Lily interjected as Sarah mentioned an unfamiliar name. Next to her, Iris tensed up as a wave of familiarity crashed against the conspicuous void in her memory. Annoyed by the interruption, Sarah gave Lily a sharp, disapproving glance.

“Yes, I was about to get to her, if you’ll just let me speak.”

Sarah cleared her throat, then resumed her narrative.

“Liliana was a genius of a girl. She was only eighteen when I met her, I think, but she had already made quite a name for herself. Getting her doctorate at eleven, she had written a number of academic papers that changed the face of society. The most prominent was probably her work regarding magical energy and its applications. She was a pioneer in the field of harnessing magical energy, seeing it as the future of sustainable power. She dreamed of a day when magic empowered the lives of all, when fighting and competition over limited fuel resources would be a thing of the past. A very smart, very kind, very sweet girl. Perhaps too kind for the world into which she was born.”

Sarah’s eyes took on a distant quality as she stared at Lily, stared through Lily, reminiscing about some long-forgotten time in the past. A soft sadness slithered across her expression.

“She looked a lot like you. Soft, green hair. Brilliant red eyes. The metal arms, not so much, but… when I look at you, I’m reminded of her.”

She shook her head and closed her eye, chasing away her sweet nostalgia.

“I first met her as her student. She was a professor at the university I infiltrated, one which was at the forefront of the field of magical research. With the gods fearing the weaponisation of magic, I was to infiltrate their academic circles and disrupt or redirect their research. It was a duty I took great pride in; it was very literally the reason for my existence. I secured a place in the university as a freshly matriculated student, and through several of the classes I was required to attend, I came into contact with Liliana, who was teaching one of these classes. I immediately understood the extent of her extraordinary genius, understood the immense threat she might have posed to my creators if her talents were turned toward war. It was then a simple decision to make: I resolved myself to infiltrate her inner circles and ingratiate myself with her, so I could be in a better position to influence her actions and decisions.

I started making a number of appointments with her under the premise of clarifying doubts. Ever the earnest and helpful educator, she and I met many times, sessions where we learned from each other. I was her intellectual equal, and she was delighted to have someone to talk to about her ideas and theories. To give you a better understanding of just how brilliant she was: I am an angel created by the goddess of Wisdom. All of us in the Hidden Flight were created to be exceptionally intelligent. My creators, the gods, specifically created me to have a degree of intelligence unattainable by humanity. And yet, even with all this, Liliana was able to match me. Her existence was extraordinary; by all accounts, it should have been impossible.

As we met and spoke and traded ideas, she increasingly saw me less as a student and more as a friend. For my part, I saw her as an intriguing person. Despite her natural talents, she found value in modesty. She was not in the habit of flaunting her intellect, nor was she ever condescending in manner. Of course, I did not forget my mission. Constantly, throughout my interactions with her, my objective stayed in the back of my mind, and I kept searching for ways to mislead her, to guide her.

I never forgot my mission, but over time, the way I sought to accomplish it began to change. My initial objective was to disrupt Liliana’s research and halt her progress. But seeing how much she loved her work, how much effort she put into it, I could not bring myself to do that. So I switched tactics instead. I tried to convince her to stop her research, to enter a different field. But she was far too enthralled by the idea and possibilities of magic for my words to have any effect. When that didn’t work, I tried to bring her over to our side – I told her that the idea of using her technology for war scared me, shared with her what I thought painted a horrific picture of the costs of war. And she agreed, but she was aware of the current state of humanity. Intelligent as she was, she understood why humanity found it important to develop technologies to challenge the gods, though she was loath to be a part of that process.

That was when I decided to take another approach. Clearly, Liliana didn’t consider me close enough to sabotage her own research on my behalf. In that case, all I needed to do was to get closer to her, such that my words held weight in her mind. We were already the best of friends at that point, so the natural next step was to become lovers. I would make her fall in love with me, and with that love, I would be able to control her actions. It should have been simple enough. My creator was, after all, the goddess that embodied love.”

Sarah took a brief break from her narrative to indulge in a sigh of sweet, self-derisive remembrance.

“At least, that’s how I rationalised it. Thinking back, perhaps that was when I fell. That was when I fell, and I tried to cover up my corruption with logic and cold reason. Deep down, I knew it was a farce, but I didn’t care. I let myself fall, and falling felt so, so wonderful.

As part of my designs to seduce her, I started to see Liliana even more frequently, having meals with her, talking with her, getting closer, sharing our thoughts and troubles. As time went on in this manner, as I experienced prolonged, personal contact with Liliana, I became aware of a very troubling fact about myself.

My creator embodied love. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I was – nay, I still am – more susceptible to the emotion of love than my angelic sisters. I sought to make Liliana fall in love with me, but the result was rather the opposite: I fell quite hopelessly in love with her.

Unlike my sisters, I was created to have a great range of emotions – it was necessary in order to effectively infiltrate human society. As such, unlike my sisters, I was capable of feeling love. Not the fanatical, worshipful devotion inherent in all angels, but hot, burning, passionate, desirous love. As I spent more time with Liliana, I longed for her, I longed to be with her, to touch her.

Eventually, my longing culminated in a heartfelt confession one day, to which she nodded. We became lovers. At first, I kept telling myself that it was all for the sake of the mission, that it was all for the purpose of being able to influence her actions and thoughts. It was a lie, of course, but it kept me sane. Kept me sure of myself, kept me sure of my identity.

Despite my many opportunities, however, I never truly exerted any form of influence on her work. Whenever I tried to misdirect her, a glance at her delighted face, adorned in endearing concentration as she worked, would stop the words from leaving my mouth. I never forgot my mission, but at some point in time, I stopped actively trying to fulfill it. I even helped her further her research, though I did not assist her in anything that could be used for military purposes. In this way, I reconciled my assigned mission with my desire and love for this young woman.

We lived happy lives. We loved each other. We shared an apartment, shared our meals, shared a bed. Our individual burdens seemed to vanish as we reveled in each other’s company. My mission slowly became a constant but nagging voice – impossible to silence, but easily ignored. On her part, her research naturally shifted from its original purpose. In a sense, my mission was a success. She changed her research focus, from the general application of magical energy, to the use of magical energy as a power source for a humanoid machine.

She refused to tell me the reason for the sudden, drastic change in research interest, but I did not press her for details. My mission was being fulfilled, and I was able to stay with Liliana, and we were able to lead happy lives, and that was enough for me.

Of course, I soon found out the reason for her sudden interest in humanoid robotics. On the day that marked the second anniversary of our relationship, she suddenly called me to go find her at the lab. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued – she had forbidden me from entering that lab for four months prior to that.

When I got there, she was waiting for me at the entrance, and standing next to her there was a little girl, whose skin was made of metal. Her eyes flashed all the colours of the rainbow. Despite her metal shell, there was no doubt that she was made in my image – she looked identical to me. As I stood there, just gawking at the expressionless girl in front of me, Liliana giggled and introduced her to me.”

Sarah paused to fix her single eye on Iris’ face with a tender, soft gaze. Iris was trembling, shaking. She knew what the next part of the story was, and her anxious anticipation of it was spreading throughout her petite body. Lily grabbed Iris’ hand and squeezed it tightly. The quivering slowed down, then stopped. Iris relaxed slightly. Sarah regarded Lily with an appraising eye, watching her actions. Then she spoke the next line.

“Liliana had spent those 4 months creating and refining the android. In consideration of her pretty eyes, she had named the android Iris. And she told me that the girl, Iris, was to be our daughter.”