The night after we got back to earth, I took the cure to Joan. I found her lying on her trampoline in her backyard, staring up at the stars. After deactivating the TPC, I stood there watching her just as I had the night I deactivated her genes – genes that the Guild had deliberately reactivated. Not that it mattered anymore, as I would again deactivate her genes and the Guild had agreed to leave it that way. In fact, it was the Guild's idea.

The conditions, under which the Guild would give me the cure, consisted of my deactivating the mutation in Joan's genes so that her powers would no longer exist. Unfortunately, the Guild only agreed to give me enough of the cure to save Joan. After relentless arguing, they refused to allow the other mutated humans to live. In utter disgust of their behavior, both Alice and I had made a very tough decision.

The conditions also included that none of us ever let anyone outside of ourselves and the Council know of the experiment. The Guild had convinced us that had the people found out, there would be a loss of trust and support that would cause serious problems. While I felt the people of our world deserved to know, I found myself subscribing to the old human phrase, "Ignorance is bliss".

One last condition the Guild demanded, despite my many objections, was that I erase everything I told Joan from her mind. As soon as I let down my mind block, they probed everything they could from my mind. They were not happy, obviously, and would only give me the cure if Joan remembered nothing of what I had told her about us. It angered me to no end, and had the situation been different, I'd have refused. But Joan's life was at stake.

I didn't want to disturb Joan; she looked so peaceful lying there on the trampoline, her legs bent up, fidgeting with her necklace. Her red hair, spread out over the trampoline like a spider web, sparkled like crystal in the light of the full moon overhead.

Glancing upward at the stars, I remembered what she had asked me about their sun. During the ride back to earth, I had taken the time to look up the ship's data files to see the human classification for stars.

Smiling, I looked back down at Joan.

"Joan," I said softly.

Joan jumped up and looked over her shoulder at me. A smile grew upon her face. "Jake!" she said, excited. Crawling off the trampoline she ran up to me and threw her arms around me. Letting go, she stepped back. "Where've you been? What's up?"

I smiled back at her. "Well," I paused, glancing down for a moment, "I found out something about the person who was hanging around your house and got into your backyard."

Leaning into me, Joan stared straight into my eyes. "Yeah," she said, nodding, "my dad told me you came by the other day."

Snickering, I glanced down again. "Yeah," I said shyly. "Well," I looked back into her eyes, "apparently, it was our enemy." I saw the confusion in her furrowed brow. "My people – we're at war – we've been at war, that is, with this other race…and it seems that you weren't actually…evolved."

"What?" she said, nonplussed.

I took in a deep breath. Scratching my nose, I said, "Well, the Guild – they…ran an experiment." Sighing at her still confused look, I strolled over to the trampoline and sat on it. As Joan walked over and sat next to me on my left, I continued. "My people don't have emotions," I explained. "We got rid of them a long time ago cause of how volatile we were. Our emotions were really strong, and they drove us to very violent wars with each other.

"Well, the war with our enemy hasn't been going anywhere," I continued, "and the Guild decided that the tamed emotions that humans have would fuel powers like ours. So they began this experiment where they altered the DNA of some humans so that it would mutate into something similar to ours, and the mutated humans would eventually develop powers like ours except stronger." Pausing, I looked down, feeling somewhat guilty. "They wanted to use you," I said. "They were going to turn you into an army they would use against our enemy."

With a focused, thoughtful gaze, she looked away from me to the ground. I sensed the wonder within her. Moments passed as I allowed her to review the information.

"Wow," she said quietly. "I…they were turning me into you, one of your people?"

"Yeah," I nodded. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. They didn't tell us. The enemy found out, and they started infecting the mutated humans with a virus. …That's what he was doing the night he got into your backyard."

Her mouth opened in a silent gasp. "Well…you can fix it, right? There's a cure?"

I smiled, nodding. "Yeah," I said, "yeah, I can cure you."

"And the others?"

Grimacing, I looked down from her again. "The Guild didn't want to cure the virus," I said slowly. "They wanted the evidence destroyed, so that no one would find out." I looked back at her. "I argued with them, of course, and they agreed to let me save you…but only you…and only under certain…conditions."

Joan's brow furrowed. "What kind of conditions?" she asked.

I took in another deep breath. "Well," I began, my eyes trailing off to my right (I couldn't even look at her) "we can't tell anyone else about the experiment – any one of our people, that is." I added absently, "Something about how it would cause unrest and whatnot." I paused and sighed. "And…they want me to deactivate the mutation in your genes, so that your powers won't exist."

"Won't the genes just reactivate, like last time?" she asked.

Smiling innocently, I looked at her. "Well, you see," I said nervously, "I sorta found out the Guild reactivated them, on purpose, before they realized what the enemy was doing." I frowned as I sensed her growing distaste for my people. Sure, I didn't like them either, but if she started disliking my people, she might start disliking me. Looking away from her again, I continued. "There were some other conditions…"

"What?"

