Recruiting the new hosts outside the church was chaotic. There had been injuries, escapes, fire, but a good result in the end. The Essence had expanded. Caleb had to pause, after all that, and take some time to let his mind update and inform itself.
He felt other hosts in the vicinity. He drifted towards them. This group was larger than any he had been part of before. It was a powerful, swirling cloud of aura and sensations. Each one of them had come here by a different road, and absorbed different experiences.
But there was no confusion. The questions were the same. Each Wreck answered them for itself, then came to a decision. The Cause was near, and it was singing louder now than before. Caleb knew that he had to get there. The Essence in him was the same as in the other hosts, so they all knew it. So they all marched the same direction.
The aura they generated was expansive. Wider and more sensitive than Caleb’s human senses had ever been. There were dozens of hosts. If any one of them within the aura saw or heard something interesting, the rest would know it in an instant. The energy circulated between them. Caleb was not capable of pride, satisfaction or bliss in his near-dead state. But he was able to sense security and rightness. Being part of a larger group made him better.
Varsity’s population (living) had always been spread thin. Most houses had generous gardens for residents to fill with vegetables, sheds, boats, lawn or kids’ toys as they saw fit. It was organic, slightly anarchic. It was also not a very large town by any standards. However, it was typical of a style of ‘secondary’ American town. Satellite towns with basic amenities and easy access to a small city. There were, if anyone cared to look, a staggering number of them throughout the country.
Its exact make-up also made Varsity a prime location for the Epsilon Rex infection to succeed. In dense populations, Wrecks had been outnumbered by hysterical prey who fought off the Wrecks by force of numbers. Populations like Varsity were uniquely vulnerable. Here, a small group of Wrecks could advance on a single dwelling with a family inside. They might only infect one while the rest escaped, or they might get them all. But someone would get recruited. Then the Wrecks would move on to the next house. No large groups of living defenders ever got together to overwhelm the threat. Because of this, a high proportion of Varsity’s residences actually had Infected within them or were empty.
Caleb could feel a gossamer web of energy spread even wider than the posse he had found. The messages sent between Wrecks as they passed each other on their journeys. The Cause was bringing them closer to each other and this loose web of energy and information was an inevitable side-effect.
Recruits, the ones recently empowered with the Essence, either stayed still or tried to get away from Wrecks. But they became Complete before they got very far. When they turned into hosts, they changed direction and joined the pilgrimage.
The Cause was a mysterious, brilliant entity. Caleb had never experienced anything like it while he was alive, and probably couldn’t have unless he used hard drugs. Without hearing, he sensed the music that seemed to come from angels. It was the voice of Perfection. The song was a call to make the future happen and complete what all of them, what the Essence, had begun. The song didn’t come to them through the network of auras but through the earth itself. It was always there, whenever he stopped to listen. The closer it came, the more resolute it sounded.
A helicopter passed overhead. To Caleb it was just a loud, fast object that could be ignored.
Auras at the edge of his awareness sent a message. Prey had been found. Caleb did not change direction. The message was weak. The song from the Cause was still stronger. The message was repeated. Then it changed. Many hosts were working together. The prey were fighting. But their defence was feeble, not the kind or the scale to endanger the Essence. Then a new message. The prey had been suppressed and recruited.
This or something like it came to Caleb over and over. Potentials discovered. Recruits lashing out, subdued. Cars driving dangerously, to be avoided. Fires that had to be escaped.
There was a blind spot near the Cause. It did not concern Caleb and his close brotherhood for now. Still, it existed. Smoke. It blanketed an area that the network could sense. They couldn’t see into it. There was movement. Prey, with vehicles. But then they went into the smoke. They didn’t come out. And Caleb, as well as all the other Wrecks, quickly forgot that they existed and decided just to avoid the blinding smoke.