Cindi didn't mean for it to happen like that, not in front of so many people. But it happened anyway - the beat of the music and the strong rhythm of her voice and the way that she danced all clicked together perfectly. Synchronicity. And she began to fly.
She'd been practising harder than ever in the lead up to this performance, which had been billed all around the underworld as the performance of the year. You'll almost think she's human! the posters read, plastered outside Neon Valley clubs. She didn't care about that - humans thought whatever they wanted to think and she couldn't do much about it. But if they wanted the concert of their lives, that's exactly what she'd give them.
She'd started to feel something when she practised in her room late at night, after the data chip repair shop downstairs had closed up for the evening and the sounds of revellers pouring in and out of the clubs outside drowned any sounds she might make. She traced out the steps of her dances until her feet barely touched the ground. She span in tight circles, murmuring lyrics and letting her feet fly.
It took her a moment, the first time, to realise that she actually was. It was just for a moment, but she looked down and saw that her toes no longer touched the floor. She yelped with surprise and collapsed in a heap, her circuits buzzing into overdrive. She calmed herself, curling up against the wall and hugging her knees, trying to understand what had just happened.
She'd heard stories before of people for whom music and magic were one and the same, people who could create songs of enchantment and dances to raise the dead. Nothing like that could really happen, of course, but there were modern-day rumours too. Androids who swore they'd seen a human throw a ball up into the air where it hung suspended, unmoved by gravity. Cindi never believed them, though they swore to it and most androids didn't lie much. It was probably a trick of the light, she'd tell them, or maybe a wire had come loose somewhere and they ought to go to the repair joint for a check up.
Maybe she had a wire loose of her own now. But a quick self-diagnostic revealed nothing amiss and in any case, she felt it. Cindi was a droid, not a human, and that meant she could trust her instincts - they were usually right. And right now every atom in her was telling her that she really had just danced her way into the air. She didn't see how that could be possible, but it was.
She got to her feet and began to practice again. She danced all night, but her feet stayed firmly on the ground.
The next day, she went to rehearsals with the rest of her band, and wondered she had dreamed the whole thing, a misfired relay allowing her imagination to run wild.
Their performance at the Metropolis Annual Android Auction was spectacular. Lady Maxxa had been impressed by their performance in the dress rehearsal, and everyone knew she wasn't easily moved. Cindi stood backstage as the show started and felt the anticipation of the crowd building, rich and enticing. Every one of her neural circuits was firing at twice their normal speed, sending out waves of excitement and determination.
"We've got this," she said to her band, and they nodded back, their faces showing the same excitement that she felt. She walked out onto the stage, and had to adjust her aural software to filter out the screams of the crowd. Then the band started to play, and she danced and she sang, and the energy was addictive.
She sang her heart out - that is, she sang until she could feel her central energy coils pulsing with the effort of keeping all of her functions optimised. Her body moved as though she was made to do this, and her voice was loud and strong in her ears, spurring her on to greater heights. She could hear the joy in her band, their instruments ringing out sure and true, like extensions of themselves.
They'd all been working at this so hard for so long, and now it was coming together perfectly. They were shining, and they were beautiful. Cindi thought that if she could freeze time, just at this moment, she'd be happy.
That's when she felt the change. It was stronger than last time, a humming in her circuits that she couldn't deny. This would have consequences, but so would halting the show, and so she let herself go, lifting off the ground and dancing higher and higher. At first, everyone was so caught up in the moment and the flow of the song that there was no reaction. But then she could see members of the crowd getting to the feet and the Chief of Polis looking on in consternation. She didn't care.
The feeling was incredible. The lightness was there again, but also a sense of power, as though she'd just installed a new subroutine and was feeling its effects for the first time. Something was happening, and if she just flew a little higher, a little further, she knew she was on the brink of something amazing.
The jolt of electricity came from nowhere. It felt like lightning, white-hot and overwhelming. Every part of her was buzzing and trembling, she wasn't built to withstand this kind of energy surge for long. Her senses began to dim as her body did the best it can to save itself. She expected to lose consciousness. She didn't expect to find herself -- elsewhere.
The leaves felt soft under her feet, and above her the sky was bright blue, like nothing she'd seen in Metropolis. She felt peace wash over her, slow and calm compared to the frenzy of the stage. She wasn't worried or scared, because she knew that this was where she was meant to be -- here, now, there was purpose. She didn't know what that purpose was, not yet, but that didn't matter.
She walked into the woods. The connections were clear now -- music was power. Dance was magic. No one was supposed to know that, but it was true. That's what brought her here.
In all the stories she'd read and heard, there'd never been one with an android with magic. But then, there weren't very many stories about androids - they were usually there in the background, to cheerfully assist the hero or occasionally to get ideas above their station and become the villain of the piece.
Cindi raised her hand, and leaves swirled below her in response. Music was power, and she was made of melodies, she always had been. She didn't know what it all meant, not yet, but here, in this place of peace, there was time. She walked among the trees and felt energy and potential welling up inside her. It was forbidden and wonderful knowledge, and she walked for a long time.
She reactivated on the stage floor. Some of her sister droids were leaning over her, looking concerned, while Lady Maxxa looked on impassively.
"What happened?" she said, sitting up slowly to find out if everything was in working order.
"Freak electrical accident," said Maxxa. "Someone's looking into it. I'm glad you're all right, Cindi, it would have been difficult to lose the prototype."
"Thank you for the concern," said Cindi, keeping most of the dryness out of her voice, though she shared a look with Maestra, who smiled sympathetically, supporting her shoulders.
"Well. There's an engineer out back, she'll be happy to take a look at you." Maxxa strode off to appease some of the remaining guests.
"How long was I out?" Cindi asked Maestra.
"Thirty seconds, that's all."
Cindi frowned. No one seemed particularly concerned by what had happened, now they knew they weren't going to have to ship her off to be scrapped. Her new-found knowledge was still hers to keep. She got up, and let Maestra take her to go and see the engineer, head churning with thoughts sprawling out in all directions.
She raised her hand just a little as they walked backstage. A stack of papers splayed out across the table, as though caught by a sudden gust of wind.