The asshole in the pickup skidded over the wet grass, spinning in circles. Wrecks chased him for a while, but let up when they sensed he was out of range. He pulled up near the Payload and got out long enough to do something in the back of the truck. Several Wrecks were still watching him like proud terriers. Hardwire adjusted the camera. The asshole was a lot closer now, and clearly visible. He was carrying some kind of DIY Ghostbusters gear. There were barrels in the back of the pickup. He stabbed one of them with a long spike. Then he was back in the truck and driving again. He drove in drunken circles. The punctured barrel spilled liquid behind it.

Miller’s face appeared in the hatch above. “Get down there and stop that son of a bitch,” he said. “He’s going to burn them. He’s disrupting our objectives. Giulianova and Ramraid, you’re up.”

He disappeared from view. But Ramraid just stared at Giulianova and said, “Is he serious?” in a low voice. Tam looked at him properly for the first time. He was long-nosed and sharp-chinned and his eyes were watery. He acted like he had his own hidden rationale for everything.

Giulianova, the neat Italian, said, “Just orders, dude,” in a conspiratorial tone. Then he got his backpack and rifle. Ramraid did the same, but he cursed Miller the whole time. They opened the back doors slowly and quietly. They bolted for the Humvee and Hardwire closed the doors.

Tam hoped Caleb would not get shot or burned in all this. Then she wondered if he had already been burned, since this cull seemed to have happened before. He might be in the lake. She hadn’t seen him since she left Rand at the church. Then she realised that part of her still cared about his welfare as a Wreck. Or maybe she just wanted to see him, because she found it impossible to let her lover go so easily.

Something was moving at the edge of the lake. Tam’s heart contracted in terror. A huge mass, nothing like a Wreck, was emerging from the water. Rand said, “Oh, fuck.” Omega Rex had arrived.

At first it looked like a dark jellyfish. Then Tam was reminded of something else: a pile of maggots. On the monitor it was difficult to make out. It was moving very slowly, flowing like tar. It pulled itself onto the shore. Jabba the Hutt. Or something. What? What the fuck was it?

She wanted a better look, so she climbed the ladder to the roof of the truck. Miller gave her a disapproving glance as she emerged, but he didn’t order her back down either. He seemed resigned. “It’s going to be one of those days,” he said. She enjoyed the understatement. Miller graciously handed her the binoculars. She tucked her sanity into bed and looked.

It was nothing more or less than a writhing orgy of dismembered human bodies. Purple muscles, white bones, spasming blue organs. Flexing, undulating, advancing like a giant worm. Jesus Christ, they’d torn themselves apart and stuck back together as a single creature. It was The Blob. But made out of meat. A pile of muscle tissue, able to move by contracting and stretching itself. If there were teeth in there, it could probably still use them…

As Tam watched, the Blob flowed over the Wrecks who still guarded the edge of the lake. They disappeared into it. Just like The Blob, Omega Rex would make the new flesh a part of itself.

That thing’s gotta die,” said Miller. Tam could say nothing. She was hooked on watching Omega Rex. Caleb was in there somewhere but he was no longer himself. Just sliced up strands, each tendon and muscle working in sync with Epsilon Rex’s wishes.

The asshole in the pickup had somehow missed the Blob. Understandable, because it was low to the ground and behind a wall of Wrecks. He was enticing any Wreck nearby to come closer with wild gestures. A bunch of them took up the challenge. The asshole’s single-minded courage was impressive.

He ran back towards he truck, turned and sparked something. He lobbed it. A wall of fire sprang up, and the wall of Wrecks was engulfed.

Aw, come on,” said Miller. The Humvee was only now coming level with the cameras the military had placed earlier. It stopped. Giulianova and Ramraid jumped out. They stood looking at the flames. The asshole was leaping around with joy. He turned and saw the two soldiers with their Humvee. He was not overjoyed at their arrival.

Miller went back inside. Tam didn’t feel safe on her own, so she followed. They looked at the monitors. There were flames and writhing Wrecks in the background. This was what Giulianova and Ramraid were watching. There was no way they could see Omega Rex.