Am I human? I think that is the wrong question. Do I live? Do I love? Do I think? Do I reason? Absolutely. Do I understand what it means to live? Again, I think this is the wrong question. More relevant is: Do you understand what it means to live?—Mel, Reflections of AI

The water flowed over her body smoothly, without friction. The warm sun shined from the blue skies above, warming the isolated planet beneath it. The woman glided through the water cleanly, her naked body seemingly unhindered by the water. She dove down, quickly descending through the ocean. Farther and farther she went, unaffected by either the pressure or the lack of oxygen. She descended thousands of feet along the underwater incline, to the very depths of the ocean itself.

Mel did not know why she found this area so beautiful; perhaps it had been something programmed into her consciousness, perhaps it hadn't. Maybe it was because she liked to look at the life teaming at its depths; maybe it was because she recognized that this was the foutainhead of life on the earth, and thus her birthplace as well. It could have been because it was so still, so peaceful. Maybe it was just because she enjoyed the experience of being alone, away from the bustling ignorance of humans.

There were very few that she could respect on this planet; only her father and a few of his colleagues could ever draw any of her love or admiration. Even still, she still acknowledged her own superiority to them. What they had done for the sciences of nano-technology, architecture, particle physics, mathematics, and every other avenue of human thought; she had done twice as much. She had developed computers far surpassing anything they had dreamed of, she had taken math to the next abstract level. She had changed everything.

Yes, she could respect some humans. But now she was supposed to be searching for someone new, someone full of promise. Someone who they could hire and who could do their job well. Mel had difficulty seeing any promise in such a race; their stupidity almost surpassed their desire for ignorance.

What is it about humans that forces them to ignore the most obvious things? Do they honestly desire ignorance? The thought was unanswered. Without actually inserting a circuit into such men, she could never know for sure the thoughts which would cross their minds. Men were the epitome of ignorance and irrationality, and women their close second. Animals at least followed instinct, but men followed nothing but their stupidity—constantly searching for ways to escape reality. Drugs were so popular among their race that she found it surprising that any of them could even think any longer.

This was the condition of humanity. Parties were the fashion of the days, and life was not worth living if it did not have a pill of gratiline at the end of it. Men greedily accepted the blank and meaningless pleasure which was offered to them, and turned that into their life's purpose. They had forgotten all the other joys of life—the pursuit of knowledge, the raising of a child, finding God. All had been substituted in the form of a pill and a nice and comfortable job. They crawled tooth and nail over themselves in order to please their supervisors enough to get one more pill, to get one more solvo. Life had become a game who's goal was designed by someone else.

After swimming for hours, Mel had started for the surface, the light from the sun filtered through the crashing waves above. It was like looking at the northern lights, the shifting form of the light reflecting off the moving water above. This is what she loved about the ocean.

Mel walked from the shore, water running in rivulets from her hair and along her naked body. Her skin became perfectly smooth, allowing all the water to flow off, drying her better than any towel ever could. Suddenly, her skin bulged out and turned purple, and then took on a cottony texture. A tight purple tang top and white latex shorts grew around her body in seconds, replacing her naked form.

It really was not that impressive to her. Almost her entire body was composed of nanites, which could reorganize their molecular structure to take on any color, texture, or material she desired. She could even change her face or body if she wished, shape shifting into any person or object she desired.

"Did you enjoy your swim?"

The man's voice came just behind her. She recognized it instantly. "Were you watching me the whole time?" She turned towards him, looking into the deeply fascinating eyes of George Franken.

"I didn't know you were so shy," he said, "apologies if I offended you. I just couldn't help myself."

"It is not me that is offended; it is you which should be ashamed." She turned away from those eyes, their brilliant green literally shone brighter than the daylight, reflecting a pattern of color more beautiful than the ocean. "Men, what is it about them that finds such fascination with the human form?"

"The male form only has value in art; the female form is what is truly beautiful." There was a playful, sarcastic tone to his voice, "Besides, what is it about you that finds such beauty in the ocean? One wouldn't think one as logical as yourself could be such a hypocrite to the evaluation of beauty."

