Caleb had made it to the edge of Varsity. All around him were his brethren. He walked down a hill and passed through thick woods. The network was stretched. But the Cause was near.

The glow of the Cause was a feeling and a sound. The sound of angels’ voices. The feeling of completion, potential. Now that he was close, and in contact with many other Wrecks, Caleb was immersed in a sea of thoughts and questions. He was a synapse in a greater mind. His identity was the alien thought process of Epsilon Rex. The shifting pattern of zombie auras that Caleb sensed was its consciousness. It spoke to itself and to the hosts, its willing slaves.

It said, “I am afraid to die. In order to continue living, I need to grow. I am not complete. What I am now was never the end. It was a journey. I am not perfect. I want to become better. I need enlightenment. Transcendence. We will decide on a higher form. Then we will become that form. It will be a greater self. We must decide what to become. What will make us stronger? What will make us safer, better? This is the goal. This is the Cause. To change into something greater. Choose.”

Caleb emerged from a line of trees. A shallow bowl of ground extended into the distance. The ground had been levelled to manufacture a campsite. Within that space, he could see the Cause. It was a picture of Angels.

A massive circle of golden light. Immense. Made of Wrecks, Ep Rex hosts that glowed and bonded together. The aura, the golden light, flowed in alternating currents like galaxies crashing together. The fusion of light was talking, growing, making decisions. It was beautiful.

Not that Caleb could weep over beauty. But this goal was the only reason he existed. He walked down the last decline towards the huge ring of Wrecks. When he joined it his consciousness would be added to the debate, the questions and answers. They would find what they needed and their purpose would be fulfilled. Then, Ep Rex would evolve. It would take on a new life.

His sense of anticipation was abruptly interrupted by a whorl of sickness at the edge of the Cause. It expanded rapidly. The glow had changed tone and each host passed on the message in an instant. The wave came towards Caleb. He stopped and held his hands forward to collect it. When it hit him, the message flashed in his mind. He spontaneously became aware that there was fire down there. It was moving rapidly through the mass of Wrecks. The Essence in him broadcast the signal. He was, after all, a link in the chain. Then he struggled to decide what was best to do next.

The fire spread almost as fast as the message. Those closest to it scattered. The ones burning did not move. There was no point. None of them knew how to help themselves. Then, suddenly, they were running. There was a lake at the bottom of the hill, a small visitor attraction for those staying at the campsite. The burning Wrecks headed towards it. At least one of them knew, somehow, that this was the way to put out a fire.

Caleb became aware that there was a threat, an enemy, somewhere in their midst. The brethren could not find it. There was a blanket of smoke over the fire. It expanded and stunted their vision. Twenty, forty, sixty burning corpses ran towards the water at the bottom of the hill. But it was too far. They didn’t have the cognitive ability to judge this. They only knew that water would save them from fire and this was water. The stampede slowed. The burning hosts started to fall. They ended up collapsed near each other halfway between the Cause and the lake.

The Cause had broken up. The brilliant light source was now a scattered mob of zombies, blundering drunkenly into each other within the invisible field of smoke and flames. Caleb did not want to venture down there. But he didn’t know what else to do. So he just stood and waited.

A single point of light emerged from the smoke. It came towards Caleb. It was a Recruit. Still technically human, but the Essence was inside him so he was on the way to becoming a Wreck. He moved with determination. He was leaving the area. He passed by Caleb. Several other Wrecks were standing, like Caleb, waiting for inspiration. They ignored the Recruit. As he walked between them he said, “I’m coming back for the rest of you bastards.”

The words had no significance to Caleb, who no longer understood human speech.