Blue fog seeps through the drill hole, the lights from Saieed and my cheek mounted torches causing the gas to ominously dance in the light. Even worse the sound of straining metal sounds from behind the wall followed by a gurgling hiss, one that was joined by another cry until a cacophony of screams and growls. Looking at me, just as I shoot a look at him, Saieed and I bolt towards the stairs up towards the lift shaft. As we run I press the call button on the radio, static barely able to be heard over the sound of steel toed work boots slamming against the metal steps.
“Vulture Ascendent, this is Vulture Lead we are under chemical weapon attack!” I yell as I reach the top of the stairs and dash to where Hali and Jin are trying to leaver the lift cage doors open with a heavy-duty crowbar. “Security Actual, come is we have a security breach in the lab.”
Nobody answers, static filling the airwaves.
“The climb is almost a hundred meters to the surface, the filters in the masks are not going to hold up long enough.” Jin hisses as the doors slowly winch open. “Without the power to the lift, we’re all playing the genetic lottery.” She groans as Hali puts down the crowbar and looks up, his torch light illuminating the lift cage a good twenty meters up, ground to a halt in the lift shaft.
“We’re not getting that far.” Hali replies as the torches illuminate the blue gas beginning to creep up the stairs as more of the chemical vents into the room.
“It’s worse, there are blights behind the wall.” Hali laments as I shine my torch on the other side of the lab, the electrical symbol etched in red. “We may not live long enough to determine if we’re going to be carriers or blights.”
“I’ve worked with systems like this, there is an override.” I lie as take a deep breath, the ventilator’s filter making the air taste acrid. “Stay here and get ready to call the lift as soon as the power reactivates.” I order as I begin to walk towards the catwalk that leads to the fuse box, only for Saieed to put his hand on my shoulder.
“Not alone you won’t.” He states only for me to shake my head.
“Stay here, you have got to get everyone out of here and keep calling Security. We may not be heading up to safety if they aren’t responding.” I state as I stomp across the catwalk, the torches illuminating a swirling sea of gas far below me. Reaching the fuse box I remove one of my work glove and take a deep breath before putting my hand of the ‘danger of electrocution’ warning sign, electricity arching through the machinery. Almost immediately the sound of machinery grinding echoes through the room, nervous cheers sounding from my co-workers. Those cheers stop as the sound of a chain snapping echoes from behind the fake wall, gurgling hisses and roars now joined by a thud as something hits the façade.
“Joanna come on.” Jin calls as I let go of the fuse box and stomp towards the lift only for the sound of machinery to stop, leaving the sound of the blights breaking into the lab the only noise in the lab.
“I’m going to have to hold down the priming leaver.” I state as I turn back to the fuse box. “Go and then get the CBTF down here as soon as you can!” I yell as I slam both hands on the fuse box, the power to the lift, the lights and the fans powering up once again.
“Joanna!” Jin yells as Saieed and Hali bundle her into the lift, the cage doors closing before the elevator began its climb to the surface. Silently I count the seconds that the lift takes to the surface, the sound of pounding fists getting louder, chunks of masonry of the fake wall smashing onto the lab floor. Eventually I let go and switch off the cheek torches and untying the steel toe-cap work boots I’m wearing to lighten my step. Creeping up onto the top catwalk I see a dark shape slither into the lab through a hole in the masonry. Getting to its feet I see it orientate its head to look up directly at where I’m hiding.
“Schisse.” I whisper as two more blights slip out of the hole while I softly step towards the lift cage, fingers crossed that somebody is going to come roaring down the lift shaft to my rescue. Reaching the steps, I start descending only to slip on the steps, slamming into the guide rail with a loud thrumming sound, the noise causing the three blights to jerk their heads up. With a low hiss, they stalk up the stairs to where they heard me.
Edging towards the lift, I reach out for the dropped crowbar, the wrecking bar almost too heavy for me to heft. Holding the bar out, I see the first blight reach the top of the stairs. Whoever it had once been, the blight was now monstrous beyond the ones I’d seen during the Blight Wars during my time as a dispatch messenger. This blight had obviously been down underground a while, its eyes now covered with translucent skin, the melanin drained out from long time subterranean exposure.
