NEW LIFE: Chapter Twenty

He slept in those stages of being barely alive and almost dead for a long time. Hooked up to this and that. Sensors and fluids, oxygen and alarms. Locked down and restrained to his own deathbed so much that Christian hardly recognized him at first.

He had never been able to say goodbye to his father. Or even know him all that well. For a while in the good days of the company, when they were still in it for all the right reasons, he thought of Don as his missing father figure.

Maybe that is what kept him there for so long.

He was accomplished, brilliant, and didn’t beat around the bushes most of the time. He seemed like a good enough model then anyone. And now, in front of him he was dying. Or at least, if this didn’t kill him it would catch up with him in about a year or so. Either way the man would be dead. At least by being here, he wouldn’t miss saying goodbye.

The doctors report said heart attack. The old man’s heart had just given out on him. When he was found he was clinically dead. Maybe they should be grateful science had brought medicine so far up that there was the possibility of still bringing him back?

But what exactly would they be bringing him back to? Murder charges and so many unanswered questions; A year of life before finally his heart would just give up again and there would be nothing they could do? Perhaps even a year behind bars.

And deep inside Christian knew things weren’t as they seemed anymore. That maybe lying before him was an innocent man. And there was nothing he could do.

Dr. Bushere and Christian had spoken long into the night about the visit he had with Jamie. How they were so desperate to get their hands on Don’s secret project. And the scope of the man involved.

Inside his mind Christian was already going over the conversation again and again. Trying to find the answers he was looking for.

I knew someone was going to end up dead. I just didn’t know who. I don’t think they realized it… maybe things just got out of hand?” Bushere had a quaver to his voice. The man was shaken up too much to get clear details. “Christ’s sake I thought they were going to have me killed!”

What do they want with it? I mean come on – it’s a Toy! Nothing more then that.” His office had been locked up tight, with the privacy screens down and even the phones turned off.

I don’t know. Maybe, it wasn’t just a toy. We both know Don was a little unstable before this mess… what if it was something else? A weapon even…”

A weapon? No, he couldn’t see it. Don wasn’t a saint by far, but he didn’t want to hurt people. Christian refused to believe that. But what if whatever he had been building could be used for the wrong reasons? That was more easily accepted.

Another question stood out from the rest flooding his mind. Where was it now? His office had been searched, and all it turned up was blood and chaos. There was talk of some sort of attack. The police weren’t saying much. But nothing was recovered. So project Reality was still out there. Somewhere.

Oh, Mr. Wolfe. Your still here?”

The nurse was round in the hips and dark skinned, with a friendly smile that pulled him out of his spiraling depression. Her name tag said Sandy and her nurse number was 224. He wasn’t sure why this was important but it’s where his eyes flowed. He watched her for a moment, drowsily. “What time is it?”

Getting on to morning. You know usually we don’t let guests stay this long.” She winked at him with her big brown eyes and set the chart down at the end of the bed. “We let you because the poor man didn’t have anyone else it seems. How is our Mr. Vaughan doing anyway?”

No change. Hasn’t even blinked.”

Eh, he’ll come around soon I’m sure.”

Christian could only nod before pushing himself out of the comfortable chair which he had been sitting in for far too long.

You know there’s lots of rumors going on about this guy. He created those little monkey toys right? My daughter got one as a prize in school.”

I think I should head home for a bit. You don’t… think there will be much change for a while?” He hesitated looking to the old man casually ignoring the hint of rumors and gossip.

If there is I’ll call you, right? Go get some rest hun, he’s in the best hands.” She adjusted the fluids and went back to marking down scratches on her clipboard. Busying herself with her routine chores of keeping a comatose alive.

The man shuffled out of the room with a yawn stifled by his sleeve. Only now had the hours of sitting there truly gotten to him.

The florescent lights above him buzzed and the walk back to the lobby seemed crowded with people coming and going in the metro hospital. He imagined the wait in the emergency room would be topping off at 8 hours or more.

There was a little girl crying in the side room, a man bloodied from a bar fight. Even a shot cop who got whizzed up past everyone in a chaotic rush. Then of course followed by a lot of angry mutters and curses about the doctors being biased.

He always hated hospitals. Ever since he was a little boy and broke his leg he hated them. The people buzzing around, the needles and the pain. Even the strange machines that swirled around him.

At least in the production house his machines were graceful and exact. Run by finely tuned programming rather then human fragility.

