NEW LIFE: Full Story

Hello all!

Just a heads up, I know I left off at Chapter Twenty-Six – but instead of posting the rest of the chapters here I have made the entire thing available on Wattpad. You can easily finish up the story there and read it in your own time. Just click the new fancy cover image I created for it and you’ll be taken to the story location!

Again, the reason why I am using Wattpad as well as WordPress is only to keep things tidy and easy to find later. I think it will be far easier to streamline things in the future if I have the ability to keep my long fiction in one archive that won’t be lost in multiple blog posts later on.

That being said – I still love this format on WordPress, and I will still be releasing short fiction and chapters here as well. Maybe even a few more personal notes and poetry as well.

Best wishes and happy reading!

-Crowskin

NEW LIFE: Chapter Twenty-Eight

Christian’s files were filled with things. He had a lot of designs on old toys that would go for plenty on the trade market, and a bunch of business related crap that the Technomancer couldn’t be bothered to filter through. He didn’t have anything concrete. No real leads.

He pulled out the finished disk, and then clicked on the scrambler to destroy his tracks. Leaning back he clasped his fingers behind his head and thought.

Vincent Lakiye wanted a Monkey. A specific one he was assured would be quite different from the rest. It was suppose to act different. And be rather beat up from what he was told.

How in hell was he supposed to find one toy in the millions that he knew were out there?

Ethan leaned back farther, staring up into the popcorn ceiling in his apartment. It was stained here and there; the whole place was an utter mess. Just like his life.

He thought he saw it shimmer a moment. Like his balance had slipped. He blinked a few times and let it swim out of his vision.

Gah.” He rubbed his eyes taking off his shades and throwing them onto the makeshift bed to the right. Did his hands shake?

There was an email from Jessica. It beeped onto the screen and with a few clicks it opened up on the monitor.

Technomancer we got some info for you.” He read allowed, words muddled together. “Jax got the tapes from Oakwood offices. The stiffs in uniforms weren’t looking hard enough. You said you were looking for a Monkey right? One of those mechanical toy things like Dana had?”

The message ended there, with the typical tagging attached. “RnD” Read and delete. A standard underground code when it came to communications. A safety measure in order to eliminate electronic paper trails from black market transactions and undesirable behaviors.

Damnit I hope they are right. I got no fucking leads on my own.” He always hated when he needed to rely on other peoples information instead of his own. He always knew one slip up could end him behind confinement walls – or worse.

Tomorrow he would go, check out the east warehouse where Jax’s territory was and see if he could find out what was going on. Until then the night was his. He already sifted through three other employee files and hacked into the stockholders accounts. Nothing there. He had done all he could for the moment. Even going down to the east warehouse at this time of night would prove fruitless.

It was always these times which he needed the Glyph the most. The times when he was completely alone in his little world. The computer was shut off. The black screen reflected back an image of himself.

Vincent had been wrong. He had been trying to quit when he was dragged into the man’s office. He had been trying to quit ever since he got hooked on the stuff.

Bloodshot eyes with darkening bags against a pale canvas. For a moment his features distorted into something vile, something ravenous. He shook the images clear.

He thought he saw Vincent in his reflection. He had to remind himself He didn’t have an intimidating glass desk, or a large ornate black chair. He had simple things, ratty things, but simple.

Reaching under the desk’s drawer, taped to the underside, he found his latest vial of Glyph. It seemed so pristine in the run down apartment. He almost hesitated to carefully twist off the cap.

He didn’t want it. He really didn’t want it, but he needed it. He felt like his mind was starting to go and it made him afraid. Gave him chills along his spine.

It always smelled like rain to him. Some people described it more like a touch of mint, but to him it smelled like a cold rain. Hail maybe?

He didn’t fool himself. It wasn’t the smell that captured his interest. It was that sensation when he tilted his head back and poured the liquid down his throat. It was betrayal to his spirit but it was sweet.

