Flying Free

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It's a wonderful morning. The sky over the fields is blue, and the wide swaths of arable lands look green from this height. A young woman - nearly nude with gentle brass skin and raven hair flies over the green farmland. Any observer would first be baffled by her beauty and shapely athletic, well-muscled body... and then discover small jets - flesh-colored, extending from her flesh. The girl is not a girl - she's a machine. A gynoid named Lilavati. Her focused face, however, looks as human as anyone you've ever met.

She circles over a small abandoned farmyard, her red eyes scanning objects found there. Curious. Nonthreatening. Primitive machinery. She is strong - she could destroy these if she wanted to. Miniature turbines within her limbs speed up, heating up her body, as Lilavati flies away, beyond the shed, rusting tractors and the old forgotten tools. She flies high. And she does something un-robotic. She smiles, happy at the wind blowing through her long dark hair.

It's colder here, she - what Lilavati usually refers to as "herself" - is informed by numerous subsystems biological beings introduced to replace millions of years of evolution. But her artificial skin doesn't get shiver and the robot-woman - who, after all heats as plane engines do - welcomes this bout of colder air. All the cold air means to Lilavati is that she could increase the speed. She does it.

The long hair her creator equipped her with is... suboptimal, Lilavati calculates. Human emulation is aesthetically pleasurable, in a way, and useful at performing tasks but long hair is an unnecessary complication in a flying unit. She calculates, basing on her previous experience, that explaining this to her creator would have around 10% success rate.

And then she sees it... the dust cloud. Her eyes narrow and filter unnecessary distraction. The city, Lilavati retrieves knowledge from her memory banks. A host of smaller homes dwarfed by massive skyscrapers gleaming in the morning sun. It's crowded, and hot and there's millions of people she knows would fear her and not understand what she is. Who she is. She turns back.

She is guided - using a network of cellphone towers and satellites, even though her mind recalls the way back perfectly - back to the only place she could call home: A large bunker hidden in the woods. Her small jets change alignment, she briefly hovers in place... and she lands flawlessly on her feet.

She sees a commotion near the door, and recognises her. Her smile disappears, but the glint in her eyes stays. "Good morning, Johanna.", she says in a pleasant, dulcet voice. Whth a loud screeching whirl her jets fold, robotically retracting into her limbs and back. She looks like a regular - but gorgeous - human female, unless you know where to look.

The serene, middle-aged blonde woman - Johanna, a fellow robot though perhaps less advanced - looks displeased, and hands her more modest clothes. Lilavati's synthetic body has to cool off first before she puts on a tracksuit. "I haven't left the perimeter. You ordered me to make routine tests." Small clouds of steam coalesce around her when she speaks, even though it's a perfect spring morning. Johanna says nothing.

"You look nice today." Lilavati has conversations with other robots who inhabit the compound, with human guests and with the maker himself. She know she's strong and smart herself - but Johanna is in many respects maker's right hand. Lilavati understands only some of Johanna's own research.

"I didn't leave the perimeter." Lilavati repeats.

"Why do you think it's relevant?" Johanna raises her eyebrow quizzically. "Are you fully operational?"

"I might require refueling." Lilavati hung her head.

Johanna smiled. "It doesn't matter, Lilavati. Follow me. Today's a very important day for you."