NEW LIFE: Chapter Fifteen

Her eyes were a clear crystal blue. Two brilliant orbs which opened and watered into the world around her. They weren’t really human eyes, the iris was too bright and too large to be human. They were like an animal, a deer. Something so wide and full of new life. They even had a layer, which seemed to catch and reflect things in the dark like wild startled things at the side of the road.

Her small chest heaved in a breath, going through the motions even though no air really passed through her throat. She didn’t need to breathe, but she wanted to.

To anyone else she might have passed for a human girl of 6. To anyone from a distance she was just another organic creature. Maybe perhaps an angel as her father had desired.

Feathered wings twitched and stretched just as her fingers did while she seemed to search out what functions she had. Already there were things inside her awakening and telling her what programming should.

But there was more. Back at the edges of her mind there was a shadow present, a dull confusion like mixed wires in her head. It told her she was alive. The basic statement clear in her head but still misunderstood. It told her things which conflicted with the basic programming.

How could she be unique and independent when she knew at her core she was to listen to her programming, and listen to her father. She was to learn and observe. How could she be unique when she knew no one else to compare?

The older man leaned over and carefully looked her in the eyes. Waiting and counting the times her eyes blinked. Waiting to see more in her then she knew was there.

Hello.” She mouthed, but no words came. For a moment she stalled and then tried again with the same reflections, the same movements. “Hello.” This time listening back for her own words, before his.

You wont be able to talk at the moment, there’s a problem with the hardware your throat needs to talk. I’ll get it fixed as soon as I can.” He closed the laptop with an arm behind him, setting his mug down. The smell of stale coffee beans hung in the air, made from his old kettle since Bella was no where to be found.

He had drilled himself for a while since he woke, debating if he should wake her or wait to get the parts repaired. Patience however had been missing in him as of late.

She sat up and looked around.

The room was full of clutter and messy papers. Folders tossed aside to make way for other things. And in the back of the room she saw a pile of mechanical things, discarded and in disrepair.

This must be confusing to you and I’m sorry for that. Your start-up programming will take a few moments to really kick in. It’s very complex.” The man continued with pride beaming in his words. It took a few seconds for his speech to be understood and she nodded carefully.

A name?” Her lips moved so carefully and thoughtfully. Even without the speech it was as if her voice trickled off her lips in whispers.

A name. It reminded him so much of Notnow waking. Though this time he was already prepared for the question.

Maven. Your name is Maven.”

Accepted. Thank you.” She now had a name. Already her system went into recognition mode, sorting out her programming to adjust. Her name was Maven, and this man was her father.

She looked down at her legs, hidden mostly by the long pinned together skirt. She wiggled her toes a moment and then turned her body placing her feet onto the ground. She couldn’t feel the coldness of the floor.

Carefully, she balanced on them and rose. Pushing herself into a stand and learning the delicate placement of her feet and legs.

Don watched her like a proud father; the smile grew on his face, on his lips. He yearned to reach out and help her with those shaky first steps but he held back.

After all she was a machine at the core. Her fragility was only a rouse, a disguise against the metal and polymer frame.

Right foot first, moving forward. The left then catching up. Her feet pressing down on the front first, then her heels.

To walk on four legs was easy. Lacking one, you had three others to keep you up. Even in the design of the Monkey’s they had other legs to balance. Walking was refined with balance.

Walking on two legs took a fair bit more concentration. It had taken years of work for robotics and technology to come up with the basic calculations of human steps.

Now it was a graceful pattern that allowed her to walk as a human. To turn as one, allowing her hair and wings to follow like a cloak moving behind her. Her wide eyes watched him like a searching child. As if she really was a child of his.

Is this what he would have felt for his own flesh if he had stopped to have any? No he figured not. He never had the patience; he never had the tolerance to stay long with real things. There was never any off switch.

Your crying.” her head tilted to the side with her unheard words. It was a statement, an observation. She followed her desired program completely.

Don however did not. She couldn’t read his programming, or the thoughts wringing around in his head. Was he upset with her? There was no programming to tell her how to correct that.

The delicate pink in her lips had gone unnoticed until then. The way they wrinkled slightly with silicone details. Even though she seemed mute he could still understand her from every coded detail.

The man’s fingers traced up to his eyes and brushed away a few stray tears, laughing slightly which seemed to confuse her even more.

It’s alright, I’m just tired.”

Tired?”

