Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday Briefs: Useful Things #19

Welcome back to Wednesday Briefs, in which writers post a 500-1000 word flash story—or episode, in my case—based on the weekly prompts. This week I am continuing the M/M science fiction story I’ve been posting, “Useful Things.” I will be wrapping up the story soon, though, because I am ready to move on to something else.

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 child—”

“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.
MC Houle     
Victoria Adams     
Elyzabeth VaLey     


  1. Yea! Finally another chapter. Why does it seem there are like 20 days between Wednesdays when it comes to these chapters?

    1. Thanks, Kathy. :) Glad you're enjoying the story. And I'm kind of mystified myself about the way time warps around blog stories.

  2. I love Majak. And I do think he is being honest about his hopes and goals he has which include Jesse's help. My only question is whether any other Aeth is interested in exploring what he's trying to show/prove about the 'real' and unaltered humans? It didn't seem like any of the others are really intersted in seeing humans in any other way than how they do now. So I'll be interested to see how Majak intends to use this info he gains through Jesse and how he intends to find help in changing the way the Aeth treat humans.
    That was a great idea to compare and contrast Jesse, the person he was before his life was taken over, with Rasvim who was the character he became to survive. Very effective.

    1. How the Aeth as a whole regard humans has evolved as I've written the story. There's not a consensus. Some Aeth, like Majak, are excited about humans possibly being more intelligent than originally believed, whereas others have worked hard to hide that fact or are merely content to have humans as slaves or food. They don't see human intelligence (even if it exists) as useful.

      I'm going to have to revise this story, you know. I write for a while, then backfill, then write forward some more, then backfill. So this story has reached the point where I have to go back. There's lots to say about Enir still, for example, as well as the Aeth and what's happening with the humans who have not been completely eradicated.

      Majak plans to use Jesse to advance humans but also his own plans for Earth and the Aeth as a whole. Yeah, there's lots in play. That's why I'm enjoying writing the story. :) Thanks for weighing in, I really appreciate it.

  3. You draw such vivid images, Tali. I loved this line: "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?"
    I'm worried about Rasvim/Jesse and I don't think he's safe at all, but then, neither is Majak with his ideas.
    Looking forward to next Wednesday :_)

    1. Thanks Elyzabeth. That was my dead tree line. You know I wouldn't just throw in a dead tree. I had to make it integral to the overall imagery. :) And you're quite right about Majak not being safe either!

  4. Just caught up on the last two chapters -- getting better and better! Can't wait to see if Majak and Jesse can contact the remaining "wild" humans! :D

    1. Not sure if there'll be time for that, though I do have a "meeting" planned for when I revise to full length. The stakes get elevated quite a bit. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I hope someday when you are done with the Wednesday Brief of this story you will take it, flesh it out and make a complete story out of it! I would love to see where this goes and just how much more detailed it could be (and no I don't mean sexually) when you aren't restricted by word count. These are lovely characters and I just enjoy this world you've created so much!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I have to stop soon. There's a lot more going on than I can relate in this format. But I'll make sure you and the other commenters get a chance to find out how it all comes together. :)