Mother of Crow – Chapter 2 – The choices of butterflies (Draft)

Mother of Crow

By jenny K Brennan

This Sundered World, book 2

A spirit-punk steam-punk tale we don’t know where, maybe not even why, and most certainly not how.

Draft exclusive to House of Imp. Copyright 2017 Jenny K Brennan – All rights reserved.

Chapter 2

The choices of butterflies

A voice like velvet, like chill wind over frozen forest floor, of sand over water. It was all of those sounds in one gentle plea. Perhaps the tender tone was a trick of the acoustics in the bare stone room with its unforgiving surfaces and odd architecture throwing the sound in strange ways. It could easily be explained that way if one wished. And perhaps not. Maybe these sweet whispers were honest enough, halting and insecure as they were. The truth was somewhere in between. Deception was the work of the room; the honesty was real. ,And the force of will could not be denied. The man speaking urged and encouraged with soft gestures and careful movements of face and hands. “Come now, Little one. Don’t be shy with me. Come on, Sweets. You only need to do this once. A little bit closer now. Oh, that’s right. Just a little bit. ” Frederico’s Urging whispers spread out in the room and as the sound hit the stone it seemed to grow rather than fade. Gentle words of encouragements turned into a harsh echo of hissing that lingered. Frederico stood leaning forward in a painful posture that left his back constantly aching. His natural hand poked through the aluminum mesh and he held it palm up as close to the newly formed insect he dared to. The butterfly quivered a little as it stretched its newly formed wings in the warm air. Brand new wings spread out proudly, exposing their marvel of colour and form. A still damp pattern in luminous yellow and black somewhere between hot charcoal and pitch quickly dried as it slowly moved the wings against its new world.

Beautiful. Yes, you are.” Frederico breathed almost soundlessly with that familiar feeling of awe. It was an amazement that never got old. But this time however, it came adorned with an aching sense of dread.; A feeling long expected and not really a surprise. He moved the hand slowly, and with practiced smoothness in his approach to his ward, He moved it a barely measurable closer to the being beyond the barrier. A single drop of Frederico’s carefully concocted phantomgenic mixture sat ready on the very tip of his middle finger. A clear drop of liquid that would be the first, and last meal the butterfly would get. On the butterflies wings yellow and black appeared to move within their individual shades until one became the other, without a visible change. This was the critical phase. Where the insect was still in flux and could decide to be one of three things. It could finish the process of becoming what it really was meant to be. By letting the colours and shape settle into a normal creature in the world. A butterfly destined to live out its life in a futile hunt for sustenance until it starved and died . A quick and natural death in this unnatural world where butterflies could not survive .

“We don’t want that do we, darling. No we certainly do not.” Among the nonsense words had crept in a dissonance of desperation that the Butterfly tending monk didn’t like. Barely breathing, he let his mind stray no more. The butterfly was still but for the slow movement of wings where the colours were not quite solid, not quite there. Frederico’s mind stilled but not without effort as the butterfly started moving toward the glittering drop on the human’s finger. Slowly, hesitatingly, curiously turning toward it. The monk held his breath. Would this be the one? Would this time be different? Yes, this time they would finally be able to deliver on their promise to their benefactors. The butterfly trembled but calmed just as quickly and moved closer. Frederico’s equilibrium, threatened by his sudden hope, held for another moment where he kept his thoughts strictly on the image of the creature coming to him. He needed to hope, then believe, then be in utter and complete knowing that the insect would come to him. He needed more than endless patience. Patience alone couldn’t bring the creature to him. the butterfly had to decide to come. He was almost depleted of patience. He had the hope. He also had a sliver of belief in his craft. But it was the lack of knowing that had on previous attempts failed him. He had rarely been able to see reality as something different than what was in front of him. But this time he felt it. That rare alignment of wanting and being came over him as the butterfly crept even closer . It would take the plunge and become what he needed it to be. What they all needed this one to make the right decision. Finally. Frederic’s vision shifted and he saw it. Saw the transformation take place. layered with what his eyes saw, he saw what he believed and the future was clear and decided.
Just another moment. Just a single second, a held breath. This time it would come to him. What felt like a lifetime of responsability, of threats, fear, and doubt lifted and he could breathe. Frederico exhale into the endless still moment. The butterfly came for its meal. It flexed, reached. And that was when someone decided it was a nice time to visit. The silent butterfly sanctuary held in a silent reverie rarely broken, shattered with a bang. dissonant shriek of uncoiled hinges and the sudden crash of a door slamming the wall shattered the fragile image and Frederico reeled, suddenly dizzy and disoriented. His perfectly placed fingers shook and his heart jumped into a jolting ra-ta-ta against the insides of his ribs. A loud clamber followed, the unmistakeable sound of a fully suited metal monk making his way across the stone floor but Frederico didn’t hear. He struggled to remain still, to keep calm. He desperately fought to pull back the image and the belief. ”No. don’t listen. That didn’t just happen.” He keened and begged the butterfly. It took him a split second to make his hand go still again even if his racing heart couldn’t be slowed that easily and his mind would not be eased. He stared at the insect in dismay. He knew what was happening and he couldn’t stop it.

