Dance of Registration
“Okay, so how do we do this? Is there anything in particular I should do or say?”
I shook my head in response to Ely’s question.
“No, the protocol for registering you as my True Owner is relatively simple. Most of the burden will fall on me. All you have to do is answer a couple of questions that I’ll ask you. The sequence will finish with a kiss. In addition, um, there’s… one other thing…”
“…I feel like I’m going to regret asking this, but what other thing?”
My face flushed with heat as I envisioned the required act.
“U-Um… I have to do a dance.”
Ely blinked and burst out laughing.
“What, is that all? You had me thinking it was something more embarrassing.”
“It is embarrassing! I’ve never done this dance before, what if I screw up and end up looking weird?”
“Oh, come on. Are you telling me that the success of this sequence depends on you being able to properly remember how a dance goes? If so, I’d like to have a word with whoever your programmer was.”
Well, she was right. The registration protocol only required that I attempt the dance, not that I perform it perfectly. I had often wondered why the protocol even required a dance if it didn’t matter whether or not it was done properly, but I decided that my programmer probably had some strange preferences and came to the conclusion that it was better for my sanity to leave it at that.
…Wait, my programmer? Ely had said that, hadn’t she? But how did she know about the technological nature of my birth? Surely, given the world we found ourselves in, she should have assumed that my origin was magical rather than technological in nature. So how had she figured it out? It was a question that didn’t really matter, but it piqued my curiosity. It must have shown on my face, because Ely quickly answered my unspoken question.
“Your speech patterns. The words you used were pretty big giveaways for anyone familiar with them.”
Ah, that was true. “Protocol” wasn’t a particularly common word in this world, even if it existed in the common Garm language. If this ritual was fully magical in nature, as the new humans understood it, I wouldn’t have called it a “protocol”.
“…Still, I’m surprised at how calm you are, given the technological level of this world.”
The last part was spoken in a softer voice, to stop the elves and catkin from hearing me. Ely scratched her head and averted her gaze.
“Ah, yeah, but, it wasn’t the first time I heard terms like those. I do know someone else who’s probably related to your era…”
I narrowed my eyes. There was another person. Someone from my time who had made Ely’s acquaintance.
Why? For what purpose? To harm her? Get away from her. Leave my sister alone. Leave Ely alone.
Strange yet somehow nostalgic thoughts flickered through my mind, but I forcibly ignored them, just as I had ignored similar thoughts back in the Second World. They were dangerous thoughts. I was still curious about this person Ely had mentioned, but I decided that there would be plenty of time to talk and catch up once I had properly become Ely’s possession.
“Well, anyway, back to the issue at hand, if you would please take a seat on the ground anywhere – preferably here, near the center of this barrier – we can begin the Owner registration protocol.”
As Ely walked to the area I had indicated with my hands, she glanced at the crowd that had gathered on the outside of the barrier. Several of them were pounding on it with their fists.
“Is it really okay to leave them be?”
“Yeah, just ignore them. They’re just here as witnesses.”
“…Really? I’m pretty sure that old guy over there is sobbing.”
“Yeah, just pretend they aren’t there. This is more important.”
The old guy Ely had mentioned was probably Drinul. Well, there were several members of the Council who were crying and shouting angrily, but Drinul was the only one who had slumped on the floor and started bawling. They were probably worried about whether my taking Ely as my Owner would cause me to abandon them. The answer to that was: maybe. It all depended on what Ely wanted to do. If she wanted me to continue protecting these people, I would. If she wanted me to massacre them down to the last newborn child, I would. Well, knowing her personality, and considering the fact that she had fled here seeking asylum, they probably had nothing to worry about. After all, she couldn’t exactly seek asylum in a city that was in ruins.
I waved my hand dismissively, both to banish my own distracted thoughts and to catch Ely’s attention, then began.
“Initiating new True Owner registration protocol.”
I felt my consciousness receding as I slowly lost control of my body. I was still conscious, but for the duration of this protocol, my ego-related subroutines were rerouted to a backup thread, to prevent subconscious interference with the procedure. I could see and hear and feel everything that was going on around me, but I had no way of moving my body, which had begun to carry out the installed subroutines. I felt myself sit down opposite from Ely. Then I heard my voice speak to her, devoid of emotion.