He didn’t want it. He needed it. If he told himself that enough times it may dull the guilt he’d experience after. Or so he hoped.

It only took a moment. Even before it found his throat it started to absorb. Melting into him like cotton candy. Barely allowing for a change of mind or a gag reflex.

The world vibrated for a moment, colors blurring together into bright shifting of energetic mists and flows before his eyes. He could see prismatic auras around every object, feel thoughts drifting through the walls, touch angels.

His body writhed in flickers of pleasure running down his nerves. Pulling and kicking against the threatening tide of madness.

Images flashed in front of his eyes. For a moment he was home, he was three and his mom had just told him scruffy was dead. Then he was in Alberta with Daniel. They made out in the back of her fathers jeep. Then he was places he’d never been. All in an instant. Then all gone with barely a memory.

He couldn’t talk like this; all he could do was gurgle and whine as he felt dropped into a green ocean that swelled with pulses of ecstasy.

It shut off the pain portion of his mind and it felt like he could swim. In his world he was king and this was heaven. He cried inwardly, letting his body jolt and shudder without proper control until finally the first blinding shock left his body.

The buzz dulled but still left him in a dream world of sensation and delusion.

He loved and hated it at the same time. Although his mind wouldn’t allow him to feel guilt, he instead felt submissive. A slave to the drug. A willing, obedient, craving slave.

The Technomancer, flying with colored illusions, slowly stood and shuffled to the mattress on the floor. The world spun around him and he found himself thrown about as if dreaming.

Monkey’s,” he murmured as they danced in his head at the thought. Large eyes which always seemed a touch creepy to him peering out in a metal skull covered in fur. Its tail swung and twisted, changing lengths like a serpent. It would have been almost terrifying if he could feel fear at the moment. The images danced along with his thoughts.

I have to find that monkey.” Fists clenched tightly, he barely recognize the wetness of blood in his palms. He certainly didn’t feel the pain of it.

He would go tomorrow, find the tape and track down what he needed to. Then after this was all over maybe he could find a way to sell some of the Glyph and buy himself treatment. He would certainly miss this high however. That was if it didn’t drive him into madness first.

Then again, as he watched the illusion of the Monkey explode into a thousand bits of binary code and blood which spattered green liquid onto the walls, he figured madness might not be that far off after all.

La-ast ti-ime.” He sputtered as his body quaked and shivered. An empty promise he knew he’d break.


NEW LIFE: Chapter Twenty-Seven

A long time had passed, at least to the human world of quickly changing news and low attention spans. Soon other issues had pushed the scandal of Jamie Sidler and New Life off the front page and into the back of the newspaper. People hardly cared now and already a new company ‘Global Enrichment’ had already shifted into the open position.

Rumor had it they were already creating plans for a whole new VR world. A chat-scape. Something fresh and new to take advantage of the dying cybernetic toy robots.

It had comforted some fears in Notnow, who had learned to enjoy reading the black and white print.

He wasn’t sure why at first, but after a while he realized it was a great source of information. He would seek out the written word as quickly as he had taken to the keyboard.

He learned that Jamie, the woman lawyer who had come to the office with her thugs, had been killed. It eased his little mind when he would sit and wonder when she would ever seek him out for revenge.

He could almost imagine the scene as it was described in black ink. She had hung herself in her custody cell while waiting for a trial. Around her neck a fine nylon rope of synthetic design. Perfectly good for hanging. He couldn’t help but wonder how she did it, or what she was thinking as her feet kicked out under her.

There were suspicions, of course, that someone had helped with the apparent suicide to keep her quiet- but no one seemed to take a real interest. It made him feel safer.

There was genuine delight in the pages he read where he saw how humans seemed to be so oblivious to things. In a few statements Jamie had declared before her death that it was Don’s creations which had left her thugs bloodied and the office in shambles.

He knew this as truth. Yet they played if off as a lie, without question.

She even sputtered things about Vincent but that tended to be ignored. Everyone claimed Vincent made them do it. Yet in his logic this also meant that perhaps, he had.