What did stop was the moving butterfly. Its world changed immediately and it went from being curious, to puzzled, to frightened at the sudden change around it. It instantly had the knowledge it needed to make its choice. For the briefest of moments, thanks to the phantomgenic infusion during development, it knew too much of the future it was expected to enter. It was in that briefest of seconds that most butterflies made their choice. To live the one day, to evolve and scatter through the world as communicator, or simply to choose not to. This butterfly saw enough of its own destiny and its place in the world to decide on the not. The insect froze and stilled. Frederico swore and he knew it was too late. Still, hoping against the horror filling his body with numbing cold that it wasn’t so. In a last frantic action, he thrust his finger toward it. It could be forced. If he could just get the transforming liquid close enough. If he could just…

The butterfly had finally dried completely which made what happened next so much easier. It decided to break and so it broke. Minuscule cracks spread from the body throughout the velvety colourful expanse of its wings to the fragile edge, breaking the glorious coloured surfaces into pieces. One by one the divided sections of wing turned to dust. The body imploded and all the pieces of the once magnificent beast slowly and soundlessly fell through the air in a rain of soft dust to settle on the worn granite floor below.

Frederico stared in disbelief at the empty branch, then at the finger with it’s uneaten drop of magic brew. Its glittering seemed to mock him. His failure. His weakness of faith. He pulled his hand out and turned from the now empty breeding cage. He shook his hand but the stubborn drop still clung to the skin. He brought it up close to his face and glared at it. To his horror, his eyes burned and he fought against the choking sensation at the top of his throat. He ground his teeth against the emotion he didn’t quite know what to call. He had been so close. So close. He closed his eyes and took a moment to consider the consequences. But only a second.
“Oh, sorry, Brother. Didn’t realize you were in here.” Said a not too concerned voice followed by more metallic noises.
the familiar voice ripped Frederico out of his thoughts and he turned around. Where else would I be? What else would I be doing? The words stuck in Frederico’s throat and the choked gurgle he emitted fell on nothing but an empty doorway and a dim corridor.

Brother John had moved and stood at the table, peering down at the bottle of useless butterfly food, scratching his chin thoughtfully. Frederico glared at the man and absently put his finger in his mouth and sucked off the sticky drop and grimaced at the bitter taste. He turned away from Brother John and sighed. His mind returned to the situation at hand. It was what it was. And what was didn’t look good at all. Oh dear Mother of Crow, Save me.” He groaned at the empty cage with its layer of failed attempts to breed another communicator. The fresh sprinkling of dead insect clearly visible on top of all the others that had crumpled, shattered, or just fallen down deaden silent protest against their destiny.
John creaked, groaned, and clanked to stand at Frederico’s side. “Fred?” He pointed into the empty; cage.

“Yes, John?”

“Am I seeing things or is that thing empty?” Frederico’s fellow monk spoke with a surprisingly high pitched voice as his eyes roamed the remnants of dead insects.

Frederico sighed. “If you were finally starting to see things, my dear idiot, what would you be seeing, pray tell?”

“Um.” John nlinked.

Frederico turned toward the door, attempting to leave John in his usual puzzlement. He could stay that way for hours if no one came along to poke him out of his revery of some random thing he had found. This seemed like a good time to leave the man undisturbed.
Frederico paused and let his gaze roamed the rest of the room in a second of indecision. The breeding cage covered one full wall of Frederic’s breeding lab. The rest of the cramped space was taken up by two large tables hosting the phantomgenic still, an incomprehensible compilation of burners and pipes, coloured glass bottles and all the tools. At the very edge of the largest table, on a spot hastily wiped clean merely hours ago, stood a single carefully sealed vial; the result of months of preparation for the last living specimen. Useless now. Frederico tore his eyes from the bottle and hurried over to the tall cupboard standing alone against the opposite wall. He pulled open the double doors and stared at the contents for a long moment before closing it again. He drew a calming breath that left him ready to throw up and started toward the door. He would admit his latest defeat. He would speak to the abbot and explain. He would understand. Surely. He cringed at the memory of his own words, his promise.

