Lily narrowed her eyes just as Iris began to tremble.
“You say that, yet here you are, in front of our eyes, talking to us, very much not murdered.”
Sarah’s torso shook as she laughed.
“Naturally. As you can see, things didn’t quite go according to how the humans envisioned it.”
Iris breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed, having processed and analysed the irrational fear that she might have killed the woman who was currently leaning on the wall in front of them. Her eyes flashed pink briefly as she blushed, embarrassed that she had allowed herself to be taken by such an impossible, illogical thought.
“They brought Iris before me, dressed in a soldier’s uniform. It was… painful. She was never meant to know fighting or war, but the humans had twisted our daughter and used her as their toy in the game of war. They showed her off, explained all the weapons and technologies they had built into her. It disgusted me. The whole while she just stood there and watched me without expression. The girl I had lovingly raised was gone. The smile that Liliana and I loved to see was gone. In my daughter’s place was a weapon, a tool of war. My heart broke.
I think my absolute despair must have shown on my face. The scientists were snickering. They never did like me, even when I was still masquerading as a human. The group that was working on me was an ambitious bunch that had always been envious of Liliana’s success. I suppose it is the condition of the less talented to detest those with talent. A sad truth, but an inevitability.
In any case, when they had grown weary of watching the grief on my features, they gave the silent, unmoving Iris an order. I think it went something like this…”
As Sarah took in a deep breath, a sense of foreboding overtook Lily. Iris got up off the ground and was about to take one step back, but Sarah interrupted before she could move.
“Angelfall Alpha, Command Protocol Yule Seven Hammerhead One Five Eight One Initialise. Order: Kill Me.”
As the words “Angelfall Alpha” fell upon Iris’ ears, Iris froze up. Her eyes glazed over and turned into a golden colour. She stood rigidly at attention and spoke in a monotone, her voice lacking its usual vitality.
“Angelfall Unit Alpha acknowledges. Command protocol accepted. Complying with directive.”
Moving swiftly yet mechanically, Iris quickly retrieved a shooter from her leg compartment and levelled it at Sarah’s head. Horrified, Lily moved forward to stop Sarah, but she was stopped in her tracks by Sarah’s next sentence.
“Stop! Please. I need… I need to check something.”
Lily opened her mouth to protest, but a glare from Sarah stopped her in her tracks. She felt a hint of fear creep into her heart. She had thought her various experiences had rendered her immune to fear, but something about the intensity of Sarah’s gaze made her back down. Nodding thankfully, Sarah addressed Iris again.
“What’s wrong? Hurry up. Order: Kill me.”
Iris’ weapon remained aimed at Sarah’s head, but she did not pull the trigger.
“Order: Kill me. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me!”
Still Iris did not shoot. Her eyes flickered rapidly between green and gold, before finally settling on green. She lowered the weapon and spoke quietly, her voice losing the monotone.
Sarah breathed a sigh of relief and smiled happily at Iris. Then, still smiling, she spoke again.
“My lovely angelic daughter Iris, please kill me, okay?”
Iris’ eyes flashed again, this time turning pure white. She raised the weapon again and aimed it at Sarah wordlessly. Her finger tightened on the trigger.
Lily did not really care about whether Sarah lived or died. She was a relic of the past, and while her existence stimulated Lily’s curiosity, the angel’s survival was a matter of little personal import to Lily. However, Lily was not about to stand by and watch Iris be forced to kill someone against her will. Unable to bear the sight of an emotionless Iris any longer, Lily came up next to her and gently touched the hand that held the weapon, whispering into her ear.
“Iris, come back. This isn’t you.”
The moment Iris heard Lily’s voice, her white eyes widened and flashed green. Her right hand, the hand which held the weapon, began to shake. Her eyes rapidly switched between white and green, as her entire body trembled. Tears fell from her eyes as she desperately fought her programming. Even as her arm remained outstretched and aimed at Sarah, her trigger finger not relaxing, soft, strained cries of “no” leaked from her lips. Moving jerkily, as if moving in sudden bursts of temporary control, she brought her left hand up and over to her right, gently resting it on Lily’s hand. Lily quietly placed her other palm on top of Iris’ left hand and whispered again.
