Sunday, November 15, 2009

Great Hites November Creation # 2

This week's Creation Story is from Ashley Redden.

Music By The Lunacy Board - Curtsey of Mick Bordett.

DOWNLOAD Creation Story #2

Other Brother One
By: Ashley Redden

From the night I emerge into a small clearing at the base of what could either be described as a very large hill or a quite tiny mountain. With two enormous yet muscularly concise leaps I mount an oblong boulder. My muscles flex, my heart races, exhilaration fills me to the very soul.
With eyes closed and back arched, I soak up the sounds and texture of this night. I turn back, into the direction from which I have just come and open first my ears, then my eyes. Before me lies a vista that beckons, but this sirens call must go unanswered. Forever onward, it seems, I must trudge. To plunge left or right at this point in the chase would clearly be disastrous, nor can I backtrack, in that direction lies certain death. There really is no quandary. The path ahead is the only real choice.
The respite that I now enjoy cannot last, this I know. But, this moments rest is not for my body so nearly as much as for my mind. Rest, however attractive, was not the primary motive that drove me to my current perch.
The entire movement was purely instinctual, active thought was never involved. To doubt my instincts now would be suicidal. After all, intuition alone has allowed me to survive thus far in this my flight for life. It is upon these very instincts that I now utterly depend. My reliance upon this inexplicable insight will determine whether I live or die.
As I look below, my eyes are drawn to the end of the forest. Here the trees do not so much become sparse as to end abruptly. The transition of woods to underbrush is as if some great hand has drawn a line upon the sand between both the forest and desert scrub daring either to cross.
I concentrate, expanding my eyes and peer into the distance. I can see no movement, no pursuit, but that does not mean that pursuit does not exist.
I open another set of eyes, a new pair of ears, another husk of skin, figuratively, just a fraction. Much like tearing a hairline crack in a chasm, I see them, I hear them, I feel them, and they are there. I sense them in the distance like a trickle on a still pool, a feather whisper in the cool breeze, a tickle at the back of your throat, so very, very faint, but there nonetheless.
Upon a rock I sit, waiting to be seen. My inner voice told me that now is the time for visibility. The time for stealth has ceased. The game must end soon, while I am still fresh enough to participate.
I listen to them across the vastness. Though they are distant, inexorably they dog me. All the while they whisper, talking to themselves in a tongue that has no words, no sounds, and no substance. None other outside of their species can hear my pursuer’s voiceless speech save one, me.
My gaze drifts upward and rests there upon an object far above. The moon on this pristine world has shone yellow with a blue green hue every night that I have been here. I don’t know the name of either, nor am I certain if this particular moon is the only one circling this world, though I suspect that it is. I have seen no other.
On this night, however, a deep red has overtaken the previous colors in a cascade as if blood had been poured over a yellow, blue green ball. Red has always reminded me of pain and death. I am suddenly filled with anguish for myself and my pursuers. Another omen then, of pain and death that will surely come this bright night. I feel a mixture of fear and relief then, fear for what will come and relief that my miserable time spent upon this planet will soon be over one way or the other.
I rise and know for certain that I have been seen. I can still hear my pursuer’s distant, illusive dialogue, but the flavor of the conversation has changed. Within their whispery phantom calls is some element that was not there before, a promise of things to come, excitement.
After one final mournful look at the azure moon, I launch myself with renewed vigor off the boulder and back onto my previous path. I did, after all, have some hand in this destinies’ road upon which I find myself traveling. If this is the proverbial path that I must tread, I may as well do so with both feet.
Through the scrub I run, stealth be damned. I yell at the wind as loud as my human lungs will allow. Let the chase begin.

The podlet of streen flows out of the dawn forest unfettered by the obstacles that litter the ground in this area of transition. Lower Brother Three can no longer see the brothers of the podlet so diffuse is their search pattern, but he can still hear them. The lower brother moves with sureness, making no discernable sounds as he travels at a medium trot. In the eyes of a human, Lower Brother Three probably looks something akin to a huge lithe dog. His appearance may be canine, but the streen originated far from the domestic birthplace of Canus domesticus.
The streen are quadrupedal, always traveling on four legs. But their feet are more like that of a feline than a canid. Each foot sports six toes, four evenly spaced in the front with two opposing toes in the rear functioning as the equivalent of dual thumbs. The claws are sheathable and highly sensitive, capable of being extended to their fullest of two inches or drawn back for manipulation. Thus the first and only known quadruped with the ability to exploit fine and complex machinery thrust themselves upon the galactic scene.
The podlet contains five members, as is right, five being a holy number of pursuit for the streen. The three lower brothers perform the grunt work, i.e. scouting with eyes and nose, while the two upper brothers coordinate.
The object of this sentence hunt is a human and all streen know full well that humans stink, literally. Lower Brother Three know this fact better than most. His position is in the center of the podlet formation. It is upon his olfactory sense that the pursuit must rely. Lower Brother Three is the podlet’s tracker.