"…They want me to erase what I've told you from your memory."

Slowly, she slipped off the trampoline and stepped backward. "…What? You mean what you told me about you and your people, and what you did for me? Everything?"

I jumped off the trampoline and moved closer to her. "Joan, I'm sorry," I said, "it was the only way I could get the cure from them. If I don't do it, they'll find out and they'll just do it themselves." It hurt me to see the worry in her face. "…I'm sorry, Joan."

The sullen look on her face made my heart ache. I had anticipated such a reaction.

Looking up at the stars, I stepped beside her and put my arm around her. "A G2V type star," I said.

She looked up at me. "What?"

"Your sun," I said. "You asked me what type of star it is. A type G's a star that absorbs strong metallic lines in its spectrum. It's a yellow dwarf, main sequence star. According to my people's classification, it's an S47, a low-temperature, low-luminosity star containing a system of planets, one of which is inhabited." I looked down and smiled at her. "Your people classify them by their spectra, but we classify them by temperature, luminosity, and whether or not it's part of a system of planets that's inhabited." I watched her smile and snickered. "It makes things a lot easier when it's widely known that there are lots of inhabited planets out there."

She put her arm around me and leaned her head on my shoulder. "I wish I could see them," she said, looking up at the stars.

Smiling at her, I sighed. I remembered what she'd asked me about whether or not I could take her into space. Of course, I couldn't, and it wouldn't really make any difference, as she wouldn't remember anyway. I did have another idea, though.

"You know," I said, "I still can't take you into space, but I can bring space to you."

She looked at me curiously. "What do you mean?"

"Well," I said, stepping in front of her, "I've been in space, and I've seen…" I paused, my gaze trailing upward to the stars, "…some pretty amazing things." I looked back at her. "I can show them to you."

She grinned. "You mean with your powers?"

I nodded.

Jumping excitedly, she said, "Okay!"

I moved real close to her, and we looked each other straight in the eyes. "I'm going to have to touch you," I warned.

Joan nodded.

Smiling, I took her hand in mine and held it up to my chest. "Close your eyes," I said softly. As she closed them, I reached up and brushed her hair behind her ear, holding her cheek in my hand. I closed my eyes, moving my hand down her face to her neck, and I took some memories from my mind and began to move into hers. Avoiding her own memories, I rested comfortably within her current thoughts and gave my own. Images flashed through both of our thoughts, things I had seen while in space. We saw the rings of Saturn and the binary systems of Alpha Centauri and my own home system. I showed her the nebulae I had encountered and the star clusters I had visited. Finally, I showed her our galaxy, a violet river of stars streaking a black void, and I let her see the earth as I had seen it for the first time, in orbit of it.

The last image I gave her was of her, standing with her friends by that stage in the cafeteria the morning I first saw her. I let her know how beautiful she was to me. She felt how I felt when I first saw her. In that moment, as my feelings melded with her, human and alien became one.

When I let her go and opened my eyes, I watched Joan's open blissfully into mine. She had that dreamy look in her face, like she had when she would kiss Eric. Her smile seemed etched on her face, as though it would never end. I couldn't describe the joy that her smile filled me with.

Her beautiful skin bathing in the moonlight, her eyes glistening, Joan wrapped her arms around me and said, in the sweetest voice I had ever heard, "Thank you." Embracing me tightly, she thanked me a couple more times, her voice fading to a whisper.

I held her silently in my arms, reveling in every moment of it. Some part of me actually hated myself, because I couldn't freeze time then and spend the rest of my life in that moment.

When finally we let each other go, she looked up at me and frowned. "Too bad I won't remember any of it," she said sadly.

Smiling, I reached over and stroked her cheek. "You will," I said. "Not all at once, and you won't understand it, but you'll remember it. You'll see it in your dreams."

She grew a broad smile. "Well," she said, slowly, "I guess you better get it over with, before something happens and neither of us can bear to do it."

I chuckled. "Okay," I said, nodding.

"It's too bad your people got rid of your emotions," she said, taking my hand in hers and running a finger along my palm.

Confused, I asked her, "Why's that?"

"You said your people had really strong emotions," she said, looking into my eyes, "that you had lots of wars cause you could hate each other so much. Well, as strong as your hate could be, your love could be just as strong, couldn't it?"

I about fell backward. Smiling and shaking my head at her, I couldn't believe it had never come to me before. Joan had continued to amaze me, her mind working in ways I only wished that others could work. How could something so obvious have eluded me? She was absolutely right. As much as we hated each other, we could have loved each other just as much. In fact, Bonding ceremonies back then had been held in the highest regards and respects. Bonding with a mate was the highest honor anyone could have.

"Yeah," I said, nodding at her, "you're right. It is too bad."

She smiled at me and let go of my hand. "I'm ready," she said.