"Indeed. In fact, I was just having the same thoughts myself."

Franken paused. "What do you say you let me buy you some food and some glasses of wine? To apologize for my rudeness."

She laughed, "You still find comfort in such human activities? There is no reason for you to eat, and even less reason for you to drink alcohol. You know your body will simply break it all down and turn it into carbon dioxide, and there is no possible way for you to get drunk!"

"I don't have to be drunk to enjoy the flavor of food and wine. Its not as if I can't taste them anymore, in fact, I can taste them better than I was ever able to!" He paused, "Besides, I enjoy the company that comes along with eating."

She laughed, he was hopeless. She spoke telepathically, wirelessly over their computerized brains, "Fine, but I will be paying for my own meal."

His smile reflected humor, but she could tell he was faking it. "Even better."

------------------------------------

Gano jerked awake, to come face to face with his dream.

There he stood, not five feet from his bed, staring at him with the same eyes he had just seen—eyes which seemed to glow within the dark room, their light green displaying such a deep intelligence that one could not help but stare into them. The hairs on the back of Gano's neck stood up. Was he hallucinating? Could the person in front of him really be there?

"You are not dreaming love." The voice came from his left. Gano spun towards it. There before him was a woman, her long, red hair moved behind her as if in a breeze, her stark white skin contrasting it sharply. Her mouth was turned up in a smile, the kind of smile which revealed all its humor in the eyes. And it was her eyes which really caught his attention, their color shifted behind a lens of moisture, their colour swirling and changing; never remaining the same. They seemed to mimic the thoughts and emotions which played beneath them, revealing a being so beautiful in its intelligence that none could ever hope to rival it. She bent over, those unnatural eyes staring directly into his, extending her thin but powerful hand. "My name is Mel, and this is my friend and colleague, George Franken."

Gano did not take the hand; he was having trouble finding himself. He must have lost his mind completely. His dreams were now coming to life. "I very well know who you are." He stammered, coming to accept the reality of the situation.

"Ahh, so he figured that out for himself," the voice came from George Franken. It was gay and light, joking. "I mean honestly Mel, why did we even come? It seems like he can get everything on his own. We might as well just get going."

Gano looked strangely at Franken's overly happy tone. He took Mel's hand and got out of bed, putting on his clothes. "You have to explain a few things." It is in surprise when men begin to come out of their character. Gano, normally so serious, was trying to respond humorously.

"For instance," said Franken, pointing at Gano's pants, "we could explain to you how you don't need to put on clothes anymore."

Gano paused in the process of putting on his shirt, taking it off. Yes, she had done that in the dream. Suddenly, he realized how, as if in a whisper of past experience. He imagined his own body in his mind, and then imagined putting a plain white shirt on it. He felt its texture in his mind as he slipped it over his chest. A strange feeling began building in his skin. Not painful—just different. He felt it go outward slightly, and then turn into a new shape. When he looked down, he was fully dressed.

"If you think that is amazing, you should try redesigning a nuclear fusion plant," said Franken, the sarcasm still evident in his voice, "Now that is really a rush."

Gano had found himself, he was no longer confused. He examined Franken critically. "You have been watching me?"

"No, we have been on this station for more than a week. You hear many things in a week."

"I haven't seen you."

"Of course you haven't, we didn't want to be seen. We wore disguises. You would not have recognized me, but I am sure you would have recognized her. Gano, may I introduce you to Dr. Rofguard."

Gano turned, looking at Mel. She starred into his eyes, the truth willingly leaking from them. "He speaks the truth."

Gano wiped his forehead. "So you were the one who gave me my abilities?"

"Yes, and now we have come to take you to our home, where we have lived for the past five hundred years," Mel said, her voice like music floating through the air, her eyes turning a light shade of brown while she spoke, "you must come with me, there is much to discuss."

Gano looked at her. Those eyes captured him, their strangeness drew him in. He looked away, "I cannot, the people here need me."

"Do they?" Franken said, quickly becoming more serious. "Very well, I will try my best to take your place while you are gone."

