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.