He missed his office and the quiet. He missed the company picnics and the normal 9-5 life. That picture of calm and sanity that the world was starting to lack. He missed Jerry and synthetic coffee and heckling the co-workers.

He turned again, twisting down corridors left and right until a familiar face glared back at him. It was a Monkey, smiling and playing with a few kids. It stared at him from one of their campaign ads posted at the gift shop.

A digital poster of moving images which circulated on motion timed devices. It had cost them a fair bit to get dozens of the things created. At the time it seemed like a good idea. Now he wasn’t so sure.

He watched as the monkey hopped around and danced. Showing off its functions for the one-man audience. It had overly expressive eyes and a mouth that reminded him of old television puppets. It was obviously over exaggerated solely for display.

Finally he just turned and walked into the open elevator. Hoping it would speedily take him away from all this madness.

NEW LIFE: Chapter Nineteen

Father you have to fix him.” Maven’s voice worked, although barely. It was a whisper of a voice. Something as unusual as her existence was. But it was still very pleading with him.

I can’t Maven! I don’t have the parts to fix him, and even if I could… he’s violent.” Don cradled his head in his hands. Trying to ignore the nagging pain in his right ring finger. The bone was not healing right, but he couldn’t risk medical attention.

He’s not violent. He was protecting us.” She went to the small bed of towels she had made for him and gently brushed a hand over his head.

Listen, right now we need to find a way out of the city. Away from here where no one will look for us. Then we can worry about it.”

Him.”

What?”

You said ‘it’.” There was defiance in her voice. Something hurt deep within. It made him feel even more uneasy inside.

There was nothing said between them after that, for a while. Don had ignored the issue entirely and instead ruffled through various papers of travel sheets and air schedules.

Maven too was ignoring him for the most part. She sat beside Notnow’s body and tried to somehow comfort the lifeless remains. She wasn’t certain if he even could be repaired or not, but she was too afraid of his death to give up.

He gave her a fear of mortality. A fear that he may be gone forever and then she and she alone would survive. There would be no others.

It made her afraid. She was not ready to be alone in a world she still didn’t understand. In a body that would never be understood.

She carefully pressed his silicone flesh back into the spots it was suppose to sit. Doing so she realized, perhaps she could fix parts of him. That maybe she could help him heal.

It took her a few tries and a few hours to come up with the process of burning the silicone together. She would take a metal spoon, and let it sit in a candles flame. After wrapping a small piece of cloth on the end to protect her own flesh she would use it to melt both ends of the silicone flaps and join them together.

She didn’t tire, and her actions were precise. It would never give him back the smooth unscathed skin like she had, but at least it made him seem more whole. Maven couldn’t, however, fix everything.

Notnow’s face couldn’t be fixed like the rest. The silicone that was tore off couldn’t be replaced without more silicone. And the few spots on his little fingers had nothing left to cover it.

She hadn’t known how to fix his left eye but carefully with the skills of an artist she melted the tear in the eye duct and hoped it would control the leak. She even kept his eyes moist as much as she could to keep the delicate optics from corroding anymore then it already had.

She would have made a good mother if she could ever have grown up. And if she had been built with the ability to have children.

For such a short life, the virus inside of her made it all so complex. It gave her that spark of intelligence, which made the years slip away and mean nothing. Inside her mind this was as old as she would ever be. She was not an age defined by her body or her maker. She simply was.

Days bled into each other. Three days she looked over the broken shell of her savior. Caring for him as if he was still alive in there. Even speaking to him sometimes at night, just to let him know she was there and waiting.

It was on the third day she asked Don again to fix him. It was then that she noticed something was wrong with the man. That her father wasn’t well at all.

Don was pale as a sheet, and he lay on the couch like a broken man, his eyes staring at her with a dull wet coating. Not unlike tears.

Father? Are you alright?”

I can’t fix him.” He said quietly, looking away from her. “Maybe it’s good I can’t. I only wish I could have fixed you better. Kept you safe.”

Your not well are you Father?” She knew in her head what it meant for Notnow. That he would need to be repaired. She wondered how she could find someone to repair her father now.

A fear struck her. What if she couldn’t?

We need to get you help.” The truth was easy to say, but harder to figure out how. She was new in the world still and it seemed like a terrifying place. Where would she go for help in a place of nightmares?

No, you can’t.” Don tried to sit up but he was weak. The excitement and chaos had taken it’s toll on the old man’s body and organs of flesh and blood. The pain in his chest just grew more intense then it had ever been.