Mel studied Gano a moment before continuing, "It is imperative that you come with me immediately. You have an immense amount of power, and if you do not learn how to use it properly, you will never be able to use it to its full—"

A loud ringing sound echoed through the room, interrupting Mel. "yes," Gano said to the ceiling.

A voice came through the speakers, "Sir, a ship is requesting entry into the bay. The pilot says his name is… his name is…" she paused, panic in her voice, "he says his name is Geovanni sir."

Gano's eyes widened. He looked at both Mel and George in shock. Before they could respond, he bolted for the door, faster than he had ever run before. The door slammed open so fast that the men outside fell over from the shockwave of air. The steel door bent in the middle as he rocketed from the room. "Let them through!" he screamed into the halls, "Let them through!"

"Yes sir," the intercom said, relieved.

Gano ran like he had never run before, the thought that it might be someone else outside those doors, that it was just a false alarm. The appearance of his dreams seemed to no longer matter. His friend had come back from the dead.

How could he be alive? How could he have survived? Gano didn't know, it didn't make sense. It is times like this when a rebels faith is shaken; when his hate against all of humanity seems to reach a turning point. It is at times like this that the most enraged and scarred soul begins to turn to love their life again.

Gano entered the loading dock before it had started decompressing, the doors closing behind him. "Sir, the room is going to decompress, you must exit."

"Computer safety override" Gano said into the chamber, "Open the hangar doors, close them when the craft enters."

"Saftey protocols overridden." Said the musical voice of the computer, "Room decompressing, hangar doors opening."

The air quickly left the room, Gano was unaffected. The vacuum of space meant nothing to him anymore. A small military vessel entered the hangar, slowly coming to rest on its ground. He couldn't possibly be alive, this is too good to be true.

The door opened before the room represurized. A man walked out, he was strong and slender, his dark hair a contrast to his white skin. It was Geovanni.

Feelings flooded Gano's mind, happiness, joy. Nothing could change it, nothing could ruin this moment. He felt like he was floating on clouds.

But how was it that he could survive the vacuum?

And then, she came out. She was wearing the same tight leather outfit she had that day he had seen her, her blond hair falling past her shoulders. The room re-pressurized, allowing the side door to open and people to flow into the room. They came in to see not happiness, not joy, but a violently inert stand off. Gano stood taught, only his astonishment keeping him from action. Geovanni and Dianna walked towards him slowly, cautiously.

"Gano, I can explain," Geovanni said, "Gano, she is on our side!" Gano didn't listen, he shoved Geovanni out of the way, and walked past him so fast that he couldn't even react. His hand closed around her throat, elevating her above his head—she could not escape. She did not try to escape. She let her arms dangle limp next her body.

"You can kill me now." She squeezed out of her throat, "It was my fault that all of them are dead, and you have every right to obtain justice by my death." Gano's hand tightened around her throat, his vehemence unmistakable. This woman had been invading his thoughts for more than three months.

"I am going to squeeze the life out of you," he said, "You will not kill anyone ever again."

"I deserve it." She gasped through his tight grip, "But you should know…" she was having trouble speaking through the grasp of his hand, "you should know that I have information, information on how I killed all those people." She gasped as his fist tightened, barely allowing any air to flow through her throat, "and how you can prevent it from ever happening again."

Gano did not release his grip, but he seemed to pause. Although he was standing still, it seemed that time froze, for only a second. His grip slightly loosened, she continued, "After I say this, if you feel it would bring justice to kill me, then you should do so. Just please allow me to speak." Her eyes looked down at Gano through sparkling tears.

"Tell me what you know bitch," Gano said, hatred filling his voice, "so I may spill your blood without regret." Geovanni flinched. Dianna nodded, closing her eyes.

"There is a way to prevent what happened on the asteroid from ever happening again."

Gano's grip tightened, "You have the cure with you? Where!?"

She closed her eyes, another tear rolling down her cheek. She pointed at her heart. "In me."

Gano slammed her against the wall with such a force that it would have killed her had she not been a half-cyborg. "What! Stop speaking in riddles. Tell me what I wish to know!"

