Caleb couldn’t think straight. He was a shadow of his former self. He was slower, weaker. Fire. Constant attacks from unpredictable sources. He had been worn away, like a warrior stripped of his weapons and armour. He didn’t occupy the physical area he would like, not any more. He was, in fact, almost crippled.
The fibres of his host body were overworked. And his aura seemed thin. He could barely feel the world around him.
There were no Wrecks helping him connect with the world. The only Wrecks he had come across recently were mysterious enemies, brainwashed by some different programming. They were only fuel now, where he could find them.
He needed to eat. Eat and grow. He guessed the mass of three human beings should do it, for a start. There was fire around him. But also a fresh trail. Blood on the ground. It was better than nothing. He followed the scent, and picked up more as he crawled. It was a familiar trail. He had tasted it before. It made him briefly drunk where he touched it. Still, he was driven forward by the thought of that fuel. All those grinding bones and tightening muscles and cooling fluids.
There was a sound. He didn’t hear it so much as he felt the waves against his flesh. It was the call of a living human. It meant nothing to him. But then fire was coughed up from the ground near him. The heat against his flesh, and the smoke, made him flinch like a giant water balloon. There was evil, death and sickness, in those flames. By now he was becoming far too familiar with the effects. He pushed himself to move faster.
A wall stood in his way. He tried to find a crack, a weakness. He gripped the lip of a horizontal edge, tested what he found there. It was a window. When he slammed it, the glass broke. He heaved himself through, widening the gap as he lifted and pulled and pushed the millions of fibres. At least, it had been millions once.
The angry imps outside pursued him with fire but he escaped them. He pulled a panel aside and found an old fireplace. He climbed the walls of the chimney by filling the space and pushing outwards for grip. The effort took time. But Omega was not concerned. Time, and struggle, were not variables that caused it to react with emotion and change its mind about decisions. Only its goals, which were survival, reproduction and improvement. And the danger that could prevent it from achieving those goals.
A panel, like the first, broke under the pressure of his body as he climbed. He crawled through the gap. He flattened himself on the floor to cover a wide area, and tried to pick up the scent of his prey. Or any prey.
The bloody footsteps came up a flight of stairs, crossed his path and wandered fitfully through several corridors. He was attuned to the freshness of human blood. This blood wasn’t as easy to read, though. It was neutralised, somehow. Almost sterile. Maybe he should just give this one up.
He paused to think. Unexpectedly, he discovered that his mind was enriched by new voices. They were the Wrecks he had eaten. They belonged to another Omega. One with different ideas about the direction evolution should take.
The voices said, “The prey are afraid of us. Fear makes them fly. They are better than us at quick movement and often escape. To prevent them from fleeing, show a less threatening form. They are not afraid of each other. Behave like them. Pretend to communicate. Send messages of calmness and safety to oppose the fear. The host’s brain still contains the scaffolding of their emotions, and how they communicate them. If they receive message of calmness, produced in their own way, they will accept you and come close to you. Then you can capture them by ambush.”
This idea seemed to have worked for the Enemy Wrecks. Their mind was now part of his own. So they were trying to help him with this.
Unfortunately, Caleb’s current host was a pulverised blob of shapeless flesh. He had no mouth, or any of those organs used to speak.
But his form was superior in many ways. He was capable of astonishing feats. And he had experienced sound and speech. It was just a series of waves.
He remembered the shape feeling of the waves on his flesh. He asked the massed minds in his host body to recall words the living humans used to suggest calm and security. He made his flesh quiver, pulsing. It was like a spasm, but tiny and spread across the surface of his whole body.
At first he sensed that the vibration was wrong. He tried again. It didn’t work. But he knew that he could. He refined the pulses in each fibre, making them incredibly fast and crafted.
“It’s okay.” The waves emanated from him and he felt them reverberate from the walls. It worked. He was talking.