The Blob moved down the street. No more Wrecks came to interfere with it. A dog barked at it but the Omega ignored him.

Does he look smaller to you?” said Tam. Maybe it was the airbourne point of view, but she was sure it looked different. Rand looked at her curiously, and Kosik seemed to be thinking about throwing her out in the next instant. “What?” said Tam.

Rand said, “It’s interesting that you refer to that mess as he.”

She didn’t think of it as a he. And she didn’t know why she’d used that word, or why everyone was making such a big deal out of it. But she couldn’t take it back. “Anyway, I think Miller’s men might have done some damage to it before it got them,” said Tam.

They used grenades on it,” said Kosik. Down below, several shapes emerged into the street. They quickly congregated and ran away. Their movements looked human. But some Wrecks were breaking the rules recently when it came to acting human.

Then Kosik looked at her watch. She knocked twice on the back of the pilot’s seat. Abruptly, the chopper lurched sideways and veered away from the small town, the streetlights, the Blob.

What are you doing?” said Tam.

Sorry kid, we’re off the clock,” said Kosik. The light from the town was fading fast. There was nothing but the monster-green of the chopper’s instruments. Tam couldn’t bear it. She was accelerating away from her purpose by the second.

What are you talking about?” she yelled. “We’ve got to finish the Omega before it gets bigger and splits again!”

I’m not here to fight,” said Kosik. “I’m here to catalogue. What I’ve got to do is debrief my superiors on this new Omega, and refuel the helicopter, and let a new pilot take over before this one falls asleep at the wheel.” Something about her old, stern face told Tam that no consideration, either emotional or rational, would make her think outside the box.

Put this thing down, I’m getting out,” said Tam.

That’s not a good idea, Tamara,” said Rand.

I saw some people. I’ll help them fight it. Or they’ll help me. Whatever. I’m not leaving.”

Well, I can’t justify putting you in contact with Epsilon Rex where it can be avoided,” Kosik said, with a bureaucratic tone Tam knew how to combat. She looked at Kosik as if her words were amusing. She didn’t say a word.

Kosik thought about it, and the seconds ticked away. Then she told the pilot to turn around and head back. They approached the little town from the other side, and the helicopter descended about a half mile out.

I’ll go too,” said Rand.

You must be joking,” said Kosik.

Sorry,” said Rand. He shrugged. “I work for myself now.”

The chopper landed on the road and Tam got out without looking at Kosik. Rand followed. Tam helped him down. His remaining eye didn’t focus easily. Kosik shouted something to him but it was lost in the scream of the rotors. They walked away in a flurry of dust as the helicopter rose like an angel and steered away.

This is too dangerous,” said Tam. They were already heading for the lights of the town.

I have nothing to lose,” said Rand. “And I can help.” He seemed to be able to walk okay. No guarantee that he could run, though.

The night was desperately quiet as they walked towards the orange-lit buildings. They talked about the Omega’s weaknesses: fire, explosions, chilli. “It didn’t eat Zelinski for some reason,” said Tam.

Maybe that stuff he injected into us works,” said Rand. Zelinski had, indeed, injected himself, Tam and Rand with some chilli-based painkiller that he said might inoculate them. She didn’t buy it at the time.

As the street came into full view, Tam saw the low, glistening form of the Omega Rex. A rolling mound of human flesh and bone. “There it is,” she said. They stopped to assess it before getting any closer. The Blob seemed to be searching buildings, probing doors and windows.

Then there was a small burst of flame and smoke. A guy jumped out of an upstairs window onto a car roof and ran away. The Blob flinched, moved away from the fire.

Tam tried to urge Rand into a jog. He wasn’t too steady on his feet. She held his hand and forced him to keep up. They came to the edge of the town.

It was dominated by a huge town hall or museum, which lorded over some restaurants in the middle of a round green. The Blob was coming towards Tam and Rand. But then a slow arc of flame came from the door of the overinflated museum. It was a Molotov, and it exploded close enough to the Omega that it showered the creature with fire.

Goddamn, they’re really taking it on,” said Tam.

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