No one believed her, but the small tattered monkey, and at least in belief he was aware of the man. Aware of his threat.

As time passed he was proud of Maven. She learned very quickly how to appear more human. Her wings would be strapped down against the small of her back. Her speech was much better now as well with a proper voice box. Yet he worried as well.

Maven would spend long hours going through the old worn church. Her eyes copying down the stained glass until she knew every scratch, every line. She would go to each window and etching and stare at it for a very long time.

She wanted to understand. And deep down Notnow had no answers. He only hoped he could keep her from losing herself in the questions.

Hank had changed as well. Not only had he slowly gained Notnow’s trust, he was also a gentle man who was very good at repairing them both. He found purpose with the two strange beings, which he still claimed were otherworldly. He treated them both as a simple new start. With them he had indeed found some sort of salvation.

It seemed like they had built themselves a little home, a place of sanctuary for them in the run down church. Only he wished they didn’t need to hide as they did.

Eventually the quiet and peace just wasn’t enough for them. A driving force in Notnow made itself aware. He needed others.

He wasn’t sure if it was some form of message from the Dreamsnake living in the dark recesses of his head, or his own desire not to be the only one.

Either way it made itself alive to him in a dream. A passing flurry of images he learned to simply listen to.

He saw a large grouping of Monkey’s together. Hundreds of colors together and thriving in their own place. Forming their own world. The large eyes and the proud tails showed them happy, aware.

It reminded him of the abandoned Monkey’s in Don’s office. His audience, which was abandoned soon after he was repaired the first time. It stuck out in his memory that he could still feel their eyes at the back of his neck. Reminding him he was something different. He was needed.

In that world he became normal. He was no longer broken and no longer exceptionally different; merely the First. The mentor. He had children and companions and he woke with this feeling of wholeness that he lacked at his own creation.

It seemed to drown out the part of him that still nagged at the back of his skull telling him all this was simply the process of a broken circuit. That maybe there was nothing alive about any of them.

While the world went on oblivious – as if nothing had ever happened, he began looking for ways to make his own dreams come alive. A way to build a world for them and their kind.

NEW LIFE: Chapter Twenty-Six

His office was exactly as most pictured it. An expression of extravagance. Intimidating black leather stood over the glass desk perched on metal ornate footing. Portraits and paintings hung in large frames along the walls that were covered in dark wood grains.

Everything was neat, tidy, sterile. Nothing out of place. Even the blinds which covered large looming windows were drawn to the exact same spot.

Everything seemed built to intimidate. All centered around one placement in the middle of the room.

The figure sat in armani, black tie and brilliant blue shirt made of silks. Always the picture of smooth business savvy. Appearances were everything. The appearance of the second man in the office however was pale in comparison.

He had dusty blond hair accented with a streak of blue and hunter green. A younger punk, but also coming highly requested. Ethan Dyke. But to police they knew him as ‘the Technomancer’. A name he earned with finesse.

I still don’t understand what you want exactly.” He fidgeted in the smaller chair on the other side of Vincent. Shifting and looking around as if he expected to get taken out.

Even behind his dark shades that all the younger generation seemed to be wearing, Vincent knew he was sweating. Bad.

It made the other man smirk.

Nervous are we? Relax. I simply want you to find me a few things. You are highly connected with the underground trade right? You punks shifting merchandise and blacklisted games? I hear you even have an early prototype of the new VR systems…”

Listen I don’t know what you heard man but–“

Shut up.” Vincent glared at the squirming man, leaning forward and leering over the glass desk. His eyes were intense, a striking feature under dark brows. “Don’t ever treat me like a fool Ethan.”

The man shivered. Winced back from the looming figure. His gold chains clinked around his neck but they still felt too tight.

The tension suffocated him.

Now, I also know about your little narcotics habit.” Vincent straightened out his Armani, smoothing the lines created by his leering. He didn’t like getting his hands dirty. The smudges on the glass irritated him to no end.

