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[Fiction] Endeavor - Laying Down the Brush


Ashnod

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(submitted for canon consideration)

When my supposed superhuman dexterity fails me is when I have my latest breakdown. My fingers, so adept at soldering the tiniest components onto the main board of any electronics, slip and the soldering iron skips across the surface. It leaves a trail of liquid metal in its wake, crossing and linking circuits not meant to be linked. I could fix it, but that’s the furthest thing from my mind. All I can feel is the impulsive anger at my mistake, which could only come from distraction. It gets the best of me, and I hurl the tiny, watch-sized main board like a stone across the room. It smashes and shatters into six pieces.

Stupid little gadget. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now that I’ve ruined it, especially in such a stupid way, being distracted, it just seems like a bad joke.

And that’s it, really. I don’t slip. I don’t make mistakes that like even when distracted. This is more than a distraction.

A joke…yes, that seems to reflect my current mood.

It's not easy being the butt of everyone's jokes.

I know I have friends, people who've risked their life for mine, even, but even then they still feel distant and peripheral to me. Sometimes, when I log off the forums and look around my home, I'll cry endlessly. Usually until I fall asleep.

I happen to cry an awful lot when I'm alone. The only time I'm not crying, or feeling my isolation, is when I'm crafting. When I have grease on my fingers, goggles snug at my hairline, grime and sweat covering my body from the welding and the pressing, and a focal bolt is wrenched into place, I can forget all of that. I can be happy. When my fingers are typing long strings of unique code, my conscious mind barely aware of the algorithms flowing onto the keyboard, giving life to software, it's like I'm creating a child, or making a friend. I'm in touch with something greater than me, more alive than me, and it's completely dependant on me for life and sustenance.

I'm needed. And I'm necessary. It doesn't ask anything of me, doesn't expect anything of me, and doesn't toss a stinging barb in my direction when I open my mouth and something stupid comes out.

That's one of my problems. Whenever I'm around people...actually, let's be honest here. Whenever I interact with people who aren't my blood family whom I grew up around, I freeze up on the inside. I try being open, and I try being social, but something clicks off inside my head and I just can't do it right. Oh sure, my mouth opens up and words come out, but a few minutes later I end up thinking why did I say that? What was I thinking? Or I'll post a reply quickly onto the forums, thinking I've said the right thing, only to second-guess myself and post something different a few hours later. I invite the forumites to Japan and while they're here it seems okay, but when they all go back home, my doubts return to take their place.

Social situations just aren't my environment. They never have been.

Machines don't require me to be anything, and that's probably why I like them so much. I can exist in an easy solace there, content in the knowledge that covered in grease, wiping the sweat from my brow before attaching the final pieces to a new modification of the Hikari Maru's drive system, that it is at that moment it doesn't matter what it said about me online. Because at that moment, I've created something unique and special and mine were the hands that brought it to life.

It's ironically, and unfortunately, become the only way I really know how to interact with other novas. When Totem was cleaving keyboards into little pieces, I rushed in to provide him something that would be better. When Saimhe decided something had to be done about her knee, I was right there with a specially developed brace for her. When the forums want adventure, I volunteer the Hikari Maru and all it's technology to facilitate the endeavor.

I have only myself to blame, really. I've tried to be what I thought everyone wanted me to be: young and cute, the schoolgirl entering the world; the elite 'Netrunning white hat; the technomancer extraordinaire; the mad genius inventor girl...but the truth is none of them really want me to be anything except me. And I...

I don't know who I am.

Maybe it's just simply that I don't know who I want to be, and I'm confusing that with the me that's in the now. I might be longing for my future self at the expense of my present self.

After long years of fighting it, I know that I'm not human. I know that quantum expression pushes me outside of human, well, everything, and into another strata. But it's a strata I feel I'm at the low end of. There are novas smarter than me, novas a lot more powerful than me, and novas that are even better engineers and hackers than me.