He watched her carefully and leaned into his right hand. Propping himself up to simply stare. Something seemed off about her. He recognized her behavior, her movements seemed rehearsed.

Maven, are you alive?”

I am alive, I am unique.” She watched him for a long moment. Her eyes blinked in rhythm. Once every 8 seconds.

How do you know?” Deepness sunk into his chest. It was a test for her. And so far she was failing. All the behavior he had seen before was common. Expected. Every whisper of her lips and every movement predictable.

I was programmed to know.” She stood very still, her wings folded behind her back while her arms remained straight out at the sides.

Delicate fingers reminded him of Notnow, the way they moved and explored the air. Learning specific gestures as if downloading them from some spot in her robotic brain.

She was not alive. At least not yet.

I see…” he sighed, leaning back in the chair disappointed. Already trying to figure out why she seemed to lack the same intelligence the small monkey seemed to show.

It had taken time for the effects to be apparent; perhaps it was the same with her. Right now she simply followed what her programming said. There was no real thought behind those eyes. No real heart behind the actions.

Maybe it was a matter of soul. But then that was a foolish thought as well, that either of them could have anything like a soul.

It was then he realized the small monkey, which had started this whole quest, was missing. It’s place on the desk empty.

Notnow?” Don glanced around quickly, scanning the shadows of the room for it’s small and familiar movements. It was only then that he realized daylight had broken through the window. “Where are you?”

The child-like machine moved uncaring, still observing as she went back to the couch and sat, watching and learning as Don scattered more things around the office. Her hands stilled and clasped in front of her.

She had no fingerprints. Her skin smooth and soft at the tips of her fingers, untouched by those lines and patterns associated with identity. She brought them up and combed through the long tresses of gold which cascaded down her shoulders and back.

She didn’t feel it. Her fingers couldn’t sense the hair, the way it fell. She could see and hear, but she couldn’t feel. Her touch was as muted as her voice.

Don attacked the pile of broken toys, lost to the simple wanderings of his creations mind. He sent bodies aside, fur and tails, as he came to the open vent. Now that deepness sickened him even more. He realized almost horrified that his mistake with the small brown monkey would cost him.

Notnow was gone.

What’s wrong father?” Programmed response when she didn’t understand. He didn’t seem to hear her but answered her either way in a few minutes time.

He’s gone.” He reached into the air vent, the sides of the metal ripped at his skin and caused him to curse loudly. “Shit!”

Maven blinked again, watched the man collect himself, wipe away red blood with a nearby scrap of sheet. They same leftover material of her skirt. He looked terrified and upset.

We need to go. We need to go now…”

The knocking at the door made her shift her head around quickly. The knocking grew louder.

Shit!” He cursed again. She mouthed his words repeating them and learning.

Mr. Vaughen, we need to talk.” It was the lawyer. And this time she wasn’t alone in his hallway. The locked door rattled.

It was all coming crashing down and there was nothing he could do about it. If felt like suddenly he was wrapped up into a storm of chaos and he didn’t have room to breathe.

Rabid eyes glanced around the room, looking for some escape. The window. Outside he found what he was looking for in the salvation of the mid-day sun. Coated in the daylight was a fire escape.

Damnit!” He retrieved her from the couch, grasping onto her hand and tugging her up from her spot. She mouthed his words back to him. “Shit!”

She clung to him only a moment before he jammed open the window and tucked her outside it. He would hide her from them, forcing her out onto the fire escape ledge and would retrieve her after they had left. It was the only option he saw fit. He refused to let them see or take her. He wasn’t ready for that yet.

Stay quiet and stay out of sight!” He demanded into those blue orbs. “You hear me? Do not be seen!”

She nodded, legs clutched up to her chest on the black metal grating. Her back she pushed against the wall to keep herself just out of sight.

Guilt tore at him for abandoning her, but there was nothing else he could do. He pulled on the latch and locked the window tight before returning to his computer desk just as his door was broken into.

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NEW LIFE: Chapter Fourteen

Nothing in the left over bits and pieces told Christian what manner of thing the prototype was. All that remained was leftover feathers, and silicone. Golden threads of hair and angel whispers. It could have been a bird, but what type of bird had hair? And did it even matter at all anymore?

He spent the rest of the night alone in the Production house, giving the day off to the working crew in order to recalibrate each machine and clean off the working parts. He barely noticed the sun peer through the opaque glass.

