madwoman. She was shorter than I had expected.

“You’re awake. Good. I want you to be aware while this is happening. You killed so many of my children, you burned them. You murderer.” Her voice was oddly emotionless behind that mask, and I remembered something I’d read, just after it’d all gone to shit in America. These geniuses wre, to a one, complete and utter sociopaths, unable to relate to anything properly. She reminded me of some kind of robot, going through the motions, but still, just not quite there.

“You tried to fight back. Why? Don’t you see my way is better? If you’d just given in none of this would’ve happened. Everyone would be working together, and it’d all be fine. But instead, you destroy. Why?”

“You really think that we’d volunteer to get turned into one of those… things? We’d be giving up everything that makes us human.”

“Humanity is overrated. Look where it’s gotten us- the environment’s a wreck, so many people were dying, and nothing was being accomplished. I would’ve solved all that by now, if it wasn’t for you few Luddites, holding back the entire world! But you’ll change your tune. Soon, you’ll see things far more clearly.”

 

With that, she walked over to where I was strapped down, and jabbed a syringe into my arm, pushing some kind of sedative into my veins. I was still awake, but I couldn’t move, couldn’t even close my eyes. I had to see what was happening. A lizard wheeled in some kind of machine, like a pump, and plugged the wires into my arms. They immediately started pumping, some filled with red, pumping blood, others filled with liquids I’d rather not think about. Things started to get fuzzy, and I heard a distant voice, saying something about a ‘new breed’, and that it’d be ‘twice as potent as the regular’. I liked the sound of that voice. It reminded me of safety, of home.

 

When I next awoke, she was standing over me, holding a scalpel, her apron covered in blood. But that was ok, she wouldn’t hurt me. Looking down at myself, I could see that she’d been doing something major; my entire abdomen was open, and I could clearly see what was going on inside. My ribcage was held apart by a pair of vices, exposing my heart, and lungs- or rather, lung, the right side of my chest a gaping hole. Looking around, I could see that my entire left arm was gone, up to the shoulder. Blood leaked out, but I knew I was in no danger. The mistress wouldn’t hurt me. Sensation had started to bleed through the chemical haze, and I groaned as the pain hit me. She looked up from her work, and said something. I couldn’t hear what, but soon the numbness spread over my body once again, and I slipped back to unconsciousness.

 

Whatever she was doing to me, it made the sedatives ineffective. She kept boosting the dosage, but fairly soon I just had to make do without. I was strapped down pretty tight- couldn’t have me wriggling around- but still, I was awake through the surgery. So that was a fun new experience.

The changes weren’t all physical, of course. What she’d done, what I was becoming, was far more than that. Things seemed much clearer, much easier to understand. I realised that she was right, that her way was the only true way. I just had to follow her and everything would be fine.

Chapter 10

I heard the woof of butane igniting, and I knew I’d run out of time. I wasn’t sure where the fire had started- after all, I hadn’t set up the device- but it’d spread quickly enough. I couldn’t make a break for it until the lizards were all out- I’d get killed in an instant, even with the confusion of the fire- and the entire point of flooding the place with gas was to make sure the fire spread too quickly for all of them to evacuate. I was really trapped in a corner, hearing the lizards running out and screaming in pain, practically human, but tinged with desperation and madness. Pretty soon, the fire would spread to the rest of the flats, and then there would be no real way out. I had to do something, so I got out from under the bed, fairly confident that I’d be clear- who in their right minds would stay?- and quickly slammed the door, just in case any stragglers were passing by. I was in luck- the flat I’d chosen was on a side away from the front doors- so there weren’t any on the window side. Maybe there’d be some way out, through this blind spot. I needed a rope, so I decided to pull the old trick they always did in prison break films- tied knots in the bedsheets, lowered them through the widow, tied to the bed. I swung out, the city so far below me. If I fell I’d be a red smudge, and I shuddered involuntarily. Gripping the makeshift rope tightly with my good hand, I began to slowly work my way down. It wasn’t very high up, compared to say, New York, with its skyscraper fetish, but it was high enough that there was a strong wind tearing at my clothes, trying to pull me free from the flats into the streets below. It ws a terrible idea- I only had one hand, and I couldn’t make it all the way down, especially since I could only find a couple of spare sheets and clothes. Worse, I was wrong about being able to get down unnoticed- the few lizards that made it out were soon clustered around, throwing stones. I found an open window, and swung in. That makes it sound far more dramatic than it actually was- a sweaty, smoke stained guy collapsing through the window, hoping like hell that the flames would keep the lizards out. But luck wasn’t on my side- as soon as I was in the hallway, I was surrounded, lizards thronging in the hallways and stairs, blackened by smoke and charred by the flames, coughing and retching. Put simply, the looked like an alien refugee camp. And I was responsible, in no small part.