In a world where every nova is an extraordinary individual, I feel mundane amongst them. Isn't that both an incredibly funny and sad thing to admit? But I feel now that I can admit it and be honest about it. All those foolish things I've done, from actually calling myself Bishoujo Nova Senshi Endeavor and the whole "tempest in a sailor fuku" reputation were subconscious ways of trying to get people to notice me.

I suppose it's not a bad thing, to want to be noticed and recognized, especially in the elite company I keep. Only with Ronin did I feel special. If anything he said is true, and I gotta admit some skepticism after learning that my extra-dimensional venture was all in my head, then of all people that he'd come upon in his extensive travels, I was the one that he came back for. I'm still not certain what he saw in me; if he's telling the truth than I'm more than decades younger than him and nowhere near as experienced. In some ways, it's really creepy how much older he was, but there wasn't anything I had to be for him except me.

And even he, from time to time, would make a joke at my expensive or belittle me on the forums.

It's no wonder I've found myself in the mental hospital before, and no wonder I've had several breakdowns.

If my life were an anime, and many times I've both thought of it that way and wished that it were, this is the point where I wipe away my tears and clench my little super-deformed fingers into fists, stand upright and determined, and vow that from here on out I will live only for myself. That I will be the best that I can.

But that's not who I am, and I know it now. Taking that approach would just be another of my phases. Just another passing phase, and one to lead to yet another bad day. No, no when you get to the underlying issue of all of this, I just don't want to be the me I currently am. I don't want to be the best of that me.

I want a new me.

I define myself by my creations and by what my creations get me. Both professionally and in my personal relationships. I don't want that to be me any longer. I don't want be like one of those old, tired salary men who are lost without their job description to tell them who they are.

I’m surrounded by little devices and gadgets, electronics and artifice. Everywhere in my home are the traces of wires and cogs, EuFiber cabling and power supplies. My refuge. My little safe, unquestioning and unconditionally accepting friends.

But I’m more than this. I know I am. This is only an interest, right? It doesn’t define me. I’m not defined by it.

But it’s trapping me, like a security blanket. Deep down, I know it. That’s why whenever things get bad, when I’m in a bad spot, it’s here that I always return. To my workshop, to my safe and…

I think I need to leave these behind and find that new me. Not give it up, because that would just be another phase that would be doomed to fail. Not to mention that I’d have to listen to everyone tell me that I’m supposed to be a machinist and that I’m over-reacting.

I think I’m going to travel. I’m going to travel under my own power, either by flying with quantum expression or letting someone else do the piloting for a change. I’m going to go have coffee in Paris and tea in London. I’m going to read, something that has nothing to do with technology, on the beach in Florida. I’m going to go watch a soccer game in Brazil, maybe even visit a casino in Morocco.

And I’m not going to take any gadgets with me. Except maybe something so that people can get in touch with me during an emergency.

I mean, why not? It’s not like I can’t afford it. I won’t even set a timeline for it. I’ll be spontaneous and free. I’m great at being spontaneous, right? That’s me, fluid and always in motion. And I won’t invite anyone to go with me. I have to do this alone, without expectation. Especially without the social anxiety that would doubtlessly get me if I had friends along. Maybe I’ll drop in and visit them though. That could be fun. I could even stop in and meet some of the people who’re only names on the forums. Just a brief hello, maybe a nice lunch and a walk in the park, and then moving on to see what awaits me elsewhere.

I’m suddenly very excited.

I realize it’s been a long time since I was genuinely excited about anything other than a project.

And I smile.

Walking to the door, I take one last look around my workshop. So many projects half-started or in-progress. All temptations trying to keep me here.

That’s the easy way out.

But I’m stronger. Besides, it’ll be fun to have them to tinker with when I get back. And even artists sometimes have to lay down their brushes and pencils to regain their perspective.

I like that thought, that technology is my art. So I'll let my brushes rest for a while. They'll be waiting for me when I want them again.

I turn off the lights.

I shut the door.

And walk back out into world.

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