But in this sentence hunt there is a vexing strangeness. For three days and nights the podlet of streen have tracked this human prey and yet he continues to elude. Humans in general have never been known for stamina, but this particular prey was beginning to impress the lower brother, as well as, the rest of the podlet in turn.
Within Lower Brother Three’s mind a majestic voice blossoms, “Lower Brother Two, scout the heights.” An order from Upper Brother One in whose person rests the locus of leadership for the podlet.
Upper Brother One leads the podlet with complete authority, as is right. He is after all the oldest and most experienced streen that is actively a member of the pursuit class, the pursuit class being the streen equivalent of a military.
To Lower Brother Three’s immediate right a shape launches itself upward into a boque tree much like a paler version of its massive cousins that so dominate the dawn forest where the sentence hunt began. There the trees were majestic, dominant. Eons old and still vital, the boque trees seem to rise forever. Here though, in the desert scrublands, the boque trees are of midget proportions in comparison. But, nevertheless, they remain the tallest structures in the arid scrublands. Lower Brother Three doesn’t have to look with his eyes to know with utter clarity that the shape is Lower Brother Two gaining altitude by way of the boque tree to scout visually ahead.
When a sentence hunt is initiated, the podlet joins, or more precisely, becomes a local gestalt. This group phenomenon is directly responsible for Lower Brother Three’s awareness of his fellow streen’s whereabouts. The eyes become secondary, when the mind can clearly see.
Each member of the podlet passively communicates with each other via this connection, though all streen have the inborn ability to contact any other member of their species at any distance with what accounts to a telepathic shout.
But the local gestalt is much more than just basic communication. The members of the podlet each receive sensory and emotional data from each other automatically once the gestalt is initiated. The entire podlet will remain as one mind until either the pursuit is ended or all are dead, which is unheard of and had never happened. In all actuality, no streen has ever been lost during a sentence hunt. One thing is for certain, however, the streen have always been an all or nothing species and would continue to be so.
Lower Brother Two calls, “I have the human in sight. It perches upon a rock and regards the sky.”
Lower Brother Three closes his main nostril lobe and automatically his second two lower nasal operculums open bypassing his olfactory lobe. The two openings are essentially straight shafts into the lower brother’s strong triplet of lungs. Within moments the chase will begin, the time for scent trails is at an end.
Says Lower Brother Two, “the human leaps from the rock and runs hard for the crest of the hill upon which its trail does lie. It has now topped the hill and is no longer within sight. Straight away from us it runs. Let it be said that Lower Brother Three tracks true.”
“To the ground with you,” mentally chirps Lower Brother One. “Esteemed Upper Brother One, we your humble podlet await coordination.”

I’m running hard now, not all out, but fairly close. I’ve crested the hill moving downward now, still in a straight line. I concentrate on breathing; oxygen debt won’t help matters now. I cross a row of gullies at the terminal base of the hill, the last being the deepest. Mentally marking this spot, without conscious thought I brake hard to my right, relying on fey instincts again and continue to run.
The voices of my pursuers are louder now. I still hear them in my mind, but I no longer have to concentrate. What was once a whisper has become a conversation.
Orders, crisp and clear, are issued and obeyed without the slightest hint of dissention ring inside my head. With something more than a passing interest, I listen.
I’m running all out now, holding nothing back and waiting for that instinctual ding to go off. Suddenly I feel that I need to stop, I do so immediately. Moving forward, at a walk now, I discover a small clearing with a trail entering the area to my right. The trail is a well worn path, probably functioning as a native game highway of sorts.
Something quite not native will be coming full tilt down this very trail shortly with a very distinctly singular purpose in mind. Ready or not, the time has come to prepare.
Reaching into my vest, I retrieve the shiner. I click it on and am rewarded with a familiar red glowing line that appears accompanied by an almost inaudible buzz. I click it off again and walk up to the trail breathing somewhat more normal now.
Standing immediately to the left of the trail, I find a large bush bristling with particularly nasty looking thorns. Clicking the shiner, I slice the bush near its base with a high/low motion beginning at the trail side and continuing directly away and down.
A sigh of relief escapes me as the bush, thorns and all, falls squarely across the game trail. The scrub bordering either side of the trail here is dense; this obstacle will prove no small impediment for those seeking to use the trail.
I clicked off the shiner and heft the tool. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the shiner is not a club because it does so resemble one. A shiner is nothing more than a blunt stick roughly half as long as my arm. The bottom is shaped into a pistol-like grip with one oblong depressible button above. Running above the button and to the terminal end is a slight groove that is coated with a highly reflective, pristine silver substance.
When activated, the groove houses a minuscule, yet powerful laser. A small containment field is generated around the laser section. This field extends just above the groove. As far as I know, this field will pass through just about anything, given that enough time and power are made available. On second thought, maybe the shiner really is a club after all. A club with one truly mighty wallop.