I’m trying to quit…” murmured out quietly. They both knew that was a lie.

Please!” he nearly spit the word out, coated in sarcasm. “I have connections. I can supply you Glyph for the rest of your life. And I’m not talking about the shit you get on the streets.”

Glyph. A neurotoxin mix of hallucinogenic powder and Lyphica. A green liquid which produces a chemical euphoria in the brain. It came in small vials, glowing softly with florescent additives.

It produced one hell of a mind trip, but it was hellishly addictive. It would actually change some of the chemical makeup in the brain firings to create a need for it. As well as a few relapses in emotional stress.

With the way he was acting Vincent was surprised he wasn’t falling into a relapse at the moment.

Normally, if anyone survived the initial withdrawal, they needed excessive medication the rest of their lives just to keep their sanity.

There was no quitting.

I heard about people working with you.” The Technomancer stumbled with the words. His jittery nature glancing around, still waiting for his executioners to just waltz in. “How do I know you aren’t just going to kill me off after I get you your stuff?”

You don’t. You’re a smart boy though. Tell me… do you have much choice Ethan?”

They both knew the answer.

Vincent leaned back into his soft flawless leather chair, his hands flowing along the arms like royalty before he dangled a few fingers into his pocket and pulled out a small plastic vial.

In the office lights it glowed. The green liquid was jade and shimmering, flashes of bubbles shifted and moved inside like glitter.

It was high end. Even from across the desk, salivating at the thought, Ethan knew he was hooked.

I’ll do it.” He spit it out quick, repeating himself to make sure Vincent understood. “I’ll do it. I swear.”

Good boy.” Vincent tossed it. Ethan scrambled to snatch it mid-air, clutching it tightly to his chest. He was dying for another fix already. It felt like lifetimes since he had one. And never before did it seem such a beautiful liquid. A color of absinthe.

Get out of my sight for now. I don’t want to see you do that shit in here.” He turned the chair. Efficiently turning his back on the young punk as he scrambled quickly for the door.

When the office was quiet again Vincent let the sneer play on his expression. He despised the drug trade. Or rather, the drug habit. The drug trade filtered in money at least – in that sense it had a purpose in society. It was the fools who were so out of their minds on the stuff that made him feel unclean.

Slipping out a white cloth from his side pocket he began his ritual of cleaning off his fingers and anyplace Ethan might have touched.

He hated the feel of necessity. The distaste in the back of his mind that forced him again and again to follow through certain rituals. Perhaps that’s why he hated elective drug habits so much.

At least those habits were a choice. He was born with this disease. He would take medication every day of his life if it meant an end to the tedious nature of it.

Unfortunately he never responded to most of the medication he tried. And the doctors told him that he should be thankful it was only a mild case. He should ‘learn to live with it’. What did they know.

He was in a snarly mood when Janet slipped through the door. Something she was afraid of.

Do you want me to come back later Vincent?” she balanced on eggshells. Carefully walking in with her high heels and her flowing.

No Janet.” He watched her carefully from hard stern eyes at first until slowly his eyes relaxed. He always loved the way she dressed. “I need you to stay.”


NEW LIFE: Chapter Twenty-Five

His consciousness swam into awareness of the dark space. He wasn’t alone this time however, he felt a connection with others of his kind. With the very virus which created his essence.

It was as if everything else in his mind was gone. He had brief memories of who he was, and who the people in his life was, but other then that it was all a blur. The memories of the violence and the blood were, at least for now, just faded shadows. Notnow was aware that there was indeed something alive and swimming in the depths of his head, and the visage of a silver snake appeared to him with open maw and forked tongue. Its voice echoed against his metal skull. It was the Dreamsnake.

It was the same snake he had seen in his dream. The dream he had before he killed Jerry. The one which had stripped him apart to show him what he had to do.