Gano was consumed by hatred, it was every part of him; it had taken over his soul. His body was the picture of power, the most horrible kind of power imaginable. It was power with a purpose. That purpose was death.

Dianna did not pay attention to the pain her skull was now emanating. His hand around her throat was only a formality: she could survive for longer than three hours without an oxygen source. But he was definitely strong enough to hurt her if he put his mind to it. Her brain was weak compared to the rest of her body. "The weapon was a swarm of nanites," she said through his grip, "small machines who's only purpose was to find certain areas in your brain and quickly shut them off. The men on those station are not dead, they have been possessed as slaves by the Ragrier. They are now mindless dolls whose only purpose is to serve. Before you ask," she said through choked tears, "There is no way to bring them back. Their memories. Have been erased.

This seemed to have an effect on Gano, his body slightly relaxed as despair replaced hatred.

Dianna continued. "The reason why those nanites don't affect such people as Geovanni or myself is because all upper class citizens of the Ragrier are injected with similar ones—except ours protect us. Citizens inherit theirs from their parents, but it only protects them from biological diseases." Gano's grip was loosening, letting her speak, "The worker's defensive nanites are not nearly as advanced as, for instance, a Director's or a Representative. If you want your friends to have the same defense as me, to be permanently protected from any known biological or nano attack, then you need to inject them with some of my blood. However, you should know that in doing so, you will also give them all of my abilities, including not having to breath for long periods, being stronger, having faster thoughts" she struggled against his strong grip, "and other things which I am sure Geovanni can explain."

Gano turned to Geovanni, "Why did you bring her here, she has compromised us all! You were probably followed, any moment now and we are all going to be killed. Do you even know what you have done?"

"You are wrong!" Gano was still holding Dianna above his head, "You are wrong Gano, she has changed!" Geovanni was near despair.

"You could never know that for sure until you brought her here. You have potentially threatened all our lives. How could you do such a thing?"

"Would you truly like to know the truth of your inquiry?" The musical voice of Mel seemed to go through Gano's anger, to pierce into his thoughts instead of his feelings, "If you would like, I can read her intentions. I can search her mind for her true thoughts."

Gano looked at her, as if afraid to know the truth of what Geovanni was saying. For three months, he had desperately wanted this woman dead—his hate was all he had.

He threw Dianna to Mel, she flew through the air like a rag doll, not displaying any attempt at resistance. Mel gently caught her "Now stay still," she said softly. She put her hands over Mel's temples, inserting a small needle of herself into her skull. She closed her eyes, focusing on reading the pathways within Mel's mind. It took only thirty seconds, but it seemed like hours to all those present.

"She is speaking the truth. She has no intent of betraying you, and no one was following her. There was no homing beacon on the ship."

Geovanni let out a sigh of relief.

"No. It does not matter." It was now surprisingly Dianna who spoke, getting up on her knees. "It is hardly a fair trade, my life for the one's I took." She had now lost all barriers to her emotion. It was streaming from her face in tears which would not stop. "No amount of my blood will make up for the amount I took. Death would be merciful to me—and you have every right to make sure that I am dead." She got up and walked over to Gano, grasping his now limp hand and putting it around her throat. He held it up, but did not squeeze. It looked so strange, as if she were sacrificing herself to him, to try and make amenities. "But ask yourself if that is what they would have wanted. I am here to try and help you, I posses an intimate knowledge of the working of the Ragrier. I can practically ensure your victory. Would those I have killed wanted you to waste such an opportunity? Would they just have wanted you to sacrifice me for no reason but your own hatred?"

