Seven watched the being in seat 16b for the whole flight, even when his eyes were closed.
The man—and that term would suffice for now—ordered a mineral water from the cabin crew, and paid cash. He pretended to sleep, earphones in place. Seven focused his auditory senses, listened in to the languid dance mix.
Seven liked the feel of those three words, and stored them for his report. Not that One would care. One was only concerned with the now, and had no interest in language, no interest in culture or history. Short-sighted, Seven thought, although he’d never say that out loud. It wasn’t acceptable to question One.
When they landed, the target exited through the plane’s rear door. The flight attendant with the rough tone to her vowels gave him a nod, and he muttered something that made her smile. But the smile took a moment to appear, and Seven knew the woman was only doing her job.
Seven was intrigued how these humans used duplicity in so much of their lives, yet appeared oblivious to so much subtleness in others. They didn’t even realise that the target was of a totally alien breed.
If it wasn’t for their energy, they would have been exterminated long ago.
The target, like Seven, only had a small back-pack, which would no doubt only contain enough clothing and sundries to avoid awkward questions—just something to fit in. There was nothing to distinguish the target from anyone else as he headed to passport control.
Seven bent to tighten a shoelace, using the distraction to make a few alterations to his appearance before joining the queue behind the target. A few more changes, and he’d match the image on his passport. Not exactly, of course—Seven had almost been caught out before. The humans distrusted perfection.
The target had morphed too—darker hair, stockier build. He approached the bored-looking official in the cubicle, who glanced at the target’s passport, then at the man, and slid the document back across the counter. His expression only changed when the target smiled and uttered a few words.
Seven only caught the general feel of the words—one of those meaningless phrases the humans often used. Something else that annoyed One, but Seven was disappointed he hadn’t heard it. He needed to learn as much as possible, then he might be more comfortable amongst the hosts, just like the target was.
Because the target, and all that breed, were masters. It was fascinating to watch how they operated. When Seven observed those interactions referred to as ‘grooming’ he was enraptured by the mystery, by the skillful play on the strange emotions of these so-called homo-sapiens. It was pure artistry, watching the target blend in. He even replicated their olfactory emissions.
But there was much of interest in the hosts, too. They possessed an uncultured charm—when a passenger collided with Seven, the colourful use of words meant to offend were akin to poetry. Their whole existence was filled with contradiction, even to the core. They fought for life while destroying so much. They wanted peace but wrought so much pain. And through all this, they possessed that elusive energy those like Seven so desperately needed.
Of course, that would reduce in the upcoming cull, and portioning it out would become a far more exacting process. Was it any wonder that One was suspicious of this new breed? Such a finite supply could not be shared.
But they couldn’t act too soon. They needed information, and that was why those like Seven watched and learnt.
The target had taken a female form now, with impractically long hair and the uniform of one of the many flight companies. Seven followed, along a quieter corridor, where an official rested by an unmarked door. The target brushed the man’s arm in passing, and the man’s face reddened even as he smiled. Flirting, it was called, and Seven once more marvelled at the target’s assimilation of the host’s mannerism. His actions appeared effortless, and almost unconscious.
There was so much to learn here. But observations would yield only partial results. Seven needed to get closer.
The target sashayed along a corridor, then to a train platform. Seven followed, features now ruggedly handsome, suit of the highest quality. The target turned, offered a smile, and Seven nodded, forcing himself to meet the target’s liquid eyes. The target raised an eyebrow, which was clearly some kind of sign, then turned to the approaching train.
Seven followed her into the carriage. There was a moment of hesitation—was it correct to approach so soon after first eye contact?—then took the seat opposite the target. She said something, the words dissolving in the air, and Seven thought he responded, although he couldn’t recall his exact words.
Then the target reached across, resting a hand on Seven’s knee. Pheremones spread into the stale air of the carriage, and Seven felt a warmth unlike any he’d felt before.
Seven stared into the target’s face, such a perfect replication of beauty in the eyes of the hosts. It was, truly, a work of wonder, and Seven yearned to ask how it was done. Seven ached to extract all the target’s secrets, to learn such exquisite mastery.
“Would you like to know more?” the target said, her voice rich and soft.
Yes. Of course he would. He wanted to know how to force air from the lungs with such control over the mouth that words tasted so smooth. He wanted to know how it was possible to exert such fine motor control that every move seemed almost hypnotic. He wanted to know everything he could about this wonderful, god-like breed.
And when the flight attendant disembarked the train, she walked with a colleague, a new number for the team.
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