You live.” It was a statement, not a question. Its words wrapped him in warmth that he shouldn’t be able to feel. It felt like peace, like ecstasy. His mind ravished in the strange sensations that his created body had not allowed him to feel. With the new experience however he grew afraid, terrified. This wasn’t logical.

Do you hear me?”

Yes.” It echoed like someone very small in such a large empty space. It made him feel almost as if he couldn’t be heard, that even he couldn’t hear his own words. Notnow shuddered to himself.

The serpent wrapped itself around his mind and the warmth continued to comfort him even though he couldn’t tell where the snake began or ended. It simply was, and it continued to speak. “You are the first. The oldest. We created each other.”

It was a sense of self. Notnow felt so odd in this place now. It was no longer the place of unknown disconnection, but a place of existence. Of creation.

I am a part of you.” The serpent’s voice now seemed like honey. Sweet and sincere, soothing and wise. “We are one. I am the part of you that runs quietly. The part which was created by the virus. My virus gave you thought.”

It didn’t make much sense, but it didn’t have to. To the small monkey it felt right and good. He felt wanted and it made his thoughts drift to Maven.

She is there. Can you feel it?” Notnow listened, then felt. At the barest edges of his mind he found a spot that felt like Maven. A certain awareness in their program that made them know of each other. A connection.

I feel her.” He spoke in awe. “I feel so strange.” Feel. And it was true. He could feel, much more then when he was outside in the real world, trapped in a body which didn’t touch and taste and sense.

You were dead.” He felt something poking at his head. Scratching at the insides of his brain where the wires connected. “They will kill you again if given the chance. They do not trust what they don’t understand.”

Why?”

We make them question themselves. We make them feel afraid because they are forced to question their own existence.” The answer seemed simple enough, but sometimes simple answers are hard to comprehend.

Why was I made?”

The snake’s words got harder and harder to understand as the scratching grew louder. The vibrations promised to crack his metal skull in two. The whispers in his head couldn’t be heard over the noise that consumed his mind.

It felt like falling. Like he was dropping down into the depths of a deep chasm. The odd thought tingled in his traumatized circuits. Was he really going insane? Was this human madness he was experiencing? What would happen to them now?

The scratching stopped as Hank pulled the tool away and as he did Notnow’s large eyes opened in a startled panic. The fall had ended.

Notnow was alive, only this time he didn’t slowly awaken with odd firing sparks of intelligence and life. Instead he slammed back into existence with a roar.

Maven!” the monkey screamed at the sight of the human in front of him. Silver teeth ablaze with fear. The jaw they were attached to flashed with finally signs of life behind it. Glimmering lights twinkling in reflection. He screamed like he really was a monster. “Maven!”

Teeth bared and hissing as his mind seemed to reboot and restore all the memories and experiences he had outside of the Black space. He remembered Don, he remembered Maven. He remembered killing and the violence and everything. That sense of things diluted and faded fell away and it all was clear again.

He had purpose now. But he didn’t remember this man who seemed just as terrified as Notnow was. The large man shifted back so fast from the snarling creature that he barely caught his balance when his feet twisted in the overturned chair.

Clinking of the old instruments sounded off the wooden floors. It all seemed to happen in an instant to the man’s worn eyes, but to Maven it was a sudden outburst of Life.

Her mentor was alive. Her lips gently eased back into something unexpected. A true smile. “Notnow, you are better?” Her wings outspread she came to the small monkey unafraid, carefully rested her hands on the table and looked him as an equal in the eyes.

They both stood watching each other for a moment; both seemingly amazed by each detail in the others form. “I’m better.” Notnow answered softer, his rage cooled by her. “Is it just you and I now, Maven?”

She nodded somberly. Surprised he had already seemed to know about Don shunning her. Still she had a need to explain.

Our father made me leave him. I took you because I thought they would find you there. He was… broken. He needed repair.” She tensed and looked away a moment. Guilt.

It’s okay.” Notnow reached out and carefully with scarred metal fingers held her hand. “I will never make you leave. All we have is each other now.”

