The Humvee drilled a path down from the campsite, across the grass, towards the lake. Halfway there was the Payload, a small metal framework with cameras and aerials attached to it. It stood on top of a metal box. This was full of high explosives. Everyone stood around the bank of screens that Hardwire was nursing. Tam climbed the ladder to the roof of the truck to see the action live.
Several zombie orgies were taking place and the Humvee didn’t come under threat at all. It was weird to see the change in the Wrecks’ behaviour. Their sudden initiative to turn themselves into minced meat must have come from somewhere. Maybe the Cause turned Epsilon Rex into a Hive Mind. Did it get more intelligent? Or was that the point of The Blob, Omega Rex? If only she had time and space to answer some questions, for Caleb’s sake. But she wasn’t getting it. She was tired. Dog tired.
Frankenbogart surprised her as he popped out of the hatch beside her. He asked for the binoculars. She gave them to him. He checked out the scene with professional detachment. After a while he said, “So, what’s your part in this team?”
“I have none,” she said, and sighed. “My boyfriend was turned. I’ve been following him.”
“For what?” said Frankenbogart.
Tam didn’t know. She shook her head. This line of conversation made her uncomfortable. “We met you recently,” she said. “When my boyfriend was still alive. You were collecting gas. We ran down some Wrecks in a car.”
“Oh, yeah,” he said. Maybe just being polite.
“What’s your goal, then?” said Tam. He looked at her and frowned. “You’re taking big risks. You got yourself infected. Why, if you don’t mind me asking?”
He had noticeably flinched when she mentioned his infection. But now he looked at her like she was amusingly stupid. “Do you really need to ask?” he said. “We’re being trashed by zombies. It’s a war. We’ve gotta kill them all. Anything else is just jerking off. If you’re not against them then you’re with them, that’s what I say.”
Tam looked through the binoculars and pretended to be absorbed by Miller and Giulianova dismantling the Payload for transport. She was twisted in knots by the conversation she’d just had. She didn’t know what the hell she was doing here, why she was doing it, and why she wasn’t busy killing Wrecks every chance she could get. Why let Caleb continue to exist? It she’d acted sooner she could have given him a respectable burial or at least burned him up. Now he was reduced to slithery alien flesh, one part of a primordial monster. An ingredient in the fucking zombie stew. Here, meanwhile, was a young man who had destroyed hundreds of the things, probably saved untold lives and maybe made a difference in the fight against the plague. She felt confused, and ashamed.
“Anyway, keep your mouth shut,” said Frankenbogart. Tam looked at him, shocked, only to see him put a finger to his lips in a mischievous way. He tip-toed to the back of the roof and lowered his legs over the edge. Tam couldn’t think of a reason to take a side against him on this. He looked down and gingerly climbed off the roof and was gone.
The truck’s engine started. Probably just as well, since the smaller Omega Rex Blobs could start acting out any moment.
“We’re leaving,” Zelinski shouted unnecessarily. “Come down here, Tam. You too, man.”
“He’s gone,” Tam shouted into the hatch. “He made a break for it.” Far from over-reacting, Hardwire and Zelinski glanced at each other and let it go without a word. Tam came down the ladder. Zelinski embarrassingly took her arm at the bottom. Then the truck lurched into action. It reversed laboriously and aimed for the road out.
“Find a route, Hardwire,” said Ramraid. The tech turned his attention from cameras to GPS. Tam, Zelinski and Rand looked at the monitors.
There was Frankenbogart, charging down the slope towards his pickup. He was going to come pretty close to an evolving pile of Epsilon Rex flesh. Much to the amazement of all watching, he went out of his way to attack it. He sprayed it with gasoline and then lit it up.
“What is he doing?” said Zelinski.
“At least he’s doing something,” said Tam.
Rand looked at her with his one remaining eye. “And we never even knew his name,” he droned. Tam was about to start an argument, but she put a lid on it. She couldn’t back up her instincts with facts. She just felt wasted, in every sense. Whatever she’d been pursuing, it was gone. And most likely, it hadn’t ever been worth it.