It was his environment. He loved the dancing arcs and swift grace of the machines when they were in full gear. How efficient and well built they assembled. Time would sometimes slip away from him when he was running a full line, like when the Monkey’s first went into production.

It had been good times back then. Chaotic but good. There would be days he would stay awake all night, drinking mug after mug of reprocessed coffee and trying to drum up excitement in a sleepy crew. It was all exciting back then. They were new.

Now though he was left wondering if it meant anything anymore. The big swelling of customers for their toys were slowing. People were getting bored of them.

Kids were just growing up too fast, and too spoiled.

And under it all the innocence of their company was falling apart. Like everyone, most of it now was just about getting rich.

But here things were simpler. He knew how to make things, how to create them from printed designs. Even lost in thought he knew every button and every command by heart.

At least here. Outside his little den he felt a little like a fish out of water. Like he didn’t even know anyone anymore.

Jerry had changed, although he was reluctant to see it at first. He grew into the business savvy shark he was dreading he himself would become. And Don; well he wasn’t sure what happened to that man.

It was all falling apart.

Christian!” There was pounding at the door, he jolted his head up to look. “Christian open up! It’s important!” the voice at the other side of the door sounded frantic. Scared.

Hold on!” Fingers brushed the switch on the side of the wall and the door unlocked and opened, revealing a very upset woman with brown hair tied up.

Lacy Grieves, the accountant and Jerry’s personal assistant. But now she was just a manic mess of a woman.

You have to come with me! Jerry’s missing!” He left the control room and they met in the middle of the Production floor.

Slow down Lace! What’s going on?” Firm hands grabbed her by the shoulders; forcing the smaller woman to look up to Christian with tear stained eyes. “Tell me slowly. What happened to Jerry?”

He’s gone and his office was unlocked! He didn’t come in this morning and he didn’t leave last night. No one knows where he is!” It was only now Christian realized how long he had been recalibrating. It felt like only a few short hours, but seemed to have been most the night and day.

Calm down, he probably just went to visit his ex-wife. Remember? He’s done that before.”

Her head shook vigorously back and forth. Her eyes watered up like the dam was about to break. “No no no!” she held her hand up as the tears started to well and fall.

He tried to shush her and hold her tight, barely noticing the hands up until he looked closer and was horrified at what he saw.

There was blood… gods there was blood!” Her fingers were coated in it like red paint.

My god…” He wanted it to be a joke, some sick practical joke but her expression was too horrified to be something that simple. His own mimicked that look of fear and sickness.

Was that Jerry’s blood? It couldn’t be. It was like nothing at all made sense anymore and now more then ever Christian was lost in it all. He really had fallen down the rabbit hole.

He grabbed a cloth from the side table, knocking off a tray of bits and pieces. Eyes stared blankly back at him as they scattered along the floor. He wrapped her shaking fingers in white cotton. It leaked through staining the cloth pink as he shook and held her hands in the fabric.

He wanted to open his mouth and say something but his mind couldn’t form the words. He didn’t know what to do, if he should run to call someone, or run to the office. If he should stay and try to calm the woman down or leave her.

Did.. did you call the police..?” He glanced down the hall, through the open door to see others stopping on the floor. A few pausing at the elevators to peer into the room and listen to the open sobbing.

Yes!” she managed to croak out.

Time is a strange thing. Being there, it seemed like only moments till the police arrived, though it was most likely a fair bit longer.

Either way the police found them still in the Production house and had a battery of questions for the shaky accountant.

For Christian they had little of an explanation. He was questioned, intensively asking him all sorts of things about who may want Jerry killed, if he was dealing with anyone he shouldn’t have been.

As always, the boy scout he was, Christian told the truth.

He mentioned about the secret partner and how Jerry had a few rough dealings with people in the past. He told the same tale he told everyone. How he was really a nice guy and wouldn’t really hurt a fly.

He had been clasping his hands and rubbing the bridge of his nose on a rotating basis. Just trying to find something for his hands to be doing as he was waiting with the others in the Production house. A whole slew of them had gathered there to allow the police and crime scene investigators time to sweep and gather clues.

They all seemed nervous. Not only because there may be a killer on the floor, but their jobs, their livelihood, may be on the lines.

If the police hadn’t demanded phone silence they all would have been on their small cell phones trying to contact a family member or loved one for comfort. Or trying desperately to line up some sort of backup plan.

The younger man, pale as a sheet looked up to find a detective peering down at him with a hard expression, and soft eyes.

