The chrome egg cracked open to reveal the curled up form of a girl, made of metal. She was completely naked, her skin a pristine, glossy white. She looked for all intents and purposes identical to a regular human girl, but the texture of her skin was clearly metallic. She had thin arms and dainty little hands, with a lithe build and long legs. Her small chest rose up and down slowly, as if to simulate breathing. Her eyes were closed, her porcelain lips parted slightly. Her silvery white hair draped across a part of her body, covering some of her waist. On closer inspection, her hair seemed to be made of an innumerable mass of long, thin wires made of the same material as the battle machine’s skirt.
Lily drew in a sharp breath. Here was the first thing of beauty she had encountered in this wasteland, and it was beautiful indeed. Unlike the larger battle machine, this metal girl had all the natural curves of an organic girl, and none of the unnatural angles of the machine. A strand of the metal girl’s hair laid across her face, lying across one lidded eye. Unable to help herself, Lily reached forward and brushed away the loose strand, fingers grazing against the cold, hard surface of the girl’s face.
Immediately the girl’s eyes snapped open, revealing picturesque eyes, exactly like a human’s, but with irises that rapidly shifted colors, from red, to green, to blue, to pink, to purple, to brown, to violet, an unending, swirling blend of colours. In the centre of these irises were small pupils, coloured a deep, dark emerald.
Lily jumped back, instantly cautious. This girl had been within the giant machine which attempted to kill her; she had no way of knowing if she was friendly, or an enemy. But even as she warily watched the girl, she could not help but note the beauty of the girl’s changing eyes. Although all of her was beautiful, her eyes were perhaps the most striking part of her.
The girl slowly stood up, blinking, facing Lily. At her full height, she was about a head shorter than Lily, with an appearance that looked roughly fourteen years of age, by human standards. Her eyes continued shifting and changing, before finally settling on a vivid, bright green to complement the darker emerald pupils. With a clear, beautiful voice, also sounding about fourteen years of age, with a tone that suggested confusion or contemplation, the girl spoke.
“Reactivation of all-purpose military unit, model EAPCPOEDC01, confirmed. Systems check… all green. Current date… unknown. Current time… unknown. Unit status… condemned. Unit function… Error. Function not found. Retrieving internal memory logs for troubleshooting… error. Internal memory logs missing. Missing files not necessary to operation of systems. Retrieving user profile… none found. Bootup complete. Current objective: Register new purpose.”
The girl took one step forward. Lily took one step back, tensing up.
“Confirming organic contact. Reactivation command sent by organic contact, acknowledged. Cross-referencing contact DNA with DNA signature of currently observed organic… 99.94% match. 0.06 within acceptable error margin. Registering DNA profile as new user profile. Profile type: Owner. Registration complete. Purpose registration complete. Awaiting initialisation instructions.”
The girl knelt down on the ground and placed her hands on her knees, watching Lily.
“Awaiting further instructions, Owner.”
Lily gently massaged her forehead, slightly overwhelmed. It seemed that the girl was… kneeling to her. And had she called Lily “Owner”? That seemed highly indicative of one of the social paradigms she had studied…
She knew that some countries still practiced slavery as a legal economic trade. Of course, the progressive Academy City had long since denounced its unethicality and outlawed it, but she had read up on the processes and mistreatments involved. Yet, here, before her, was a metal girl she had never met, apparently willingly subjecting her self to a form of slavery. The idea made Lily feel… uncomfortable, to say the least. In addition, she had no way of knowing whether this was a trap. The girl was obviously a machine of some sort, but she had never heard of a machine moving and speaking like a human. In fact, she had never heard of a machine moving at all, not without external input. At the very least, it seemed sentient, or at least intelligent. It had to be. It had to be somehow considered a sentient living being, or her magic would not have been repelled. She decided to test it.
“…So you’re saying that you think I’m your owner?”
“Affirmative. Owner has been registered as this unit’s owner.”
“So you’ll do whatever I say?”
“Affirmative. Please give this unit an order.”
“In that case… stay still. No matter what happens, do not move or blink.”
The girl knelt, stock-still, not even blinking or breathing. Lily bounced a few times, then launched herself at the girl, bringing her leg toward the girl’s head in a most certainly fatal blow. Even as the leg neared her head, the girl did not move or blink. The leg contacted with the girl’s head. Still she did not move or blink.
Lily relaxed. She had drastically reduced her magic’s power just at the moment of contact, so no harm would be caused. Still, it seemed that the girl was serious in obeying her order. It seemed the girl really did mean her no harm. She sighed and scratched her head.