I squat down just beyond the bush and open my senses. Settling down, I relax and try to go back over the orders that I had just heard for the leader of my pursuers.
‘So this is what you think you’re going to do,’ I think to myself not daring to utter it aloud. A grim sad smile settles itself upon my face accompanied by the following thought, ‘wanna bet?’

The orders, as always, are crisp and followed explicitly without question. In Lesser Brother Two’s mind the eminent voice of Upper Brother One cants, “stop preening Lesser Brother One. Lesser Brother Two, sprint ahead and stay on the right flank. Outdistance the human prey and either halt it or drive it back toward the podlet. You will be the final forward flank.”
“Lesser Brother Three, follow Lesser Brother Two on the right flank, only slower. Do not pass the human. You will be the final right flank.”
“Lesser Brother One, perform the same task as Lesser Brother Three, except on the left flank. You will be the final left flank.”
“As is right, Upper Brother Two and I will follow slower still and be the final rear flank.”
Upper Brother One looks pointedly with all three eyes from left to right turning his head so that all the podlet fall under that piercing gaze.
He speaks solemnly, “the pursuit is holy, be perceptive, concise and precise. Remember that it is only one human, merely prey, and you are all streen.” He seemed to swell in size as he roars, “to your tasks.”
The podlet, looking directly at their leader, huffs in unison, turn on their four heels and were gone. Streen as a rule don’t look at each other when communicating, they don’t have to. When the streen do make eye contact, it is either a show of utter shock or ultimate domination and subservience, in this case, the latter.
Lesser Brother Two runs at top speed, lithe and supple, his body flying down the well traveled game trail that lay before him. All the streen’s senses are turned off; at the moment speed is essential. Lesser Brother Two’s main objective is to overtake and detain the human prey.
Ahead the hill crests and the descent begins in earnest as the lesser brother uses the laws of gravity to push his six hundred pound frame even faster still. The path begins to level, but Lesser Brother Two does not relent, onward he continues to push. Speed. More speed.
At the bottom of the hill, the path takes several bends, then after beginning to straighten, seems to abruptly end. As the lesser brother nears the end, he realizes that the path is blocked. The flora on either side of the path here is incredibly dense, but instead of slowing, the lesser brother simply takes a shallow hop.
Lesser Brother Two lands neatly with his front paws and head down, and then rotates his serpine body upward and with a tremendous kick from his rear legs propels himself up and over easily clearing the blockage on the path.
As Lesser Brother Two clears the blockage, he feels a slight tug from beneath his ventral side, accompanied by an insect like buzz. The streen notices briefly that the blockage on the path was a thorn studded bush. ‘More than likely,’ the lesser brother thinks, ‘I must have snagged a thorn during the leap.’
Lesser Brother Two lands squarely upon his front legs and in one smooth motion brings his hind quarters to bear beneath him. Upon striking the ground, the lesser brother’s rear legs buckle and the streen collapses into an uncontrolled tumble that leaves him sprawled upon the ground.
Less Brother Two attempts to rise, but can not. He tries to roll his body upright, but he can not do this either. Lesser Brother Two attempts to crane his head around to view his back legs, but when the streen moves his head, his vision blurs. He can no longer feel his rear legs.
With agonizing slowness, Lesser Brother Two closes all three eyes. He flexes both front paws, but they only move partially, woodenly.
Opening his eyes, the lesser brother beholds an astonishing sight. A human is calmly walking towards Lesser Brother Two holding a small buzzing stick.
Clearly, he hears the human say, “I’m sorry,” just before his consciousness gives way. Only moments later the darkness of oblivion is all Lesser Brother Two will ever know again.

‘One down with several million to go,’ I think sarcastically to myself. I hasten back to my spot at the fallen bush and click the shiner off. Turning the tool over, I examine the prompt below the pistol grip. One glance reveals much. Those streen are certainly some tough customers. It’s no wonder that have a one hundred percent success rate for sentence hunts. The telltales read eighty-seven percent in dull green luminescent numbers.
All I had done was to gently kiss the business end of the shiner to the lesser brother’s stomach as he cleared the bush, while disemboweling him; the shiner had used thirteen percent of its capacity charge. The shiner had sliced smoothly through the dense trunk of the thorny bush only moments ago without registering any loss of charge at all. Apparently, the streen are built to last.
Once the shiner is drained, my fighting chance will be over. Unfortunately, there’s no way out here in the wilderness to recharge the tool. That I was even able to smuggle the shiner onto a sentence hunt in the first place was an accomplishment in itself.
Usually, I can affect human minds to see or, in this case, not see whatever I want them to. But the guards at the transference port were very thorough and determined. It’s extremely difficult to keep someone form seeing something that the particular person is intent upon.