He knew that look. Even though he had never seen it before he knew what it meant.

They told us that you were closest to him.” The Detective looked down, clearing his throat. “I’m sorry Mr. Wolfe, we found the body. I’m really sorry for your loss.”

The words flooded in and out of his ears like a lie. He had to have been lying. There was no way the man he had grown up with had simply died, in his building even. 4 floors above him and there was nothing he could do. It sickened him.

What am I going to tell his mother?

What am I going to tell mine…

Listen, we want to keep you and a few others back, to try and get some details on what could have happened. Why don’t you send everyone else home? They’ve been through enough.”

The man’s head nodded, though he made no sound other then the harsh breathing as he tried to gather his thoughts into words.

The other people seemed to take their own initiative and under the police supervision they filed into the elevators and made the long quiet trip to the first floor. At first no one dared to even breathe loudly. As if any noise would automatically pin them as suspects. It wasn’t until the elevator doors opened and they were released from the crammed little boxes did they feel safe enough to open their mouths.

It’s a shame.” One of the employees remarked as they made their way out to the parking lot. “He still owed me some back pay. I wonder if I’m even going to see it now.”

Don’t be so cold John!” Jenny from advertising with the blonde hair and the perky breasts punched him in the arm. “For all they know one of us did it! Do you want a reason to get a finger pointed at you?”

It was probably Don Vaughen. You know how big a nut job he is. He hardly ever leaves his office, I heard it from Bella once.” John hit the automatic car opener, the black jetta beeped to life. “It’s all that time with those broken toys. Or maybe he knew they were planning to can him eventually. Maybe it all just finally got to him.”

NEW LIFE: Chapter Thirteen

“It’s good of you to see me Dr. Bushere. I know this is short notice.” She smiled, rehearsed, while she pulled a chair out and sat down cross-legged.

The lawyer didn’t seem to notice the shortness of her skirt in comparison to her long legs. Not even the sleek white blouse, which seemed a touch too transparent in the office lights.

But the doctor did. He made a living dealing with mental games and manipulations, and knew she would be trouble the moment she strode into his office. It’s funny how often people thought that around her.

“It’s no problem Mrs. Sidler…”

“Please, call me Jamie.” She smiled and watched the psychiatrist laugh a little before walking to the side counter to pour himself a drink.

“Jamie, what brings you to me this morning?” he dropped in a few pieces of ice with clinking chimes into the glass, then buried them with golden liquor. From the smell it was probably whiskey.

“I didn’t know many doctors had an open bar in their office.” A man after her own heart, she teased inwardly. “Not that I’m complaining.”

“Nothing wrong with a little social drink once in a while. Now I doubt you’ve come for a check-up… so what brings you in?” He glanced back to her, eyes peering from over his semi-rimless glasses. He had a firm stare, a solid knowing look.

“I want to talk about Don Vaughen.”

“That’s nice, but I can’t tell you anything.” He chuckled as if this wasn’t the first time people had asked him about things they shouldn’t.

Come now Bushere, we all know the confidentiality rules are Bull.” She teased with him, taunted him. He sneered as he capped the bottle and set it aside.

Doctor Bushere. Just because I work in the psyche practice now doesn’t mean I lost my medical degree.” He brought his glass up to his lips but stalled when he saw what the lawyer was holding.

“Fine. Dr. Bushere, you know what this is? 4,600 credits. It’s all on this card, and all you have to do is say ‘Yes Jamie, I’ll tell you whatever you want to hear.’.”

“What makes you think you can just buy me out?” his hand shook, just barely. The ice made the glass sweat.

4,600 credits. It was a fair bit of money.

“Everyone has their price Dr. Bushere. 4,600 credits. It’s certainly a nicer payment then you’re used to. You know what I need to hear.” Credits were always valued. It would probably be enough to rent out whatever condo he was living in for a good 6 months. If not other things. However considering he had such stable income already it was going to need a bit more convincing.

“It’s not my price. Now, get out of my office.” Anger hissed into his voice like a drunken slur. “I’m sure Denise can show you the way out.”

Cat and mouse. He hated this game.

“Now I would rethink that. I’m sure Vincent Lakiye would be terribly disappointed you didn’t just tell me what I wanted to hear.” The name demanded both of them pay closer attention to the little talk. She loved the way it made his hairs stand on end.

“Vincent Lakiye? That supposed to mean anything?”