“Fred, wait.”

John’s squeek jolted Frederico and he stopped with a hand on the open door, and waited. “Yes, john?”

“Um, I was supposed to tell you something.”

“Yes?”

Brother John had turned to Frederico and the normal puzzlement was gone, replaced with a look of fear. John was fighting to say something, damp lips flapping soundlessly. No words came. The sudden intensity in the monks eyes gave Frederico pause and he stepped to John and put a hand on the metal clad shoulder. John spat the words he had been struggling with. “Don’t go. Fred. They’re coming.” He faltered and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling as if the rest of his words were up there. He Finding them at last, he sputtered. “To look at butterfly.” John smiled, happy. He nodded as to confirm his message and then he frowned. “They’re coming for inspection. But Fred. He glanced anxiously at the cage. “Fred? where are the butterflies?”

next up: Chapter 3 – To panic or not to panic

Author note:

Wordy, again. 🙂 Thoughts?

Mother of Crow – Chapter 1 – Build me pretty, break me prettier (Draft)

Mother of Crow

By jenny K Brennan

This Sundered World, book 2

A spirit-punk steam-punk tale we don’t know where, maybe not even why, and most certainly not how.

Draft exclusive to House of Imp. Copyright 2017 Jenny K Brennan – All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

Build me pretty, break me prettier

“Isn’t she a beauty? Such a marvel. Just see those lines and how it all fits together.” He interrupted himself “jenks?” Lord Lee Reginald Maddow, outfitted in his finest, already well on his way to flat out drunk, looked around the crowd in search for the man in question. He frowned and waved his brandy glass in irritation at no one in particular, splashing licker on his white starched sleeve “Oh there you are.” Maddow’s face split into a grin as his chief surgeon, or scientist, or body magician, or whatever the hell they called themselves these days, hurried through the crowd toward him , mumbling apologies to whoever would listen. Lord Maddow slapped him on the back. “Jenner! So pleased. so, so , pleased. Good man, now show our dear friends this miracle. go on now.” he said pointing his glass at the unmoving woman at the front of the room.

Peter Jenning, thirty going on seventy, not so much a scientist or doctor as a hack with a knack for understanding the human construction and how to modify it, stared blankly at maddow. he straightened his newly acquired ill fitting waistcoat and offered the man a clumsy bow. “It’s Jenning, Sir.”

Maddow sputtered. “Jenkings, right. didn’t I say that?”

Jenning sighed inwardly, conjuring a smile of sorts. He glanced at the gathered nobility while still speaking to maddow. “Yes, of course, Sir. Jenkings it is.” Jenning groped in a pocket for his handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his face. The damn thing wasn’t there. In his other coat, of course. He had forgotten it In his hurry to make himself presentable to the Lords and ladies. Well, damn it to hell. And they were all staring, waiting for something. He drew his sleeve across his face in a moment of defiance. The glory faded quickly when he caught a disapproving glance from Lord Maddow. never too drunk to have a stick up his ass, that one. But regardless of his dislike for the man, or maybe thanks to it, Jennings was firmly placed back on uncertain ground where the thoughts refused to come. He was there to do something. But what was it? What the hell was he supposed to do? Seconds of panic turned into eternity. . Someone coughed wetly and fancy dresses rustled beneath all those decorated faces. Ladies. Women. What were they doing here? Looking at him. What did they want?

“Jenks!” His employer hissed.

Jenning jumped at the sound and instantly the thoughts were back. Ah, right. Money. Those hags had husbands with money. And they needed that money to wake the dead. Thus this ridiculous spectacle. Waking the dead. That’s what it was. Not that she was really dead. Not quite dead.
Just… Just not quite alive.
not yet. He swallowed and managed a nod and another awkward bow that no one noticed.”yes, Sir.” He croaked. “Certainly, Sir.” ” He coughed and turned to the item he had been working on for weeks now. Or was it months?

Maddow waved him to continue. “Kennings here will show us something…”

Jennings tuned out the voice and thought about the work left to do. Making the sell. and once Jenning focused on his latest creation he found his confidence. Even having to deal with Sir Maddow and his ludicrous ambitions, this was his doing. The clueless lord couldn’t fit two pieces of clothing together to make them fit, and Jennings had built a brand new creature from bones and trash and metal. His Mother would have whipped the pride right out of him. But that bitch was long gone from the influenza and she couldn’t poke and prod at his inner thoughts anymore. This was his, and only his. he finally moved, stepping up to start the prepared presentation, and took up his place next to the silent subject. Did she even breathe? Jenning knew she did but for someone other than him, she would appear long gone. A beautiful corpse, but a gonner nonetheless. Despite himself, the unmoving form unnerved jennings. He wouldn’t have chosen to keep her in stasis for so long. There was no telling what went on in the mind of a body kept somewhere between life and death for a prolonged period of time. but again, maddow wanted a show. and if the mighty Lord Maddog’s new pet monster woke up a drooling idiot, it was apparently worth the gamble.