I reached up and took her face into my hands. A blue light shined from between my hands and her head. The mutated genes deactivated. Smiling, her eyes closed, and she fell into my arms, unconscious. I pulled out the cure, contained in a small, cylindrical device, and injected it into her arm. Activating the TPC, I carried her into her room where I deactivated the TPC and lied her down in her bed. Pulling her covers over her, I gave her a kiss on her cheek, stroked her hair, and said goodbye to her.

I left Joan sleeping peacefully. I had erased her memory of the last few days that we had spent together. She would wake up the next morning, and all she would remember was what type of star the earth's sun was.

Alice had given her ship to the Guardians. Obviously, they were quite unhappy with me, but the Guild took care of them for us. She had given the Guardians her ship, because the tough decision we had made was to not return to the homeworld.

I had decided not to return after I found out what the Guild had done and why. I could no longer stand the people I had worked for and refused to do so any longer. Besides that, I wanted to keep my emotions. Alice had decided when she fell out of denial. She had found herself quite disgusted with the Guild also. Moreover, she had grown a liking to humanity. Somehow the emotions and social masses had become a part of her closed, introversive nature. It didn't surprise me. After having watched her sing along to Marilyn Manson, I could scarcely imagine her returning to our dull, emotionless people.

Mattie, Ryan, and Livingston had all gone to the Guardian base to await the transport of their own bodies before leaving earth. Humanity hadn't quite reached them, and the experiment, though troubling to them, hadn't much affected them.

As far as Jacob Riley and Alice Crook, we would sort of meld each of their consciousness with our own, exist simultaneously in a sort of symbiotic relationship. It was sort of like being schizophrenic. Of course, we had to let their consciousness have some sort of control. They didn't like it, but they realized they didn't have a choice. Alice and I would give them control when we felt necessary, so that we wouldn't be taking away their lives completely. It wasn't as if they could do anything about it; if they wanted to tell someone, they couldn't, because we'd just take control. I guess it seemed a little harsh, and I didn't much like myself for doing it. Luckily, Jake somewhat understood. As far as the human Alice, I'm not quite sure how she took it when she discovered an alien consciousness had taken control of her body. Jake took it pretty well.

I found Alice sitting in the driver's side of one of two of the cars her team had used, as she had sold the other one. Money wouldn't be a problem for either of us. With the amount the Guild had split between the two of us, we could have both lived very long and well without working a day in our lives on earth. Alice had agreed to take the black 2004 Mustang, and I would get the gray 2004 Eclipse. I didn't really care, as long as I had a car.

I had gotten in the passenger's seat and shut the door when I found her. It was about an hour after midnight, and I had just returned from saying goodbye to Joan.

"So, it's done," I said.

She put her hand on my leg. "I'm sorry, Jake," she said.

I forced a smile and shook my head. "No," I said, "it's okay. I'll be alright."

She pulled her hand off my leg, and the both of us proceeded to stare, blankly ahead, as though we'd just seen the end of a world. But a world was ending.

"So," she said slowly, "this is it. We're gonna be human now."

Snickering, I said, "Sad, isn't it?" I mused.

We laughed.

There was one other tough decision Alice and I had made.

"Jake," she said hesitantly, turning her gaze toward me, "I-I don't know if I can…are we ever gonna see each other again?"

I assuaged her with a smile. "Well," I said, "the whole point of this is to get away from our lives as non-humans," I paused, as we stared into each other's eyes, "including each other."

She smiled and looked away.

"But…maybe one day, one of us can look the other up," I said, "catch up with each other."

Alice looked at me and grinned. "I'd like that," she said, nodding.

Seconds passed as all we did was sit there, smiling, and staring into each other's eyes. I think that both of us were trying to remember each other's faces.

"I love you, Alice," I said.

She reached up and stroked my cheek. "I love you, Jake."

I took her hand from my face and kissed it. "Take care of yourself."

Alice nodded.

At that, I opened the door and pulled my eyes from her. Shutting the door, I found myself between the Mustang and the Eclipse, as they were parked next to each other. Opening the driver's side door to the Eclipse, I heard Alice's door open.

"Jake! Wait!"

Alice ran around the car to me. Throwing her arms around me, we kissed. I felt her mind open, and I opened mine to her. We shared each other's memories. I blocked nothing from her. There seemed something that she continued to hide, but I thought nothing of it.

As the kiss ended, we continued to hold each other tightly.

"You know," I began softly, "Joan said something to me earlier that I thought was really interesting."

Alice turned her head, her cheek to my shoulder. "What's that?"

"She made the point that if our emotions were so strong that the hate and violence we had towards each other nearly destroyed us, then our feelings of love and friendship could just as well have kept us together."

Alice didn't say anything. Neither of us said anything for a while. I was as lost in that thought as she was.

As the wind caressed us in that night, I felt her squeeze me tighter. I think we both realized then that we'd never be able to let each other go.