Sandra Blackmore knew it was going to be one of those days when she arrived at work and no one seemed to remember who she was. Which was fairly odd considering she was a six year (give or take a few weeks) veteran of the Neo York Police Department (Incorporated). Faced with such a strange situation (and considering her life so far that was saying something), she opted for the most sensible course of action: she took the day off.

It did seem like the best course of action, considering that if no one could remember who she was, then no one was going to be able to accuse her of not showing up to work. Besides, she was on salary so she was getting paid regardless. In fact, she might be able to stop coming to work altogether, and considering some of the people she had to work with, that wasn't a bad plan.

Speaking of the tools she had to deal with one a day-to-day basis, one of them was presently standing in her way, blocking the corridor and her access to the exit.

"Alan Davies..."

The man in question looked up from a sheaf of papers (the top one apparently being a list of people who owned him money) and gave her a quizzical glance. "Hey, you look familiar..."

Sandra sighed. Like he'd ever actually looked at her face before. Usually he spent his time staring at her (gravity-defying) bustline or at the amount of leg revealed by the police-issue microskirt she had on. Smiling politely, she nodded in Alan's general direction, "Thanks, people say that a lot in these dreams." Leaving Alan to puzzle out that non-sequitor, she pushed passed him and went out the door.

At that point the horns kicked in, which wasn't bad—Sandra had always wanted her own theme music, but then her shoes started to squeak, which was really annoying.

Looking down at her feet, Sandra noted she didn't have shoes on. Actually, she was wearing low ankle-boots and thigh-high leggings to go with her police-issue microskirt and tunic. Rather odd clothes considering she was standing on a beach somewhere. Based on the palm trees she guessed it was some tropical part of the world, which was fine with her, as she'd taken the day off anyway. So she set of down the beach, hoping to find a stand selling rum drinks, and turned her back on the billboard behind her screaming out "Aren't you supposed to be at work?!?" It's not like she really cared what it had to say.

Finding the stand, she ordered a rum drink, and then a second one. Apparently they were free today, and there since was nothing better than laying on the beach getting sloshed, Sandra decided to get right down to it. Besides, she was fairly certain she'd been here before—well, in her dreams anyway—and there was often a water polo game in progress. Muscular men in small Speedos—now that was entertainment! Sarah often showed up as well, which was odd, since Sarah lived in Hong Kong and she lived in Neo York, but Sandra didn't let that worry her as Sarah made a fine drinking partner. The only problem came when Sarah got drunk. She'd end up convinced she could talk with her eyes (a really weird visual if there ever was one) and go around asking people "Can you see what I'm saying?"

At that point Sandra decided it was time to get going. A drunk Sarah could be a handful. Thankfully the horns kicked in again, drowning out Sarah's ramblings, but then her shoes (correction—boots) started to squeak again.

Walking along a lake, Sandra was startled by the sound of a phone ringing. Apparently someone was calling the public phone on the shore. Seeing no one else around to answer it, Sandra decided to pick up the receiver.


"Oom papachucka maka nanu singow. Meling kapalana wani domo chingpow.. Heddy kapalua cuma jenising tea... Oomama chucka pana one is now three...."

Just peachy. The operator was speaking to her in a language she didn't understand. Disgusted, she hung up the phone, just in time for the horns to kick in again and her shoes to resume squeaking. As soon as this day was over she was going to get a new pair of the damned things.

Speaking of shoes, Sandra was glad this wasn't like one weird dream she recalled having. In that one she was tap-dancing... while wearing golf shoes. That was strange.

But no matter, she was back on the beach, along with a bikini-clad Sarah, who had yet another rum drink in her hand and now was saying; "I think you see what I'm saying..." Great, still drunk and still incoherent. And the radio seemed to think it was important to give the weather report for southern California, which was... rain? And...


Groaning, Sandra made a supreme effort to open her eyes. She was lying in her bed in her Hong Kong apartment, with David lying next to her, looking both confused and concerned.

"David..." She tried to collect her thoughts, discarding those that made no sense (like the image of Sarah talking with her eyes—what was up with that?) and ignoring such useless questions as "Aren't you supposed to be at work?" "What is it?"

"You were talking in your sleep. You okay?"

"Oh..." Sandra blinked and focused on the room. "Nothin' to worry about, just a dream."