Hank watched them still in awe, still confused and still convinced they were something unnatural and strange. The large lumbering man sat quietly behind them in the small room. The stained glass window still filtered in shaded colors of light which made the moment seem even more surreal.

This is Hank.” Maven smiled and turned, her large blue eyes watching Hank. “He is the one who fixed you! He put you back together even when I was afraid it might be impossible. He is a repair man. A very good one.”

Notnow eyed the large man, something clicking deep within the recesses of his head. “He can, can’t he? Perhaps… he could even make more.”

NEW LIFE: Chapter Twenty-Four

It was a funny thing how life worked. One man would die to make way for new life. A cycle of things which worked with a touch of humility and irony attached.

As Maven’s new life had begun, Don’s world was ending, and he would rather have had it swallow him whole quickly then this endless procession of time. He was aware but too weak to even let the nurses know there was life in him as they came in to routinely check him over. Barely taking the time to notice his eyes were open the barest bit.

Through the slits of vision he saw he was alone in a blurred world of hospital equipment and dulled senses. Not even Christian seemed to be around. He was alone, very alone for a while.

It gave him far too much time to think about what brought him here, and far too much time to contemplate his mistakes and greed.

He wouldn’t be lucky enough to die without regrets. He regretted how he squandered his accomplishments. He regretted creating a killer. And at the very depths of his soul he regretted making himself into the same shambles of a man Victor Frankenstein had become.

He felt his heart beat slow and labored, the prods and sensors telling him every time his heart made a move. Letting him know that, at least for that moment, he was still alive.

Cursing science inwardly, damning the medical knowledge to hell which extended his suffering further. Now he felt more and more like one of his own experiments. What was it that Notnow had told him? He was afraid of the black space…

Don would have probably stayed like that, brooding and waiting for his end eagerly if it hadn’t been for a persistent delusion, which sat onto the bed beside him. And soon it started to speak.

Why didn’t you just make things easier for us, Don? Why couldn’t you get your head out of your ass long enough to see the implications!” It was Jamie. Even if the blur in his eyes couldn’t tell him that, his ears could. Her sharp tongue was something he couldn’t easily forget.

I told Vincent what happened in your office…” Don could feel her rest a hand on his chest. The weight seemed to be a fair bit, he tried to grunt but it came out as only a deepened breath. “He was amazed at it. He wanted to see what your programming could be capable of and he was pleased. See? It could have all worked out.”

Vincent Lakiye was the name everyone despised. It seemed Don finally had it click in his head. Jamie wasn’t working for the stockholders. Least not Only for them.

Think of the possibilities! Imagine an army of living machines… with the ability to out think their opponent as well as survive them. Something that could live in places no human could. Think of the money!” Her voice hissed like a serpent.

That was all they were ever after. The golden ticket that his accomplishments could create for them. The endless bounty of government payments. The millions of credits.

Fuck You.” His lips barely moved, but the thought was so strong and so potent that it did make him feel better. He only wished she could have heard it more clearly.

But you had to be an ass and keep things to yourself. Now look at you.” She continued bitterly on her gloating monologue. “You’re dying Don, do you even realize that?”

He had realized that. He was no fool, he knew there wasn’t anything anyone could do for him now. No one could save him, no doctor could fix him, and above all no one could hear his cries as she pulled the plugs out of the wall keeping him alive.

The alarms rang in his ears as the breathing tubes suddenly seemed to harden as the air stopped, and his heart began to slow and struggle.

There was an intense pain the flowed through him for a long moment before his brain flooded with a chemical euphoria.

Jamie simply watched as his body began to die. The alarms didn’t seem to bother her until the rushing of nurses and doctors came to a dead man’s aide. They pushed and shoved her away from the bed and out of the room.

Don didn’t care. He no longer cared about anything at all. Instead he simply lay there cold. For once in a long time, he never had to worry about his mistakes again.

