I’m sorry about your friends,” Tam said to Giulianova. It was the first time she’d met him since they were killed. They were now part of the primordial machine of Omega Rex. Or bits of them, at least.

Me too,” said Giulianova. That sounded like enough, but he went on. “Well… I’ll miss Hardwire. Ramraid was a douchebag prick.” Tam was about to say that nobody, even your worst enemy, deserves what happened to them. But Miller ran across the street in front of them. He signaled to Giulianova. The Corporal started up the Humvee, which was like being roared at by a lion. They followed Miller down a side street to an old-style motel. It was called The Mainstay. There was a retro sign made out of a plastic bubble around a neon light.

The Humvee rumbled into the car park. Giulianova got out to confer with Miller. Tam gave a warning glance to Zelinski. He was sitting still like a Zen monk. Or someone whose brain has turned to jelly.

She got out. There was a fresh breeze, like brand new air being pumped in. On the horizon, some purple clouds were trying to suppress the inevitable advance of the sun. Yellow and blue stripes brightened a patch of the sky. Dawn.

Miller had followed the Blob’s trail. Giulianova fished some equipment out of the back of the Humvee. Tam approached the Sergeant. “You should stay here,” he said. “Watch the doc.”

Watch him do what?” said Tam. “I don’t want to.” By now she was so weary, it was impossible for her to put more effort into an excuse. Miller sighed, and said nothing more. He wasn’t going to make her stay. She saw now how tired he was aswell.

A bald pensioner and a middle-aged man in a biker jacket turned up. It was Mayer and his nephew. They looked like someone else in the encroaching sunlight. Miller led the way.

Tam could see the trail, which looked like blood clots and thin mucus. The Blob seemed to have tested several doors before going around to the back. The soldiers went with their rifles pointed ahead, but without the mechanical strut of SWAT guys and soldiers from the movies.

The Motel’s windows were boarded up. It was backed by a neat lawn and a view of wheat fields and distant hills. There was a swimming pool, a barbeque and a massive flatscreen TV for some reason. All of them were derelict. The pool was empty. Giulianova made a “huhn” sound. Miller followed him and made a sound of his own: a kind of hiss that suggested particularly beautiful Schadenfreude.

The Omega had fallen into the empty pool and couldn’t get out. It busily slithered around in circles, just like a spider in the bath. Hard to believe this was the same creature that had attempted to communicate with Tam in English, and almost driven her mad, a short time ago.

It was just a flat lump the size of a small dog. It moved slowly, with no purpose. It searched the same area repeatedly. It was almost able to reach a ladder but didn’t seem to realise how close it was. Everyone watched it silently, like the Elephant Man. As they watched, Miller nudged Mayer and the leader of the platoon of pensioners handed him something. Miller took careful aim and threw it. The bottle smashed and showered the Blob with liquid.

The Omega didn’t show any sign of being troubled. It carried on moving slowly around the curved surface of the floor of the pool. Miller said one word, “Flashbang.” Giulianova found something that looked like a small, dark can of beer and handed it to Miller. The Sergeant pulled a pin out of it and threw it at the Blob. “Don’t look,” he said. Everyone turned away.

But Tam couldn’t stop herself looking. How could she not look at this? Then Miller grabbed her arm and spun her round so roughly she was momentarily stunned. There was a sharp explosion and the area was lit up by a flare. Giulianova wasn’t looking away: he shielded his eyes with his arm but made sure the Blob wasn’t leaping over the fence.

The flare subsided. They looked again. The flashbang had lit the fuel as well as doing its own damage. A dull orange flame licked the side of the pool and the blue tiles were black. In the middle of it was a charred pudding. Giulianova pointed his assault rifle carefully and fired one shot. Pieces flew off the Omega but it was toast. They watched it burn for another while.

Tell you what, I need a fucking beer,” said Miller. Everyone laughed. They sounded like the wisest people in the world after a tragedy. And they felt like it.

I need to go home,” said Tam. She surprised herself by saying it.

Come on,” said Miller. “We’ll see what we can do.”

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