 

Then I saw a familiar face, amongst the crowds. Lucy. She was unconscious, blood dripping down the side of her face from claw marks, presumably to stop her trying to escape. I couldn’t see if she was alive or dead- to be honest, I’m not sure which would be worse- but I knew if I didn’t get the hell out of there now, that’d be exactly what happened to me. I ducked beck into the room, ramming my uninjured shoulder into the door to brace it as I tried to think of a plan. Sometimes, it seems that my entire life is like this- going from one desperate situation to another.

I couldn’t get out of the window- there was still the mob outside to worry about- but I couldn’t see any alternatives. There was the door, or the window. I found a bolt, drawing it across as I planned out my next move, and as I thought, I dragged furniture to the doorway- anything to buy me a little time. By now the noise, heat and smell were overpowering- the thudding against the door, the crackling of fire rising towards me and the billowing smoke everywhere. My head was swimming, as I looked for anything useful, until eventually I found it- a crowbar, the same as the ones they took out on raids. I grabbed it, and drove it between the bare floorboards of the room, levering them up. It took three for me to have room to get down, and then away I went, dropping through the ceiling to the next apartment down. Of course, it was a stupid idea- even if I had escaped the mob, the fire was below me, and the heat was rising. By now my head was pounding, and I leant against the wall, vomit burning up my throat. The room span, and I staggered straight through the door, not worried about the lizards, just wanting to get out of that room. The crowbar clattered to the floor as I fell, pulling myself to my feet- more or less- and struggled onwards. I felt rough, clawed hands gripping me, but I was too far gone by then- I couldn’t struggle, it was all I could do not to collapse. I was dragged to a window, carried with a surprising amount of care through into the air outside, and it was then that it all went black. I didn’t care if I was in Lizard hands, I didn’t care if I was going to die. I was so weak, fading in and out of consciousness, and I didn’t care what happened, there was just an overpowering sense of fatigue as it all went black, and I slumped over, dead to the world.

Chapter 9

I pulled out the matchstick. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, entirely unbroken. It may seem selfish, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to live, and it seemed like today was my lucky day.

It was Lucy’s turn next, and I watched as she picked out her matchstick, hand shaking. It was eerily silent, not one of us saying a word. There was a sense that this moment could change everything, and it could. For Lee or Lucy, it would probably be a death sentence.

She drew her hand back, clutching a match. Unbroken.

I wasn’t sure what to think, to congratulate Lucy or offer Lee my condolences. I mean, I’d never given any though as to what I would do in this kind of situation- have you?

Lee’s face was like stone, betraying no emotion. He gave the bomb to Lucy, and distributed the rest between us, giving me hi knife and a lighter, along with the painkillers from his first aid kit. It made sense, keeping the load he was carrying low for the run, but it felt uncomfortably like his last will or something. Giving away his earthly possessions.

“Good luck.” I said, and I meant it. It felt like it wasn’t enough, that is was just insulting, but I felt better for saying it. I mean, before he didn’t even have a prayer. He gave me a nod, and then prepared for his run, sprinting into the street. Within seconds there was a flood of lizards after him, flooding the streets and hunting him down, baying with excitement at the hunt like a pack of hounds after a fox. Lucy and I slipped into the flats, prepared to make sure his sacrifice hadn’t been in vain.

The first thing that hit me was the smell, the pungent odour of too many things living together with no working sewers. It was a blessing in disguise, it’d mask our scents, but still, it wasn’t pleasant. I looked at Lucy, then we split up. Probably not the best idea, especially with my arm out of commission, but there was no way we’d cover enough ground otherwise. As Lucy worked her way to the kitchen in the first flat, I made for the stairs, planning to meet her at some point in the middle. That wasn’t what happened.

I worked as quickly as I could, finding the gas canisters as fast as possible, cranking them open and then moving onto the next one. There were a couple of times where I’d heard movement, voices, but I simply ignored them. Looking back, I should have realised- they were voices, so the Lizards weren’t just animals. They were sentient, if not very good people.

But I didn’t think of that. It wasn’t my job to think of that. I just cranked open the gas, floor by floor, until I met Lucy around the middle, setting the timer on the bomb. We’d just started to make our way down when it happened. We heard the doors opening, the rush of feet as the entire platoon of lizards returned. We couldn’t come down the back, there was no fire escape- presumably removed to make the flats more secure- and we sure as hell couldn’t make it out through the front. We had to hide, and so I did, slipping into the nearest flat and hiding under the bed. Clichéd, I know, but I was in a panic, rushing for anything I could find. I stayed stock still, aware that Lucy was hidden too and hoping neither of us got caught. I was amazed they hadn’t noticed the gas, but it made sense- they were lizardman, with no visible ears. I remembered reading somewhere that lizards have a terrible sense of hearing, and even they couldn’t smell the gas over the everyday stench.

