Three months later….

I watch as the liquid boils in the jar, the apple green elixir slowly moving up the tube, before slowly dripping into the jar, nearly glowing in the dim light. My heart is pounding, every single drip sounding amplified two hundred times with its descent into the growing pool. A steady sweat has begun to wet my brow; I can feel my palms slip on the table edge.

The puppets are all gathered around, watching me with the same intensity. They're nearly bouncing on their heels, constantly looking between me and the getup. They're just as excited as I am.

The very last drop of the elixir drips into the jar, the boiling slowly becoming less prominent, until it lessens to a gentle simmer, before the top bubbles and sits still completely. I smile. Finally, it's done.

I take a look at where she lays, her body still and in perfect condition on the metal tray that's functioning as an operating table. I look over her, admiring her details and colors.

After weeks of stressing and staying up all night and having to work extra hard to get the right parts, she's finally here. I will admit, I doubted myself at the beginning when I decided to make several changes to her design, feeling like it wasn't turning out right and that when it came time to carve what was necessary, the whole thing was going to turn out wrong. But in the end, it was so worth it. Everything is perfect. She's perfect.

Turning away from her, I walk over to the table and pick up the syringe. I grab the jar, poking the needle slowly through the rubber cap. The puppets hiss giddily, and I can see them starting to bounce up and down out of the corner of my eyes. I smirk.

Surprisingly, settling in hasn't been half as hard as I thought it would be. The puppets found me a nice wooden shed a little ways off from the hotel that we quickly took up residence at, and I'd like to think I can proudly say it's my home now. Though, I'm pretty sure the puppets probably killed someone here before; seems a little too easy that they'd know exactly where to go to find this. Whatever. Shit happens. I'm not complaining.

It was even easier getting a job at the hotel. They were understaffed, needed some new housekeepers (apparently many aren't too keen on the idea of cleaning rooms that some poor woman may have got her face drilled through in), and were desperate enough to let me in without even so much as me providing a resume when I told them I was kind of one the streets and was having a rough time starting again. They never even thought twice. Suckers.

Being a housekeeper can certainly be frustrating- nasty assholes think just because someone's gonna give them new towels and make their beds that they can lose all means of human decency and live like pigs in a sty- but it does has its perks. I don't have to talk to people all that much, I get hours on end to myself, the pay's pretty good.

And, it also gives me a little peak into who should be the next ingredient for whenever the puppets need a refill.

We've been keeping on the down low- target those away from the hotel, make sure they in a place where nobody can see, that way there's not such a strong pattern of consistency that it can be traced back to here so soon- but so far, it's been pretty smooth sailing. Keep track of where they're going for the day, make sure they're far away enough that nobody will see us, and then hit 'em where it hurts. As far as I can tell, nobody's expected anything too much just yet. I had to rush these last few weeks, though, in order to compensate for both the puppets and the project. Why just one needs an entire jar's worth of a fluid is something I'll never understand. Oh, well.

The puppets don't seem to mind, though. In fact, they seem thrilled about the challenge of hunting more.

It also serves to give me some updates as to what's going on back home, since I don't have any high grade tech with me to keep me informed. There's still a warrant out for my arrest, though as I suspected, they haven't had much luck. According to Facebook- which I looked at on the phone of the abusive girlfriend Pin and I strangled- Mom and Paul have separated. Bit of a shame, Paul was always good to her. Her and Josie have moved out of state, and are living near Grandma supposedly. Which kind of sucks considering I grew up in that house, but oh well. Audrey's going to go to Gonzaga, majoring in theatre. I'm glad; at least one of us is able to get out of that shithole in tact.

There's also been a whole sob story in the news questioning what "led me to such bloodlust" of such "innocent people with their whole lives ahead of them". Yeah, right. Because a pedophile and a murderer really deserve their whole lives ahead of them. Not that I care that much anymore- they're both out of the way, Isaac will never get near Josie again, and McAllister had it coming a long time. They're gone, and that's all that matters.

