I blinked, groaning softly as my mind resumed its conscious function—however, my body wasn't entirely willing to respond. 'Why am I so tired?' I thought. 'I feel like I haven't gotten any sleep in years…' Partially surfacing from the muddy lake that was currently my thoughts, I took a quick mental stock of my situation. I was in one piece; that was a good thing. As I looked around, I couldn't see any bars—I wasn't in jail—I could move my arms and legs; I wasn't tied up. I was— 'Wait a minute.' I thought, suddenly pausing. 'What's my name?' At first I didn't really think much of it…thinking I'd been knocked on the head and just simply was a little muddled. But as I searched through my mind…I couldn't find any memories. That alarmed me. 'Where's my life?' I thought. 'What's happened to me?!'

"You're in no danger," a calm voice spoke from the darkness around me. "Calm yourself."

"Calm myself?" I spat back at the voice. "I have no idea who I am, or what my life has been. It's just all gone! Poof! How would you feel if that happened?" I demanded.

"Listen to me…" the voice repeated. "I can give you my word that no harm will come to you, and that this has only happened to you for your own good."

That voice was maddeningly calm, and it only served to fuel my frustrations. "My own—" I shut my mouth with a snap as I suddenly felt strong feelings wash over me. The sense of being was much greater than myself; I felt insignificant in the presence—which was obviously the embodiment of the voice that was speaking to me. The strongest feeling was that of trustworthiness; integrity. Somehow, I knew that this being wasn't going to lie to me. I didn't know how I knew, but there was no way I could refute it—I could trust whatever it said.

"I can tell you that your name used to be Taylor Daniels—but that's all you can know for now," the voice murmured when its powerful consciousness had retreated from my mind.

I tilted my head, chuckling softly. "'Used to be'?" I asked. "What, am I dead?"

"Well, no," the voice replied. "At least, not yet."

I raised an eyebrow, making a face. "Well, that gives me a lot of confidence." After a moment, I said, "Well, now I know who I am…who exactly are you? If you have a name…"

The voice seemed amused when it spoke next. "Suffice it to say that I am a Guardian," it said in a tone that meant there was to be no more discussion on the topic.

"All right, then, Guardian," I said, frowning slightly. "Since I'm not dead…then what am I doing here? And what is this place, anyway?"

"You're in the Nexus," the Guardian replied. "Take a look around."

I did so—but there wasn't much to see. It was fairly uniformly dark all around, with various points pierced by whitish-blue lights. I idly wondered what the lights were, when I realized that there was a similarly colored glow next to me. I turned to see if I could see the source of the light, when I realized that I was the source of the light. I nearly fell backwards as I realized that my feet…my legs…my entire body was covered with a light that glowed like blue fire. I stood still, frozen by fear. "Wh—what am I?" I gasped, my voice nothing but a whisper.

"You haven't created a Second Life, yet," the Guardian murmured gently. "For now, this is your appearance."

"Well, thanks for giving me the heads up about this beforehand," I retorted, glaring up at the direction the voice came from. After a moment, I sighed, looking downward. It did no good to be mad at this—Guardian. It had shown that there was no reason not to trust it, and it wasn't like I could go anywhere—even if I did manage to get out of here, wherever "here" was, I had no memory of—anything from before. I wouldn't have the slightest idea where to go… "All right, then," I stated."What is a Second Life, and how do I make one?"

"If you have no more questions," the Guardian murmured, "You can step through this portal." As the Guardian spoke, white lights seemed to drip down from above and form a hollow arch shape. I squinted, momentarily blinded as the arch was suddenly filled with light.

I started to step forward, then paused, looking up. "Wait…I do have one more question."

"Yes?"

"Why am I here?" I asked. "I mean, what is all this, anyway?"

The Guardian chuckled softly. "Ahh…all do ask that question, however, yours is a special case, Taylor. Second Life was created for 'morphs, by 'morphs. You do understand what a 'morph is, yes?"

I nodded, processing this new information with surprise. 'Anthros exist?' I thought, wide-eyed.

"You see, Second Life is just that—a second chance at life for those that had a—less than ideal existence previously. However, until now, only 'morphs have entered into the realm. I honestly don't fully understand the reasons that you were brought here; however, the powers that choose such things don't always make their decisions known. When I have an answer, you will know it. Now, enter!"

I stepped through the portal, wondering whether or not I was blithely walking to my doom…but at this point, it was too late for regrets. I laughed. 'I don't even have memories to regret,' I thought. I passed through the light into a much smaller room, this time with visible and defined walls and a ceiling. 'Nice to have some sense of scale here,' I thought. The room itself was shaped like an octagon, and in the middle of the room, a large screen floated. I walked over to it, scanning its contents. There were several tabs that lined the top of the screen. I read them off, becoming more puzzled with each title. "Species, fur color, markings, marking color, hair color…? What gives?" I wondered. "I guess this is how you create a Second Life…" I decided after a moment. "Okay, then…here goes." Pushing the first tab, I scrolled down the choices until I found one I liked…I pushed the Lupine button, then frowned slightly as I felt slightly different. Oddly, there was a full-length mirror off to one side of the large screen. I walked over to stand in front of it, and received my second heart-stopping shock of the day. The reflection in the mirror was that of a 6 foot wolf! 'When he said 'morphs, he wasn't kidding!' I thought. After I had recovered my composure and looked at the reflection for a moment, I smirked slightly. 'Actually…this could be kinda cool.' I was still a little puzzled, wondering just how button-pushing changed one's physical form…but knowing that it somehow did, I understood what each button was for, and began to experiment with different combinations. I had decided to stick with the wolf for my species…for some reason, it had just appealed to me, but every other choice was up in the air.