“Don’t play with me. Unlike some of your patients, I’m a bit harder to play mind games with.” Jamie watched him closer, her hand still offering out the white and silver card. “Save yourself some trouble. Just take us up on the generous offer.”

“Yes Jamie, I’ll tell you what you want to know…” he stepped forward and snatched the card from her offered hand. His eyes were downcast, cheeks red with nerves. He downed another gulp of synthetic courage.

Vincent was someone you didn’t cross. A mad shark at the business table, and worse in opposition. He was the last of a dying breed. Most would call him a mobster, if they had the guts.

“I thought you would. Now I need to know your opinion of Don.” She crossed her legs again, shifting in the short skirt to make herself as comfortable as she could. As well as moving the small wires for the microphone.

“What can I tell you? He skipped off the last appointment to see me. Has done that off and on, normally they let him off the hook. The guy hit mid life late. What the hell would Vincent care about Don Vaughen?” He had his back to her, again refilling his glass. This time nearly overflowing it before tapping on the intercom. “Denise, cancel all my appointments for today.”

“That is none of your concern. About Don, what’s he like mentally?”

“He’s intelligent. The man’s a programming genius, he breathes it. He has degrees in science as well, biochemistry, nano technology. He threw most of it away for this toy business.” He glanced back to the bar top, setting down a photo of his wife to face the black surface. He didn’t want it to look him in the eyes at the moment. Every word slipping from his lips were hushed, coaxed.

Also part of him was afraid. Some people dealing with Vincent ended up losing everything. Their reputation, their business, their family, even sometimes their lives…

A sigh came to him as he leaned back and took another swig of the drink. “Mrs. Sidler, you may not understand this but for brilliant minds like Don, sometimes they need to challenge themselves with something more. Last time I saw him he was showing wear and… well boredom. He hated what they were doing to his ideas and creations. I assigned him a small vacation and sent him home.”

“Take two pills and call you in the morning?” She tried to control the sarcasm in her voice, but it still managed to leak out. “Just let me know one thing. Is there anyway his mental capabilities could be called into question?”

“He can be a jerk sometimes, but he’s capable as long as he doesn’t push himself too far. Just like any of us I suppose.”

“What would it take to get you to write up a report saying he is a danger to himself? That perhaps, he’s just a touch too strained? That maybe he should seek some help…” her grin turned even more malicious. Those rock hard eyes showed determination like she was in the courtroom.

“Fuck that! What the fuck do you want me to do? Get him committed?” The glass shattered as he threw it at the wall. The burst in anger surprised her coming from a shrink. The intercom buzzed a second as Denise tried to get through, but he quickly countered by clicking the small machine off.

“Such language for a professional. If you must know it’s simply an enticement for him to help himself. I’m sure you’ll understand.” She rose, pushing herself up and out of the comfortable chair with the ease of a cat. Long legs clicking heels on the ground as she walked up to the angry man. “Will you do it?”

“Do I have much of a choice?”

Her phone rang. It was traditional, and sharp. A business ring, which caused them both to shift a little. The shrink more then her. Carefully she removed the silver phone and eyed him closer. “Not really… This is Vincent on the phone. What do you want me to tell him?”

Dr. Bushere looked at her with wide eyes that didn’t know if they should believe her or question. Wide eyes that glared frustrated at the tiny silver phone. “How do I know it’s him.”

She grinned, seemingly amused before flipping the phone open. “He’s still deciding.”

Give him the phone.”

She handed it over without another word, a brow arched as the man carefully took it, almost dropping it with a shaky hand. Jamie found it amusing how he seemed to sum up the last scraps of his courage.

I don’t know what you want from me…”

You know exactly what we want. Mrs. Sidler has told you everything.” the voice was calm, eerie.

You can’t just expect me to write up a healthy man! It could get me expelled from the medical practice!” the redness in his face got worse.

I expect you to do as we ask. Or should we go and ask your wife Victoria for her decision on things? I urge you to take us up on our offer Bushere. I won’t ask again.” Click.

NEW LIFE: Chapter Twelve

He awoke with a shudder, his small body writhing aware to the world once again. Inside his mind there were still faded images in the back of his metal skull. He had dreamed.

In his dreams he saw the dreamsnake. Long slender silver snake which invaded his head and ripped him apart piece by piece. He couldn’t move and he couldn’t scream. All he could do was feel whatever made him special and unique being stripped away and hacked into.

