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The Host (The Host #1)

By´╝ÜStephenie Meyer

interfere with my job."

Still slowly surfacing, acclimating myself to this new world of senses, I understood only now that I was the subject of the conversation. I was the soul they spoke of. It was a new connotation to the word, a word that had meant many other things to my host. On every planet we took a different name. Soul. I suppose it was an apt description. The unseen force that guides the body.

"The answers to my questions matter as much as your responsibilities to the soul."

"That's debatable."

There was the sound of movement, and her voice was suddenly a whisper. "When will she become responsive? The sedation must be about to wear off."

"When she's ready. Leave her be. She deserves to handle the situation however she finds most comfortable. Imagine the shock of her awakening - inside a rebel host injured to the point of death in the escape attempt! No one should have to endure such trauma in times of peace!" His voice rose with the increase of emotion.

"She is strong." The woman's tone was reassuring now. "See how well she did with the first memory, the worst memory. Whatever she expected, she handled this."

"Why should she have to?" the man muttered, but he didn't seem to expect an answer.

The woman answered anyway. "If we're to get the information we need -"

"Need being your word. I would choose the term want."

"Then someone must take on the unpleasantness," she continued as if he had not interrupted. "And I think, from all I know of this one, she would accept the challenge if there had been any way to ask her. What do you call her?"

The man didn't speak for a long moment. The woman waited.

"Wanderer," he finally and unwillingly answered.

"Fitting," she said. "I don't have any official statistics, but she has to be one of the very few, if not the only one, who has wandered so far. Yes, Wanderer will suit her well until she chooses a new name for herself."

He said nothing.

"Of course, she may assume the host's name. . . . We found no matches on record for the fingerprints or retinal scan. I can't tell you what that name was."

"She won't take the human name," the man muttered.

Her response was conciliatory. "Everyone finds comfort their own way."

"This Wanderer will need more comfort than most, thanks to your style of Seeking."

There were sharp sounds - footsteps, staccato against a hard floor. When she spoke again, the woman's voice was across the room from the man.

"You would have reacted poorly to the early days of this occupation," she said.

"Perhaps you react poorly to peace."

The woman laughed, but the sound was false - there was no real amusement. My mind seemed well adapted to inferring the true meanings from tones and inflections.

"You do not have a clear perception of what my Calling entails. Long hours hunched over files and maps. Mostly desk work. Not very often the conflict or violence you seem to think it is."

"Ten days ago you were armed with killing weapons, running this body down."

"The exception, I assure you, not the rule. Do not forget, the weapons that disgust you are turned on our kind wherever we Seekers have not been vigilant enough. The humans kill us happily whenever they have the ability to do so. Those whose lives have been touched by the hostility see us as heroes."

"You speak as if a war were raging."

"To the remains of the human race, one is."

These words were strong in my ears. My body reacted to them; I felt my breathing speed, heard the sound of my heart pumping louder than was usual. Beside the bed I lay on, a machine registered the increases with a muted beeping. The Healer and the Seeker were too involved in their disagreement to notice.

"But one that even they must realize is long lost. They are outnumbered by what? A million to one? I imagine you would know."

"We estimate the odds are quite a bit higher in our favor," she admitted grudgingly.

The Healer appeared to be content to let his side of the disagreement rest with that information. It was quiet for a moment.

I used the empty time to evaluate my situation. Much was obvious.

I was in a Healing facility, recovering from an unusually traumatic insertion. I was sure the body that hosted me had been fully healed before it was given to me. A damaged host would have been disposed of.

I considered the conflicting opinions of the Healer and the Seeker. According to the information I had been given before making the choice to come here, the Healer had the right of it. Hostilities with the few remaining pockets of humans were all but over. The planet called Earth was as peaceful and serene as it looked from space, invitingly green and blue, wreathed in its harmless white vapors. As was the way of the soul, harmony was universal now.

The verbal dissension between the Healer and the Seeker was out of character. Strangely aggressive for our kind. It made me wonder. Could they be true, the whispered rumors that had undulated like waves through the thoughts of the . . . of the . . .

I was distracted, trying to find the name for my last host species. We'd had a name, I knew that. But, no longer connected to that host, I could not remember the word. We'd used much simpler language than this, a silent language of thought that connected us all into one great mind. A necessary convenience when one was rooted forever into the wet black soil.

I could describe that species in my new human language. We lived on the floor of the great ocean that covered the entire surface of our world - a world that had a name, too, but that was also gone. We each had a hundred arms and on each arm a thousand eyes, so that, with our thoughts connected, not one sight in the vast waters went unseen. There was no need for sound, so there was no way to hear it. We tasted the waters, and, with our sight, that told us all we needed to know. We tasted the suns, so many lea