Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Another flight of stairs disappears into the shadows above. If this were an old movie, I’d casually rest my hand against a spotless wall while pausing to see if my pursuers have given up. If not, I would spring lightly upwards as if the previous thirty flights didn’t matter.
As it is, I keep a tight grip on the creaking rail while the dry heaves pass and the quivering in my thighs subsides. The baying pack of blood-crazed schoolgirls have paused to tear the sleeping transient I hurdled limb from limb, so I can allow myself a moment. Not that I have a second wind to recoup, but the illusion is nice.
“Hideo, this is no time for hanging about!”
I straighten slowly while mentally putting together a reply without swear words: “Are you going to continue stating the obvious, or do you have useful information?”
“You sound angry.”
I do believe she’s genuinely surprised.
“You told me ‘two or three’. There are more than twenty. All are stage four or worse.”
“If I’d said twenty-six stage fives, you’d have told me to do one. So I lied.”
Chikusho. I’ve been had.
“Am I actually here to rescue Shonji Kurasawira? Is she even part of this infected pack?”
“You’re helping her rescue by leading the pack away from the nest at Matsue College. A specialist suppression unit is currently engaged in cleansing the nest, having retrieved Miz Kurasawira and one other stage two.”
“I’m curious. How would me using my usual pack killing methods not have helped?”
“We couldn’t be sure the pack would leave their lesser members behind.”
“I see. I guess the rendezvous I’m desperately heading for is pointless, because everyone’s at Matsue College?”
At least she’s not trying to apologise. That would be really annoying.
“Why did you shout at me if there’s nothing for me to lead this lot into?”
“There are a few residents left in that block. Getting them torn to bits would be bad for our image.”
Whoopee. I’m a sacrificial PR exercise.
“Lita, self-sacrifice is usually decided on by the one about to do it.”
“Don’t be picky. You’re doing a good deed.”
The baying gets louder.
“If I get out of this, I’ll drop a little something off for you all to share.”
She laughs: “Can we pick which body part?”
Kuso. The contempt in her voice reveals much.
My legs seem to weigh a ton apiece, but I have anger to drive me through the pain. After two flights, my vision is swimming, but my body is moving like always. It won’t last, and the next stages are crawling and blackout. Better do something significant.
I enter the next floor and see possible salvation. As the pack arrives at the foot of the stairs, I stick my head out. The baying increases. I turn and sprint down the corridor, kicking up trash in my wake. The picture window at the end is already cracked. I shoot it six times before hitting it flat out. Smashing through, I arc away from the building.
The pack follows seconds later: a slower, heavier mass of frenzied death that tumbles into the gap between tower block and the smaller office block next door. One makes it to the office block roof where I’m lying. I shoot it as it teeters on the edge. It topples backwards.
Laughing in relief and crying in pain, I roll over. Delivering a grenade to Lita can wait until I have two working legs. For now, I think I’ll drag myself off in search of medical attention.