Michael looked … different. Nora-Ceph couldn’t really put her finger on it, but everything in her brain screamed that something was wrong. Had she been a human and not known what was going on, it would have greatly confused her. But of course, she knew. This wasn’t Michael.
”How are you dealing with the transition?” She asked, giving him a warm smile. He stretched.
”Feels weird, only two arms and legs”, Michael-Ceph said, then moved a hand in front of his face to examine the fingers attached to it. ”Humans are weird. How did you deal with it?”
”Badly, at first. Handling memories is a bit tricky”, she confessed. ”They only tend to appear when triggered.”
”Oh, that explains a lot”, Michael-Ceph said.
”Seeing you has brought some very … interesting memories which this host apparently has. I’m not sure if you’re aware of all of them. And the emotions attached to them …”
Nora-Ceph knew. She had now spent enough time analyzing her host’s memories to have discovered most missing pieces. Spending time at her place of work had helped, the presence of familiar faces had made it possible to piece together a life. She still dreaded meeting Nora’s family for the first time. There would be questions, this was, after all, the third weekend she spent on Luna 3 instead of her home colony, Luna 2. @suesa
”Did I offend you?” Michael-Ceph asked, displaying worry on his face. ”I wasn’t aware that this might be a difficult topic, but now that I think about it …”
”Oh, no, no that’s not it. I’m sorry, my thoughts just wandered a bit. And yes, I share those … memories. It seems like our hosts had a rather intense relationship when they were still alive.”
”That’s one way to phrase it.” He laughed and sounded a lot like Michael. It gave Nora-Ceph goosebumps and she had to close her eyes. This wasn’t Michael. It was a fellow Ceph. One of the good guys. He was just inhabiting this body, this human form. Just like she was.
Nora-Ceph took a deep breath and tried to calm herself.
”Did you settle in alright?”
”You mean if I hold all the power my host used to hold? Yes, that worked quite well. Nobody seems to suspect anything, although I was forced to act like a complete asshole.” The frustration in his voice eased Nora-Ceph’s mind. He was still one of the good guys, Michael’s memories had not influenced his character. Not yet at least.
”Then we will continue with the plan?”
”Can you really call it a plan?” Michael-Ceph asked. ”I feel like we’ve been doing everything here on a day to day basis like nobody actually knows where we want to go or what our goal is.” Nora-Ceph frowned.
”You know that’s not true! We were forced to work with what we got to avoid being detected.”
”Sure, but imagine if Nora hadn’t been captured? Or if Michael had killed her?”
*”Why would he kill her?” Nora-Ceph made a step back, away from the desk Michael-Ceph was sitting behind.
”Didn’t you know? Michael was thinking about killing Nora just as much as he was thinking about fucking her. That guy was truly psychotic. And if he had gone through with it, we would be back to zero again. Worse, we would have lost you!”
Slowly, Nora-Ceph forced herself to go back to the desk and this time, she sat down in the chair in front of it. Just like last time, when she had visited Michael …
”Maybe you’re right. It’s about time we got more organized. But this is a unique opportunity! Your host already has a project planned that is for the Cephs. He had planned to unofficially use it for something else, but how many people know about that? We can just use the plans and nobody will suspect anything. Imagine, a protected Ceph community on the outskirts of Luna 3! The opportunities!”
”Not sure if that’s going to be as easy as you hope. There are people funding this, and I don’t think they’d be too happy to see their money go to the Cephs”, Michael-Ceph pointed out.
”Guess we’ll start phase 2 then.”
”What better time than now?”
The meeting with the investors happened on Monday after Nora-Ceph had been reunited with Michael-Ceph. Ten people were sitting around a big table, Nora-Ceph among them. She got some weird looks. Everyone knew she was an outsider, didn’t belong here. Not because she was a Ceph, they couldn’t know that. Or at least so she hoped. No, Nora-Ceph wasn’t one of the investors, she didn’t look like she’d have enough money. So of course, everyone was wondering what she was doing here.
They didn’t know that she was here to make sure they didn’t leave before Michael-Ceph was back. Right at this moment, the whole floor was being cleared of human employees and completely replaced by hosts with Cephs. None of the people in this room would leave with their brains intact.
The door opened without a sound and all eyes were focused on Michael-Ceph, who entered the room.
”My dear Ladies and Gentlemen! I’m sorry to have let you wait, but there is something very important that needs my immediate attention – and the attention of my wonderful assistant. Nora, would you be so kind to accompany me for a moment?”
That was the sign. Nora-Ceph stood up from her chair, gave the investors a friendly nod and smile and left the room with Michael-Ceph, who closed the door.
”Go”, he said into a tiny button microphone attached to his collar. A hissing sound followed, as the room which they had just left was flooded with a narcotic. Only moments later, they could hear several limp bodies drop to the floor.
A group of people came around the corner and approached Nora-Ceph and Michael-Ceph. They stopped in front of the two.
”Medical team reports for duty”, one of them said, then looked over to Nora-Ceph. She had never seen that much pain and happiness in a human face at the same time. ”Good to see you again”, the Ceph said. ”I was worried.”
”Q … Quelz?” Nora-Ceph stuttered. A fist seemed to close around her heart. She counted the members of the medical team. Eight. 7 arms and one brain. Everything that had been left of the Ceph she had belonged to before she had been implanted into her human host. She started to feel sick.
”I wasn’t sure if I should tell you that I … we opted for complete assimilation. There just aren’t enough of us if we all just donate one arm.”
Complete assimilation, it meant that every part of a Ceph was placed in a different human host, which meant the original Ceph was gone for good. There had been one or two Cephs Nora-Ceph had heard of who had done that but … Quelz had always regarded it as too dangerous. Something not right.
”What changed your mind?” She asked.
”We missed you. It just wasn’t the same. We… Quelz became deeply depressed and decided this was the only way to fix things.”
”I hate to interrupt this reunion”, Michael-Ceph said, and he really seemed to mean it, ”but we have ten humans in there who need to be handled as soon as possible if we want this to go smoothly. You should get to work.”
The medical team gave him a confirming nod, put on gas masks and entered the room.
Nora-Ceph felt a weird emptiness in her chest.