Maddow spread his arms wide and his customary self-satisfied smile dazzled the audience. “Ladies, and gentlemen. Let me present to you the future. ” he paused to allow Jenning to prepare the subject for the awakening.

As carefully instructed by Maddow ahead of time, Jennning made a show of drawing the phantomgenic liquid into a syringe, displaying it to the crowd before tapping it several times. As planned, the fluid caught the light perfectly. The resulting sprinkling of coloured light drew a gasp from the crowd. People leaned forward to see better. Hushed mumbling, excited tittering. He had their full attention. It had to be perfect. A perfect show. That was all it was. The tip of the sparkling glass syringe with its too long needle barely touched the smooth pale skin at the base of her throat, Between her collarbones. The syringe hovered above the silk gown, made just for this occasion. it draped her naked skin but revealed beautifully the parts that were no longer her, while hiding the raw ragged edges between flesh and metal. No surgeon, however skilled, could make the transition smooth and pretty. Jenning had thought the outfit unnecessary and had privately thought it too expensive and extravagant for a simple whore. it was a body, not a lady. but Maddow had insisted.

The presentation droned on. Lee Maddow told the story of the poor damaged young lady who had come to him after such a horrific accident. Practiced sympathy, executed with perfection. “ Her name is Mary. And she had tears in her eyes when I refused to assist her. I refused this beautiful young woman. Yes, I am shamed to tell you, ladies and gentlemen. I refused to mend her injuries with steel and clumsy machinery. I refused to Marr her beauty such. Can you indeed find fault in my reasoning? ”

From sympathy to regret to pleading. . He lowered his head and folded his hands in front of him momentarily silent. He waited for the gathered to take a good long look. “This unfortunate girl… Such sweet perfection, ruined.” He let the words fade and allowed the silent young girl on display speak silently for him.

and indeed, she was astonishingly beautiful. There was no denying the perfection. Smooth clear skin, a face to take your breath away, Long silky blond hair had been washed and trimmed and combed so it fell in smooth silvery cascades over her shoulders and down her back. A perfectly shaped, manicured hand showed beneath the single long sleeve of her gown. And showing beneath the hem of a long specially tailored dress they could all see an equally perfect naked foot. the parts of her still exposed by the awkwardly shaped dress shone and sparkled in the sunlight streaming through newly cleaned windows. .
“Until!”
Maddow raised a hand and smiled. He turned toward jenning who stood ready. at a small table next to the carefully propped up woman. On the table, a polished wooden box sprouted cables. No attempts had been made to hide the wiring. They were all part of the show. They connected to the woman with clamps that gripped selected parts of her body. One metal wrist, her one metal ankle, and to a small copper knob protruding where a navel had once been.

That was the one procedure Jenning had nearly refused to perform. When the woman had survived the severing of limbs and the massive blood loss, he had thought that had been it. It had after all been his biggest achievement yet. but Maddow hadn’t been satisfied. Lee Maddow was never satisfied. When Mary had been brought to him, her navel, stomach, and all internal organs had been undamaged. Her flat soft belly had been perfect. It had been so perfect, so beautiful. so…. But who was he to say? Jenning banished the thought. He was ready. The button at the top of the box was ready.

In front of filthy riches and their fleeting attention, Maddow became the salesman, the snake oil pusher, and he continued. “Until today! What I will show you today is simple. It’s a miracle. But a miracle of medicine, not of our great Mother of creation. “Mother of Crow, bless us.” He mumbled quickly. . A few in the audience lowered their heads and mumbled their own quick reverie of the Mother.. some of them even repeated the gesture of infinite sky. Not bad, not bad at all. Less than half were believers. and chances were that more than half of those did it only for show. good. Good.
“this is a miracle of reason and modern science. Because, This woman needs no engine.” He paused for the meaning to sink in. It was unheard of. She was obviously re made. with metals. “That’s right. No motors, no hot steam. As you can see. No permanent wiring. or leaky valves. None of that, my friends. And best of all: There is no need for fuel. No dirty, foul smelling coal or wood or even oil. None of that!” Maddow reached the height of his spiel. he pulled in a deep breath and held it, letting it out slowly. Every eye was on him. and he knew he had them. Simply mentioning the possibility of savings had done it. Fuel , which was a sore point for any machine owner and Every master of metal fused servants, was pricy. And that’s where he got them. Presenting the potential of considerable savings to those cheap bastards would give him all the funds he would ever need. From this point, it was all gravy. The crowd exploded in a cascade of questions and objections. but they were easily answered with non-statements and promises of explanations to come. “This is the future. We no longer need those clumsy contraptions. With this brand new system.” He pointed at the syringe in jenning’s hand and then at the contraption standing at the ready.