“…Fine. I’ll trust you. You can move and speak now.”
“Affirmative. Thank you for your trust, Owner.”
Again, being called that made Lily squirm uncomfortably. The thought of lording over another sentient being was just too alien for her to handle.
“Can you not call me that? Just call me by my name. I’m Lily Voirgaire, so just call me Lily. Also, don’t treat me like that… I don’t want a slave.”
“Affirmative. Registering Owner name change to Lily. Would Lily like to adjust service settings?”
Service settings? What did that mean?
“Affirmative. Please answer the following questions. First, Would you prefer a human or mechanical personality for this unit? Current setting is Mechanical.”
“…human. Definitely human.”
“Acknowledged. Second, Please select a relationship paradigm from one of the following: Owner-Property. Master-Slave. Parent-Child. Superior-Follower. Lovers. Spouses. Rivals. Friends. Senior-Junior. Current Paradigm is Owner-Property.”
Lily raised an eyebrow at some of the options. Parent-Child? Really? What would that be like? When the girl mentioned “lovers”, Lily blushed a deep red. It was possible, but she felt strange forcing another being to love her. Friends, too, felt a little strange, but it was the most acceptable of the options. It seemed that any paradigm selected would require her to have some form of authority over the girl.
“Affirmative. Third, would you prefer this unit’s appearance to be human, mechanical, or adaptable? Current mode is Mechanical.”
Lily frowned. The girl looked plenty human to her. Perhaps it referred to her skin texture? If so, she liked the glossy feel and look of the girl’s current skin, but if she escaped this place, and brought this girl, it might be useful to have human skin texture…
“Hmm… Adaptable, for now.”
“Affirmative. Fourth, please state level of free will, from zero to one hundred. Zero indicates a complete lack of free will, one hundred indicates full autonomy. Even at one hundred, this unit will comply with general directives from Lily. Current Setting is five.”
Lily mused. While it might be dangerous to allow the girl to have full free reign – she felt uncomfortable restricting the free will of another being. She sighed at her softness. She would grant the girl free will, then perhaps regret it later.
“Affirmative. That will be all. Saving settings… Applying settings…”
The girl closed her eyes for a while. After several seconds, she opened them again, this time with a bit more life in them. She got up from her kneeling position and stood up straight, brilliantly smiling at Lily.
“Hi, Lily. It’s nice to meet you.”
Lily, a bit shocked by the sudden change, simply stood there.
“Uh… yeah… hi.”
The girl walked up to the unresisting Lily and hugged her closely.
“Thank you so much for saving me from that pod. I’ve been sleeping for… a long time.”
Lily felt the coldness of the other girl’s metal skin, but at the same time, she was filled with an unexplainable warmth. It had been so long since she had spoken to another person. Tears began to well up and overflow as Lily was overcome with emotion at finding another person in this wasteland. Feeling the tears falling on her metal shoulders, the girl slowly stroked Lily’s back in comfort. Lily didn’t care anymore even if this was all a trick and the girl was about to stab her from behind. The girl let her feel human again, and that was… all she needed, for now. The girl spoke softly as they hugged.
“There, there… You’ve had a difficult time. Thank you so much for your help. I don’t know how I can ever repay you… but I’ll try. I promise I’ll get you out of this wretched space and back to your home. Okay? I’ll stay with you. As long as you wish it, I won’t ever leave you. I’ll follow you even to the end of the world. That’s the least I can do for my savior.”
The girl broke the hug and held Lily’s shoulders at arm length, gazing up into her tearing eyes.
“I’ll get you out of here. I promise. But first…”
The girl looked squarely into Lily’s eyes. Her irises flickered from their light green to a dark blue.
“I need a name. Can you give me one?”
Lily almost laughed at the absurdity of the request. She brought up her remaining right hand and wiped away her tears.
“You want me to name you? Are you sure you don’t want to choose one for yourself? I don’t think I’d be very good at coming up with names for other people.”
The girl’s eyes flickered to a warm orange as she smiled.
“No, the name you give me is fine. I’ll be happy with any name you choose, promise.”
Lily thought for a while, thought about her feelings when she first saw the girl. Thought about how striking her eyes were, how beautiful and colourful they were. With that, she decided.
Iris’ eyes rapidly shifted colours, changing to a number of warm, inviting hues. She closed her eyes for a bit, then opened them again, skipping away from Lily, hands held behind her back, body tilted forward, grinning.
“Iris… it’s a pretty name. Well then. Once again, it’s nice to meet you, Lily. I’m Iris. Let’s get along, yeah?”