Miller ordered Hardwire to guesstimate Omega Rex’s position based on a straight trajectory and rough speed. Hardwire put his head down and started clicking keys just like in a movie. Tam was impressed. Ten minutes later a more realistic, less Hollywood feeling imposed itself when Miller demanded a progress report. Hardwire threw his arms up and said, “I can’t do it. Honestly? I never tried anything like that before. I’m trying but… it’s not something I’m really good at.”

Luckily, there was one clear choice: a straight road running almost parallel to the way they had seen the Blob exit. It was one of those twenty-mile stretches that connects dead-end towns. If Tam remembered right there was a trailer-park town called Tulip somewhere West, and the road led from there to Saulville in the North. They connected with it and chugged up the road with rolling hills on one side and flat farmland on the other.

Tam was stuck with Rand, Hardwire and Ramraid. Ramraid was the angry one who caused all the trouble. Hardwire, inexperienced tech geek, mostly ignored Tam except for a single, mysterious look where he threw his eyes up and shrugged as if they were all his unruly kids. He was watching screens and communicating with Miller in the Humvee. Sergeant Miller travelled with Giulianova and Zelinski, who was under close watch.

Tam watched Rand. He repeatedly seemed distracted by his own hands. He also rubbed his one eye to clear something from his vision.

It’s getting worse,” said Tam. Rand nodded wryly. For Caleb, eye problems and a strange case of Alien Hand Syndrome had been the first serious symptoms. Rand was being taken over, slowly but surely. A couple of times he sighed: resigned, listless, tragic.

They picked up the trail easily enough. It was a thirty-foot-wide steamrolled track in the grass. It crossed the road, leaving a slime trail. The Humvee slowed and they flagged down the truck. It changed down through the gears as it braked, like a factory dying.

Tam hopped into the passenger seat to see what was going on. Zelinski got out of the Humvee. Miller and Giulianova stood either side of him with their rifles at the ready, watching all the angles. There were Wrecks in the field but they were a half mile away. Zelinski scraped something from the road and hurried back to the Humvee. They were on their way again.

Tam asked to contact the Humvee on the radio. She spoke to Zelinski. “Pieces are falling off it,” he said. “Why? We could say for a theory that as it’s running out of energy, these bits of flesh get discarded.”

In order to meet the trail again, they took a left onto a lesser road. There were grey trees, lonely farmhouses. One of them had “SOS” painted on the side. Tam didn’t ask if there was any chance of them responding to that call.

They met the Omega’s slime trail again sooner than expected. Miller, on the radio, told Hardwire to check the maps and see where they could turn off again. Sooner or later, they had to catch up with it.

They drove on as Hardwire struggled to plot a course. Then, abruptly, they crossed another slime trail. They crunched to a halt. Everyone descended from their vehicles. In a swirling wind amidst the swish of grass, they stood looking at the tunnel of grass that crossed from one field, over the road, into the other.

Two trails,” said Miller. “Two creatures?”

It split in half,” said Zelinski. “Just like bacteria. Why not? Probably hit a critical mass and knew there was enough for two of them.”

Goddamn it,” said Miller. He went to one side to consult with Giulianova. Tam found herself wondering which one of the Blobs was now Caleb. Of course, it was both of them. But that was hard to get her head around. She decided there was an original Omega Rex, and a sort of offspring.

Zelinski had chased down Miller. They were having another argument. It almost rose to a shouting match again before Giulianova intervened. “Skipper,” he said. “We’ve only got one bomb anyway. No matter what happens we can’t destroy both of them, not until we come up with something radical.”

Miller sighed and they all walked back. “Goodbye,” Zelinski said.

What?” said Tam.

He’s giving me the truck, with Ramraid as a driver. We’re splitting up. I’ll find one Omega while you find the other. While you’re blowing up the first, I’m studying the second.”

God almighty, that’s dangerous,” said Rand. He was standing on the back of the truck, above them all. He looked like he was talking from a pulpit. Zelinski just nodded and smiled. It was clearly what he wanted.

Advertisements