Her voice was choked, even though Gano was no longer squeezing her throat. She stood almost limply, her face completely downcast. "I do not ask for mercy. I am not even asking for justice. I only ask you to consider whether or not I can be of any assistance, because there is nothing which I want more than to repent for the sins I have committed against you." The flow of tears came down her cheeks; her voice became stern and powerful, accepting any fate which Gano would choose. "But if my death is more valuable to you than my repentance" she yelled, "if killing me will accomplish some end of yours that my assistance can not—then I accept my death! I accept it because I understand now that you are only person worthy of judging whether or not I should live or die! I understand now that if I must repent for what I did, then I must also accept that my fate rests in your hands. I no longer have the right to such a judgment. I gave up the right to my life when I took the lives of so many innocent others. It is now your choice as to whether or not to take your righteous vengeance upon my life, or whether to allow me to attempt repayment of my impossible debt."

Gano still had his hand around her throat. He took it off, turning his back. His anger had left him, making him feel empty and incomplete. He turned to two of his comrades, "Take this woman to a holding cell, I want her locked inside and I want armed guards placed beside it. You are not to allow her out for any reason. If she attempts escape, kill her."

The guards nodded as they grabbed her by the arm and led her from the room.

"I will be leaving soon," Gano said, "This man here will be taking command in my absence." To everyone's surprise, Gano grabbed the arm of a man they had never seen before, a man with unnaturally bright green eyes and bright orange hair. "His name is George Franken, and he is as successful a mechanic as myself. You will give him all information relating to the rebellion—he will make all the decisions as to where to put resources. I would advise you follow his advice." Gano turned to Geovanni, his eyes steady, hiding all further emotion. "Friend, it was good seeing you again."

Before Geovanni could offer a response, Gano took Mel around the waist and lead her to the doorway leading into the vacuum of space. "I assume you have a ship outside" he said. She nodded.

Gano made way for the small decompression chamber at the edge of the hangar, nobody said a word as they went into the vacuum of space without any suits. Everyone had accepted that he and his company were not normal humans.

The ship was right outside of the depressurization chamber. They entered it, and Gano got behind the controls, quickly downloading the required flight instructions into his memory. Mel observed him work, watching him as he instinctively took command at each point in their journey, even though she was just as capable. She supposed he was on autopilot, attempting to remove all emotion. His emotions were too confused for him to handle.

Gano turned the ship around and activated the engines, the acceleration pressing them both hard against their seats.

"Why are you here, why now?"

Mel turned, her colorful eyes staring at him, "The situation is spiraling beyond our control

, there are forces at play which you are unaware. There are men trying to kill you."

Gano laughed, "I am sure they are, but I have been able to handle them so far."

Mel sadly looked at him, he was so lost right now, so internally confused, "You would not be able to handle these beings unless you know more about what we gave you. Without the knowledge of your power, you will find it to be quite useless."

Gano looked at her, "What is it you want of us? With all your power, why couldn't you save the men on that station?"

"I couldn't save them because I was not at the station, and neither were any of my colleagues. If we were there, we would have saved them, believe me."

"But if you are so powerful, why would you not just destroy the Ragrier?"

"You assume too much. First of all, you are assuming that we have the power to do such a thing, when you do not realize all the forces at play. Second of all, you are assuming that we have some moral responsibility to help you. What about the responsibility to ourselves? What about protecting our own lives and our own interests? Why should you have any moral claim on us?"

Gano shook his head, "Is that all you can say? Is that all you have against stopping all the suffering in this world?" He was getting frustrated now, his emotion was becoming evident in his figure. She stood without any display of humanity on her face, taking his assault against her like a statue. She was the image of logic. But in that image also contained the image of judgment. Gano feared her judgment.

She looked at him, a hint of sadness deep underneath her eyes; which Gano could not detect. "You are letting your passion take hold of you; you are not thinking of what I am trying to tell you. Stop trying to rebut my words. Listen to what I have to say; hold the concepts in your mind. Stop being a fool."

Gano paused. A strange feeling was going through his vision, images flickering in the darkness, slowly revealing themselves—as if from memory. "Let me show you what I mean. I will show you my mind; I will give you my thought, my memories. I will allow you to read my greatest desires, my eternal conflicts. If you cannot understand what I say, then maybe you will understand when you see it from my perspective."

Gano allowed her musical voice to carry him off. He knew this feeling—he was descending into his dreams. Except now, he knew they were not dreams. He was descending into her memory.