"Ahh..." David nodded. "What was it like?"

"Ponderous man... Really ponderous..."

I'm often asked if I dream. Not if I have dreams, since no really seems to care if I do or not (and yes, I do have dreams—tossing some of the more bothersome people I have to deal with off of the apartment tower's heliopad is one of them), but if I dream while sleeping. Apparently this is a big deal to some people since as a "human" they are allowed to have dreams and as a "replicated human" I am not. Dreams, it seems, are the sole property of the human race, and as a simple blue-skinned synthetic I'm not allowed to have any.

Of course, this is an utter load of bullshit, as many animals dream. Dog and cats do for starters, all you have to do is watch one twitch while sleeping and you can tell its dreaming. And I'm higher up on the scale than a dog or a cat—I have a larger brain for starters. The only thing that's different between me and a "normal" human is the color of my skin. Oh, and the fact my designers modified me to be physically more fit than the average human—which may or may not make up for being blue. I'm trying to decide.

Anyway, what many of these people don't realize is that my brain and body is made from the exact same blueprints as theirs, it's just mine came from a nano-factory vat, while they were the result of two sweaty people doing the old in-and-out in a dark room somewhere. I like my way better, less of a mess, although I will admit its probably not as much fun. So my brain is just the same as their brain, and does all the same things. More, even, considering I actually think things through and many people I meet don't seem to. So if asked if I dream I usually respond with "Yes, but only about electric sheep."

No one ever gets it.




Awakening, Kei took stock of her surroundings. Wherever she was it was dark, very dark. It didn't help matters that the grounds were shrouded in a layer of fog. It was all Kei could do to pick out the shapes of the buildings that told her she was at a temple of some kind. And yet, she felt that she recognized the temple, but she couldn't quite put her finger on from where.


Kei spun around, trying to get a bearing on the voices or a view of the speakers.


Unable to see anything resembling a person in the darkened, fog-shrouded temple grounds, Kei called out, "What? Who's there? And, how do you know my real name?"

"You have but one name, Rei."


"Rei. Why? Why did you let us die? Why did you kill us?"

"What? Let you die? Kill you? What are you talking about?" Kei asked, confused by this turn of events. "Who are you? Where am I?"

"Why did we have to die?"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Kei shouted, beginning to get annoyed. "Show yourselves...." she trailed off as she suddenly felt someone off to her right. Spinning to her right as she dropped into a combat stance, she stopped dead at what she saw. Standing no more than four meters away were two people who, despite the general lack of visibility, she knew all too well. As the blood drained from her face, she whispered, "Father? Mother?"

"Yes, Rei. Why did you let us die?"

"W-what? I... I didn't, I couldn't... I...."

Kei's mother, Misao, took a step forward. "Why did you kill me? Don't you love your mother?"

"No! I didn't.... I-I love you. I couldn't...." Kei stammered in shock.

"You killed me," Misao spat accusingly, jabbing a finger at Kei. "You killed me, Rei. You took everything I had to give, but that wasn't enough. No. You had to take my life as I struggled to give birth to you as well. Why? Do you hate me because you couldn't be conceived like a normal child? Is it because you hated me for letting them put you inside me? Do you hate me because I'm human, because I'm not like you? Didn't I love you as my own? Didn't I love you enough? Why did you murder me, Rei?" she wailed.

Unable to stand the damning accusation from her long deceased mother, Kei broke into tears. "I... I never.... Please, I n-never meant to hurt you, I... it was an accident. It wasn't my fault! I-I was a baby, I couldn't, wouldn't.... I love you! Please forgive me, please," Kei begged, in a hiccup laden whisper.

Misao said nothing more as she took a step back, next to Aoshi.

Kei's father, Aoshi, took a step forward, much as Misao had done. "Why did you kill me? Don't you love your father?"

By this point, Kei had no intelligible reply to give and could only stare transfixed by her fathers image, crying freely.

"You killed me," Aoshi said sadly. "You lied to me and then you let me die, Rei. I looked for your mother's killers, I looked for those who had changed my baby, but it was you all along. You murdered your mother, and when I was close to finding out what you really are, you let them kill me. You might as well have murdered me yourself, like you did your mother," he stated with the finality of a judge passing sentence, before taking a step back to stand with Misao.

Kei could only sob uncontrollably.

