There were no voices when I awoke this time. Only a light breathing.

My eyes opened, but the fluorescent glare blinded me. I raised an arm to shield them, and suddenly remembered what had happened.

I was out of the chamber. For the first time in my life, I was conscious and outside of the glass.

"You're awake."

The voice that addressed me was nervous, unsure. I lowered my arm, looking to my left. A young man sat there, rigid and fidgety. His appearance was not familiar, but the voice was. It was the intern, Herman, that had been yelled at. The one who spilled the coffee and caused the malfunction.

I looked away from his blond hair and reflective glasses, to assess myself. I was covered in a towel, on some sort of table. I sat up, finding the movement refreshing. I could not recall the last time I had voluntarily moved my body. The towel fell from my torso, exposing my upper body to the air.

"Ah! Um, you, uh," the intern mumbled, looking away with a blush.

Humans blush to indicate embarrassment or shame, I thought. Was there something wrong? I peered at myself, noticing that my breasts were visible. Humans almost always maintained a covering of some sort. I knew about all the social nuances of human society, but lacked the experience of going through them. I hadn't thought twice about covering up.

I did so now, placing the towel close to my neck and keeping it there. The blush lessened considerably on his face, but remained.

The room was starch white. The table I was on and the chair the intern sat in seemed to be the only objects besides the door. Wrapping the towel around me, and enjoying the ability to move on my own, I jumped from the table to take a closer look at the intern.

His hair was a dark blond, only recognizable to me through the vast information that swirled in my head. I was supposed to have the intelligence of a human woman my age, but was likely to be smarter. Still, identifying shapes and colors I had never truly seen took a moment.

The dark brown eyes widened as I leaned in, matching every tone in his skin to a name. Rouge, peach, sandstone, all the colors had names that also applied to other objects. I wondered briefly why humans insisted on giving every shade a name, but I supposed that it was helpful to those whose careers surrounded colors. I turned my attention to the glasses, thin frames that did not fit the strong structure of his face. He was a young one, too.

His body was average, as far as I could tell, but he was probably taller than most. I could not accurately judge from the slouched position in the chair. He gave me a stunned expression. I wondered why, when I saw my hair fall from behind my shoulder. I straightened, observing the locks. A bright silver that resembled dawn clouds. According to what I knew, silver was not in the range of normal hair colors of humans.

Perhaps it was not normal, but it was not why the intern stared. "You can walk?" he questioned.

"Yes," I answered automatically, and realized that it was my first word. I had never been required, or inclined, to talk before. "I can walk." To demonstrate this, I took a short promenade about the room.

"Dr. Philips was worried you wouldn't be able to. No field testing has been done."

I faced him again, marveling at being able to move without worry of being endlessly tested. But the mention of Philips brought me back to focus.

"Where is he? And what happened to me?"

"Oh." The intern paused to consider his words. "After you fainted, everyone thought you might be sick or something. But you were breathing. They brought you here for observation. I was told to watch you while they made sure the machines were all right, since I'm useless with those."

"Hmm." Philips was the one around here with which I was most familiar. He was the one scientist who had stayed on throughout the project. All others had either quit, been fired, or moved to different labs in the twenty years since I had become conscious. I wasn't sure why, but I felt I needed his presence.

I also needed water.

"I need water," I said, voicing my need to the intern. He didn't seem to hear me, and I turned to him. Realizing I was talking to him, he blushed, nodded, and left briskly to fetch my liquid.

It is a human custom to say 'please' before a request is made. My mind only brought up the information after he had left, and I made a mental note to thank him when he returned. I would need to develop a habit of using common polite gestures if I was to be liked. I didn't particularly see the merit in being liked, but Philips had let me know that it certainly didn't help being disliked.

The intern returned with my water, closing the door quickly and nearly shoving it at me.

"Ah, thank you," I said, startled, and taking the glass. "I appreciate it."

"Sorry." He blushed again. "I didn't mean to push it at you. It's just, they told me to watch you. I didn't want to be caught leaving you alone."

"Could you not explain that you were retrieving water?" As I spoke, I listened carefully to my own voice. It was soft, but confident. It sounded like Philips' voice, in a more feminine form. Perhaps it was because his was the voice I heard most often.

"I guess." The intern sat back in the chair. I remained standing.

"Herman! I told you to stay in that room no matter what!" A voice boomed into the small space, followed by the door hitting the wall. I whirled around. Herman jumped.

"I told you-" Philips stopped. He turned to me, slowly, eyes wide.