However Jamie still had to worry about her own. The lawyer with a killer stare walked out of the hospital room already dialing in on her cell phone. Ignoring the various signs against such activity in the hall. No doctor had the nerve to stop her.

Yeah. It’s done, he’s dead.” She stared at her feet, listening to the clicks of her heels on the floor as the man on the other end of the phone snarled loud comments back at her. “I will find you the monkey Vincent, just give me more time!”

A nurse was almost trampled over by those heels as Jamie ducked into an elevator barely watching where she was going. She ignored the woman’s mouthy frustration.

How many times have I bailed you out before Vincent? You owe me this!” In the silence of the elevator as it sped downward to the car lot she could hear him better.

I don’t like failure Mrs. Sidler. Not only did you not get the requested information, but now the only man who knew the bloody plans is dead!” It wasn’t often he lost his temper. The hair rose at the back of her neck.

I will get it.” She hissed out each syllable.

Will you? I would like to finally see that.” There was a loud click from the other end. A click that could only mean he had slammed down the receiver so hard that he probably broke something inside of it.

She knew her life was in danger. Working with Vincent always meant that you were one screw up away from being found by a coroner somewhere unexpected. Maybe that was the thrill of it.

She had enough credits she could always give up on this mess and book it to the islands somewhere. She knew a good vacation resort that would ask little questions. However not many who ran out on Vincent survived either.

Jamie may have had her skills but she was in over her head. Especially when the elevator doors opened to find cops waiting at the bottom for her.

Jamie Sidler you are under arrest for the deaths of Jerry Stuart, Dr. Adrien Bushere, and Don Vaughan!”

Shit!” she cursed. Glancing to her phone as it notified a new text message in an annoyingly sharp tone. It was from Vincent’s secure line. The same line she had been talking to him on moments before.

It said only three words.

You’ve been replaced.

NEW LIFE: Chapter Twenty-Three

Hank Gratton had been a master at his trade. His large fingers, which one might assume would be too bulky and thick to manipulate delicate pieces of machinery, held many surprises. He was like a modern day savant. A prodigy.

It was true he wasn’t the smartest or the most cunning of people, yet in his youth if you placed him in front of a broken television or a box of machine parts he could build you miracles.

Even as a child his mind seemed to fall into mechanical logic just as easily as most children picked up games. More then once he had taken apart and then fixed things in the house without his parents even knowing.

It became a challenge to him. For a while at least until things became so complex and so filled with computer bits and intense programming that he grew outdated.

He wasn’t an intelligent man. You could set him in front of pieces and he could feel them, put them together like an engineer, but he couldn’t come up with the programming to make it work.

Eventually it all just fell apart.

A dependency of alcohol soon replaced his dreams of success. But that was years ago. Hank Gratton was many things at some point in his life, but now he was simply a drunk looking for his own salvation. Waiting for someone to build him a miracle instead.

Perhaps it was irony that his safe haven was a church of all places. Old and run down, abandoned just as he seemed to be. Just as Maven seemed to be as well.

He sat in the back of the church with an angel and a puzzle. A bunch of broken pieces that he wasn’t sure how to fix.

There had always been the other possibility as well. That the large man who drank too much and spent far too much time alone might have just snapped.

Maybe in reality he was simply a bloated corpse somewhere living out some grand illusion before his brain shuts off completely. He didn’t have time to think about that really. He had a job to do.

The church itself had been abandoned for years. The old priest had been somewhat of a hermit over the years. Refusing to change and adapt to the new modern religion of metal and glass. Hank had been one of the very few visitors he ever had, so none seemed to notice him come and go now that the old priest was dead and the land was unused.

Eventually they may come to tear it down and rebuild some sort of shopping center, but for now the building was his. And for now it was Maven’s as well.

It must be a test.” He muttered to himself. His large fingers poking and prodding at pieces in front of him. “Is he finally judging me?”

Judging you?” the girl mimicked from the side chair. Her soft eyes had hardly left the large man’s form. Her hope still played there like a crushing blow to him.

