Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday Briefs: Useful Things #18

It's time again for Wednesday Briefs, a blog hop in which writers post a 500-1000 word flash story—or episode, in my case—based on weekly prompts. At the end of my post, you'll find links to all the other Wednesday Briefers.

I’ve opted to continue my science fiction M/M story “Useful Things” using one of the visual prompts that spoke to me.

If you’d like to start from the beginning, here's the link. [Chapter 1]


Useful Things #18 

Rasvim curled his arms over his head, distraught at what he’d done. Hed spoken back to an Aeth…had raised his voice.

Don’t call me that!

He was going to die. He’d seen other humans die for less. For refusing an order…for allowing a moment of anger to flash in their eyes, Osvith had ordered them torn to shreds. How had he let his control slip now?

“Listen to me, my special one, and remember my promise.” The low rumble of Majak’s voice didn’t sound like that of a predator intent on harm. “You have nothing to fear. I will not hurt you, whatever you say to me, however you say it. Not in private. Not when we are together like this.”

“Private?” Rasvim gasped the word, amazed his mind could shape a word at all. But he absorbed its meaning. They were alone.

“In front of others, I would be compelled to punish you to protect my own status—but I would not hurt you even then. I will never inflict harm. No death. No feeding. No cruelty. Do you understand?”

It had been easier before. Easier to let Aeth words fall to every side of him while he listened for the ones he must obey, upon which his life depended. He had learned those first. Later, to combat boredom, out of a desperate knowledge he might someday need them to survive, he had learned the language. He had said more to Majak in two weeks than he had said to Osvith in five years. Osvith had used him to mindlessly regurgitate information he had been fed or overheard while left in the company of unwitting visitors. And for sex.

Majak wanted something else. And Majak’s words would not slide past his mind the way Osvith’s had. The words stuck in his brain and clamored to be understood, if he would just let them link into his thoughts. Majak wanted him to understand.

But what? Why?

Simply to escape scrutiny, Rasvim nodded that he would listen.

Majak sighed. “My race evolved in violent ways, even the best of us can be vicious. But your poor race was discovered by the worst of our kind, by criminals. When the first of the Var Sareem came to this planet and found evidence of what had been done, we were appalled. That is why I came to your world. What I learned moved me to assume control of the mission to discover the truth about humans.”

Tears rose to Rasvim’s eyes, but he blinked them back. “I don’t know anything. My mother called it spilled milk.” Majak’s sudden look of puzzlement made him realize he’d used human words. He was falling apart…his childhood leaking through the cracks. “You need someone older. It happened before I was born.”

“I’m not here to learn the truth about dead things. I want to learn the truth about you—and others like you.”

No, he wanted to say, though his tongue wouldn’t fashion the word. Majak was pushing for something he was not ready to hear. 

“Rasvim, I am going to ask you to understand something painful. The humans who were removed from your planet and survived, the ones bred for meat, were altered and made more useful for that purpose. So were the ones we now use sexually. Criminal scientists altered the brains of the offspring even more than their parents, made them obedient, only marginally intelligent, and incapable of speech.”

“But Enir—”

“I gave him language. I had a neural speech component created by my scientists and placed into his brain.”

Bright, life-loving Enir had been speechless? Rasvim drew a deep breath. Outside, the solar wall had shifted, keeping dawn from flooding the hut with light.

“Humans in Aeth space are herd animals, suggestible, incapable of critical thinking. Even Enir.” Majak paused, then said, “When a salvage crew found the corpses of several thousand original humans aboard a derelict processing ship, our scientists uncovered evidence about how humans had been altered. They believe humans—those here, like you—might be as intelligent as the Aeth.”

“You—you believe that?” This time he met Majak’s eyes, and received a smile in return.

“I do. I told you that, and I also told you I will not lie to you. Not ever.”

Rasvim nodded. He remembered Majak’s words, and how they had made him feel. He had been happy Majak knew him to be intelligent. “But why does that matter? If we’re smart, if we’re not…what difference does it make?”

“Because life is commonplace, but truly intelligent—sapient—beings are rare. There are only four species that we know of. The Aeth are one.”