Jenning nodded and tried to smile. he was ready. If only the pompous drunkard could get on with it. If it weren’t for the allure of fine compensation, and funds to continue his experimenting, this charade wouldn’t be needed at all. But he would play along. As always. But the beauty of this meeting was that he only needed to pull this crap off this one time. Hook them, and they were home free. once the machinery had started, the humming and electrical sparkling was only for show. The phantomgenic substance was all that was needed. and in fact, the whole thing with the syringe was redundant too. The spirit capturing substance could be ingested, or rubbed directly on the skin. It would work either way.

Maddow continued. “Phantomgenics. Remember you heard it here first. This miraculous mixture Professor Jenkers invented will make fuel simply obsolete. old news. a thing of the past. Ladies and gentlemen. With just a single administration of the phantomgenics, and then” there was a slight pause, maddow realized that his glass was empty so he glared at it. He found his smile and waited for the spectators to quiet down. “And then… an electrogenic pulse will do what steam and oil has done for centuries. This machine,” he swept his arm over the metal grid that hung suspended over Mary’s head, And all the unneeded wiring. “is the future. And this is the moment we have all been waiting for. Dr. Kemper, if you please, do proceed.”

All eyes turned to Jennings. He suppressed a grimace at his new name but turned toward the woman.

“Lord Maddow? If I may?” A thin voice from the back of the room piped up.

Jennings froze. Maddow gritted his teeth and waited for the voice to either go away or continue. it would not go away. The nobility quieted and turned to the speaker. who blinked in surprise at the sudden attention. But he quickly gathered his thoughts and continued. “Apologies dear friends. I would like to ask a question.” He cleared his throat and wiped his brow before blinking nearsightedly at Maddow. “Before you proceed with your excellent and certainly very…”
Blink.
“informative demonstration. But I seem to be missing something.”
Blink.
“I would like to be clear on what exactly it is that I…”

Maddow nodded before the man could finish the sentence. “Certainly,” he said, “I’ll be happy to clarify. Please go on.” Okay, Maddow thought, let’s get it over with. His smile never faded. If it stiffened for just a second, few would notice.

“Phantom… genics you say.” The thin man spoke and then moved his lips silently as if searching for his question. “If I’m not misremembering, and I do sincerely apologize if I am incorrect in my assumption here. But Is phantomgenics not simply another name for, how can I say this without causing …. well, I do think that we can all agree that the very name of this process implies a strong association , if not direct relation, to spirit gathering?” his thin eyebrows rose along with his voice. All attention shifted from their host to the little man. A few glances drifted uncertainly to the inert woman, some returned to Maddow, but most remained watching the young Lord Ralph, who they all knew to be something of a trouble maker. Ralph continued. “Of course, this may not at all be what is happening here.”

Maddow struggled for a moment with his face but managed to keep the smile, barely. He cleared his throat, calling for attention. The mystified audience turned to him as one, expecting an explanation. In some cases the aged expression was unfamiliar In some cases they actually wanted to know. The group was divided. In his favour he was sure. Maddow waved his hand and topped up his smile, he nodded as if actually thinking about it. “Certainly, the confusion is understandable. Lord Ralph does have a point. It is reasonable to compare the two and to make that very simple mistake. Especially for someone not inclined toward serious academic studies.”

