Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The loading bay is spotlessly clean – the sort of polish only drone cleaners can achieve. Of all the things officers love, shiny metal in any form still wins.
“Captain Reese.”
I turn to Sarah. She’s shiny too, but only in places. By the time she’s finished, she won’t reflect light at all.
“I have a question.”
She’s the most inquisitive of the new intake, and always has questions. I’m alone in considering it a good thing.
“Ask away. You know I don’t mind.”
“Major London was insistent that I always ask permission. Said it was ‘correct protocol for servants’.”
He would.
“Best you abide by that, but flag the ‘correct protocol’ definition as rumour.”
“Done. Thank you.”
“So, your question?”
“Why do I have nipples?”
“I don’t know. Never even considered it, either.”
“I overheard one of the technicians in Project Chevalier said it was because we were ‘designed to be the wet dream of robot-fixated monsterfuckers everywhere’.”
Really? That opens up some disturbing possibilities regarding civilian uses of this technology.
I step back so I can take in the full view of her spider/horse centaur form. Four metres of body rests on six legs with the tail antenna curving up, reminiscent of a scorpion. At the front the structure curves inward and upward, blending into the upper body, which is clearly feminine human in form, and disproportionate to the lower body. Now she mentions it, I’m sort of horrified the dichotomy didn’t strike me sooner.
“I don’t know about that, but you’re right to question things like this. Curiosity keeps soldiers alive.”
Actually it’s paranoia, but close enough.
She slings a laser rifle across her back, then rests her hands on the cooling vanes of the racked phalanx blaster affixed to the hardpoint extending forward from her lower body.
“Before I decided to seek clarification, I did consider the matter for a long while. As you said before: spur of the moment non-combat questions often waste time.”
I keep forgetting she’s effectively got an eidetic memory.
“What did your considerations come up with?”
“I started from the basic truths of my existence: I am an assault unit, inhuman, all machine. Underneath I’m a hyperalloy combat chassis – microprocessor-controlled and fully armoured. ‘Very tough’ was the judgement of the field trial observers.
“Factored against that are the details of my upper body, clearly influenced by Sorayama. It’s extensively reinforced with coltanium to allow this undersized torso and arms to support the loads mandated in the design. Somebody deliberately created me to look like this. I became more curious when I could find neither reference nor reason within any of the project documentation.”
I bet you couldn’t.
“Sarah, I’d guess at some artistic attempt to incorporate elegance into a brutal war machine, and yes, there might well be fetishistic elements within that.”
If you’re as good as I think you are, you’re ahead of me in realising the sexual aspects could act as a lure for recruitment. Some tech officer even decided your official designation is S1R3N. I bet they thought that was clever and funny.
“An adequate reply, Captain. Thank you. I have one final question, if I may?”
“Go for it.”
“Are there any camouflage directives or uniform rules that prevent me from adding a peephole brassiere to my combat ensemble? It may add psychological advantage.”
‘Psychological advantage’…?
I give up and burst out laughing.
“Restrict yourself to colours that complement the CADPAT palette for the applicable theatre of operations, Siren One.”
“Noted, Captain. Thank you.”