His breathing labored a second before he relaxed back down into the couch in the cold hotel room. It did nothing to ease Maven’s emotions.

It was not as big of a shock to Don as it should have been. For 8 months now he knew he was at risk for heart problems. Especially since he hadn’t kept as close as eye on his blood pressure as he should have. Ignoring the doctors prescriptions for stress pills and relaxants. Even ignoring Dr. Bushere’s appointments to escape the thought of it.

Now though he had no where to escape to. The burning pain which he had almost forgot he was prone to was now furiously alive in his chest and arms. It was as if his body was on fire inside.

I’m fine.” He grunted out. Obviously a lie.

No your not.” She walked around the hotel room, looking for anything that might tell her what to do. Any sign that might make sense. Not even her base programming had any answers for her.

She came to the phone book. She looked at the bright yellow cover and the images of people connected by receivers talking. At first she didn’t understand what it referred to, but since it rested beside the small black phone that was in the room she assumed she could do the same.

She picked up the receiver and placed it to her ear just as the people in the photo had. Maybe they could find some way to help her.

Maven stop.” Don was looking worse. The pain on his face was more clear, as was the pasty sweat beaded at his forehead.

She didn’t stop. She listened to the clear buzzing on the other end before someone picked up the re-directed line. The sound of it startled her a moment.

Hello this is the front desk, how may I help you?” it was a woman on the other end. Cheerful and pleasant. It was the second woman’s voice she had heard.

Hello?” Maven’s voice in comparison was strange and distant. She didn’t have the pleasant feel the woman had. In fact, she almost sounded afraid when she heard her voice in the receiver.

Is there a problem miss?”

There was a problem. She glanced over to Don who looked at her with pleading eyes. She didn’t know what to do for him. Or for Notnow.

My father needs to be repaired…” she blurted out quickly, stalling at the end as she struggled to get words right.

She had the equivalent of a dictionary in her head, but not all the words she knew. The programming gave her the words but no real understanding of conversation. Talking to a stranger made her feel so unprepared.

Repaired? Is your parents around girl?” there was rustling on the other end as if the woman was searching some sort of paper pile.

No, he’s sick. Broken. I need help.”

Hang up the phone!” Don screamed it this time before he tried to sit up again. His arms felt like jelly and the rock of a weight on his chest made him flop forward, almost off the couch onto the floor.

Concerned for him she finally obeyed. She slammed the phone down and came to him. Kneeling at his side as she helped him find his balance. Her hands were stronger then his.

What have you done?” he gasped, hardly able to catch his breath. “They will find you…”

Maybe they can help you!” she realized in an odd assortment of words in the back of her head, that she merely wanted his approval. She wanted to save him. Instead he seemed furious with her.

Then what?!” His face flushed from the pasty white to a beat red. His old familiar eyes glared at her with an unfamiliar tone. “Lock me away and strip you down to nothing? My work! My greatest work would be Nothing!”

Was this Desperation?

Maven carefully wiped the spittle off her face and flinched at the anger in his voice. Her eyes refused to cry because she simply didn’t know how – but what could be considered her heart sank inside her chest. She didn’t understand.

I was trying to help…” those crystal blue eyes stared anywhere but at his face. “You need to be repaired.”

I can’t be repaired!” he continued to shout even as his lungs exploded in pain and his voice threatened to give out. “I’m human! I’m not like you! You’re a computer, a thing; you can’t understand dying!” He wheezed and huffed. His heart pounded like a marathon. “Get out of here!”

I won’t leave-,”

Get out!” He swore he heard sirens between the ringing in his ears. It was all going to be ruined. And he was finally too helpless to do a thing. His heart palpated quicker and quicker.

All he could do now was set her free. A fool would have understood, but she didn’t. A child’s eyes saw the world as a cold hard place. Harder alone then with others she knew.

Yet she had no choice. Her father refused her. She went to the bed and pulled Notnow into her arms and cradled his body gently.

Maven turned and looked to him once before giving her attention to the door. Walking slowly and unsteady as she opened it into the midday air. It felt like a Friday, though she didn’t know why.

Her footing hesitated, shaky and unsure. She hesitated and wanted so desperately to hear him call her back and tell him he was sorry. That he forgave her and needed her and wished she would stay. She wanted to be needed.

There was nothing. Silence.