The thin little man actually seemed to bristle and started to reply but Maddow cut him off with an assuring smile. He nodded. He directed one index finger toward the ceiling, waited. He had hoped to avoid this, but now that it had been brought up, he couldn’t be seen to try to avoid it. “As I’m sure you are all aware of, in this enlightened society, the science of energy and life homo-teneki-thesis, is the basics of the newly developed motor as well as biblioneuric formulaic thinking and it is as you all understand quite basic and perfectly technological in nature.” And since everyone thought that everyone else understood. So they all agreed. Such basic science. Practically more common sense than anything. Naturally. Relieved, the audience resumed their observation of the remade woman and her attending scientist. Wasn’t he the surgeon too? Doctors, professors, they were all the same. What was interesting now was the sparkling needle and how the woman did look very much dead. But if Maddow said otherwise. Who were they to say? Lord Ralph stood helpless at the fringe of the excitement. He glanced around, but no one paid him any mind. He sighed, blinked, and resigned himself to watch. But his intoxicated host wasn’t quite done. Maddow set the final nail in the coffin of Lord Ralph’s reputation. With a tight smile, he finished his impromptu presentation. Never mind that the only one listening, barely, was a minor nobility, who didn’t know his place. “I can assure you that it is not the case. This process is completely different from spirit gathering. “What you, my good man, is referring to is an old theory about the collection and imprisonment of spiritual knowledge. Naturally, that barbaric practice was condemned by the church and banned. Phantomgenics cannot be mistaken for such outdated satanic beliefs. I assure you. What we create here has nothing to do with ghosts and,” he paused to chuckle at the entertaining thought and shook his head. “spiritual adventuring. Such a ludicrous notion. One might wonder where such a distinguished gentlemen could have even heard of such nonsense. Superstition. Surely not, My good Sir.” He raised an eyebrow and waited. Ralph said nothing. With a final cold stare at Lord Ralph, Maddow scanned the room for further questions, knowing there would be none. he turned and waved at Jenning. “If you would, kennings? is she ready? ”

Jenning quickly raised the syringe into position and at a final nod from Lord Maddow he slowly pressed the needle into pale skin, broke it, and slid it into her body. He proceeded to employ the drug, depressing the plunger slowly. At the same moment, he pressed the button on the box on the table. Gasps and and a quikly suppressed yelp from the audience proved the perfection of his timing. The thin metal rods crisscrossing each other over their heads hummed and flashes of bright light swam around the metal, illuminating the woman, bathing the polished metal and shiny silk, creating a better spectacle than Maddow could have ever imagined. A hush fell over the people. A low crackle from the metal grid was the only sound heard for several seconds. the people with the funds to sponsor a bright new future, seemed pale and lifeless in front of the glowing apparition. “Silence please, dear friends,” Maddow said needlessly. All eyes were on the remade woman. No one seemed to breathe as Jenning removed the empty syringe and stepped out of the way. This would be it. A completely new way of fusing man and machine had been born. There was a limitless supply of energy in the emptiness around them all and they had found a way to tap it. Not only to fuel the new types of humans sure to fill the market, but to drive those machines that now demanded fossil fuels and endless maintenance. “Behold, Ladies and gentlemen. See again. There is no engine and no heavy machinery to drag around. Mary?” Maddow stepped forward,. “Mary, my dear, it is time to come back to us now. he raised a hand and placed to fingers under her chin. He turne her face up slightly and leaned closer. As breathless as the watching crowd, he talked to her. “Be alive.”

And in an instant she was.

Jenning’s heart shot up into his throat and started galloping. Mary’s face twitched. then her mouth tightened in sudden awareness. No matter how confident he had been, Jennings hadn’t been sure. he still wasn’t sure she would be fine. Mary’s remade right arm jerked to life and rose with a few uncertain jerks and twitches. But it steadied quickly and she held it in front of her. Not until then did she open her eyes. Her expression was unreadable when she folded one finger and then another. Her body shuddered and she blinked The shudder subsided as the electrogenic sparkling faded and finally stopped completely.

