Caleb could feel and hear in many places at once. It was natural to these senses. Epsilon Rex had cast a wide net of perception. He didn’t focus on one area. Instead, if he sensed something the parts of himself closest to it would react. The sensations, and the responses, were the same as ever. He found prey, and chased it down. When he sensed danger, he backed away. If it had to be destroyed, he would. Omega Rex worked smoothly, and Caleb sensed continual growth and movement. It was satisfying.
He rolled into a different landscape. Cool, damp grass became dryer. The soil was poor and his senses suffered. To feel things at a distance he needed the Slave, and it wasn’t thriving. He felt half-blind. His aura was patchy in places.
But with nothing calling him in another direction, he carried on. The ground tumbled away. He had to navigate around the empty space. He could not see what was at the bottom but if it was danger, he didn’t want to fall into it. He crawled and oozed around rocks, crossing rough ground.
A few Warriors came within range of his message. He now thought of all Wrecks as Warriors, where he was the King. He told them to come to him, feed him and protect him and bring him news with their extra senses.
The Wrecks responded strangely. They had been given their orders by another Omega. A different kind. This King had evolved, like Caleb. But somehow, it had different priorities and had become something else. The Wrecks returned a message to Caleb that would read something like, “We don’t do that any more. We have a vision. It’s the only thing we want now. We must keep moving.”
This was new to Caleb, and as a heaving nightmare of human treacle he wasn’t good with changes in the rules. He send another message, an inquiry. He was testing the Warriors to know what they really were, since they were not what he he had first assumed exactly. Epsilon Rex, yes — an extension of his own body, apparently not.
“We go to the place where the prey are collected,” they said. The city, in other words. “We have seen their vulnerability. We have seen how we can make ourselves greater. We will gather them, and make ourselves a cloud. When they are close, this is a way to recruit them.”
Caleb could imagine this process, because part of himself had endured it. In a populated area, they would not attack anyone but wait until they were surrounded by prey. Then they would focus their Essence on one part of the body, probably the head. By causing it to overheat and explode, they would produce a small, short-lived cloud of pure Ep Rex that could infect anyone nearby. But Ep Rex itself had always rejected the strategy before. Somewhere, an Omega had seen it working and made it the primary tactic for its Warriors.
They left, unwilling to accept Caleb’s orders over the ones they had already been given. If they had been closer, Caleb could have attacked and eaten them. But they could probably outrun him. They disappeared. Caleb kept moving. The air got colder. It was night.
He found himself rolling through the floor of a valley. Walls on either side. Rough, natural, enormous. He could feel their presence deep underground. Caleb was alerted to movement. The ground shook slightly. It stopped. He heard sounds. Human sounds. But he couldn’t narrow them down to a location before they faded also.
A wall of fire leaped up right in front of him. Caleb retreated. More fire behind. He didn’t know where it had come from but he quickly worked out that he was sandwiched between the two walls of a small canyon, with the entrance and exit both blocked by fire.
He sensed human presences on top of the rocks, looking down. They knew they had him trapped.
But Caleb was always willing to test the limits of his new form. He tried to slide up the wall. It didn’t work. Gravity crushed him back down. Something else. He found a ledge. His flesh was too heavy to pull up. He oriented the fibres of his body in one direction and pushed upwards in a wave, making him jump into the air. But the wall of the canyon was too high. The humans made sounds of alarm but kept watching.
Caleb tried many more techniques, asking his shape what it was capable of doing. Suddenly, he sensed a kind of success. When he oozed a part of himself into a gap in the rock, it was wedged in. He was able to roll more cells on top. The gap was filled from the bottom up with Omega. Then he drew up the fibres at the bottom, causing them to climb through to the top. He didn’t fall. It wasn’t fast, but it worked. He climbed a crack in the stone and emerged on the surface.