"A man without a memory can be supplied with one."
- Jon Polito
"A mech without a mammary can be supplied with two."
"*unintelligible backwards garbling with walkie talkie noises*"
- The Zombine, Half-Life 2
"Do you remember where you parked the car?"
- Goldie Hawn, Death Becomes Her
Belzeber was head of Sphere Corporation security, and Sophia wasn't heading anywhere the company didn't want her. The teenage wannabe biological form and her gang of roaming computer viruses had escaped their digital artificial world and thought they could tell their creators what to do. It was time to take this little fleabag down to the vet.
Belzeber was a tall but pale and effeminate man dressed in company uniform somewhat resembling a butler's suit. He specialized in riot control and fought mainly with a baton that phase shifted into a plasma chain. His second-in-command, Berial, was a dark-skinned man in a darker trench coat. He was the demolitions expert and had an affinity for always shielding his eyes behind sleek sunglasses. Had he been the higher ranking officer, he would have insisted on calling their team Salt-N-Pepa 2. 0.
They had bottled these bugs in a wide open generator room halfway up SphereCo's central mainframe. The open space gave Belzeber the freedom to stretch out his whip while Berial fired off the energy bazooka he impossibly stored in his coat. This battle between the ruthless guardians of reality and the escaped vermin of the simulated world had been raging for several minutes.
Acting in a moment of tactical unison, Berial tossed an electro-grenade on middle of the floor while Belzeber began to spin his plasma chain over his head in a neon tornado. Nel and Peppita nimbly dodged out of the way but were blinded when the trigger went off. Albel and Fayt were instantly knocked out cold in the explosion. The shockwave sent Cliff sailing backwards until his spine crashed into the wall and he roughly slid down to the floor into a seated position. Maria and Adray went flying in two other directions.
Sophia was the only one still on her feet. She was standing further back than the others and had already committed herself to one of her spellcharming dances before the attack came. She spun on her toes on her right foot, placed her left foot back down as she was coming out of the turn, and held her wand in front of her eyes, making the tiny cat toy hanging from its tassel swing near her chin. She had an expression of cold determination as she started to channel a high level ice spell through her arm.
Her expression changed instantly when she heard Belzeber's plasma whip humming through the air. The edge of the whip traveled at Mach 1 in a clean, perfectly horizontal arc while she had no time to move and Fayt wasn't there to push her out of the way. The strand of high intensity particles effortlessly glided through the tiny stuffed neck of her wand trinket and continued another four inches toward her jugular.
As Cliff sat propped against the wall in a daze, he watched Sophia's bottom end awkwardly stumble backwards toward him until it was three feet away from his face. The wide contours of her back hips did a strange jiggy in the navy felt creases of her slim miniskirt as he heard something heavy land on the floor and roll away. Her fingers twitched as they dropped to her sides and her wand clattered to the ground, drawing Cliff's attention to the cat charm tied to its handle. It was hung lifelessly on its string with its stuffed head missing.
Sophia crumbled away in front of him in slow-motion like a colossal demolished goddess statue as the weight of her hips lost the battle to the forces of gravity. She pirouetted in an almost full circle as she descended. Cliff saw her skirted thighs and backside gliding downward off their feet, followed by a profile view of the light gray corset laces slimming out her waist, followed by a front view of her chest filling her snug pink blouse, and then the opposite side of her short violet mage mantelet covering her shoulders.
Her body wiggled one more time as her knees crashed on the floor. She slumped over sideways with a cauterized stump where her head should have been nestling against Cliff's chest. Her black leather choker was still buckled tightly enough to keep her white collar frills standing up around her neck.
He would have screamed if he wasn't immediately frozen in terror. Shuddering with feelings of attraction that violently turned into revulsion, he frantically shimmied sideways against the wall to get away from Sophia's abbreviated remains.
A round and stringy object rolled up to Nel's sprawled waist and came to a stop after she ducked the grenade explosion. She looked down with her blurry eyes and immediately felt horror creep up her spine. Sophia's severed head was lying on its side next to her, with strands of long brown hair twisted around and hiding Sophia's darkened face. Nel had a similar reaction as Cliff, only without the part where he started off briefly allured.
Berial made a small "Oo!" expression with his puckered lips the instant he saw the trimming take place. His partner Belzeber scoffed in amusement as his energy whip cooled down. Belzeber hadn't been aiming for anyone in particular, but he knew he was going to get at least one of these pesky moths with his zapper.