The audience surged forward for a closer look and excited conversations broke out all around Maddow and he grinned in satisfaction. Mary turned to them, suddenly aware of the presence of people. But But they weren’t important. She turned her head slowly to the tastelessly dressed man who stood too close. He wasn’t important either. She ignored him. Instead, she returned to look at the thing in front of her. , waved it and the polished metal threw cold light at her face, intensifying the pale features. Maddow stood in front of her now, preparing to deal with any problems that may arise from an involuntary body modification. But it would be easy enough. Jenning had things at hand to ease the poor girls difficulties to adapt. He smiled and gently took her biological hand in his, squeezing it. Mary didn’t see the man standing in front of her. Not at first as her blurred vision cleared and the thing, that finely crafted abomination that was and was not a part of her transfixed her. What she saw was a hand, perfect in every detailed mechanism, polished and glimmering in the light from the window. A masterpiece of body-modification. A hand that obeyed her with perfect accuracy. It was hers but it was other. she felt the smooth movements when she curled it into a fist. She felt the pressure. she even felt the warmth of the sunlight on the glimmering surface. She saw the thing and she hated it. She knew what had happened. She knew what it was. Mary’s face twisted, turned ugly. The initial moments of horror showed for only that; a rare few short moments where Mary allowed her feelings to show. The pit of grief and disgust, bottomless as it was, flashed in a second of weakness before she clamped down on it. Mary hardened back to her previous self, hard as the steel that now made up a large portion of her body. Cold as the anticipating gleam in her makers eyes. Mary calmed her breathing and returned Madow assessing stare with one of her own. The man who had promised her that this very thing would never happen. The man that had held her as she lay between the rails. Where greedy gravel drank her blood and vision finally began to fade. It hadn’t gone as easy as she would have wanted, but there was no doubt that injuries would kill her quickly. A little bit of planning would have been better perhaps. Placing her neck directly on the rail instead of impulsively walking in front of the oncoming shrieking train would have done the job quicker. But that didn’t matter now. The man who had peered beneath the train, held her one remaining hand in his, and told her that everything would be alright, had betrayed her. Instead of transportation for remaking in one of the prison surgeries, she had taken her destiny into her own hands. But rather than letting her escape, this man had remade her according to his own agenda. She didn’t know how she knew this. she had never met the man before trying to kill herself. but she knew what had been done with her, and why. She looked into his eyes and the Mary that had survived the streets since offering herself for the first time to a man not unlike the man before her, had finally failed. She had failed to die. This man had taken even that away from her. Mary smiled. But it was a smile that Count Maddow had never seen. A smile devoid of life, lacking any emotion other than pure hatred. Mary didn’t dwell on troubles. she dealt with things and never gave in to regret. She had long since lost the ability to love. But the seething hatred for the man who had thwarted her plan to rid herself of people just like him, finally made Maddow look away. His self-satisfied smile faltered and finally died. But before he turned his back to her, he exchanged a quick glance with Jenning who nodded. The meaning was all too clear. “Take good care of our young lady now. We will chat more later. There is much to speak of, you and I. When you have settled in, of course. ” Maddow mumbled, looking at her but directing his words to Jenning. “My Lady. ” He nodded to Mary and kept her gaze longer than was comfortable for any of them. But in the end he yielded, and looked away. His confidence rushed back with another radiant smile and he turned back to his noble guests. Mary stirred uncomfortably in her restraints. But nothing could be done now. She relaxed and it took less than a minute to survey what had been done to her. It was bad. But it could have been worse. she let go of all thoughts of what had perhaps once been. It was easy to let it fade into the nothing that was before. Finally looking away from the lord she turned her thoughts to the now. She had been given a new lease on existence, no matter that it had been against her will, she had gotten another chance. and with that, she had found a brand new purpose. But she would have to bide her time. She would wait and see. and learn. The man who had awakened her with his invention stood watching her, unsure of where to look, really. She was his masterpiece. she was the thing that shouldn’t be. And he had made her. Remade her. A dead whore that he had made into something new. She was his by right. But never had he felt so taken. The breath caught and he quickly pulled a second syringe out of a pocket. The power over her continued existence was no comfort. It was a meaningless power and he knew it. this woman was never his. He may have moved every part of her body, touched every inch of skin, violated her form to the core of her. But she would never be owned by anyone. Not even Maddow. Mary’s cold smile lingered as she looked Jenning over. pointedly ignoring the second needle. Just a man. Men, she could deal with. Jenning stepped closer but she shook her head and spoke softly, so quietly that the excited spectators wouldn’t hear her. “Jenning. I am correct? ” rough from disuse, her voice scraped uncomfortably. Jenning hesitated but nodded. He stepped nervously from foot to foot and couldn’t quite meet her unblinking eyes. Mary sighed, suddenly tired. Her face softened. The icy smile turned warm and almost genuine for the briefest of moments as she focused on the sweating scientists. “I will cause no trouble, Jenning. That concoction of yours will not be needed. ” She glanced at the syringe in his hand. A sedative? A poison? It didn’t matter. and closed her eyes. So tired. so very tired. Her defences fell away and it was suddenly so hard to remain standing. Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked at Jenning beneath charcoaled lashes and innocence. “Jenning. ” She mumbled, tasting the name, finding it appealing. “You saved me. ” She quickly looked down, shuddering in her bonds. Blinked away a sudden tear. She closed her eyes with a deep sigh. She turned her face away from the man and left it at that. It would be a start. A second later any thought of Jenning, The Saviour, left her mind to make room for more immediate matters. She needed to rest and learn about her new body. If her life had been hard and unforgiving before, it was nothing compared to what would come. Rest, bide her time, and then.

next up: Chapter 2 – The choices of butterflies

Mother of Crow – The prologue (Draft)

Mother of Crow

By jenny K Brennan

This Sundered World, book 2

A spirit-punk steam-punk tale we don’t know where, maybe not even why, and most certainly not how.