I’m sorry.” Her strange voice floated quietly in the room to an unresponsive old man as the door slammed shut.

NEW LIFE: Chapter Eighteen

It had all gone so wrong, so quickly. Christian was left to clean up the mess, and even he didn’t know if it was even worth trying to repair now. Jerry was dead. Don was missing and New Life was in shambles.

In the end, he seemed to be the only one with no where left to go, and nothing left to do. The media and police were busy trying to unravel the murders and the stockholders held a freeze over the company. No one was in control anymore, at least not until things were solved.

Instead all he had was a pounding migraine and his small loft apartment overlooking the city lights. Lights that never stopped in a city like this.

What do I do now?” he looked out over the thousand glittering lights below. The traffic was immense. But it always was.

He could tell some of the cars simply by their lights. Which one was a high-end sports model, which one was a junker. Who must have been driving them. His life, until a few weeks ago seemed just that predictable. Now however, he didn’t even know if he would have a job to go back to.

The stockholders always had too much power over New Life. It was a quick fix way of getting out of debt at the time, but now it seemed more and more of a hassle. And Jerry hadn’t helped by trying to bring in yet another silent partner.

He growled at himself for thinking such things of a Dead man and took a drink of his bourbon and coke. He wished the synthetic alcohol gave him a better buzz.

The funeral was being held over until they could find out more about his murder. Though Christian suspected it would just take them a while to autopsy that many parts. At first they had thought his body was just crammed in until they had tried to pull it out.

The sound of the pieces knocking down the chute was a disgusting reminder that some sort of monster had done the deed. Some sort of monster that had been loose in the building.

Beep. “Christian? Pick up the phone Christian we are all worried about you!” it was his mothers voice. Old and worried. She sounded like she had been crying again. “I guess your not in… listen give us a call okay? Charlene wants to talk to you sometime.”

Charlene. He must have been in desperate straights if his ex-girlfriend would be so intent on comforting him. Now he knew he was screwed.

Sorry Mom, not in right now. Take a message.” He muttered into his glass resting a hand on the tinted window. He wondered if it would be a perfect end to a perfect day if he simply fell out and landed to his death. He pulled his hand back and set his drink down on the end table instead.

Normally Christian and his mother had a good relationship, but he didn’t feel up to talking to her again about Jerry. There was still too much guilt on the young man’s shoulders.

He let the machine click the message off. A short while later the phone redirected another call to the answering machine.

Beep. “Mr. Wolfe? This is Dr. Bushere…” Christian tilted his head and looked back to the blinking light on the machine. “I need to talk to you sometime… it’s important.” He seemed shaky, upset. And more desperate then Christian was.

He quickly scooped the phone up off the end table. Clicked it on.

Wait, am here.” He hoped to catch it before the doctor hung up his end.

Christian Wolfe?” the voice on the other end seemed to shake. Maybe it was a bad connection. Maybe it was a wrong number.

Yeah am here.”

It’s about Don…” Again his voice was shaky, and this time it was noticeable enough to grab his attention fully. “Listen is there anywhere we can meet?”

He looked at his watch. 11:48pm. Not much would be open at this time of night, other then the dives in town. And even then, he wouldn’t trust meeting a cop in one of those places.

However although New Life had been locked down, it didn’t mean he didn’t have the keys. And even security knew he came in and out of the building in odd hours if they were running behind schedule or meetings needed to be prepped for.

Meet me at New Life tower in ten minutes. We’ll go up to my office. Sound good?”

I’ll meet you then.” Click.

It was an excuse to do something at least. Grabbing his coat and locking his loft he made his way down the winding stairs to the lobby. The extra exercise was good for him, and the elevators had always been far too slow for his liking.

Hardly anyone else from the building seemed to use these stairs. He could count on his one hand how many times he had seen people when he went this way. And considering he had lived in this building for over 5 years, it was pretty astonishing.

Why use your legs when a machine would do it for you? Sometimes he hated technology. At least lately.

He finally hit the last floor and ducked out the back way to find his black Lexus II. Untouched and unchanging from all the other Lexus vehicles out there.

He breathed in the night air, listened as the security cameras swiveled and watched his every move, and jumped at the sound of sirens somewhere in the distance. Paranoia seemed contagious tonight.

After he unlocked his car with a brush of his thumb past the sensor, he glanced up to the looming building he had just come from. Idly he wondered what his car said about him. Did someone else think of him only as another clone in a world of corporate robots.