Part 1: Physical description, one page.
Kallo had been twelve years old for twenty years now. She would always be twelve.
When her Earth father had mapped her with Adapted features that he would never have: her silver irises that reflected radiation, her smooth, thick copper skin, her fine bones and coarse black hair, he was thinking of more than her comfort. He wanted her to have the advantage of self-selection. At twelve when her gift for flight was clear, he offered her the chance to stop growing. She could stay at optimum size, weight and build for flight. Kallo had said yes to the gene modification immediately.
She stood, and would for her entire life stand just over four feet, with long, ropy legs and large feet, and arms that were too muscular to be gangling. Her face was appealingly triangular; her mercurial eyes were wide-set, her nose a classic wide, flat Adapted nose with broad nostrils, her cheekbones broad and rounded and her chin a delicate point. She kept her blue-black hair, the texture of a cleaning brush, chopped short for convenience but it would never be neat. It was always frilled at the crown where her helmet jammed it upwards, and matted at the temples where the helmet strapped down. When out of her suit and on the ground she gave off a faint funk from having no time to shower, and she walked with a hesitant, pigeon-toed mince on her wide feet. She moved, in “ground clothes” a bit like a tiny black bird that had fought its way out of a storm-ruffled, lost and vulnerable.
In flight she was a ballerina, a gymnast, a wonder. Her spiraling ground takeoffs, her precise glide form, her gravity-defying banking skill, like a slow-motion pause in the air just before descent, were all the very best on the world. No other flier was her equal. Her father made sure of that. Kallo knew that half of her grace came from the suits her father designed and her wings, her always-improving wings.
At first they were polymer prototypes, smoothly opening and closing on a series of ball joints, but they were fragile and shattered in sand storms. Her next set were made of biocomposite, lab generated feathers and bones derived from bird DNA and engineered over sized, but these also were not strong enough. Finally her father devised a matrix of overlapping electrostatic and gravitational fields so dense that it could support weight, steer through air currents and generate thrust. These wings were powered by ambient radiation, the main source of power for infrastructure on Mars and limitlessly available. With the wings made of shimmering electrical fields came the cloak, and with the power of flying invisibly and silently using electrostatic fields came the realization that she could hear thoughts from the ground.
Part 2: What Kallo thinks about when she's alone:
Weather is alive. It's one thing nobody understands. Ground people see pieces-one dust devil, one storm at a time. They aren't pieces. They're parts of one thing, like one great mind that's always changing, with thoughts always churning and dancing. Weather never stops dancing, we just jump in and out of it.
I can smell the first breaking of the ground, if it's a mine or another trench steppe or even just a foundation. I can tell how far away and what it is. Daddy designed my mask so I can harvest and taste unique particles as soon as they enter atmo. I know when a lab has shipped waste off to reclamation and I know whether it's silk worm waste or ore tailings. I know when half a herd of sheep was electrocuted on the steppes. I'm so used to the dung ovens starting up at sunset and sunrise that the scent is familiar and marks out the day.
But I have to be within the right altitude range to hear them thinking.
Usually I stay just above the frequency range. Hearing too many thoughts can make you crazy. Sometimes, though, I dip down just to catch a few.
I have my favorites. There's the Bowl, with all the universities and art colonies. There's a lot of petty conflict in the Bowl, but they know how to give themselves to fun. Welcoming Days are my favorite, when Bowl citizens are born. On those days there are love feasts and drunken memory parties and the baby pictures and action captures are all around; on those days you hear everybody’s life stories and they get all sentimental and cry and laugh and sing. They have nice life stories in the Bowl. And there's a shepherdess on the steppes in New Khan. She's a weaver, so her mind is always chatting about colors and textures and designs. One day I listened to her thinking about rain drops, and what if each one was a being and how would she weave their faces. I could have listened to her all day, but I had work to do.
Daddy and I decided it's time to start a Guild of fliers to keep the people of Mars safe. It's a very great responsibility to be able to hear thoughts and to do it unseen, so we must set down regulations for ourselves and for those we recruit. We need to protect our independence, and we need to protect the vulnerable. The Bowl military is fierce but they can't always interfere-or intercede, as Daddy would rather say-when they should. But Mars needs this. Aside from Earth interference we have our share of predators of every kind, so the vulnerable especially need protection. And we must be the ones to do it.
Part 3: Kallo in interview (250 words).
My father gave me the mutation at twelve. I will never be older than twelve. I wanted it then and I never want to change it. I'm exactly the right build to fly and I can fly better and longer than anybody and I don't miss any of the stupid stuff people think I should miss. How is growing up so great?
My mother died on the ground. She hated me flying and I will tell you, she didn't like me. And I didn't like her. She was mean to me and mean to Daddy and she killed herself in a stupid ground accident.
Sometimes people pity me. They look down on me, well, guess what? I'm the one looking down on them. I look down on them from so many kilometers up they stop even looking like bugs and they're too small to see. That's all I want. I want to be so far up that they disappear.
Well, not everybody. Especially not my Dad. And my flying, that's mostly Daddy. He made me. He gave me the mutation at the perfect time. He's always building me better suits and better wings. My Daddy is a genius like no one else will ever be. He's such a genius that he made himself even more of a genius. Who else on both worlds ever designed their own brain upgrades? Nobody.
We don't know how long I'm going to live. I might never even die.
All I want is to fly.