I turn back to where she lays, holding the syringe at eye level. I flick my finger against it a few times to dispel any blockage before I lean down, picking her up by her shoulders and rolling her over.

I spare a glance over my shoulder at the puppets.

They wave their arms at me, their hissing growing louder like they're trying to tell me to get on with it.

I chuckle, "I'm going. Just teasing you all a little."

I insert the edge of the needle into the little metal ring on the back of her neck, pushing it in a good few centimeters before I squeeze the plunger. I make sure to dispense it all, before I gently pull it back out, resting it beside me as I set her back down and wait.

She just lies there for a few seconds, as still as a corpse in the grave, before I see a little twitch in her hands. Then a jerk in her shoulder. Then a shake of her head.

Little by little, I can see her limbs twitch and turn as the elixir flows through her veins, starting up her mechanical heart. Her fingers flex and her head moves from side to side as she becomes more animated. Then, she suddenly sits up, looking around as she tries to get a grip of her surroundings.

She's finally here.

After all my hard work and months of devotion, after nights of slaving away, she's finally awake. Awake and alive.

My precious work.

My little Comb Queen.

Her outfit has been revamped to one more fitting of her theme, her old southern belle blue dress now replaced with a rounded black and yellow striped skirt and a darker yellow bodysuit patterned with octagons to give off the impression of a honeycomb. Her dark blonde hair is pinned and hairsprayed down into a beehive, with a dark yellow headband running over her bangs that has two little black antennae on it. A black hat rests on the top, a long black translucent veil running from the brim- completely covering her face and drooping all the way to underneath her bust. Little black boots rest on her feet, and to complete the little theme, a little plastic bee figurine rests on her hat. Her eyes that stare with confusion and apprehension are painted black, with little octagon shapes painted near the corners to give the fake impression of a glint. She's beautiful.

So beautiful you'd never think about the fine tip spikes that rest in both of her palms until it's too late.

I'm quite impressed, if I do say so myself. I had some trouble coming up with what I wanted her theme to be- want to her fit in with the rest of her siblings, you know?- but I wanted something catchy that played along the lines of so cartoony, you'd never think she had something up her sleeve until she stabbed you in the neck, kind of deal. At least, I think it's creative. Plus, I thought that it was time Leech had a companion she could relate to besides her brothers. They're both around the same structure- more doll-like than puppet- so she was of the most help when it came time to putting Comb together.

I almost gave up in frustration when it came time putting the spikes in her hands; hell, I even poked myself a few times. The puppets, however, wouldn't let me. They pretty much told me to just keep the faith, that it would all work out. And what do you know? Miracles do happen.

And it worked out so well. She's here now, alive and ready to take on the world. I wonder if this is how a parent must feels when their baby is born.

She jumps slightly when she looks at me. I just smile, lowering myself so I'm eye level with her.

"Hello there," I greet warmly, "Welcome to the world, my little one."

She stares at me for a moment, staring at me with blank eyes, like she doesn't know whether to trust me. She then looks to the puppets, slowly looking them up and down, one by one. They hiss, sounding like a bed of snakes. They wave their hands around, obviously more than excited to meet their new sister.

Leech Woman is the first one to break the ice, hopping down from her seat on the small stack of books on the corner, walking over to Comb Queen and extending a hand, a small smile framing her painted red lips. Comb stares at her hand for a few seconds, before she slowly takes it, getting to her feet. Leading from Leech's example, the rest of the puppets gather around them, extending their hands to Comb and regarding her with wonder. They probably haven't gone through something like this in years.

I smile, watching them. I'm so glad that everything worked out fine. And they've been so helpful, guiding me through the steps of my first time.

"These are your siblings," I address Comb, "They'll always be there to help you, if you find you have any questions. And of course, you can always come to me. You might find it may take some getting used to, but I assure you you'll find yourself feeling acquainted in no time."