To complicate matters even more, the guards had been conditioned to steel their minds against the very thing that I was at the time attempting to accomplish. But I remained calm and focused and now, I have a contraband shiner in my possession on a sentence hunt. Such a thing was and surely is utterly unheard of.
I squat by the bush and open my senses once again. Peripheral data floods into my sensorium, but the speech of my remaining pursuers is still absent.
To my knowledge, the lesser brother had not called out. I am almost reasonably sure that I can hear most levels of their speech, but cannot be completely certain.
I freeze as Lesser Brother Three’s voice rings questioningly in my head, “Lesser Brother Two, what is the status of the human prey.”
After several minutes of uneasy silence, the unmistakable perception of Upper Brother One’s voice sings through my cerebrum, “something unforeseen has arisen. Lesser Brother Three, into the wind to aid Lesser Brother Two.” After a moments pause he adds solemnly, “He has grown quiet.”
Even muffled by the screen of the thorny bush, I hear the disturbance from up the trail. The sound is something akin to a herd of animals stampeding. But I know full well what is headed down the path.
I recognize immediately that Lesser Brother Three had heard the orders and is promptly carrying them out. Within moments the sound of a charging streen has filled the trail bearing down on my position. I rise higher in my squat and take a slight step away from the bush. I am not retreating, but a feeling has come over me instructing that I move back from the bush and prepare to jump.
Abruptly I hear breathing and the sound of great streen paws slapping the ground stops. In its place is a low guttural growl emitted from a serpine shape that suddenly rockets over the bush. I step with the airborne shape and come out of my crouch at something of a running leap. I jump skyward, away from the bush, with all my strength. Activating it midswing, I bring the shiner forward in an arching straight armed overhead motion.
As with the last attempt, my swing strikes gold. As soon as the shiner clears the belly of the streen, I click it off and fall forward into a double arm-swinging spill.
Just before I hit the ground, I notice that the streen had not only spotted me, but seemed to be twisting his body in midair back in my direction. I couldn’t help from thinking what an intimidating creature a streen would be to meet someplace in a dark alley when I strike the ground with enough ungainly precision and force to nearly knock the breath out of myself.
Raising myself to hands and knees gingerly, I am struck again physically, this time from within my head. The agony coming from Lesser Brother Three is pulsating like heat. Lesser Brother Three hasn’t gone into shock as the other streen had. His pain is so intense that the mental backwash is nearly enough to bowl me over again.
I look over at the streen as I stagger to my feet and head away from the path, back in the direction of the gully I had crossed earlier. Lesser Brother Three is lying, neatly pinned, to another thorny bush. The hole that I opened in his abdomen was not as large as the previous lesser brother showing how close I had come to missing the target altogether.
But Lesser Brother Three had hit the clearing and slid with enough force to do the job for me. Lesser Brother Three had been eviscerated as well.
The streen writhed and bit desperately at his hind quarters, all the while emitting wave after nauseating wave of pain. His agony is palpable. Strong though the emotional outflow is from the lesser brother, there is also an associated taste of finality as well. Death for Lesser Brother Three seems to hang in the air.
I turn away and immediately feel a pang of guilt for leaving the streen in such distress. I choke down my senses and try to tighten my soured stomach as I force my stiff and rubbery legs to move again, one at a time. I no longer have the time to spare that it would have taken to dispatch the creature. I had heard the lesser brother’s mental screams clearly enough and had to assume that the rest of the podlet had as well. Effectively, the alarm had been sounded and I had to move with a renewed purpose, now more than ever.
As I stumble away the mental cries slow to a ripple instead of the powerful surge it had been. My footing improves as my head clears from the dinger that the ground inflicted upon my now inflamed head. As my mind clears my coordination, as well as, my speed follows suit propelling me onward.
I actually begin to entertain the notion that I might make it to the gully after all. No sooner has this thought insinuated itself into my head, when a familiar maelstrom erupts out in front of me. Only moments ago, I had heard the upper brother put an end to his earlier tactics. All streen were to now get themselves with all possible speed to the injured lesser brother. The noise ahead could be none other than Lesser Brother One making good on that final order.
I instantly stop and plant both feet firmly facing the oncoming streen. ‘Well, I’ve already witnessed the underside of a charging streen,’ I think. ‘This time, I guess I’ll have to face the business end.’ Feet spread, jaw set, weapon at the ready, I prepare for the worst.

Lesser Brother One had just received his orders from the pursuit leader, Upper Brother One, and was making best time to aid his lesser brother who was gravely injured, probably mortally so. As he runs, Lesser Brother One could mentally feel the essence of the injured streen quite literally slipping away.
However, Lesser Brother Two is already gone. There is nothing left of him alive in the local gestalt, not even the glow of his essence, a type of mental aftertaste that lingers from each member to the podlet.