There was nothing left to do but wait, staying as still and as silent as I could. Even so, I felt insanely obvious, my breath like a hurricane and my heart beating way too loud. I could hear one of them in the room, wandering around, and some suicidal part of my mind wondered if I could jump him, kill him quickly before he could sound an alarm. But such thoughts were foolish. Insane. Even if I could get him, his absence would be noticed. I’d get both me and Lucy killed. If the fire didn’t get us first, when the bomb went off.

I wasn’t sure how long I stayed there, waiting. Maybe I slept a bit, fitfully. I don’t know, but I think I may have done. I was tired as hell, the morning seeming like years ago. The painkillers started to wear off. A whole lot of nothing happened. Then it all went to hell in a handbasket.

 

Chapter 8

I needed a map. It was damn near impossible to find them- usually destroyed by rain and other bad conditions, or used as kindling. It was why only one person per squad got a map, but it’d come back to bite me in the balls now. I climbed the stairs, and looked out of as many windows as I could, looking for a church spire. When that didn’t work, I moved on to plan B- going back outside, I found a car which looked like it hadn’t been broken into and, well, broke into it. I heaved a brick at the window, and an alarm pierced the air. Shit.

 

I opened the glove compartment. Bingo- an A-Z. And with that I was off, ducking down a side street before anyone- anything– saw me. I heard a commotion behind me, as the noise was checked out, but I was already gone. Looking for a street sign, soon I was on my way to the nearest church. This close to a barracks, I had to be careful- after all, it wasn’t as if I could fight back with my arm in such a bad way, and this close there’d probably be more of them coming if I made a sound. Metaphorically speaking.

 

I made it to the church without much incident, to find it abandoned. So I took a pew and waited. And eventually, a few of them came. Lee and Amy, to be specific. “Where are the others?”

“No idea. We can only wait a few hours, too, or we’ll be way behind schedule.”Lee said, then, noticing my arm, tossed me a small first aid kit. I was surprised we had them, but apparently we’d gotten lucky with a hospital and had plenty to go around. I bandaged my arm a bit better, and took some painkillers, but nothing particularly strong. After all, if we were going to pull this off without me dying I was going to have to be pretty alert.

“What the fuck was with you missing the smell? That was your only job!”

“It was a mistake! Jesus Christ, what do you want from me? What would you have me do? How would we have got the smell right when we couldn’t even leave that damned sewer?” The worst part was, he was right. I’d fucked up, and probably got people killed because of it. I felt like a hypocrite, spending so long away from other people because of a mistake they made, then doing the same damned thing when I was with other people.

 

Amy cut in ”Both of you, shut up. Maybe you did fuck up, but is shouting going to solve anything. We need to get out, deal with this, and then we can worry about who fucked up.”

 

I was more than happy with this, and we set off. I felt a pang of guilt about leaving- what if the others were still alive? What if they made t to the church and assumed we had died?- but it subsided. We had a job to do. They’d understand.

 

We stuck to back alleys as far as we could, occasionally taking to the roofs when they were flat and fairly close together, not slowed much by my arm (we couldn’t afford to be), and we made it in good time, but the delay waiting for Oliver, Harry and Tim had gotten rid of most of our margin for error. We had about half an hour to get in, set the charges and get out. I wasn’t sure it’d be enough.

 

We stopped about 500m away from the flats, as Lee pulled out the explosives. It looked like some kind of demented energy drink, with a bottle full of some kind of gas and wires snaking into it, connected up to a timer. It wouldn’t be nearly enough on its own, but we’d planned this out. They had to have gas for heating and the like, so we could open all of that up, and hopefully have the fire spread out of control. But first we needed to get in. We’d planned to have Tim lead them on a merry chase, since he was the fastest, best at getting lost in the alleys and losing his pursuers, but that wouldn’t work now. We needed someone to act as a distraction. And they probably weren’t going to come out of this alive. We argued briefly, but in the end Lee solved it. He pulled out a few matchsticks, snapped one in half, and held all three in his fist. Whoever picked the short straw had to run.