“Iris, come back.”
With a strained shout and a sudden motion, Iris tossed the shooter to the side and collapsed on the ground, panting. Lily knelt down and hugged her closely, glaring at Sarah, who was watching the two of them with a look of satisfaction.
“That was too much, even for a test.”
“I’m sorry, but I had to confirm it. Mother’s duty.”
“Bullshit. That second time was different. She shrugged off the first order, but the second time was something else. What did you do.”
“Good intuition. The scientists only used the first command. The second string was something Liliana and I built into Iris’ programming, a hardcoded command interlinked with her magic core, on the off chance that her AI went berserk. Only Liliana and I had the voice authorisation to activate it. It’s much stronger than the command they used. It’s built into her, rather than appended to her programming like their commands were. The fact that she was able to refuse the order means that she’s no longer bound by her programming at all. She’s completely broken free of her origins. I suppose I have you to thank for that. Thank you.”
“I don’t want your-”
Lily’s venomous retort was interrupted by Iris placing a hand on her cheek and shaking her head. Lily closed her eyes and forced herself to swallow down her anger. Iris turned to Sarah.
“…That was rude and uncalled for. But I can live with it. More importantly, continue. I want to know how I ended up in a wasteland.”
Tears still shone on the edges of Iris’ eyes, but the resolve on her face was clear. Sarah glanced at her quietly for a while.
“They say children become different people after you’ve not seen them for a decade. What then, of four hundred years? You’ve grown, Iris.”
Sarah showed Iris a contented smile, then continued speaking.
“Well, what you saw the first time was pretty much what happened back then. They gave her the order, but she refused to fire. No matter how much they tried to force directives on her, she refused to fire. Eventually, they took her away for reprogramming.
They brought her back in front of me several times after that, each time wiping her memory and trying something a little different in the programming. Still she refused to kill me. I suppose you could call it the power of love.”
Sarah’s smile changed briefly into a wry grin.
“After a few more attempts, they gave up. They accepted they weren’t able to fully control Iris. A weapon that could not be fully controlled was far too dangerous to use. They started looking into ways to repurpose her uniquely powerful magical core.
The researchers that were cutting me open took great joy in detailing to me the fate that awaited my girl. I suppose they wanted to see me in despair again. Unfortunately for them, I never despaired ever again, not after the first time they tried to kill me with Iris. I now knew that that my daughter, despite receiving numerous modifications and wipes, still recognised me, at some level, as her mother. That gave me immense joy, and was more than enough for me to endure anything they could throw at me.
They told me that Iris was to be repurposed as a power source – little more than a battery. They were unable to find a way to fully control Iris, but they could use her to power another weapon, and control that instead. It would still have the property of divine power, allowing it to harm angels.
As a test run of its feasibility, they built Iris into a large autonomous weapon, storing it in a barren extradimensional space – the gate to which was powered by Iris’ core. It was one of Liliana’s side projects, to create a potential haven for humanity in the event that a war did break out. The application of magic to transdimensional physics wasn’t her area of expertise, but I helped her out quite a bit with that project. Of course, as with the rest of Liliana’s work, the humans twisted it into a perversion of its initial purpose. To gather combat data, they released various death row convicts with varying levels of armament into that extradimensional space. From what I understand, the tests were an enormous success.
I don’t know anything that transpired after that. Even as they were discussing ways to utilise Iris’ potential as a generator, they were making the preparations to seal me away, until the weaponry could be perfected. They decided that they had learned all they could from me, and since they could not kill me, they elected to put me to sleep, until the day came when they perfected a way to kill me. That’s what this suit is for. It cuts me off from magical energy. As an existence that is fundamentally magical, blocking my flow of magic forced me to enter a state much like hibernation. As such, I don’t know what happened of the project to use Iris as a battery, I don’t know what happened to the war.
That said, judging from the fact that those researchers never came to finish me off, and taking into account that it’s now the 400th year of a calendar I don’t recognise, I can narrow down the possibilities. Taking into account that you’ve never even heard of the war with the gods, I can only assume that the war eventually broke out, and that it was a war which humanity lost.”