Backing up I hit the bottom of the catwalk stairs, the crowbar clanging against the catwalk guard rail. That sound is enough to trigger the attack, the blight leaping at me, slamming me against the stairs, clawed fingers and snapping jaws trying to bite into me, even as I try and leaver the blight off of me with the crowbar. With a grunt I push it off momentarily, only for the blight to charge back in, knocking me through the guard rail, the crowbar catching and leaving me dangling over the lab. With a hiss, the blight begins swiping at my head and shoulders, just as I feel pain stab through my legs as the two blights below try and tug me down to the ground.
“Let…go…of me!!” I scream through gritted teeth as I turn the cheek mounted lights back on, the beams striking the blight in the face causing it to back off. As it does my fingers loose purchase the blights below drag me down with a thud before descending on me, claws struggling to get through the thick overalls I’m wearing. Attempting to crawl away, I see something yellow in front of me and try and reach, hands clamping onto the case for the endoscope.
“I said…let go!!” I snap as I see the warning sign for the laser mounted on the endoscope, my body illuminating with red light, the blights backing off, burns covering their translucent skin. Struggling to my feet I back up against the wall as the third blight comes charging out of the fog swirling around the lab. With a scream it springs towards me as I fling the endoscope case at it, the monstrous creature smashing through it but landing short of where I was standing. Not wasting any time I slip through the hole the blights had hammered through, a grasping hand grabbing me at the last moment, long scratch marks running down my leg.
Hobbling through the secret corridor I come out into a large room when something drapes past me face. Looking up I scream as I catch sight of the rotting arms; some human, some blight and some from a source that’s non-human hung from butcher hooks mounted on the ceiling. Backing up through the forest of limbs, I hear the sound of more hammering as the blights look to climb back into where they had come from, shivering as I pass through the forest of arms until I hit the door behind me.
Turning round I see a massive freezer door and a large spoke wheel handle. Grabbing each side of the spokes I spin it, the lock slowly sliding open as the arms shudder as the first blight enters the old freezer room. Just in time the door opens and I squeeze in, the blight slithering in after me, even as I struggle to close the vault again. With a snarl, the blight eventually backs off and I slip the door shut only for the wall to shudder as the blights begin throwing their weight against it from the other side. Slipping down, pushing me weight against the door I look through the room and shudder, there are four large cylinders with a pair of long lab tables between each pair, the canisters holding a rotting corpse of a woman suspended in a thick brown liquid.
“Dr Solei.” I gulp as the vault door begins to be pushed open, forcing me to bolt away and slip under one of the tables. Seconds later the blights spill out into the room, the sound of rattling breath and hisses filling the air, each one of them turning to look at my hiding space.
“Lights!” I swore as I realised, I’d left the cheek mounted lights on as the blights charged in, hands reaching in to try and drag me out, even as I roll out the opposite side. Standing up, I see one of the blights climb up onto the table and try to tackle me to the ground. Ducking, the blight slams into the wall behind and collapses into a pile on me, just as the other two come round the ends of the tables. Slipping out from under the unconscious blight, I slip back under the table and crawl out to the other side, only for the two blights to spin round and slam me into one of the cylinders, foul smelling liquid leaking out, one that causes all three of us to choke.
Recovering first I look around for something with a warning sign, any kind of sign that I can use to keep me alive for another five seconds. That’s when I see the door into another section of the lab, dashing towards it I make it two thirds of the way before the two blights tackle me, knocking me through the door into what I assume is a drained storm cistern.
Crying, my head aching, blood dripping down past my cheeks, I feel the blights stop their attack and then here a warbling screeching sound. A blight alarm call, I heard it all the time during the Blight Wars, it’s the cry blights make when then feel fear. Looking up I see one of the blights scrambling up the side of the storm cistern, not bothering to use the rusted metal ladder to make its escape.
That’s when I see it, a crudely constructed wooden statue of what looks like a woman, skeletal wings sprouting from its back, its face skull like and contorted into a vile scream. As I get into a sitting position I gulp, for some reason this weird effigy fills me with terror, adrenaline spiking causing me to freeze, eyes fixed on the statue, even as the sounds of screaming blights and gunshots echo from behind me.