The infected victim crawled away. He howled and wept. To Caleb and his brethren, it was a glorious new recruit. But there were more inside the building. They had boarded up the ground floor windows and doors. Five walking corpses, including Caleb, battered at the panels like massive drums.
One of them wedged his fingers underneath the panel nailed to a window frame. He was pulling at it. The others stared for a minute, then joined in. A small corner broke off. This left a hole, through which they felt the warmth of the victims inside. They were goaded by it. Caleb got a good grip on it and another chunk snapped off, then his brethren did the same in a fast sequence like ants chewing a leaf. The group of Wrecks was a machine, not likely to be stopped by some simple nails and wood. The second the hole was big enough, one of Caleb’s new brothers punched through the glass and wormed his way in with something like a gleeful, rasping war cry. Caleb could smell potential. There were confusing sounds, like a battle. The Wrecks were still tearing at the barrier when he pushed himself through the window.
The entire group was held in a cohesive, strengthening fog of light. The light of Epsilon Rex, which connected them all. The fog joined them all together, and everyone in it acted as a group.
One Wreck had made it through the window before him. But there were living, breathing humans on the other side and crawling through the window one by one made Caleb’s kind vulnerable. The Wreck in front of Caleb suddenly died, amidst a torrent of noise and movement. The humans had attacked it swiftly and powerfully. It was so sudden, it cut off the host’s aura instantly. Caleb was hit by a wave of nausea. This reaction was now coded into his brain by Epsilon Rex. Any situation that annihilated a host completely before the Essence within could react was disgusting and abhorrent. He was unable to feel fear, but disgust is not an emotion. It is a survival instinct.
Caleb was halfway through the window, in the same position that had killed his twin. In a frenzy of revulsion he thrashed and flailed, like a worm in a bird’s beak. The humans attacked him. They had an axe. The first Wreck was decapitated but Caleb’s thrashing movement made his neck a tough target. The axe hit his upper arm, then his spine, then his shoulder blade. Light streamed in. The other Wrecks had succeeded in tearing off the panel of wood completely. They stormed through the window in a shower of glass. The humans shouted and retreated up a flight of stairs. Caleb collapsed to the floor. Epsilon Rex was aware of the damage. A living person would have been crippled. Caleb just felt a grinding sensation and a confusing lack of communication with his legs.
The other Wrecks surged up the stairs. The prey threw something large and heavy, which tumbled down with a thunderous noise and slammed one of them into the wall. It was pinned down, its body crushed.
The Essence inside Caleb moved to preserve him. Those he had absorbed were flowing through him like a drug that just waited to take effect. The wound to his backbone suddenly flared with radiance and purity. It felt like Angels had congregated there to sing. The flow of the Essence within him was faster. But it was also out of balance. He found it impossible to make sensations into thoughts. He could only abandon himself to what he felt.
The Angels fused themselved with his damaged core. They became bone. The Essence was able to read his structure at the smallest level, and adapt to what he needed. But in doing so, it spent itself. The Essence within him was sacrificing itself to preserve him. By the time it had completed its task he had become less. Slower, weaker. His senses, like a fading torch, reached a small, pathetic area. This was not good. He needed to sense hunger, satisfaction, even disgust to complete his task. He was barely capable as a host now.
But he could stand. And the Essence kept working, slowly, on his shoulder and arm. It did enough to keep him moving, no more. He saw the head of the Wreck that had gone before him. Epsilon Rex needed the brain to engage proper functions. A quick decapitation had killed this one completely. The Essence could not be drawn out of it.
Caleb shuffled towards the stairs. A Wreck was crushed under some huge piece of furniture. But the brain was intact. The Essence was still active. Epsilon Rex knew that this host could not survive, could not heal. Caleb took its hand and absorbed the pure Ep Rex from it. The corpse left behind was just a husk, dry, leathery.