After a few moments, I finally had decided on a 'look'. My fur was black, contrasted by snow-white markings and hair. My eyes were an emerald green. I chuckled slightly at the irony of it all. 'I never got to choose how I looked the first time around, so now I do…' I thought, chuckling softly. As for an outfit, I decided that simple bluejeans and a T-shirt would suit my needs, at least for now. "If they don't have clothing stores in—wherever I'm going—I guess I'll just have to find my way back here," I said to myself. Walking back over to the mirror, I grinned as I saw my new reflection. The wolf's face that was now mine flashed sharp canines back at me. 'Not too shabby,' I thought. Turning back to the screen, I frowned slightly as I saw a menu that I hadn't dropped down. My eyebrows shot up as I read the title. 'Wings? They can't mean…' My thumb pressed the first choice and I staggered back as I suddenly felt a large weight on my shoulders. Dashing back to the mirror, I gasped aloud as a pair of large white wings slowly extended behind me. I could feel new sets of muscles working in my shoulders as the wings unfurled. "This is…wow…" I breathed, unable to form a coherent thought to describe what I was looking at.

Suddenly, the screen beeped at me, drawing my thoughts back to the present. I turned, and saw that instead of the menus, there was a flashing I-beam cursor blinking on the screen. "Your name, please," the screen said to me in a feminine monotone.

"You talk, too?" I asked, slightly bemused, but there was no further response. "Guess it's just programmed," I murmured, walking back over to it. As I stepped in front of it, a holographic keyboard materialized on the screen below the cursor. 'What to put…?' I thought. After a moment, a name came to me from somewhere in the dark depths of my mind—my first memory, if one could call it that. "Lirren Shentai," I said aloud. I didn't know where it came from, or why that was the first thought to materialize out of my foggy consciousness, but I'd take memories where I could get them. Typing in the name, I hit the ENTER key, and the text box vanished, to be replaced instead by something that looked like a combination of the two previous screens—part text box and part menu. "This is where you will prepare aspects of your Second Life outside of your physical appearance," the screen said. "In the text box, you will write your description, or desc. This is what other players will know about you."

Players? Descs? Several unfamiliar terms were being tossed at me like I should know them. Sighing, I shrugged. The computer couldn't talk to me outside of its programmed responses, so I was going to get no help from it. I just hoped that someone else could help me when I was done with this. Stepping towards the screen, my hands danced across it, pulling around menus, sliders, and typing text as I configured my life from the ground up. One option caught my eye as I was scrolling around the screen. 'Psion…' I read. 'They can't actually mean…' I corrected myself. 'Considering the wings…not much would surprise me.' I smirked, remembering that I had always wanted to be a superhero as a kid—probably every kid did—but now I actually got the chance to have powers. I configured a few options and selected something called a "delta saber," pressing the ENTER key. When I did, I blinked slightly, feeling a slight weight in my pocket, and twin weights on my back. I assumed that the delta sabers were on my back…but I couldn't figure out what was in my pocket. I reached down, and pulled out a small emerald crystal, not much bigger than my palm. 'What is this?' I thought, tossing it lightly in the air. I squeezed it in my hand, wondering if it would break or crack, but instead of doing the expected—it vanished, seeming to melt into my hand. I gasped, watching as previously invisible tattoos etched themselves across my form, pulsing with green energy. I felt—stronger, faster… 'Was that crystal the source of my powers?' I wondered, soon coming to the realization that it was.

'Well, now what?' I thought, crossing my arms across my chest. 'It's not exactly like I can test out my powers here…I don't want to shoot the screen and mess it up for the next guy who comes along…Maybe if I just focus,' I thought. It wasn't much of an idea, but it was better than nothing. Closing my eyes, I searched my mind for—anything, really, that would give me a clue to what was going on and how I turned it off. Words flashed before my eyes—meta-state, hádralex…' I opened my eyes, murmuring, "Lá'har nevis," and watched as my tattoos faded to invisibility, and my Crystal rematerialized in my jeans pocket. I smirked slightly. "Pretty cool," I said, then realized that the screen was beeping at me, and probably had been for several minutes.

"Are you finished?" it asked.

I nodded, then belatedly realized the screen couldn't see me. "Yes," I said. "Please proceed."

As before in the Nexus, lights dripped down from above to form an arch, and then the arch was filled in, creating a portal to my next destination. I took a deep breath, wondering just what I would find on the other side of the doorway.