Chapter one: Attacked
"And there you are; our little rogue soldier."
Zeta strolled the streets of London, dragging the thin plastic bags full of groceries over her shoulder. She balanced a notepad and clipboard in her other hand as she shifted her book bag up her arm. She hummed vaguely a tune that she had heard on the radio earlier, but the sound of it was lost in the chaos of the afternoon bustle of the city. Zeta was in no hurry to get home, watching the other people in the streets was fascinating, and she enjoyed strolling through the crowds just to observe. Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and she picked it up and flipped it open, putting it to her ear.
"Hey Avery, can you get home with those groceries already? I have to go and I don't want to leave the door unlocked." Emma's high pitched voice rang through the receiver; distinctly British, in contrast to Zeta's American accent.
"Yeah, I won't be too long. Go ahead and lock up, I'll get the spare key."
Zeta flipped the phone close. Walking along the street, she decided to cut through the forest area in the park to get home. She skipped along, her legs flying out behind her as she rushed to get there. She bumped into a few people and shouted out apologies as she forged full speed ahead into the small thicket of trees. Zeta grinned widely as she entered the patch and found the thin dirt path through the undergrowth that she knew would lead her home. In no way was she careful to stay away from the poisonous plants, as her skinny jeans and black combat boots protected her feet and ankles from them, instead she forged through them and stomped around in the brush. A brisk wind picked up and whipped her short brown hair around her face, putting it in disarray and making it stand at odd angles. She brushed it back into place with her fingertips as she pulled her pea coat tighter around her shoulders. She grinned up at the rustling leaves.
The earth nature was so beautiful. It was so alien, so foreign, and yet so lovely. She wished that back at home they had an ocean so blue, a sky so wide, grass so green. She loved the feel of the dirt between her toes and the silky feel of water running through her fingers. Her family back home would never believe her stories and descriptions of this magical place. She ran up to a familiar, thick oak tree, which grew at a strange angle. Up the trunk there were a few low branches, which she climbed, skillful as a monkey. The top of this particular tree stuck out above the other trees, and she climbed to the very top, as to see the city buildings, and the rest of the park. She looked down the path and sighed at the loveliness.
Up the trail she had been walking, Zeta spotted something strange, something she had never seen before. A great big blue crate sat up ahead, leaning against a tree. As Zeta got closer, she got a proper look at it. It was a rectangular box, a small pair of windows at the top of every side. It was painted a deep blue color, and was about the size of a large wardrobe. On the front of it, a sign was posted, which she read out loud to herself.
"Police telephone, free for use of public, advice & assistance obtainable immediately, officer and cars respond to all calls, pull to open." Her face scrunched in confusion. "What the heck is this thing?" she asked herself, looking at the battered old sides. That was one of the first things she noticed; how old it looked, as if it had been sitting there for a long time. Ivy grew up its side and a window was smashed in. It looked like it had gotten quite the treatment, and that was the strangest part of all. The odd box looked like it had been there for ages, but she had never seen It before; and she took this route often. Circling the box curiously, she argued with herself on whether she should open it or leave it be. Coming around the side with the door again, she considered it. Shrugging, she reached for the door knob slowly, wrapping her slim fingers around the smooth, cold metal of the handle. She hesitated, scarcely a breath, and then yanked.
Nothing happened. The door didn't budge. It was locked. Zeta puffed out a sigh in disappointment, dropping her hand to her side. She had so wanted to see what was inside. 'Oh well.' she sighed as she thought to herself. 'Another day maybe. Better get home.' She glanced up at the fading light in the sky, and then dashed towards home, away from the strange blue box in the middle of the forest.
The lock clicked as Zeta turned her key in it. She pulled it out silently as she opened the squeaky door of to the flat and walked into the dark room.
"I'm home!" she called to no one. She flipped the light switch up and down a few times, but the room remained dark.
'Light's must have gone out.' she thought nonchalantly. Zeta tossed her coat onto a hook, and walked to the counter in the dark. The grocery bags rustled as she placed them down, and her bag clunked against the plastic countertop as she searched inside of it for her flashlight. Her fingertips brushed the screen of her transpheric data pod, and becoming distracted, she pulled it out. Opening it up, she skim-read a letter from the Academy (something about neglecting her responsibilities and obligations) and quickly wrote a reply before placing it back on the counter. Before she could reach her hand back in the large bag, she heard a heavy thump from down the hall, followed by the crash of something breaking. Zeta's blood froze, her heart skipping and breath catching. She felt a shiver run up her spine, and suddenly the room seemed ten times colder that a few seconds before.
