The sunlight danced on the surface of the lake. The bottom of the lake was visible through the clear water as fish swam contently through the ferns and rocks. The branches of trees swayed softly as the wind whispered through the leaves and the grass. Birds sang in the brilliant morning as their chicks trilled in response.

A figure crouched in the wet sand as little wavelets lapped the shore. The water reflected a pretty young woman with dark red hair and big blue eyes, her lips caught in a small pout as she blankly stared at the lake and the surrounding forest. Her crimson leotard did nothing to conceal her shapely long legs. Only one detail set her apart from any other pretty young woman: she never blinked.

She was a Mimetic Individual Empathic Unit - MIEU. Her designation was Type S2. She was an artificial marvel created to physically resemble Palmans so closely that only the most sophisticated technology could differentiate her from a normal mortal. She had emotions, an advanced intellect, mechanically precise reflexes and artificial strength far beyond anything Palm had ever produced. It gave them the potential to be adept at everything from babysitting to warfare.

She was not the first MIEU, but her master, Lord Orakio, had called her by her product appellation, so her model designation became her name. Siren, her master's right hand, had hated her. She had not liked the aggressive war machine very much either. He had treated all the MIEUs incredibly poorly. Had that been all, she might have ignored the mechanical warlord, but the worst mistreatment had been saved for Miun. She adored her eldest sister, and had retaliated against Siren with gusto. She never did anything that might sabotage the war effort, obviously, but there were plenty of ways to avenge the slights to her sister. She sighed and wished she knew where Miun was.

Lord Orakio chose her out of all of her sisters to take on the role of his son's nanny. She, like her eldest sister Miun, became the envy of all the other MIEUs. How could they not be envious when she had been given a job so important by their master himself?

For all intents and purposes, she had raised the little master; his mother had died at the beginning of the chaos and bloodshed that engulfed their world. Lord Orakio had been engaged in bitter warfare against his enemy, Laya. Their conflict had brought death and devastation throughout the worlds on a scale not seen in thousands of years. Monsters and robots fought over the same battlefields time and again as each side strove to overcome the other.

In the seventh year of the conflict, her master had abruptly returned to Landen. He had taken her out of the castle through the secret escape route and brought her to this lake. On its shores had waited a cryonic chamber.

"What's going on?" she had asked, confused by her master's reticence. "Why do I need to get into a cryonic chamber?"

"I need you to obey, Mieu," he had replied firmly, his face grave, the deep-set lines of age, conflict, and stress lending his face additional severity and reinforcing the tone of command. "If all goes well, I will be back shortly to let you out. If it does not, when you wake up, take care of my descendants. It's not all clear, but you may yet have a role to play. Remember, Mieu. Only one of my descendants can command you."

In she had gone, her only option obedience. It went against everything she believed and everything that had been programmed into her to obey that order. Mieu had wanted to rebel, to refuse this one command out of the many her master had given her, but that option did not exist for any android. Lord Orakio's commands were absolute. She went offline as the chamber activated, preserving her in that instant for as long as it would take. She only went back online when the complex machine finally failed.

The scene to which she had awakened looked much the same as the one she had left. She did not know how long it had been since she had gone to sleep, but she knew it had to be at least a few centuries. Palman technology was, if nothing else, durable. The machine's failure meant only one thing. Her master was dead.

Like all the other MIEUs, she had loved her master. Not because it had been programmed in them, but because of who he was. She had spent the time since the cryo chamber's failure staring at the water, quietly grieving the loss and ignoring the Palmans who came to gawk at her. They were not important. They didn't even try to talk to her. It gave her plenty of time to think.

"YOU! Dirty Layan! Where have you taken Maia?"

Mieu reluctantly put her silent contemplation on hold and turned her head to regard the rude young Palman male that had intruded on her thoughts. He was tall and well-built, with broad shoulders, a thick head of blue hair and eyes the same color as the moon Azura. He wore white armor and a white cape over a blue tunic and pants. The armor's paint looked new and done in haste and the cape itself also seemed to have endured a hasty dye job. His face was symmetrical enough to be good-looking but wasn't due to the expressions it held. Rage, hatred, desperation.

Well, whoever he was didn't matter. Her master had commanded her to wait for one of his descendants, so she would wait, however long it took. She turned her gaze back to the lake's glittering surface. A fish broke through the water. The sun shone on its iridescent scales even as the water droplets caught the light. The sound of steel scraping against leather drew her attention away from the pretty sight.

The boy had drawn an Orakian combat knife. Did he really think to fight her? Even without her claws, there weren't many Palmans who stood a chance against a combat android!

"I am Prince Rhys Sa Riik of Landen! Where is Maia, you foul spawn of Laya?"

With that, the boy brought his knife down, the strike clearly aimed at her shoulder. Strange that he would not use his superior position to go for a killing blow. More importantly, he had said "Sa Riik." Her master's surname.

Mieu reached out and clapped her hands. The boy stared at her uncomprehendingly before he realized she had caught his blade between her palms. It was a feat impossible for a Palman to achieve barehanded, but a simple enough trick for a combat android like herself.

"Layan monster!"

This was getting tiresome. "Crazy, hotheaded boy!" Mieu scolded. "Who do you think I am, anyway? I'm no Layan!"

More force was brought to bear on the blade. Mieu did not flinch and the knife did not come any closer to her. Suddenly, the direction of force reversed as the boy tried to break free from their stalemate. Mieu stood pat. Palman muscles were no match for Palman machinery.