Comb Queen looks back at me.

Softly, to my absolute glee, I hear a small cooing noise in the back of her throat, before she does a curt nod in my direction, waving her arm in what I believe to be the closest thing to an agreement.

"Great," I respond, "I'm glad to see you agree."

The puppets and her conversate in their little sound language, and Blade looks up at me, giving me a satisfied nod as he tips his hat with his hook. I smile, patting him on the head.

I look out the window to the night sky. It's a clear night tonight, the moon a shining pearl scattered across a dark blue blanket of small diamonds. Outside it's quiet, except for the steady hum of cicadas. Some ways away, people sleep soundly in their beds, unaware of what is going on in this shed at this moment, or how this may come to affect them in the future.

But sooner or later, they'll know.

Oh, they will know.

I chuckle to myself, thinking back to the day when I was just another dumb teen who thought he was just adding to his collection when he bought a bunch of morbid-looking puppets for a pretty good deal. When I was nothing but a slug going through the motions and wondered if I was even going to see the next day, wondering if anything was going to be fine again.

But it turned out fine.

I spare a look over my shoulder at the puppets, who are deeply involved with talking to Comb Queen as she looks between all of them. My smirk grows as I think about all the future victims I have in mind, and when I can get her in on the action.


Everything turned out juuuuust fine….

A/N: Aaaaaaand, that's curtains, people!

Just want to say a huge, HUGE thank you to those who took the time to read, review, follow, and favorite. It's no walk in the park when it comes in writing fanfic, and when you're writing such for a fandom that is very small in numbers like Puppet Master, the stress of wondering if anyone is bearing your work any mind can pile on you. But I was determined to see this story flesh out the best way I can and finish it, so I'd like to extend my greatest gratitude to those who took a chance on me and Strings.

Some of you may already know this, but I actually first started Strings circa 2012- back when I was a much, much weaker writer and thought I needed to jump into my newest project as soon as possible. As you could probably tell, it didn't work out too well; I lost motivation and interest, I was completely lost on where to take the story (I was also juggling writing Deceitful Things, as well as my work on Fictionpress at this time too), and eventually, as I went back and re-read the chapters I did put out, I got so frustrated by the poor writing (caused by both a mix of inexperience and just putting out chapters for the sake of quantity per week and not quality) and cliché, over the top characters that I decided it just wouldn't do, and deleted it.

But, my main reason for writing fanfic has really always been for myself, to put my writing skills to the test and to piece concepts I come up with together to see how I can make a fully fledged story play out in physical format; so, after some pondering, and a Puppet Master New Year's marathon on the El Rey network, I decided I wanted to see Gaelin's journey out to the end, so here we are. And I don't regret it.

I was a bit surprised, since I never planned on this being as long as it did- as of this publication, it is officially my longest story, in terms of chapters and word length. I will say, that's probably due to (in my personal critique) is my tendency to put in what I feel like was a bit too many filler chapters in an attempt to try and keep the flow steady, but it is what it is and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

If anyone's interested, I've actually thought about making a post on my Tumblr about how I originally planned on Strings turning out (how things, if I had kept up the original draft, were originally going to end, what major events would happen, what changed, etc), so if you're curious to see how things may have turned out (for better or worse), make sure to look up the tag 'puppet master' on my Tumblr account (VirgoGreen) over the next few days.

And please, feel free to check out my other work! It would mean a lot!

Before I end this, I think I should also announce that there's not only going to be one, but two new Puppet Master films in the works! Axis Termination (the final one in the Axis trilogy) is set to come out some time this year, and a reboot, "Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich" is currently in the works (they've actually just released photos showcasing Blade and Tunneler's new designs, as well as that of a new premiere puppet, Happy Amphibian)! So be sure to track and check those out!

Once again, thank you so much to all those who read, reviewed, and favorited. You guys are the best and you help me keep doing what I do.


~Sapphire Ox