The devastation caused by the pyromaniac was enough to make a zombie cry. The first thing to do was pick up the pieces. Literally. Any host that hadn’t burned too fast would still be able to pass on its Essence. Caleb ambled down the hill towards the lake like a farmer strolling home after a long day’s work.
There were burned human corpses scattered over a wide area. About half of them were unmoving and uninfected. Caleb didn’t pay any attention to them. In fact, he could barely tell the difference between them and any other inanimate object. The Wreck mummies looked similar but had a sharply glowing hand raised, like a miniature lighthouse. Caleb broke off one hand and chewed the flesh from the palm. The next was not so neatly prepared and he had to suck the marrow from the bone of the arm too. Other Wrecks who had escaped the burning carried out the same task. The Essence he absorbed fed him with experience as well as preserving the delicate Ep Rex lifeforce.
It was getting on to evening. It had started raining. The job was eventually finished. They took stock. Caleb’s voice was added to the collective Mind of Epsilon Rex.
“What next? The Cause. It’s more important now than anything. We have all the hosts we need. The Cause was going to fulfill our reason for existing. We need to restart it. How?
“What is the Cause? It is close network that gathers all our knowledge and thinks about it. If it is given time, it will know what we should do next in order to evolve, so that we can continue to survive.”
That sounded good in theory, but even as some Wrecks were moving to form a circle, others were sending a message by a shift in their auras.
“The previous attempt failed. It was vulnerable. We were attacked and it was destroyed. We must protect the hosts while we work.”
Their dead minds had extraordinarily limited memories. Each of them could really only remember events that threatened or strengthened them. Anything else was basic programming along the lines of Eat, Look, Walk. But they had the advantage of being able to pool information quickly. Within minutes they had added what they knew about the attacker to the experience of the whole community.
“We were attacked by fire. It was brought by a Recruit. A Recruit still thinks as a human. It does not have our mind. We must seek out threats, including Recruits, and eliminate them.”
No Infected human was crazy enough to hang around the Cause. The Wrecks checked the area and quickly found out that no such threat existed any more. There were two more questions to be answered. First, how to protect themselves from Recruits who might enter the area while the Cause was building again. And second, what to do about that dark area they could not see.
This area had been a blind spot since the Cause was relatively small. The Wrecks had ignored it because it didn’t move and wasn’t a recognised threat, so it fell under their radar. But now they focused on the blackness as something of a threat in itself, because there could be fire within it. Or renegade Recruits.
The network was an effective way to gauge and search the area. Any Wreck could sense the aura of another from a distance of twenty or thirty feet. As long as they were near each other, they could sense any attack on the group as a whole.
The closest Wrecks formed a line and advanced into the blacked out area. In reality, it was nothing more than a continual cloud of smoke. The Wrecks could only read it as a blind spot. As they entered, several of them were attacked by something. They were being shot. They knew what this was. The gunshots gave them something to focus on. They could see flashes of light through the darkness. The line converged and rushed towards the sounds. As they closed with the source of the noises, they could make out movement. Living, human movement. Both a threat and prey. They didn’t need a hint after that.
The Wrecks tore the living to pieces. Caleb was beyond a sense of triumph. The simply knew that people were being killed. Not bitten and Infected, but wiped out in the most effective way possible. The brethren did not stop twisting, squeezing and tearing until everything stopped moving.
The coast was clear. Caleb felt the messages flowing between them. They were ready to start the Cause again. This time they would take steps to protect themselves. Caleb found himself at the centre of a ring of Wrecks, already beginning to tell their stories.