The boy seemed to realize he was at a disadvantage, to put it mildly. He glared at her. "A woman mysteriously appears on the shores of this lake scant days after my fiancée is kidnapped, a woman that never moves, never even blinks, dressed in a way no decent Orakian woman ever would, a woman who catches a sword attack with her bare hands, something not even a master swordsman can do! You're a Layan!"

Of all the...! Mieu scrunched her face into an expression of annoyance. This world had apparently lost more knowledge than she could possibly imagine if something as silly as not blinking was considered a sign of being a Layan! She blinked, repeatedly, ostentatiously, just for the boy's benefit. She watched his jaw drop and his eyes become as round as saucers. He banished his disbelief quickly, but his next words made it clear her that he was not converted. "One of Laya's people would do anything to deceive an Orakian!"

"No, I'm not one of Laya's people, Prince," she said, exasperated. "I am a combat android, designation MIEU Type S2."

"I've never heard of such a thing as an android," the boy responded hotly. "Layan!"

He insisted on being difficult. "I'm a machine! I was made by Orakians to fight!"

"Do you think I'm stupid? Cyborgs are made of metal and don't look anything like people!"

Cyborgs made of metal? Well, you could argue that she was a cyborg due to her organic skin, but that was semantics. More importantly, there had apparently been a major amount of linguistic drift while she slept. Just how long had she been asleep? And just how was she going to convince him she was an android? It was such an absurd situation that she would have liked to laugh. She caught a glimpse of something shiny at his belt. "Is that a Monitor?"

"What?" The tone of his response was confused instead of hostility.

Mieu inclined her head at his belt. "The device at your hip. Is it a Monitor? Does it work?"

That perplexed expression held. "No. It keeps asking for an interface, whatever that is."

It was entirely possible this was the solution. She tried not to think of the implications inherent in a person who did not know what an interface was. "Layan powers have no effect on machines beyond blowing them up. Right?"

His frown was just the slightest bit uncertain. "Well, according to the stories, yes, that's so."

"So let me prove I'm a...cyborg. I'll make the Monitor work," Mieu said reasonably. She liked the sound of stories even less than she had his ignorance of interfaces. "Of course, you'll have to trust me that I'm really a machine, and I'll have to trust that you won't try to give me an unplanned haircut when I let go of your knife. Are we agreed?"

Hesitation, skepticism, suspicion, and trepidation crossed the boy's face before his expression settled into grim determination. He nodded curtly. Mieu released the knife without concern. Should the boy attack her again, it would be easy to disarm him.

Ill at ease, the boy kept the knife between them. Mieu approved of his caution. It wouldn't do any good against her, but still, it showed that rude though he was, the boy was not a fool. Mieu watched as his free hand went down to his hip and picked up the small square machine that hung at his belt. He tossed it the scant distance between them. She caught it without getting up from her crouch.

When the boy made no move to attack, Mieu took a good look at the Monitor. It was a useful cartographer device that had been standard issue in the Orakian armies. It allowed even the lowliest commander to know the terrain wherever he was, to ambush and raid to advantage. She flipped the power switch. The small portable machine surged to life. White text appeared on a blue screen.

An error has occurred and the system is unable to boot properly.

The problem seems caused by the following:

Corrupted System Data

Please provide correct machine interface to purge and replace corrupted data and boot the Monitor correctly.

Simple enough to fix. Mieu slid back the covering that concealed the infrared scanner. Ordinarily, the low-level beam would scan a Palman's retina and confirm it was an authorized user. For her, the beam would end up reading data and overriding its system. It did not take long for the simple machine to erase the damaged sections and reboot. An image of the seven worlds appeared.

"What's that?"

Mieu looked up into a pair of inquisitive blue eyes. Curiosity had been stronger than hostility. "The seven worlds, of course."

"Seven? There's only one world! Landen!"

The only thing she could do was shake her head. She suspected she did not want to know the answer to some of her questions, but as her master would have said, needs must. "Before we get into that, do you still think I'm a Layan, or do you admit I'm a...cyborg."

Reluctance hung heavy over his head as he replied, "No. Layans can't use machines. I still find it hard to believe you're a cyborg."

"You wouldn't be the first," Mieu muttered. She raised her voice. "Can you tell me something? My master Orakio put me to sleep here. How long has it been since his time?"

"It's been over a thousand years since the brave Orakio vanquished the evil goddess Laya."

A thousand years? Evil goddess? Apparently, the hero worship the two of them had so loathed had stuck with a vengeance. "You said your name is Rhys Sa Riik of Landen. Does that mean you're descended from Orakio?"

The suspicion was back. The knife was raised a bit more. "It does. What of it?"

Mieu gave her best smile. "I have been waiting for one thousand years for you. Only a descendant of Orakio can command me."

Surprise lit up the boy's face before a little bit of hope shone through. "Really? So does that mean you'll accompany me on my quest to save Maia?

"Of course," Mieu replied pacifically. Who was Maia? Someone kidnapped by a Layan, at the very least. She'd have more answers later, but first she had to make certain he was who he claimed he was. "There's one little thing. I must be sure you're descended from my master."

"Isn't my name enough?"

The redheaded gynoid stood up gracefully and approached the boy who claimed to be her master's descendant. "My apologies, but I require a blood sample to compare your genetic marker against my master's. One moment..."

"Wait, what are you do...OW!"

Mieu had a portable compound analysis scanner built into her mouth useful for all sorts of unexpected tasks, as well as her master's full genome map. It only made sense that biting would be the quickest way to get a blood sample.