So intent on reaching the injured streen, Lesser Brother Two nearly fails to notice a narrow, yet surprisingly deep, gully in the flat terrain. He is forced to perform a last minute stumbling leap to cross the ditch. Lesser Brother Two does not stop nor pause. Upon landing, he instantly regains his balance and literally never loses step.
Only moments later, the lesser brother comes upon the two slain streen. Had Lesser Brother Two been of a lesser species instead of streen, he would have been appalled at the carnage which he finds there. Both lesser brothers lay upon an animal trail, one then the other, both eviscerated, one quite dead, the other very nearly so, slipping away before him.
Both streen, the lesser brother notices, had come from the same direction. Peering back up towards the path, Lesser Brother One finds his view blocked by a large fallen bush. As the lesser brother approaches the bush, he discerns that it has a thick, cleanly cut base and is still bright green and healthy.
Lesser Brother One freezes. Immediately, he closes his outer operculumns and opens his central nostril. The lesser brother breathes deeply and nearly gags at the stench of human. Here the human has recently tarried, exerting himself. The amount of odor left by the human is appalling. But the most shocking discovery is the fact that this is not just any human, but the human prey, the very object of the sentence hunt. All the streen within the podlet know the human prey’s scent intimately, so this conclusion was no guess but incontrovertible fact.
Lesser Brother One sends his discoveries to the podlet and asks, “Instructions?”
“Track the human prey,” replies Upper Brother One. “We come.”
With the abundance of human scent in the area, the lesser brother is quickly able to identify the egress point of the human. It comes as no small shock that this was the same direction that Lesser Brother One has just come. The scent is unerringly fresh.
Loosening a predatory growl, the streen sets upon the trail of the fugitive human in a low tense trot. Lesser Brother One soon finds himself retracing his own steps; the human prey had actually been running toward the oncoming streen. Running, no presumption there, on this count the tracks were conclusive.
Lesser Brother One follows the scent trail to another large thorny bush which is still standing where he finds something astounding. To the streen the signs are crystal clear. The lesser brother, solely intent on reaching his injured podlet member, had passed within two strides of the human prey.
The trail led back around the bush and continued in the previous direction after Lesser Brother One had passed. Again at a low tense trot, the streen resumed the trail. Upon reaching the gully which the lesser brother had earlier leapt, he stops short. Gripping his paws upon the edge, the streen is able to lean over and give the other side of the small deep gully a cursory inspection for the human spoor. None is present.
Abruptly, Lesser Brother One sees a slight movement directly beneath his massive head. In one motion, the lesser brother arches his head down sharply and throws the mass of his body backward. It isn’t nearly enough. Lesser Brother One just glimpses the blur of a buzzing rod then something else shockingly familiar, and then nothing more.

I bail off into the gully and work myself around so that I’m not standing, but not exactly sitting either. I feel the firmness of dirt against the back of my head as a bit of squirming yields a somewhat comfortable position.
I had clearly heard the message from Upper Brother One. One more shot at a streen one-on-one was apparently all I was going to get and even that was no longer a certainty.
“Damn,” I ventured to say out loud venting my frustration. The lower brother had been so incredibly close back on the trail. I had dived behind a bush and cowered there, agonizing whether to hide or lash out at the passing streen. The decision not to strike had been a good one after all, the lesser brother had been too far away for a sure strike.
Had I struck and missed, the chase would most likely end there. The streen would have simply bounded out of range and waited for the remainder of the podlet to arrive. The remaining streen would have gathered around and disarmed me, passed sentence then executed the prey, namely me. The execution is more gruesome a thing than I can make myself contemplate. It is made very well known what happens at the end of a sentence hunt. This fact alone constitutes one of the greatest measures of crime prevention for the galactic government, complete transparency resulting in complete terror.
The podlet doesn’t eat for the entirety of the sentence hunt until the prey is captured. The prey then becomes the fruit of the streen’s labor, no pun intended. For this sentence hunt, I am the fruit.
So I had decided not to take the chance and allowed the streen to run past me. Then I waited until the lesser brother was out of sight and again broke for my original target, the gully. The event that followed shocked even me. Having compacted myself into the gully, tight and comfortable and with what at this point had to be a massively false sense of security, I fell asleep.
Running on adrenaline saturation for days now, all it took for me to fall instantly fast asleep was a few moments of quiet stillness. Whether it was the shadow that fell over me or the bits of dirt sloughed onto my head from the edge of the gully that startled me awake, I’ll never know. What happen was that in less than the duration of a heartbeat, I went from one of the deepest sleeps of my life to completely jarringly alert. I awoke to action.
No sooner had my eyes popped open than I am bringing the shiner full around, truly like a club this time, to smash the looming shadow above me as hard as humanly possible. Somewhere in that waking moment, as if watching something from some stranger’s eyes, I recognize the shadow for what it is, the head of a streen.