Kei's parents stood looking at her for a moment more, before beginning to fade from view. Their voices, lowering to mere whispers, carried to her ears, "Synthetic monster. Inhuman beast. You killed us. You murdered us, Rei. You murdered us... and we hate you. M-u-r-d-e-r-e-r...."

Broken by the cruel, taunting whispers, Kei screamed, "NOOOOoooo!"

Kei awoke with a jolt, shuddering and panting, covered with sweat. Taking stock of her surroundings, she found that she was in her room, in the Mandarin Towers. That nightmare again, she hadn't had it in months, so why now. She got up and padded over to the window. Shivering slightly as the cool air dried the sweat from her bare skin, she looked out over her view of the Hong Kong skyline, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Like so many people in the Zone, home to Vic Hagen and Stuart Finlay was wherever they could find a place to lie down for the night. In this case it was an old warehouse relatively close to the Jinsei front lines. In their self-appointed roles as forward scouts and harassers, Vic and Stuart wanted to be as close to the front lines as possible so they could get first shot at any Jinsei forces, then warn everyone else of what was coming.

Of course, they still had to sleep sometime. It was just lucky that Jinsei's forces didn't operate at night. A spate of shootings by snipers with low-light optics and the cold weather had made that a bad idea.

Vic blinked awake, sitting up in her sleeping bag. That was so weird she thought. Like... She looked around. No, she was in the warehouse in the Zone. Stuart was already up and getting dressed. His missile launcher was leaning against the wall ready to go.

"Morning." He began. "It's a bright sunny day outside which means those goons will be crawling out of the wood work at any second!" He seemed to be his usual relentlessly enthusiastic self. "So we gotta get going as quick as possible so we can get out there and plug 'em!"

"I had the weirdest dream." Vic replied.

"Oh?" He stopped dead in his tracks. "Was it the one where you're an international super spy or the one where you pilot the giant robot dinosaur?"

"No, it wasn't those." She replied.

"Oh, I know!" Stuart cut her off before she could say anything else. "It's the one where you're a vampire hunting vampire in a short skirt with a huge gun that's bigger then you are and really big-"

"No, it wasn't that either."

"Was it the one where you're the guitar-slinging motor-scooter-riding alien housekeeper?"

She stared at him with a 'what were you thinking' look.

"Oh." He seemed to be lost, which was pretty normal. "So what was it then?"

"I was about five years old. I was having a picnic in the country with my parents."

"And..." Stuart trailed off. "And what happened?"

"Well... It was a sunny day."

"Right." He paused. "And then?"

"And then what?" She replied. "It was a sunny day. We had a picnic." She stood up and began rolling up her sleeping bag.

"Oh." He seemed somewhat disappointed. "Well... yeah, That is strange"

"So how about you?"

"Me? Just the usual one." He replied. "The one where I'm the champion downhill skier ninja."

Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do.—Voltaire



Damn it, Shoko, get up!

"Nah now. I'm sleepin'."

Oh, well then, I'm so sorry to have disturbed you. I'm sure you're beauty sleep is much more important than everyone you love dying and all.

"What?" Shoko mumbled, half-awake. "Who's dying?

Belle, Ayane, all of them!

"Huh?" Shoko shook her head, trying to clear it. She looked toward where the voice seemed to be coming from. It was dark, but somehow she could still see the figure of a man nearby.

Shoko's breath caught as the figure stepped forward to reveal itself. "Ken? But you're..."

Dead? Yes, I am. Just like Belle will be soon. Remember her? Or how about Ayane and André, do you remember them?

"What are you saying? Of course I remember them, Ken! I'm very worried about them."

Ken lunged forward to loom over her, mouth tight with anger. But not worried enough to actually go out and help them!!! I guess having central heating, hot water on demand, and clean sheets every night is more important to you, huh?

"No, that's not true, Ken!" she protested, stung by his accusation. "But I can't help them wandering blindly around the Zone. I can help them from here! Tomorrow--"

What did we take you in for, if not to help us out when we needed it! They're out there, hurt and hiding, RIGHT NOW! They may not even make it 'till tomorrow! Are you just going to sit here and let them die?

<I wouldn't be surprised> said another voice behind her, in Japanese. <She never was much of a bodyguard.>

Shoko stared, shocked, at the apparition on the other side of her bed. "Nagate?"

She let you die, too?