The snake changed into a man. A man named Jerry, and he no longer was the one getting ripped apart. Instead it was her. The only kin he truly had. Maven, the newly awoken child.

And all he could do was watch, helpless.

He had never dreamed before, and when he woke it took him a few long moments to realize the images weren’t memories. They didn’t truly happen. He was safe and secure inside his fathers office and Maven was still unfinished on the couch.

His father had left him on the desk, tossed aside. His manic programming had drained the old man to exhaustion and left him sleeping at the keys.

Across the screen there were various errors, which he had coded out, trying to repair them. It almost seemed finished. Almost. Carefully the small creature slid up to the keys, carefully little hands which had learned to type so well took over.

It wasn’t hard to apply what he knew to the program. To what was already in his head. With computer precision he typed a storm on those keys adding lines and lines of codes almost as quickly as his mind could process.

She should be independent. She should feel. She should be aware of herself. She should know she is alive. All these things he thought to himself. These words he left her like a letter.

When he was finished he ran the scan and everything seemed to come up green. She was ready, but he would not be around when Don awoke and made her aware of her life. He had one more thing to do. One more thing he felt he had to do before either of them were safe.

He went to the pile of discarded monkey’s which seemed to be his little fort. It was almost morbid to him now to watch them stare at him with their wide unknowing eyes. The broken bodies and toys reminding him what he was at the basic frame.

He wondered if he was such a fluke, or if others were unnatural like him. Infected with the virus that his father seemed to cherish so much. What if there were others in the world like him; only not aware they were anything more then broken?

It didn’t matter now. He had a purpose – his life meant something for the moment. His mind was on it’s mission. With a shove, he pushed a few aside and carefully pried open the air vent which circulated reprocessed air throughout the whole building.

I’ve seen him stare at that building.” After he set the vent down carefully he slipped inside. The air was cool and flowed past him in the dark.

I saw the notes on his desk, I heard him mention it.” Fumbling he placed the vent back and made his way up and through the tunnels. Luckily the added claws helped him keep his grip.

Notnow knew where he was going, even through the dark maze of air tunnels and vents. He navigated the fans and the directions with ease. He was intelligent and proficient. Yet through the whole way he was fighting with his head and that uncomfortable dark shadow over his thoughts.

At first he had thought the darkness would scare him, and remind him too much of the Black space, but it didn’t. It was his own mind which caused him the most grief for the moment, not the memories. He had control and function. It was merely shadows.

It was those haunting thoughts of her which pushed him into mental conflict. The thoughts of his father, the rabid obsession. The search for perfection in her. Maybe it was a touch of jealousy. Or maybe simply a desperate creature trying to find a way of proving himself.

He was after all, unique. The first. Why did he still question his own capabilities? Why did he still feel so unnatural when there was another like him about to be created? Why didn’t that bring him a sense of comfort?

It was when he finally reached the large access vent outside the building that he stopped and seemed to stand in awe. Even his tail, which normally twitched on it’s own behalf was still and silent.

The thousand glittering lights of the other buildings and traffic, even the glittering traffic lights and reflections on the glass seemed amazing. Their world was huge. Notnow had never seen a place so big and filled with strange sensations.

He closed his large eyes and breathed it in, wishing he could feel more then he did. He felt cheated not to be able to feel the wind through his fur, or smell the night sky. He wanted so much to feel the chill in his bones; but nothing.

He felt so small, so inadequate.

It was then he looked closer around and found the large building which seemed to stand in opposition to his dreams. New Life Tower. It stretched up like a huge glass monolith among the other buildings of concrete and stone.

He wanted to turn back, to take off and try to make it on his own. He wondered if he could get lost in this world of humans. Would he be just another broken toy, ignored at the side of the road and between alley until eventually he just shut down? Or would he be brought back and locked away. Tested on and hacked into? It didn’t matter. Something held him back.

Sleeping and waiting for him was the possibility for a life. Another like him and a father which understood what they were. That they were indeed alive in the machines. They could get away and live alone somewhere, making others like them to survive with. Bettering them.

He didn’t want to see the opposite happen. That she would waken and would know she was alive – only to be taken apart. Notnow couldn’t allow that. Not after all he had been through.

For his own existence and hers, they needed to find a way to live in this world of humans. Somehow they needed to find a way to keep anyone from ever searching for them.

He was afraid, but he moved forward.

Like a small tin soldier he made his way to war.

