|Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Asphyxiated
Author: forty-two dreams PM
When Doris moved to the Colonies she knew life would get harder. But government conspiracies, rock attacks, and mysterious kidnappings sure hadn't been on the brochure! Can she and her friends find the local savant and save their new home planet?Rated: Fiction K - English - Sci-Fi/Drama - Chapters: 5 - Words: 9,330 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 05-13-08 - Published: 01-02-08 - id: 2457876
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Brian sat in the center of the circle. The men forming the circle watched Brian. Brian watched the rocks. The pattern of the rocks changed and changed, like a kaleidoscope with one color but many shapes. Four-leaved clovers shifted into eight pointed stars, which became eight-spoked wheels, which eased gracefully into X shaped support structures for each other. Never did the rocks separate; they squeezed each other tighter and tighter, and the most common shape of all was a large perfect sphere. Normal rocks couldn't have done it; Brian suspected each rock was itself formed by smaller rocks which only left their own spheres when they needed to make the bigger sphere perfectly round. Never did any rock leave the group.
He had almost forgotten that the circle of men was watching him, but such a fact was impossible to neglect when Commandant Wales was at the head of the circle. Rock circles didn't have heads, because their formations were totally symmetrical and their minds were totally communal. But human circles had focal points no matter how well they tried to hide them. Humans were more complicated than one would think from how humans talked.
Back at Ithaca, Reid had started as the head of the circle, but then Doris had pushed herself in, and after that it had been pretty even. Brian had stayed in the middle, of course; he didn't know how to push himself into a human circle.
There were no other Brian-shaped rocks.
"What do you see, my son?" asked Commandant Wales. "What makes them angry?"
Brian ignored the words because the rocks were mesmerizing. They had to be planning something; the structures were not everyday sedimentary respiration or maintenance cycles. Thankfully they were not the war cycles either; those carried a distinct air of power and syncopation. No, it was creation they had in mind, and Brian didn't need the special sound magnifying instruments they'd put in his ears to recognize the tuneless dirge of scrapes and shuffles and bumps that preceded a birthing.
Not that they were making more rocks; the same rocks had been around forever, and none ever died. They were birthing water-webs. There had been plenty before the aliens had come, but now there weren't enough by half. The aliens couldn't see water-webs, and they'd taken the rocks for things without souls. Hiding the water-webs and retreating to the increasingly small area not settled yet by the aliens would not work forever. The word had been spread across the land; the war cycles were coming out of mothballs.
This particular group of rocks was safe for now: safe, somehow, in the arms of the enemy. No one would disturb their cycles until they'd been thoroughly studied. Brian vowed to protect them at all costs.
He heard the humans continue their questions in the background. "This is useless," one of them groaned. "I think his brain's turned into a rock. Better men than this one have gone native on the job."
"Impossible," said Commandant Wales. "I made sure he was still around humans, just not too closely connected. Every aspect of his education was timed perfectly. The difficulty of speaking to him while he's with the rocks just shows he really gets them. Wait until he's done observing and he'll talk."
But it seemed as if Brian would never be done observing. He did not show the slightest inclination to speak to the humans around him. The one who had been his father had shown him only the most negative side of human interaction, and the rest were under that man's control.
"Commandant," asked their host, "couldn't we have done this sooner? He does seem to have forgotten some of the rudiments of conversation."
In response, the commandant walked over to Brian and looked as straight as he could into Brian's blank eyes. "I asked you a question a minute ago, son," he growled. "Do you remember what it was?"
Emotionless, the boy said, "What do you see, my son? What makes them angry?"
Commandant Wales nodded. "When we are asked questions, the proper thing to do is to answer the questions to the best of our abilities. Have you forgotten?" He paused to let this sink in. "I would like it very much if you would answer the question."
What happened next made some of the scientists in the room flinch, but Brian didn't move a muscle as the commandant slapped him. Rocks didn't flinch. No good things came out of flinching, so they didn't bother.
"Well, then, let me ask you a slightly easier question. What were you doing in the Creekside Dancing Establishment just outside the colony of Koryfos at ten o'clock last night? I left you in Ithaca and you somehow got halfway across the enclave. I don't like it when my possessions go wandering."
He clicked his teeth. "When I checked the map last night, I was afraid you had reverted to the social habits of your unfortunate Belladonna upbringing. Now I find the opposite is true; you've lost your human feeling entirely. As I find it hard to believe you were in Creekside for fun, someone must have deposited you there. Brilliant—I can't think of any better way to deprive the enemy of a resource than losing it in a crowd of similar objects. Like dropping a grain of sand on a beach."
Sand was good. The tiny rocks that made up the little rocks were probably something like sand. Maybe the Commandant understood him after all, Brian thought.
Wales continued making irritatingly thorough eye contact. It was very hard to focus on the birthing cycles while such a tall man was standing right in his way. "I see I'm past beating information out of you, so I'll have to think of something else. Heavens, isn't there anything you care about anymore? You're a disgrace to the race that produced Shakespeare and Longfellow, you know. 'Dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul'". He smirked. "As it has to be. Your brain is dust now, just like those rocks. But I know that soul's still in there."
The scientists were getting thoroughly uncomfortable. They hadn't known about the Commandant's tactics; he'd made it sound like Brian was just an enthusiastic researcher who employed method actor-like techniques. Their host spoke up, unwilling to watch the man resort to more torture. "If you take the rocks away, then, maybe he'll give you information in order to get them back?"
"Excellent idea!" the Commandant smiled, relieved. "You, there, carry these things away."
The scientist shivered. "You've seen what happens when we try to move them; better to take the boy somewhere else."
"Very well," he conceded, dragging Brian into another room. But he never got another word out of the young man who used to be his son, though he asked all night. Brian knew the rocks would be fine whether he were there or not; their war cycles were more than a match for the men. Something inside him protested at his situation, but he stifled it.
Rocks didn't have little voices in their heads. He settled down into an impassive and dreamless sleep.