“Confirmation: do you agree to be True Owner to Unit IW-A-P-03?”
“Confirmation acknowledged. Please state your name.”
“Name and Voice Print registered. Running diagnostics on Owner compatibility… Error. Integer overflow. Deleting previous result, setting recorded result to highest acceptable value.”
Ely laughed quietly and blushed. Well, for the people of this world, the sentence I had just spoken would have made no sense, but for her and for myself, we knew what it meant – our compatibility was quite literally off the charts. There was no other option. Ely was my True Owner. Seemingly undeterred, my voice continued to speak.
“Registered compatibility is within acceptable range for registration. Owner, please answer the following questions. Do you accept IW-A-P-03 as a personal armament?”
Her discomfort at the phrasing was clearly visible. Well, perhaps it was a little selfish of me to insist on this so soon after our reunion. But I couldn’t help it; my programming compelled me. I promised myself to apologise to her afterward.
“Do you agree to perform routine maintenance on IW-A-P-03 and exercise care in handling it?”
“Do you agree to refrain from the disposal or sale of IW-A-P-03 through any means other than official channels?”
An almost instant reply. Well, said “official channels” no longer existed, so agreeing to this clause was basically agreeing to keep me with her for the rest of her life. Of course, now that no legal bodies existed to enforce these clauses, there was nothing stopping Ely from tossing me away. But I trusted her. Nothing was going to seperate us, ever again.
“Thank you for your cooperation. Please place your index finger on the processor of Unit IW-A-P-03.”
My body shimmered and faded somewhat, revealing a tiny green rectangle that was embedded in my heart. In weapon form, this chip was stored in my shaft, but in humanoid form, it took the place of my heart – which made sense, considering that my processor could be considered my heart.
Ely reached out her hand and touched the chip. A small needle abruptly pushed out through its surface, puncturing Ely’s skin. Her blood spilled, dripping over the chip, drenching my heart in her blood. I experienced an indescribable ecstacy come over me as my insides were dyed in Ely’s colour. Then a sharp pain, as the name of my True Owner was quite literally engraved into the core of my being.
“Thank you for your cooperation. Please remove your finger.”
Ely did so, and my body shimmered and became solid again.
“Registration complete. Rerouting ego subroutines for final sequence.”
I felt control slowly return to me. I smiled at Ely and stood up from my seating position.
“Just stay there a while longer, we’ll be done soon.”
With that, I accessed the dance sequence and began to execute it. It was a slow, ceremonial dance that moved around Ely in circles, alternating between large and small circles. As the dance carried on, the largest circle grew smaller. My hands and feet moved with mechanical precision, getting the angle and form of every turn and every gesture perfectly right. As I danced, my clothes changed, transforming from the simple tunic and pants that the hunters of this city wore into a set of clothes that were not known to this world. As I danced, my body became clad in a lime green ruqun with a lilac skirt, its long sleeves trailing behind my hand movements. This wasn’t a part of the sequence, of course, but I felt like it was right – the last time Ely had seen me dance, I had been wearing such an outfit.
When she saw me change into the ruqun, Ely stiffened, then laughed. Then she started rummaging through the small pack she had brought with her under her cloak. From within, she pulled out a neatly folded ruqun. It was a nice lilac colour, its skirt was lime green in colour, and it had the same white flower embroidery on mine. It formed a set with my own garment – a set I had tailored by hand. She still had it. Somehow, she had brought it here, to this world. I choked up, tears welling up in my eyes, but I did not stop dancing – I was less than halfway through the whole routine. As I watched, Ely got up and shed her cloak, donning her ruqun over her simple undergarments. Then she joined me in the dance, perfectly matching my steps. As expected of my genius sister. We stepped and circled, two dances mirroring each other, coming together to become one beautiful performance. My eyes looked only at her, her eyes only saw me. We danced, and crossed, and danced. Finally, when the dance reached its last movement, a running leap, we ran toward each other and jumped across each other, linking arms as we passed. We revolved twice in the air, then landed softly. Her face was right in front of mine. Her lips were right under my nose. I moved my mouth forward and took her lips. With that, the procedure was complete. I felt that conviction from my heart, my processor. Now and forever, Ely was my Owner.