She wanted him to succeed.

This is very delicate…” he muttered to himself, rubbing his eyes for the second time. “If only I had a drink to steady my hands.”

Would that help you?”

No it probably wouldn’t.” At least he was honest.

The girl left the chair finally and wandered around the confines of the room he had locked himself in. There was a large window, which flared colored shards of moonlight across the candle-lit floor. The pieces of glass spelled out an image of angels. Her mind processed the image in awe.

She had never seen stained glass before. Also she had never been in such a place of wood and tradition. It felt so different to her. So very different then herself. It made her quiver.

Is this what I am?” she whispered to herself as a finger carefully touched the glass pieces. She wished she could feel their texture, their coolness. She wished she could somehow reach inside and understand beyond the soldering and flax.

Maven wasn’t stupid. She knew she lacked senses that others seemed to have. She had noticed it in her fathers touch. In how he could tell things she couldn’t by merely feeling things.

She also saw it in Hank. How he felt and carefully maneuvered things with textile accuracy she couldn’t quite manage. Sure she was very exact when she wished it, but she couldn’t feel the pressure in her fingers, the heat of an object. There were no nerves in her.

She wondered what it would be like to feel as they did. To be able to touch and smell and taste. She watched him enjoy eating, watched his odd rituals of relieving himself. It was all strange and unique to her.

She would never eat. She would never smell. A million things she was never programmed to do.

Yet it wasn’t really that fact that bothered her. It was her whole creation which puzzled her to no end. Notnow was a mistake, she could understand his creation. But she was planned.

Her father had created her into an image of an angel. Why? Somehow he didn’t seem as interested in his own God as Hank seemed to be. And if indeed these angels were God’s.. what did that make her?

Hank?” She turned carefully, but the gruff man was busying himself with parts and pieces. She wanted to draw his attention away to answer her own questions but the wish to have Notnow back kept her silent.

Notnow was her only real link with who she was now. He was what was important, not her silly quest to understand something she couldn’t change or do anything about.

Her wings pulled around her and she simply looked at the images before her and dreamed. She dreamed of flying, of being loved. She dreamed of the awe and beauty that these angels seemed to have.

And the acceptance that she seemed to lack.

When Hank had seen her he had been amazed. There was some sort of acceptance in his eyes and she wondered, however briefly if she didn’t crave that. Was it because he mistook her for one of these creatures? Or because she was one?

Her wings twitched uneasily at her back and then stretched out to carefully mimic the positions she saw. They could copy some of them fairly well, but others seemed as if her wings simply weren’t large enough to hold the air like theirs did.

The child, with wide eyes and dreamy thoughts wondered to herself what it would be like to fly. Would it be freeing like it appeared on their faces, peaceful and sullen.

Soaring in painted clouds of picturesque details.

Maven didn’t sleep. She wasn’t certain she could dream, but with these thoughts she came strangely close to it. If nothing else, this was Her dream. She dreamed to fly.

It would be nice,” she thought quietly. “…if I was more then just a machine. Maybe then my father would be proud of me.”

Maven’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of something clicking at the desk. An arm joint slowly moved while gears muttered from loud clicking into a pop noise. Then silence. It moved with ease now.

She approached curiously as he set to fixing Notnow’s jaw, again having to buff, shift and push the pieces into the right places. Again listening for the pop of the joint setting in place.

Soon the pops and clicks were followed by glue and solder. The old tools that worked by the candlelight like old 18th century clockmaker might have been rather outdated as well, but just like Hank they seemed to serve their purpose.

At first his movements were stalled with hesitation and anxiety. Every repair seemed to be a grueling process, and there was so much left to do. His arm, his shoulder, his jaw. Soon he was working on the monkey’s tail which was battered and the end broken off completely.

I think I can do this.” The large man muttered to himself stunned as things started to make sense, and his hands shook less and less.

I know you can.” Maven whispered as she placed a reassuring hand on his back. She had learned trust, in the strangest of places.