Was someone in the house? She held her breath and waited again. Another thump was heard. Grabbing the flashlight, and a baseball bat that leaned by the door, Zeta tiptoed her way down the hall, ducking her head inside each room. She glanced through every door, expecting to see some figure looming over her. The resounding crash came again and her heart jumped into her throat. She could feel her heart thumping wildly and she began to breathe heavily. Her footsteps were muffled by the plush carpet, but she stepped lightly anyways, the way she had been taught. Her bedroom door stood slightly ajar, and Zeta was sure that the burglar had gone in there. Her every sense was on edge. She wondered what they wanted. She had nothing of great value. But they were here, they wanted something. Pressing herself against the wall, she regretted not grabbing her gun, before ducking in.
"HAH!" she shouted, pointing the baseball bat and the flashlight in the face of... no-one. She lowered the bat, confused. She swore there had been someone here. They couldn't have heard her coming. Where had they gone?
Then she heard a scurry behind the bed. Her heart jumped back into her throat and she resumed the attack stance. Was it an animal? How had a stray gotten in? She leaped and landed lightly on the bed. Another scurry, this time out from under the bed. Spinning around, she faced the animal, shining her light in its face. When she caught sight of it, sitting calmly on the floor of her bedroom, staring at her, she all but shrieked, clamping a hand over her mouth as her eyes widened in horror.
Its face was a mottled green color, and lizard-like, and yet Zeta might even as far as to say it looked a tiny bit humanoid. It looked warily at her through two vertical slits in its head, which were ringed with an almost iridescent purple color. A forked tongue, one of an equally unsettling shade of purple, flicked out of its slimy, scaly lips. The head was attached to a body not unlike that of a Komodo dragon. It watched her, and they stared each other down, neither moving an inch. It seemed like they were both waiting for the other to make a move first. After what seemed like an eternity, Zeta pulled her hand away from her lips. She took a deep breath; her chest was heaving with fright.
The creature elicited a high pitched, ear-grating shriek. Zeta gasped and smashed her hands over her ears, trying in vain to block out the un-earthly noise. The monster leaped at her, and she stumbled backwards. Hitting her with a heavy thump, its claws dug into her arm for a moment. It raked the sharp talons down her arm, taking skin with it. It clambered on top of her and snapped deadly jaws at her face. Through her fright, Zeta's training kicked in and she instinctively kicked it and was rewarded when her foot met the scaly flesh with a crack, damaging something where she assumed the neck was, and it whimpered in pain. Zeta shoved it off of her and ran out the door like a shot, not looking back to see if it was following her, which she was sure it was. Reaching the end of the hallway, she grabbed the door and slammed it shut, hoping that that would stall it. Whatever the thing was, it crashed into the barrier with a smashing thump, accompanied by the sound of wood splintering. Zeta kept a white knuckle grip on her bat, which she had surprisingly not dropped, and dove underneath a desk, hoping it wouldn't be able to find her there. The crashing against the door subsided after a minute and Zeta was left holding her breath as she listened to her heartbeats. If the thing had gotten through the door, she was sure it would be able to hear them as well. Even after a few minutes, Zeta didn't trust herself to peek out and look. How long she was under that desk, only heaven knows. It could have been hours or seconds, and she wouldn't have known the difference. Warm blood trickled down her arm, staining her t-shirt, but Zeta barely registered it. She breathed in little silent gasps, covering her mouth to muffle them. Finally, after what seemed like days, she crawled on her hands and knees to look out as slowly and discreetly as she could, but leaped back and gasped when she heard the front door creak. Zeta held a firm grasp on the smooth wood of the back and told herself to be calm. She was sure it had somehow figured out how to get in. She heard the floorboards creak as it moved around the room. Swiftly she procured a plan in her mind. Whatever it was, she could hurt it. She would jump out and bash it over the head, and then make a run for it. It wasn't foolproof, but if it was the only chance she had, she would take it. She silently counted to three, taking as long as she could, and then taking one giant gasp of air and jump out, facing the silhouette by the door and shouting.
She froze in her tracks, unable to move, bat pointed at the figure . . . of a man. The tall, lean man spun around, looked down at the bat in her hands, and then back at her, where they locked eyes. He lifted his hand and waggled his fingers.
"oh, hullo there."