Chapter 7

I was filled with trepidation when we went out. There was a sense of finality- no matter what happened, we wouldn’t be coming back. If the attack didn’t go as planned, they’d flood the sewers, and leave the rest of us on the surface, struggling for scraps. I’d probably be able to make it, but there’d be too many deaths. On the other hand, if everything went to plan we’d be expected to stay on the surface, to push the assault. There were six of us- me, Amy, who I’d argued with a few times on base, Lee, a heavyset type, only just in his twenties but still one of the best leaders we had, Tim, a smallish person, but still pretty tough. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him. There was also Oliver- I hadn’t spoken to him much, but he was apparently the one who knew how to set the bombs- and Harry, who I’d met a few times, but hadn’t really got on with too well. Not to say we were at each other’s throats, we just didn’t have anything in common.

 

I wasn’t sure about the squads set out- I barely knew half of them- but apparently the people I’d been teaching had been spread out, so that no-one would be entirely without help. After a few months of training, I was fairly sure my pupils would make it, but I had no idea about the rest of their squads. I was more surprised that command had put so much trust in my teaching, but I guess it showed that they knew what they were doing- there was a decent chance you’d die out scavenging, but the people I’d taught had always beaten the odds. Of course, I’d changed too. I was in far better shape than when they’d taken me in- an actual chance to wash and three meals a day had done wonders. Of course, the changes ran deeper than that. The quasi-millitary discipline had rubbed off on me, and while I still kept low and in the shadows, I wasn’t quite so leery of people.

 

I was snapped out of my reverie by Lee, the squad leader. He had a map- taken from an old A to Z- which he was using to show a place to regroup if we got split up (a churchyard- eerily appropriate) as well as the route to the place the lizardmen were kept- down a series of back alleys, over a couple of garden flats and we’d be at the apartment block where the lizards were stored. Don’t ask me how they knew where they were stored- at a guess, I’d say it was that magical combination of binoculars and luck. I kept my eyes open, scanning the streets, my ears pricked for the telltale sounds of diesel engines that would signal Lizards. Soon, I heard it. “We need to get out of the open. There’ll be a raid somewhere around here, and if we’re caught we’ll be dead- or worse.”

 

Lee had stopped in mid brief, and nodded his assent, so we trooped over to the inviting shadows of a nearby alleyway, crouching low as we tried to retreat, unnoticed, out of the vicinity. Alas, it wasn’t enough. The changes wrought by the life of (comparative) luxury had betrayed me, as the lizards caught the scent of the whole group practically immediately. We ran through the alleyway, all pretences at stealth abandoned, as we tried to lose our pursuers. We scattered- the alleyways meant we couldn’t really run very well, our numbers working against us- and I peeled off down an alley to the left, alone. Luck wasn’t on my side, as a few lizards-two or three, it was hard to tell in the cramped conditions- chased after me. I took a right, then a left, trying to lose them in the maze of alleys, but they kept up, the flapping of their bare feet against the ground echoing against the walls. Fairly soon, I had run out of alleyway, and was left in a main road. This wasn’t good- they would run me down in no time on open ground. I had no choice but to fight back, but I would do it on my terms. I slipped through an open door, and quickly found my way to the kitchen. Being hidden would get me some time, but not much- they’d pick up my scent, and then I’d be dead unless I came up with something amazing. I cranked up the gas on the stoves- hopefully the lines would still be working- and grabbed a kitchen knife. Granted, I did have a truncheon, given to me by command, but it wasn’t going to do the job in the confines of the hallway. I wouldn’t have time to swing it, so what I really needed to do was stab. Waiting in the doorway, hidden from view of the hall by the wall, I waited, as I heard the cautious flopping of their feet down the hall. Without warning I lunged out, knife flashing as I lashed out as fast as I could, knife bouncing off bones and slipping in blood as I killed one of them outright, shielded from the others by the body. I was expecting to feel sickened, killing one of them like this, but I just felt empty.

 

I lashed out at the next one but it stepped back, and then its partner was there and I lashed out, but it was faster, and I felt the white hot pain of claws scissoring through my arm. With my left hand, I pushed it back, throwing punches as blood spurted out of my wrist. My head span as I lashed out indiscriminately, the knife hled in a death grip, feeling it tear through flesh and scales and feeling the pain of my own wound, shifting with each movement to a new crescendo of agony.

 

I forced myself to stop, calm down, as my vision grew darker. The two remaining lizards were dead, victims of me flailing with the knife. I tried to remember what to do for blood loss, and loosened my belt, drew it tight around my upper arm in an attempt to stop the bleeding. I went to the medicine cabinet in a bathroom, upstairs, and tied an actual bandage over the gash, taking two aspirin for the pain. It took the edge off, but it still hurt like buggery. I didn’t know what to do, trapped alone out here, but a thought kept nagging at me- ‘The graveyard’– and I realise what I had to do. The erst of my squad would be at the graveyard, and I had to get there. But which graveyard? I wracked my brains, trying to figure it out, wishing I had paid more attention to the briefing.