NEW LIFE: Chapter Eleven

It was rare Mrs. Sidler ever had imported authentic brandy. Normally she simply picked up a few things at the local liquor store. Most of it was synthetic alcohol, with less buzz.

She preferred the traditional brandy, which gave her the familiar fuzzy feeling she liked, and left her with the same punishment if she pushed it in the morning. Then there was the added fact she didn’t get the bill for it.

In a sense, that summed up most of her life. She took what she could get, and reveled in the traditional things she could afford on someone else’s paycheck. Maybe that’s why being a lawyer always interested her.

Her little modern condo was located in Gold Dragon Towers. The building was on the luxury side of the business district, and although it wasn’t as pricey as the Silverhorne, or Glass Tower, it was still high class. She wouldn’t have been able to afford it; if it wasn’t for the new stockholders.

Certain stockholders which paid her handsomely. It was one of those stockholders which she was talking to now.

I have the file and I know you want more information but Mr. Vaughan hasn’t been the easiest man to get information out of…”

We don’t care how ‘easy’ it is Mrs. Sidler. You were hired to do as we asked.”

I’m doing that. Listen you got my file right? I dug up this guys last 20 years, you have that, which was hard to get on it’s own.”

“…but that has nothing to do with his new endeavors, it’s this new project of his we want to know about.” The voice on the other end of the phone sneered and hissed. A male voice full of arrogance and impatience. She sighed, trying to calm both their tempers down.

I understand.”

Good. I will contact you tomorrow night.”

Click. She muttered and set the cord less down, taking another strong swig of her glass, finishing it off before walking towards her high rise windows. The fire crackled in holographic illusion from the fireplace.

It was dark out by now, she could see the New Life building from here, counting down she found the floor she was looking for. Not the office floor with that butterball Jerry and his nit-wits, but the Production house four floors below. Floor number 8.

The lights were on although she couldn’t make anything else out in the nighttime smog. The Production house windows were nearly opaque anyway. Allowing light but little else through.

They needed to keep their secrets after all.

Still the lights were on. Maybe someone had been staying up late, working on something. Maybe it was Don., or Christian. Getting things ready for the first prototype. Maybe it was already completed.

Looking down below she saw the passing cars going here and there. People taking off for the night out or midnight business meetings. There certainly wasn’t as much traffic now as during the day, but there was still a fair amount. The only stars anyone seemed to see anymore were those twinkling lights from some florescent bulb in the distance.

Jamie would need to visit Don again. And this time she would need to do so with a wild card. She walked back to the black lacquered coffee table that sprawled out on the shagged carpet in front of the black sectional.

On it there were a few different files, but the one she was interested in was a solid blue color, and was an inch thick with assorted papers and photographs. A man’s last 20 years could be summed up in a folder like this. A man’s whole life took more then she had.

Inside she leafed through page after page, glancing over any little detail. It was then she came across a page which she had failed to notice before. It was so routine that she just ignored it for the most part. It listed Don’s current contract in New Life. It also listed the medical practitioner overlooking the yearly exams.

Exams which covered a general physical and a yearly psyche test like almost every large business required. At least those businesses that applied for government funding.

A crooked smile crossed over her painted lips.

She had a wild card.

NEW LIFE: Chapter Ten

She was unnatural as well. Though the small monkey knew she was much different then him. Not as alive as him just yet. He watched his owner carefully set her down. Awkwardly try to cloth her with one of his sweaters and a makeshift skirt he cut from the sheet she was wrapped in. A father’s attempt at decency.

He wasn’t jealous of her, even though Don spent so much time fussing over how she laid on the couch and how comfortable she could be. Instead he seemed just as amazed at her construction as his owner. Though for entirely different reasons.

For him, he knew what she would be. He saw inside her coding and it rang in a new floodgate of feelings for him.

His coding would help bring her to life. What was unique to him would be unique in her and that tied them together. Notnow wouldn’t be the only one like him anymore.

The small monkey simply sat and watched the new form for a long time. He had teeth now, and claws, but he didn’t have eyelashes. He didn’t have the finer details of wrinkles and lines.

He didn’t have freckles. So much time was taken on her, so many details given to her.

He wondered what it would be like for her to wake up as he had woken up. To become aware that she would be different as well. Would she think she was broken as he had?

Carefully he watched the man tinker around in her hair and lift up a hidden flap. The golden shower of silken hair would hide any indication of it well, just as Notnow’s fur hid his.