Berial tapped a transponder under the temple of his sunglasses and got on a direct line with SphereCo's management.
"Yo B-Gurl. We've got a Hollow over here. Chick got her cap buzzed clear off her ass."
Code Hollow was the company term for a human subject whose brain functions had totally ceased with no other serious damage to the body. It could happen a multitude of distressing and unfortunate ways inside the SphereCo complex, but Sophia had picked one of the simplest ones to deal with.
"Oh dear," the soft but authoritative voice of Blair Lansfeld clicked through the transponder from Maintenance and Research. "Was it that nasty little ninja with the tattoos?"
Belzeber took another glimpse at the broken merchandise on the floor and shook his head.
"It's the kitten with the great rack. Got her ears a little too close to the mousetrap."
"Poor thing," Blair sighed with audible disappointment. "Sounds terribly gruesome, and Ms. Vineyard and I rather liked that one. Package the neural stem in stasis so I can get a look at her over here. I'll send a Recap to you so you can make use of that wad of bunny meat she's not going to need anymore. I guess I should be a little happy we'll at least get to test one anomaly in their physical manifested form. The module should be on its way to you right… now."
A long pneumatic tube extended from the ceiling of the generator chamber. A rectangular box the size of a miniature fridge came whistling through and dropped to the floor between the two security experts. The sides of the box collapsed on themselves into a flat square underneath the items it had transported.
One specific item stood out on top of the stack tools inside the box. It was almost a perfect sphere in shape and looked like a new ultra-sleek brand of metal space helmet. The front face was a single black pane that started at the base and extended all the way to the globe's north pole. The sides and back were crisp medical white and molded in meticulously smooth lines. Every surface on the device was an endless sea of polished and glossed curvature.
The first thing Belzeber did was neatly pull a fountain pen out of his vest pocket and whisk his authorization signature onto a narrow slip of adhesive paper from inside the shipping box. He separated the sticker from its backing and slapped it on the reverse side of the globe-like helmet. Above the flat space where sticker went on the glossy white casing, the characters GU4-RECAP were proudly machine-etched in metallic silver front. That was shorthand for Sphere Generic Utilities Vers. 4. 0. 1949 Remedial Cranium Aptitude Processor.
Belzeber and Berial shuffled and clattered as they worked in a coordinated effort. Berial walked over to pick up Sophia's head like it was a stray basketball. He tucked it in his right elbow and walked next to Sophia's crumpled body further away near the wall. He slung her lifeless frame over his right arm with her legs and rear dangling over the front of his shoulder and her neck stump hidden behind his back. He returned to the center of the chamber where Belzeber had almost everything from the supply box unpacked.
They spooled up her hair with an industrial clamp, sealed her head in plastic insulation, and secured it into a large metal suitcase filled with steaming ice and fiber optic cables. The case was slammed shut and shipped back through the same tube that had transported the white and black helmet sphere. The entire pneumatic shipping system retracted neatly into the ceiling.
Berial sat up Sophia's flimsy body on the floor by crouching behind her and holding her up by her cooling off armpits. The rest of Sophia's party who were conscious and sane enough to watch only saw the two guards closely huddled together with her limp paw print-covered legs stretched out between them.
Belzeber draped her with an anti-static sheet with a color and texture comparable to a trash bag labeled SPHERE CORP DEFECT CONTAINMENT AREA: Handle with care. He fit it loosely over her like a barber's cape that left an opening for her neck while Berial was keeping her propped. He unfastened the buckle on her choker and rolled her white collar down by an inch to expose more of the skin and lithe musculature that hadn't been instantly seared. He adjusted the sphere helmet onto the vacant space between her drooping shoulders and used the pale blue flame of a pen torch to start soldering the junk in the trunk.
All of these dimension-hopping anomalies were scheduled to have their AIs wiped clean and reset with only rudimentary programming once their virtual universe was taken offline. This was just a more hands-on and personalized way to accomplish the same goal.
Belzeber switched the pen torch off and pulled the disposable surgery tarp away from the pink, purple, and nylon anatomy in a cascade of crinkling polyethylene. He adjusted Sophia's black choker so it was tightened around her neck again. He flipped the torch to its other side and pressed its battery to the left half of Sophia's chest, causing it to strike a single jolt of static lightning into her heart.
Belzeber stood up while her limp fallen form was still propped in the cradle of Berial's hands. He waited with reticent enthusiasm.
