Caleb’s mind had expanded. It had catapulted to a new level. He certainly felt good. The new body he found himself in was far superior. As a Wreck, he had been a human host controlled by the mind of Ep Rex. But now, he was the mind and the body. His consciousness was in every fibre of Omega. As a Wreck, his senses had reported their discoveries to his mind. As Omega, his mind and senses overlapped. The thought process was happening throughout the entire thing. If he had been prone to labelling himself, Caleb might have thought of this new form as something like a giant, feeling brain.

Omega was the fruit of an evolution. That job was done. The struggle of infecting human hosts, questing for answers and gathering at the Cause had all been for one thing: to create a perfect form of Ep Rex that could not be improved. And this was it.

With his expansive new intelligence, Caleb thought about what he now was. He had been created as a simple entity with a complex function. He grew slowly, but cleverly. At first there was only Quantum, the bridge between virtual everything and real nothing. He spent generations as a Slave, his only task to carry parts of Quantum over huge distances. After the second transformation, he became the Warrior. In this form he learned the best host, ate its Essence and turned it into his own. By evolving again he created Epsilon Rex, the semi-intelligent entity capable of taking over a human body.

The Omega could do things better. It overcame many of the limitations of Epsilon Rex. But in its new form Wrecks were its Warriors. Omega was the King. It had to send out new instructions. When it first became aware, Omega had broadcast its perfection in a sort of ecstasy. That made Wrecks jump to try the same thing. But Caleb knew now that numbers were important. Too few and the Wrecks ended up in a slow-moving mass of offal. It took a critical mass, about a hundred Wrecks, to create a fully-functional Omega. From now on, he would not make the same mistake.

Caleb felt and heard his surroundings as he moved. His aura was like the aura of Wrecks in a group, but multiplied. Through it, he sensed everything nearby. He could “hear” living, organic and inorganic objects anywhere within an area twice his size. Wrecks within the area provided him with a limited second-hand vision, but he felt he didn’t need it.

A short-range message would be specific and complex. Beyond the range of his aura, Wrecks could pass it on to each other. But this would fade over distance. The Slave could carry a simple message over great distances. As simple as telling Wrecks that there was danger, or reward, or prey in a certain direction. Omega sent its instructions.

The message was phenomenally powerful and clear. It was broadcast to all the Wrecks within the limits of its aura.

Omega pushed on across the countryside in a straight line. It was vaguely aware of population density, both of Wrecks and prey, over a wide area. But it continued outward from the source of its creation like a piece of shrapnel from an explosion.

Soon, it was surrounded by a small cluster of Wrecks. This was good. They had advantages if Omega was attacked.

Caleb sensed prey coming closer. Wrecks had adopted their new set of instructions and brought him a living, breathing person. Caleb was hungry, but also curious. He had never tried this before.

The prey was nervously weaving towards him. It saw the Omega for the first time. It screamed, and involuntarily projected liquids from every hole in its body. It tried to get away with spasmodic movements. The Wrecks caught it and immobilised it by breaking major bones. Still breathing, it was carried to the Omega.

The Wrecks threw the human down. Omega rolled over it and pulled it inside. Millions of grinding bones and teeth went to work on the body. It squirmed a bit but there was no risk of escape. Omega opened up the prey, pulled it apart and spread the pieces throughout itself. In tiny slivers, the prey was infused with the Omega’s Essence. The Essence went to work on taking over each piece as if it was a miniature host. It was a far simpler job than the old form of infection, because there was a lot of Essence in contact with all those cells. Omega kept moving as the job was underway. After a while the flesh, bone, brain and organs were all Omega. This was the triumph of Omega Rex: to transform a human being into part of itself, without incubation, in less than a minute.

Caleb was satisfied.