Shoko felt her eyes tearing up. "N-Nagate, please. I tried to save you."

Nagate raised his eyebrows. <No, you tried to save yourself. That shotgun blast was aimed at you, after all. If you hadn't leaped out of the way, I might still be alive.>

"But I didn't know you were right there!"

<Yes, but you should have. You were designed primarily for bodyguard duty. I ought to know, I helped design the Fox-class, after all.>

Ken sighed heavily. Well, I guess you have a long history of failing people, don't you, Shoko?

<Oh, don't blame her, at least not entirely> injected Nagate, adjusting his glasses as he looked up at Ken. <If anything, blame me and the rest of Fox-class design team. We obviously created a flawed product. Too much survival instinct, I'd say. It overrides her sense of loyalty. Discovering those sort of flaws is precisely why we build prototypes like her.>

Maybe, said Ken doubtfully. But there's a big difference between the way she let you and me get killed, and the way she's abandoning everyone else she's claims to care about.

Shoko wiped the tears from her eyes. "Ken, I'm not abandoning them. I'm not."

Yes you are! For all you know they're already dead, or getting that way right now, while you sleep all warm and comfy! You should be out there searching for them, facing the same dangers they are. Anything less is disloyal.

"Ken, I'm sorry! You're right, I shouldn't be here. I'll go now!" Shoko tried to climb out of bed, but found the blankets too heavy to move. She struggled harder, panicking as she realized that she was once more pinned underneath the remains of the garage. "Wait!" she calledout. "Ken, I'm stuck! I can't help while I'm pinned under all this rubble!"

Ken's voice came from somewhere above her. I give up. You've always got some excuse, don't you?

<So many flaws,> said Nagate, sounding disappointed.

"Ken, Nagate, please! I'll help them. Just help me get free!"

But even under the mound of rubble she could clearly hear their footsteps retreating.

"No, don't leave me! Please!" she screamed, panicking. She thrust up at the rubble as hard as she could, tearing at with her fingers. With a loud ripping sound it parted, and as she sat up she...

...woke up. Her pulse pounding in her ears, she looked around frantically in the dim light spilling past the window shade. The unfamiliar surroundings alarmed her a moment, then she remembered she was in Korey's guest bedroom. Her panicked breathing slowed.

"A Nightmare. It was just a nightmare," she said softly, trying to reassure herself. "And not a very subtle one at that."

Looking down, she unclenching her fists and hoped Korey wouldn't be too upset about the blanket she'd just torn apart.

I awake in my bed, in my penthouse, and already the dream is fading. My eyes slide open, but all I can seem to do is stare up at the ceiling. The dream is lingering in my mind, although I have a hard time remembering the details. I remember a presence, and a feeling, but beyond that nothing.

I swing out of bed, but it's almost mechanical. Is my day busy? Do I have an appointment or a job? I can't concentrate right now. I shake my head to clear it, but the feeling and the presence remains. I sigh loudly. Obviously, I can't get on with my day until I clear this out.

I stand and begin to pace my generous bedroom, trying to focus on the presence in my dream. It's hard to define. It seemed to be a person, but I can't remember any details. A man, I think. I'm pretty sure it was a man. Did he have a name? For some reason I doubt it.

I rub the bridge of my nose. I can't concentrate, and now I've got a headache. This is a terrible start to the day. Shaking my head again, I wander into the bathroom. The mirror catches my eye, and I turn to look at my reflection. Yes, I'm sure I was in the dream personally with him.

Parts are coming back to me now. We were close, in the dream. Not just touching, but not quite intimate. I remember him touching me; can almost feel his hands on my body even now. It was warm and pleasant, not like the men I'm usually with.

What else? I lean back from the mirror, trying to remember the details. Apart from the man, there was also a feeling. Yes, that‚ll be a lot easier to define. It felt so alien to me; at the same time warm and safe. Now that I think harder on it, the feeling seemed to be coming from the man.

No, that's not quite right. I felt it because he was with me.

So what is it? A man with no name me made me feel safe. A feeling of warmth, given by that man, but not coming from him. It felt weird. It felt like I was in...

Ah. That's it.

I step away from the sink and run my shower. Cold water only, so I can wash away this stupid dream and its stupid feeling. After all, I am the Empress, not some love-sick schoolgirl. I don't have dreams like that.

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