This week I chose to go with the prompt: Use image of a dead tree.
If you'd like to read the story from its beginning, click here. [Chapter 1]
You’ll find links to the other Wednesday Briefs bloggers at the end of this post.
Useful Things #19
Jesse pondered what Majak said. Jesse, not Rasvim…because Rasvim did not ponder things, not really. Rasvim observed rules, did as commanded, and never, ever, deviated from the path the Aeth had laid out for his survival. Jesse relied on Rasvim to keep him alive. Rasvim was necessary, he remembered what needed to be remembered, endured what must be endured. But Rasvim was incomplete. As such, he could not handle what Majak was saying, not like Jesse, who examined every word, turning it and turning it and fitting the pieces together. So many pieces, all the bits of Aeth language and things he had seen and suffered and hidden…every day, every word.
All of the pieces. That was what Jesse could do.
He remembered his father arguing with Ben Rick, his fear and his rage, saying that the Aeth didn’t care about making contact… that the Aeth only wanted to kill, not understand.
He had just heard Majak ask to understand what a human could be.
Majak was different from Osvith, and Osvith had been different from the processers who had looked at him and his mother and every other human just as meat. Or the slavers who saw him as a salable commodity. Osvith had revealed a path to safety. Majak was showing him a different way.
Dare he believe it? Rasvim could not, was incapable. He had been constructed to believe in nothing. But Jesse could.
Oh fuck, oh fuck… oh fuck.
“No.” He looked up and could barely believe what he was doing. “You’re too late. The Aeth set the pattern and you’re too late. What did you think would happen? I only know how to be a slave!”
Majak's brows lifted and he leaned forward, lips parted eagerly. He paused for a moment before continuing. “But you were not always a slave.”
“I was a child!”
“Then be a child again. Start from there, again.”
“A human child among the Aeth. You speak our language better than any other human I have found. Use that. You will learn our ways—all our ways, whatever knowledge you seek, I would have you learn. If you wish, I will teach you our technology. I will teach you to fly, to use n-space, to protect yourself.”
Majak was doing that already. An Aeth shield skin lay draped at the end of the bed, waiting to be worn again by a human. Jesse battled a powerful urge to retreat back into his shell. For how many years had he felt hollow, like a dead tree, still standing but surrounded by a forest of the fallen, fearing the day he would fall himself?
“You have much to teach me,” Majak continued in the same measured voice. “I will value every lesson, however wonderful or painful those prove to be.”
“Human speech?” It seemed an easy place to start.
“Yes. I would like to learn that.”
“You have technology. Why don’t you have translator devices?” He had never asked. He’d been present when a captive had asked Osvith that question and gotten his throat slashed for impertinence.
“You will help us create one. Your brain holds all we require to make such a device.”
His brain? His mouth went dry and somewhere inside him Rasvim screamed. But Jesse decided to trust. To think. “You knew that before, when you took me from Osvith—when I started reading the Oz book to you.”
“Yes. But I would never violate your trust—or your mind. You are capable of reason and perhaps much more. I am responsible for your well-being. The neurolinguistic replication process is completely safe, but I will not force it upon you.”
Majak wanted to use his brain to create a translation device? Could he trust that the process really was safe? Not yet. Maybe someday. It might help if the Aeth could speak to other humans. Then he thought of something. “We don’t all speak the same language. Humans. We speak lots of different ones, at least that’s what I was told. The one I speak may not work for every human.”
“But it will work for some?”
“Those near Wheeling and Baltimore and… Kansas.”
Majak smiled. “That is a very large region. It will serve for a start. And it may be human languages are all similar enough. The device interprets brain activity, not sound waves.”
Jesse relaxed. Maybe this would work… if he kept Rasvim near.
“I must go out in the field this morning,” Majak said, causing Jesse to look up at him again. “I want to examine a new communications array. If you would rather stay here—”
“I want to go with you. I will learn more that way.” He would also be safer. That was the primary reason. But the warm gaze that greeted his answer made him happy again.
“Yes. You will. Good, then.” Majak rose.
Jesse rose also, the better to put on the shield skin. If nothing else, it would protect his naked body from the sun’s harsh rays… and also scrutiny from the Aeth he would be with. “Majak,” he said, deciding to test their new understanding. There was still an answer he wanted desperately to hear. “You said you want to use me. I heard you. I felt it. But you will not claim me?”
“No. Not unless you wish me to. I will not use you as an act of aggression, or terror. And I refuse to use you as an instrument of my comfort.” Majak appeared pleased that he was putting on the shield suit without assistance. Jesse remembered the sequence of tabs and fasteners. “I want to use you in that way, yes, but when I do it will mean so much more.”
When would that be? Jesse wondered. Though he had never enjoyed being used, he clung to what it represented. But it was something more—different and new—that made him quicken at Majak’s words.
Thank you for reading. And here’s a list of the other Wednesday Briefers who have stories this week.