Tiny circuits began to illuminate in the simple but functional cybernetic brain as it whirred online inside its sturdy metal casing. Sophia's rubbery pink and violet mage shoes twitched weakly at the end of her stockings. Berial felt her body temperature coming around and let go of her underarms. She remained motionlessly sitting up without his support.
Berial retrieved Sophia's dropped wand from the generator floor. He smirked when he saw the cat charm swinging from its tassel. The string was still tied around its neck tight enough so the little clump of stuffing that used to be its head was poking out of the torn stump.
It was a good thing all of Sophia's magic powers were channeled through her body. Her head had basically been a central processor that decided how to use them. They were just swapping out a few chips to keep her running up-to-date.
Belzeber stood beside Berial as they both looked down at the top of Sophia's new provisional braincase. She hadn't moved an inch and she was sitting with the backs of her hands dragging limply at her sides and her knees clumsily bent.
Berial chided her in an assertive voice to get her attention.
"Get those pumpkins shaking, spook girl. You might not have much going on upstairs, but a butt like yours ain't gettin' the night off."
Heeding the security enforcer's instructions, Sophia straightened her back and began rising to her feet in an initialization trance. The rest of her party lying on the ground saw her shaded gloomy outline slowly rise up in front of the room's ceiling lights. First the gently twinkling dome of her smooth head, then the dark pink domes stretched across her chest, the narrow front stitching of her corset, the wide curves and small pelvic shadows on her thin buckled skirt, and finally her bare thighs and black paw stockings.
The polished dome that had assumed control of Sophia's shortened body never talked or emoted. Her posture was somewhere between sluggish and shy, with her legs standing slightly apart to help her regain her balance. Her bust heaved in faint waves, stretching and creasing her pink blouse as her lungs breathed through cooling vents on the sides of the sphere. The various tools and gizmos that had killed her and given her an unfeeling new life were strewn about at her feet. She was malfunctioning software that had crossed the fabric of reality to gain a living physical form, then became software again taking over that living form. By decapitating her and Recapping her, they had brought the electronic sorceress both further away and closer to her natural essence.
While Sophia stood calmly and eerily recalculating herself, the two security experts remained closely behind her. They muttered to one another in a short private business meeting only they could hear. Belzeber was cleaning off his hands with a rag, while Berial kept his reflective sunglass frames firmly planted on Sophia's firm lower back.
"She's not too bad as long as you stick to shopping downtown. If she ever starts getting friendly with the natives, do we have to worry about little mini-anomalies running around?"
"Never. We don't run things that risky. They're always brought back on basic Bio-Sustainment so they have a pulse and can stand up. Blair would need to expand the programming on her Recap if we wanted it to manage all her tertiary functions down there."
Belzeber offered Sophia her wand, and she took it by moving her arm in a plain automated motion. Her artificial brain talked to the muscle memory of her captured body to determine its best course of action.
Sophia turned toward her party with the vast black panel on the front of her sphere facing them. Her fingers clenched the handle of her wand more tightly and quickly stretching her arm outward, making the headless cat charm swing in a small pendulum motion. The two Sphere Corporation agents stood behind her with sinister anticipation.
"They're all yours, kitten," Berial chuckled through the corner of his mouth, hiding the ominous look in his eyes behind his stylish pair of shades.
"Try not to get ahead of yourself," Belzeber added for encouragement.
Author's note: You know that thing with the cute thighhighs girl in the first episode of Ga Rei Zero? Yeah.
Author's note 2: You know that thing with the cute mech pilot girl with the tacky black plugsuit voiced by Rin Tohsaka in Muv-Luv Total Eclipse? Yeah, her too.
Author's note 3: I was going off Sophia's updated Anamnesis design for this story. That game's developers retconned her a bit so her outfit is more slinky and she's a little chunkier around the data sectors in a healthy way. Needed to amp up her other features since she was going to be losing a key identifying one.
Author's note 4: The last face Sophia makes is meant to be creepy and ambiguous, but I like to think it might be the look of pure existential paralyzing dread Mami makes just before Charlotte eats her in the TV version of Madoka, the kinda doofy sleepy "Huhhwhut's going on?" face Mami makes just before Charlotte eats her in the Blu-Ray version of Madoka, or "AH." from Viper.
Author's note 5: Maybe Sophia's neck has an antenna so her Recap can unlock from her and float around her as a drone when she wants to be in XX Spooky Mode.