The streen was looking at the opposite side of the gully, but with my action it brings its massive canine head down in one sharp, impossibly quick motion and momentarily stares straight into my eyes. In that moment of shared contact, the shock displayed from the alien triplet of eyes is somehow visceral and complete. During that moment, I believe that the streen understands completely what is happening, quite possibly before even I do. But this understanding is far too late.
When I awoke suddenly, my subconscious must still have been in control. In that split second that it would have taken my human brain to access the situation, form an opinion and decide upon an appropriate action, my subconscious had already decided to act. This lightning swift reaction saved my life.
I come out of my squat within the gully swinging the weapon with all the primitive force that I can bring to bear. The shiner strikes the streen squarely between the eyes and ekes a narrow furrow deep into the streen’s skull. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I recognize the smell of burnt meat beneath a smell that is even stronger yet, strong enough that in my weakened state I nearly retch. The smell that so strongly turns my empty stomach is the rancid odor of singed hair.
The streen launches itself backward, instinctually away from the gully. The streen lands upon its side all four of his legs kicking rapid fire and non-stop.
As I pull myself up and out of the ditch, the death throes of the streen are beginning to ebb. I take a long look to confirm that this is indeed Lesser Brother One. It is. I sit heavily upon the far side of the gully and am completely and utterly spent. Adrenaline it seems is a fickle mistress.
One look at the telltale of the shiner confirms some of my troubles. The tool only has thirty three percent of its original energy remaining. I know that I possibly only have moments to get going, that the upper brothers are surely moving in this direction, but my body doesn’t seem to want to respond. Only moments later my decision is made for me.
Like two great phantoms melting silently out of the scrub they arrive. Despite my exhaustion, I am truly impressed by the size and fluidity of the two upper brothers. Streen as a species live in a strict caste system, all brothers. It’s common knowledge that the system is diverse and each niche is filled with a particular type of brother, though actual specifics of the other castes are not well known to anyone save the streen themselves. They are a very open, yet also a very cloistered, private race. Of all the castes, the pursuit caste is considered the most powerful, the best of the streen, or so the rest of galactic society is led to believe. For the pursuit caste there are two divisions, lesser and upper. Never before had I laid eyes upon an upper brother of the streen pursuit caste.
If the lesser brothers were impressive, then the two specimens whom stood before me were awesome in comparison. The pair of upper brothers spread out in front of me, one to the left the other to the right both performing a seamless flanking maneuver. Together, they moved as a well lubricated machine might.
Slowly I stand and move up and out a single step from the edge of the gully. Silently I decide that though utterly spent physically and mentally, if I am to meet my doom upon this world whose name remains unknown to me, I may as well do so standing. Even though the situation seems hopeless, I am determined not to be daunted.
After all, I had attempted to subvert the entire galactic empire, how could dealing with two upper brothers of the streen compare to that. But in the end, I had failed in my attempt. I had played with fire and been burned. Perhaps it was time to answer for what the galactic empire had called my crimes, perhaps, but perhaps not. I still know a few things that the streen upper brother or no don’t. Maybe, just maybe I could still put a bit of shock into these two upper brother’s imperturbable lives.

After emerging from the brush, Upper Brother One stops with the human directly in front of him sitting in a small gully. He instructs his fellow upper brother to do the same. With his eyes never leaving the human prey, Upper Brother One says in a clipped, deeply slurred voice in the archaic visceral language of the prey, “human, do you understand your situation?”
The human prey rises slowly, methodically. The upper brother notes the fatigue evident upon this prey. The upper brother also notes the lack of fear. Yes, there is some fear present as all prey must feel when confronted by an apex predator, but the usual gut wrenching fear which the streen can very nearly taste is absent. Upper Brother One finds this most curious.
The human prey, now standing, replies purposefully, “more than you think.”
The upper brother opens his maw to again speak in the archaic human language but abruptly snaps it shut again. The human prey had responded, but its lips had never moved and yet the reply had been clear. Truly, since the human had stood across the small gully, he had been completely tranquil, remaining motionless. What was this madness?
Upper Brother One asks tentatively, “What did you say?” This time, however, the upper brother uses his nonverbal telepathic voice.
Still standing stock still, facing both streen, the human prey again replies, “more than you, Upper Brother One, could possibly think.”
Involuntarily, Upper Brother One swivels his great head to stare wide eyed at Upper Brother Two only to find his fellow streen gazing back at him also in unadulterated shock.
Quickly, the streen regains his composure and turns his predatory gaze back upon the human prey. The human still stands across the small gully, lightly swaying from fatigue, but otherwise appears nonplussed by the encounter thus far.
Once more Upper Brother One addresses the human prey in the silent tongue of the streen, “you speak our language?” Then, after a slight hesitation the upper brother adds, “As we speak it?”
“Yes,” replies the human prey.
“You have had this ability from the beginning?”