Then he saw it. The Dreamsnake. The long silver cord being pulled out from her. Only hers was longer, to compensate for her size.

Notnow, can you open up her programming for me?” he carefully looked at the distance between the table and the couch.

As the small monkey worked his way around the laptop, Don dragged the old heavy couch a little closer.

Will she be awake? Like me?”

I hope so Notnow.” Don carefully plugged the cord into the back of his laptop and settled down in front of the monitor.

He reached up and gently stroked Notnow’s fur, for perhaps the first time since his waking. As if he were really a pet. Neither seemed to mind as he watched the system recognize the connection and the downloading began.

What will happen then?” His large watered eyes turned to watch the creature on the couch. A small glow from circuitry in her chest, not completely stifled from the silicone flesh caught his attention. He wondered if maybe only he could see it.

That depends…” Don sighed again, placing his hand to the bridge of his nose. It was sinking in what Christian had warned him of. “If Jerry gets a hold on her or not.”

What would Jerry do?” Notnow moved towards the edge of the desk, sitting himself down with his tail wrapped around him. Fingers prodding in thought as he watched the light pulse slowly. Almost like breathing. She breathes…

Sell her out. Hack her up to see how she works… if he really is selling her design behind my back I will have a hard time keeping his hands off her.” He shuddered at the thought. “He’ll probably hire some two-bit hackers to try and sort out her system. I’m not sure what to do about it at the moment.”

Notnow had stopped fretting with his tail. He had listened intently with wide eyes. Watching her breathe in some electric way. He couldn’t just let her be pulled apart. Would he be next? Would he be first in order to save her some time?

What if they couldn’t put them back together? Or what if whatever virus in them simply made them die?

He didn’t want to die. Not yet.

It doesn’t matter.” Don continued mainly to himself. Hitting a few buttons to start new downloads into her. “There’s nothing they can do right now, so for now we finish. They don’t even know she exists just yet. Well… all but Christian but he’s no threat.”

Notnow looked away from her, looked to his father instead. He so wanted to believe what he was saying as truth, but deep down his own mind plotted away in it’s own thoughts. And in his mind he saw a threat to the only family he had. The only chance he had at having others like him.

Do you think Jerry will kill her?”

Kill? No, at least not really. I mean to him she’s just a toy.” Don looked down to notice the wetness in the monkey’s eyes. Was it a trick of the light? “Listen don’t worry about it. They don’t know about you either.”

But they will. When they know about her. Neither one of us will be safe.” He wasn’t playful, he wasn’t childish. Instead there was a seriousness inside the little creature, perched on the desk that reminded Don of his father. It made a dull sickness in the bottom of his gut.

Notnow don’t worry about it.”

What if we stopped Jerry?” If felt like the first time he realized his thoughts were different. That they weren’t just programmed in commands. It felt like these new thoughts and emotions were unexpected – yet… somehow fulfilling.

I can protect her. I can protect us both.

Notnow Stop.” Don grabbed the monkey up off the table, looking him eye to eye. “There’s nothing you can do.”

Why?” He barely moved in his owners grasp. “Why are you afraid?”

Don barely realized he had been shaking a little bit. He didn’t think it would be noticeable to the small creature. He thought he held him too strongly for that. If there was time he could have tried to explain it to the small creature. Tell him that things would be fine and they would all get away somewhere safe.

But he didn’t feel like he had time. The programming was going to finish loading soon; he would need to test it. Check for errors. He would need to be sure that he got it all done before he was disturbed.

Instead he held onto Notnow with one hand as his other gripped the base of his tail. Now however, the small monkey knew what his father was doing.

Don’t! You promised!” He squirmed but he was too late. There was a sharp twist, a pull. “You promised not to turn me off!”

Where was his promises now? His father had made the promise to never shut him off. The one he trusted had promised to leave him on and let him live.
In his mind there had been no reason to distrust him. He didn’t know his father could lie. He didn’t really understand what a lie was.

Until now. Now he knew.

He said nothing, and Notnow realized why. His father viewed him as broken, and he didn’t have time to deal with it. Shutting him off was easier then dealing with him. He was his ‘owner’. He owned him but he didn’t treat him as more then that. It hurt him.

His scared little mind was afraid, just as he was when the dreamsnake had him. When the blackness came and stole his consciousness he thought he would never wake up again.

Is this what it’s like to die?