Now was the time for clear thinking. The Wrecks in the vicinity wouldn’t harm him—probably. The two soldiers and chainsaw deputy were after Infected to kill. They were the danger. Assuming it was the smoke that was clouding his eyesight, every Ep Rex victim would be blind right now and an easy target. Caleb had to act uninfected and get out of here.
He ripped the bandage off his head a bit too quickly. The dried blood tugged at his scalp. He patted the area with his hand. It was rough and wet but the wound was sealed. He threw the old bandage on the ground.
It was impossible to tell whether the smoke was really as thick as it felt. But there were gunshots, and another scream, and then the chainsaw roared. No three sounds combine to form a clearer picture of terror.
Humanoid blobs moved in the smoke, like an uninspired lava lamp. Caleb started moving. But he didn’t know where he was going. He was slow, not confident.
Somebody shouted his name. Caleb tried to concentrate. An engine of death whined away behind his left shoulder, and people bleated everywhere. He heard it again. It was Rand, panicked. Caleb ran towards the sound.
His hands and feet were still numb but his eyesight seemed to be adjusting. But no, the wind had changed direction. The smoke was clearing. He tripped over a body. Mutilated. Light was coming through. He kept jogging and staggering.
Then he ran into chainsaw man and almost got all his fingers swiftly amputated. The Steward was there with a soldier, vivisecting some poor bastard who happened to be just like himself. Chainsaw man was a head taller than Caleb, who claimed six foot three. His environment suit was swathed in a peculiarly deliberate stripe of blood, like he had been carefully airbrushed. Both men looked at him. Their eyes were like masks for some soulless demons.
“It’s okay,” Caleb stammered while gripping the handle of the axe so hard it squeaked. He somehow stayed on his feet and ran backwards. The two demons didn’t follow him. Something else distracted them. As Caleb backed away, the Steward and soldier faded into grey. The taller of the two wraiths spotted a man crawling. The chainsaw roared and he planted it in the man’s spine. Did he know it was a Wreck, or Infected? It didn’t seem likely. Caleb turned and bolted.
The smoke was almost cleared, now blighting the other side of the METMA complex as the fire ate away. Caleb wiped his eyes, then wiped his hands on his shirt. That seemed to help. Maybe he needed water.
He saw something like a mugging twenty yards ahead. One man lying on his belly while another held him down and seemed to try breaking his neck.
Rand was the one being attacked, and his head was pulled backwards by the Wreck on top of him. It looked like it was really killing him, then for some reason Caleb thought it was trying to save him from choking. As he closed he saw the the Wreck had one hand stuffed completely inside Rand’s mouth.
Instinctively, Caleb delivered his best kick to the head. But that was the wrong move. The Wreck recoiled but wasn’t thrown off the way a human being would. Caleb cursed. He couldn’t chop it without risking Rand. He threw down the axe. He grabbed the Wreck by the shoulders and wrenched it off his METMA buddy. The Wreck didn’t seem to comprehend. It looked up, and Caleb realised he knew this man. It was the homeless guy who had been next to him when he arrived in the Ward.
The guy had all his teeth smashed, presumably by some previous victim who’d fought back. His face was a uniform bruise and the eyes, though they could see, were not human. They seemed unreal, robotic.
But Caleb was not quite terror-stricken. Being half-Wreck himself, he felt close to this creature. It wasn’t a love affair. Just a smell of sorts.
It was on its knees on top of Rand. It quickly looked away from Caleb, who wasn’t of much interest. Caleb kicked it hard and it fell back. He snapped up the axe. He gladly buried it in the guy’s face. He wasn’t sure why, but of all the murders and mutilations he had performed, this one gave him a sense of true pleasure.
Rand coughed and heaved like a fish thrown up on the bank. Caleb let him recover for a while. He became aware for the first time of sirens quite close by. Firefighters. They were at the front of the building, attacking the fire already. The digger that had been burying bodies was now on fire inside the building.