Upper Brother One again finds himself staring in shock at his fellow streen. That this human speaks the language of the streen can only be evidence that this prey is truly and exceptional specimen. Looking at the dead lower brother, this revelation explains much. How else could a mere human have smuggled contraband into the tightly controlled boundaries of a sentence hunt.
Upper Brother One had been immediately aware of the shiner dangling loosely in the human’s grip the moment the two upper brothers arrived at the scene. Even with the aid of their language and a weapon, Upper Brother One still finds the deaths of the lower brothers nearly unbelievable. And yet lying quite dead between the two upper brothers and the human prey is none other than Lesser Brother One. This prey is apparently no mere human. Upper Brother One shares this revelation with his fellow streen.
“I don’t think of myself as a mere human,” unerringly adds the human prey further startling both streen. Upper Brother One is not accustomed to editing his words for the deference of those not of his species. But clearly the upper brother must be more mindful of his conversations from this point on.
Upper Brother One half turns and loudly huffs at his fellow streen who is again physically demonstrating his shock by staring with all three eyes wide at the leader of his podlet.
“What then, human, do you think of yourself as if not merely human?”
The human prey looks away momentarily and Upper Brother One is suddenly aware of a sensation that floods the local gestalt that is undeniably not streen. It is a gentle, yet persistent thing, this alien emotion that languishes within the streen’s connection carrying a strange and subtly powerful flavor. Had Upper Brother One been made to guess at the meaning of this strange unknown feeling, he would have called it reluctance or perhaps anguish or more properly perhaps a blending of the two.
The human prey again looks up his face clearly awash with emotion. The reading of human emotional responses has always been a cursory thing at best for Upper Brother One. He has often wondered if the ancient human who coined the famous euphemism, ‘the thing about aliens is, their alien,’ was aware that the meaning went both ways.
“I don’t consider myself to be human at all anymore. I prefer to think of myself as the Vicissitate.” After saying this, the human prey laughs, pauses, and then adds, “I’m not really like them you know, people I mean. I look like them, my parents were after all on hundred percent human. I eat like them, I walk, and talk and drink like them. I sometime even enjoy their company. But, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t think anything like them anymore.”
The human pauses again, this time looking pointedly at the ground then adds, “I wish things were different. I can hear their thoughts, the ones on the surface anyway. And I have come to believe that this is where most of mankind’s evil lies. Not necessarily deep down, but just under the surface, easily within reach.”
“These bad thoughts are the most accessible.” The human preys head comes back up as he smacks his double fist soundly into his midsection. “Deep down, in their miserable cores they know the difference between right and wrong. But nobody is willing to do what’s right any longer. The things that come out of people’s mouths are nothing but lip service. It is my great curse that I can hear what they really think.”
“Always I hear their thoughts. And what I hear most often makes me sick. The only difference between the people in power and the people that are daily ground beneath their boot heels is their station in life. Switch places between the two and nothing changes save for the individuals perpetrating the crimes. It is my opinion that mankind as a race is not very nice.”
“That is why I have forsaken my humanity. I call myself the Vicissitate because I can no longer bear to think of myself as a human being.”
“Vicissitate,” interjects Upper Brother One. “I am unfamiliar with that term, please define?”
“Vicissitate is a concocted derivative of the word vicissitude. Vicissitude is defined as natural change or mutation visible in nature or in human affairs. The name just seems to fit.”
“How did you find yourself to be the object of a sentence hunt? You are not the typical prey.”
The Vicissitate laughs mechanically, perhaps humorlessly muses Upper Brother One. “Ah, but that plays to the second part of the definition, changes in human affairs. Can you not see my fine upper brother? I attempted to change that very thing.”
“I spoke before of being able to hear surface thoughts. I can also feel a person’s pain, or even a group’s for that matter. The former can be difficult but tolerable; the prior is very nearly unbearable at the best of times. When people are suffering, they leak emotion, especially the innocent. It is as if that’s all they have left at the end, just before death’s door closes. Before they die, every one of them cries out, some physically, all telepathically.”
“Unfortunately for me,” says the Vicissitate as he works his mouth into something that could only be a human sneer, some emotions Upper Brother One can easily decipher. “I seem to be able to hear every one of them whether I want to or not. I don’t consider myself to be better that the rest of humanity, just different. In the past, I thought of my abilities as gifts. I have since come to regard them as a curse.”
“Vicissitate, would you mind telling your story?” asks Upper Brother One quietly for even when speaking without words using the language of thought there are volumes.
The Vicissitate sighs, a ragged comprehensive sound releasing some, if not most, of the weight carried upon those narrow humanoid shoulders.
Then, the Vicissitate came clean. He told the streen of how he had begun working in the government, first local, then galactic. He told the upper brothers of how he had watched as the current galactic magistrate had put down one rebellion after another, humanity tossed aside as if so much refuse.