It was interesting, seeing him for the first time. In my life, I had heard Philips speak to me often, and he was the human I felt most familiar with. But in all these years, I had never actually seen him. Or maybe I had, when I was very young, but I did not recall seeing him, or any one else. Humans were a mystery to me. I only knew their form through the images presented to me, and I had guessed on Philips' appearance many times.

What I saw now did not surprise me. His voice was deep, and old, and it matched his looks. His light facial hair was slightly unkempt, as if he meant to shave but forgot. The dark hair was mussed, and streaked with small bits of gray. Shadows gave his eyes a sinister look, but the shock in the green eyes betrayed any possible threat.

"She's . . . standing." He sounded dumbfounded, and it caused an unprecedented reaction in me. My mouth opened and a sound came out involuntarily, but it did not form any sort of word. After a moment, I realized it was what humans called a laugh.

"And laughing," Herman added, confirming my suspicion. I had not ever laughed, but being supplied air through an oxygen mask inhibited any sort of noise making. I was amused with myself.

But Philips distracted me from contemplating my vocal abilities. He stepped close, inspecting my face. His breath smelled of something unpleasant, and I recoiled.

"She can move," he said, a small smile breaking the stoic face. "She's viable."

"Indeed," I said.

"She can talk!" He laughed, throwing his head back. "I love it! And I thought she might prove difficult to remove from the chamber. And that reminds me, we must test this. We'll have donations flowing from all corners after we find out what she's capable of."

I did not like the sound of this. Testing in the chamber was something I detested, and I could only imagine the wider options that testing outside of the chamber would provide. I stepped away.


Philips broke from his reverie, looking to me. "No?"

"I do not want to be tested. It is an unpleasant experience that I do not wish to repeat."

There was a long pause.

"You have no choice in the matter," Philips said, frowning. "It is necessary to assess your potential. You are an important project."

"Dr. Philips, she has a will of her own. Simply because she's been trapped like a goldfish doesn't mean you have a right to do whatever you want to her. That's what caused the controversy in the first place."

I smiled at Herman when I heard his use of my goldfish comparison, and the fact that he was defending me.

Philips eyed Herman. Facing me, his expression changed to that of someone who was too tired to talk to others. "I apologize," he said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "But please understand." He put a hand on my shoulder. "We have been waiting years for a chance like this. Now that we finally have it, I don't want to give it up. We'll be as gentle as possible, but, please, allow the testing?"

I hesitated, but the his eyes convinced me. I trusted Philips. He had raised me, the closest thing to a parent I would ever have.

"On one condition," I said, after thinking for a moment.

"Yes?" He looked hopeful.

"I want a name."

Another silence.

"You are Experiment C-21," Philips replied. "You don't need a name."

"But I want one," I protested. "Every person here has a proper human name. I want one as well. To my knowledge, no one has a name containing numbers such as in the label you have given me. I wish to have a proper name, and if you give me one, I will allow you to do the testing you desire."

"It seems reasonable." Herman shrugged. "I don't see why not."

Philips frowned, and sighed. "All right." He pinched his nose again. "What do you want to be called, C-21?"

That was something I had not considered, and had to think about it for a moment. Humans were named for a variety of things, plants, gems, words emphasizing good qualities about themselves. But strength and honor were not names I liked. Neither were things such as Jade or Amber.

Would a plant name work? Flowers were popular, I knew.

A word flashed across my mind, and my lips twitched into what I would later learn was a smile.

"Rose," I said, looking into Philips's eyes. "I enjoy the sound of the name 'Rose.'"

Philips raised an eyebrow. "The name of a flower does not suit someone as strong and with as much potential as you have. What about Elizabeth? That's an old name, a good one. Or Samantha. Very intelligent sounding." He looked at me hopefully.

I furrowed my brow, unsure of what his issue with my chosen name was.

"I like it."

I turned, looking at Herman. He blinked a single eye at me, and I recognized it as winking, before he looked to Philips. "She has a right to pick her own name. And Rose is pretty."

Philips looked between us, and shrugged. "Sure. Rose. Whatever." He stepped to the door. "And as we agreed," he said to me, "I have your consent to perform some tests. Wait here while I do some configuring." The door slammed, shaking the fluorescent lights above us.

"Thank you," I said to Herman, giving the second smile of my life. "Shall we introduce ourselves properly?"

Herman was dumbfounded, until I stretched out my hand for the traditional human greeting called a handshake. He glanced at it, smiled, and took my hand. "I am Rose," I said, gently moving my hand up and down with his.

"And I'm Herman. Nathaniel Herman."