Draft exclusive to House of Imp. Copyright 2017 Jenny K Brennan – All rights reserved.

Prologue

A scout flittered down in front of Owl and tweeted brokenly through a scrap of paper held in its mouth. It spat out the paper and flittered off. Owl looked at the note. Paper? Paper was an unusual commodity among the guardians. There was only one machine capable of producing paper in the nest capital. And the transcription of that information had proven to be increasingly unreliable. But if Butterfly had talked to its counterpart, or parts, or fractions of self scattered throughout the lands, this could not be ignored.

But it could wait for a little while longer. Owl’s awareness of the worlds constantly shifting states of being didn’t quite prepare him for the idea of manifested thought being able to be everywhere and every time at the same time. Owl was too solipsistic to appreciate an existence that wasn’t focused in one body working within one set of instructions for a set number of tasks organized by priority. Butterfly was a concept. And how could concepts without blood or bones or duty be real.
The communications between butterfly and the rest of Butterfly unnerved Owl. But they were real. There was no denying the value of ever present and all encompassing knowledge. When it worked. Unfortunately most of what Butterfly knew was illogical and inaccurate at best. Deceptively logical and misleading at worst. But still, this butterfly could not be disregarded and until it could be replaced with a fresh specimen it would have to do. Owl had no interest in the dying butterfly and its faulty prophecies. But if the new formula worked as the monks had assured him that it would, the next generation communicators would be useful indeed. They would not guess at the state of the world. They would know. And they would obey. And it would mean obedience without all the softhearted diplomacy Owl dispised. They would have power. Real power. Owl liked power. Power to take knowledge and shape it, not just observe and report.
Owls bloodstaine feathers bristled softly with a delighted shiver. He checked himself and managed to contain his excitement. He needed to be calm. It would be soon enough. There was work to do, never hurry, all in good time. The big white owls scattered thoughts found their proper positions and his eyes twitched to his still grimy coat and snatched up the scrap of paper. He tucked it into a slot in his chest. He gave the human a nod to proceed. Not even thoughts of Butterfly or the sure to be disgustingly diplomatic visit with a hive of humans could keep him from enjoying his cleaning and polish.

The old woman trembled when folding her cloth and continued her work; slowly and meticulously rubbing each of Owl’s metal parts to a mirror like shine. This part was easy. It was the feather cleaning that gave her the nightmares. Blood, most of the time still fresh and sticky tended to creep into every crevice and every intricately carved copper plate and grafted blade base. That was nothing compared to the blood-soaked and now drying coat. This Owl in particular did none of the cleaning himself. It encouraged extra care and unbreakable loyalty, he told his entourage of tinkerers and communicators and yes, the cleaners, at every opportunity.

And so it was. The woman never failed in her duties. Until the day of her death she would never fail, never falter, and never submit. She was too old to fight but never too frail to hate. Unbreakable loyalty, timeless grief, bottomless hatred. Those were the things she knew and nothing else. And the cleaner who was still human who had never forgotten that she had a name once, polished another convoluted silver talon engraving.

Coming next: Chapter 1 — Build me pretty, break me prettier

Authors note: I will be doing edits every now and then right on this page and sync that to my scrivener project. That’s just one way I like to work. It’s motivating somehow to have a piece of work on a page, already published. This specific text needs to be edited down somewhat. Its a bit wordy and it feels a bit awkward in parts. The balance between telling what needs to be told in a prologue to make it interesting and cramming exposition down the readers throat can be hard. In a second book in a series, that also feels a bit weird. To understand who Owl is, it may be absolutely necessary to read the first book. On the other hand, I should be able to make this character and the events here clear enough to get a drift of what’s going on. Am I doing that? Do let me know if you have a minute. And thanks for any feedback.
jenny

How we collaborate remotely – By Bill – Icarus machine Production

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How we do it. Icarus machine – Collaborating remotely

Bill here with a quick glimpse into how Icarus Machine do what they do. This track is called “Breeding Scars” .

In the next video, Jenny will attempt to show her side of that very same process. It’s different to be sure.
The D.A.W we work in is Apple Logic Pro X. Bill is in MA, U.S.A, Jordi is in sunny Spain, and jennyK populates the Booth of Doom up here in Ontario, Canada.

JennyK

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