He realized he knew the name of another. Osvith had spat invectives against a hated enemy. “The Slig,” he said, and was pleased when Majak nodded.

“Yes. The Slig are terrifying. We don’t understand them and our few encounters have been deadly. The other species of intelligent beings of which we are aware is bound to an extreme environment and our interactions are complicated.”

“I still don’t understand—”

“I do not know what humans truly are.” Majak lifted a hand to his hair and gently stroked the ridge Alaksu had created. “I am hoping to find out by learning what you are.” Rasvim could not look away from the alien’s eyes or the passion burning there, seeing it for what it was, naked and intense and focused only on him. “I want you at my side to show me your mind, speak your thoughts…your ideas. I want your opinions to inform mine, open portals through which I may see. What you say, what you show me, will not be new to you, and you may not understand its importance. But it will be new to me, new to the Aeth.”

Rasvim swallowed. What Majak was saying sounded impossible. What Majak was asking him to do…reveal…could he even do it anymore?

Majak wanted him to be human.


Thanks for reading. I guess Rasvim now knows at least some of what Majak wants. :) The rest of the Wednesday Briefers have great stories to offer if you click on the links below.
Cia Nordwell     


  1. This is going to get even more fascinating. Great chapter.

  2. Great story. It's one of the Wednesday Brief highlights.

  3. Wow, that was intense and amazing. Majak wants him to be human. wonderful line hun. i really enjoyed that chapter and i'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.

    1. It goes some interesting places. Rasvim's not the only one with reservations about the idea.

  4. This was an awesome chapter!!! I've been wanting to know a about the bigger picture--what Majak ultimately hoped for by learning about humans via Jesse. It was clearly about more than the attraction he felt or a curiosity. I really love the struggle you're showing within Jesse to trust an Aeth because, after all he's been through of course he'd be wary. It said so much about him that he was as worried about the impact of his giving information to Majak on other humans. YOu do a great job of showing the fear and struggle to let himself go to his memories or think like more than a slave or potential food. Afterall, sinking himself into that mindset was what probably made him able to accept his new reality once he was captured.
    I really love the reason for Majak's actions. My question is whether the Aeth under him know what the goal of their presence is? Do the soldiers just accept what they are told to do and why? Will they be against whatever Majak has planned to find and interact with the humans? Also, wouldn't Jesse have heard the reason for the mission in the meetings? Are the higher ups aware of his goal or just of his feelings towards humans which most didn't agree with during that meeting he had earlier in the story? There will be a whole lot of pressure on Jesse later since it makes sense that Majak would make him the ambassador/bridge between the Aeth and the humans. I can't wait to see how Majak and Jesse's relationship grows and changes and I'm glad you're willing to do it slowly. The slower build makes it all the better later. It is rather telling/ironic that the Aeth altered their own people to fit their purposes.

    I can't help but wonder about those poor humans they altered, who they clearly didn't alter enough to not have fear, but took away their abilities to express or escape it. As big of a bastard that Osvith was, in some ways Jesse did luck out ending up with him. He was ruthless but at least smart enough to see the potential in Jesse which kept him alive to be found by Majak. Can't wait for more, Tali!!!

    1. One reason I cannot finish this story on the blog is that I already am having to go back and fill in lots of the missing pieces. :( Like some earlier scenes where Jesse interacts with Majak and Enir in different ways. And especially scenes between Majak and other Aeth, where it becomes clearer Majak is doing this on his own. His official reason for being on Earth is that he is governor of the new colony there. Earth is at the edge of Aeth space and may become important in making contact--good or bad--with the Slig. Majak has important colonial responsibilities. The meeting in Kansas was about something other than humans. I've been focusing on Majak and Rasvim/Jesse, but there's more story going on that I haven't been showing because I don't write linearly. :( I write and backfill.

  5. If Rasvim starts acting human, who is to say that when he's in front of other Aeths he won't slip? . Fantastic Brief, as usual, Tali.

    1. He probably will slip. He's already slipping. :)

  6. I just found this story today and I'm in love with it! Their dynamic is so true and amazingly beautiful. I just love how slow the build up is. This is wonderful!

    1. Thanks so much! :D I'm glad the slow discovery is working for you. I'm having quite a lot of fun creating this pair.