Most of the military crackdowns were ruses if not outright lies. The galactic magistrate and his ilk seemed to be as paranoid as they were cruel. All the while the Vicissitate had felt the cry of anguish and looked into the minds that brought about that pain only to see the heartlessness therein.
He told the two streen of the scheme he had hatched to overthrow the magistrate from within. The Vicissitate, it seems, possesses a powerfully flexible telekinetic mind. He learned that he had the power to shape men’s minds and bend their will to his own. Sometimes the Vicissitate did this unscrupulous deed with great subtlety, sometimes with no subtlety at all.
But in the end, the Vicissitate had been caught. He was but one individual pitting himself against the entirety of the galactic government, a thing so bloated and powerful that it could rightly be considered an entity itself. The Vicissitate fell victim to the very paranoia for which he had so much scorn. He had then been tried and summarily found guilty then condemned to death by sentence hunt.
“For the most part,” continues the Vicissitate, “nothing really changed. Those that realize something is amiss aren’t around long enough to do something about it. If anyone does realize what’s going on and does voice their concern, then they disappear even quicker.” The Vicissitate looks pointedly at Upper Brother One and says, “I daresay that the magistrate has kept the streen quite busy of late.”
He shakes his head and continues, “Honestly, I was never more than a minor nuisance. Now I’m even less than that, unless…”
Upper Brother One is versed enough in human semantics to realize that the sentence had been left hanging for a reason. The streen also thinks, though he can’t be sure, that the Vicissitate is waiting expectantly for him to answer.
Upper Brother One inhales deeply and adds quietly, “Unless we join your cause?”
“The we being?” asks the Vicissitate, eyebrow arched.
“The we being the streen,” answers Upper Brother One.
“I have long suspected hat the streen feel about the galactic magistrate as I do,” begins the Vicissitate but Upper Brother One cuts him off.
“Perhaps,” the upper brother adds, “but for one so attuned to the horrors of violence, I find my podlet short three lesser brothers.”
The Vicissitate straightens noticeably and sighs, “For that I apologize. The killing of the brothers may seem like simply hypocrisy on my part, but I assure you it is not. After I was sentenced to this hunt, I knew that I would probably perish before it was concluded.”
“Even though that eventuality may come as something of a relief at this point, I saw in the streen a way to possibly continue with my original plan.”
“You and the rest of the streen are used for dispensing justice mainly because while the magistrate and his government know full well that you are incontrovertible; they also know that no group other than those controlled by the magistrate can use you in any way against them.”
“Vicissitate, is that not what you are also attempting to do?”
“No,” says the Vicissitate with a mental voice laced with iron. “All that I wish is to give you the facts. Whether you or any other streen take up my cause that I have presented you with in my name or any other will be left solely up to you and your fellow streen.”
“That statement is truer than you could possibly know,” answers Upper Brother One. “The question, however, of how one so sensitive to violence could act in such a way as you have on this sentence hunt remains unanswered.”
Again the Vicissitate sighs. “I knew before, when I was simply the human prey of a sentence hunt, that I could not possibly meet you as an equal. I also knew that I had to make a statement, of sorts. In a sentence hunt, I could think of but one method to facilitate that statement.”
“I decided to make my statement by killing as many streen as possible before I myself was killed. When I came to this resolution, it gave me clarity of purpose. I was able to put aside the suffering whether it was from me or anyone else.”
“Truly,” replies Upper Brother One, “this hunt was memorable even before my brothers met their demise.”

“Truly,” I repeat. Every since my transfer vehicle had landed and spat me out upon this world I had fled. I had thought of nothing save the sentence hunt, for what must be three days I ran. When terrain allowed I would slow to a walk and doze slightly never breaking stride. Exhaustion became my constant unwelcome companion. Even now whole muscle groups nearly constantly break into minor shudders that would instantly erupt into debilitating tremors and cramps were my mind not locking them down tight. Soon, soon I will give out, body and mind, but not yet. As of late, such thoughts had become an unspoken mantra.
I’m snapped out of my reverie by a concise remark from Upper Brother One.
“We must confer,” says the streen and before I can answer he trots deliberately over to his silent companion. Then, standing nose to nose, hindquarters facing straight away from one another, the two upper brothers touch foreheads. Though I can hear nothing with my inner or outer ears, it is obvious that the two streen are communicating. I wait patiently, quietly suffering the silence with far more serenity than I feel never once allowing myself even the slightest hope that either will consider my offer.
The two streen suddenly break their strange contact and both trot up to the very edge of the shallow gully. Upper Brother One says, “Vicissitate, we have conferred.”
“You may call me Aaron. That’s my human name, Aaron Watters.”
“That no longer matters,” continues the upper brother. “You were right in your supposition that the onus of the streen involvement in your plan is left up to me. I am next in line to lead the streen. Very soon I will become BROTHER and Upper Brother Two will become my consort.”
Involuntarily, I closed my eyes against Upper Brother One’s pronunciation of the title BROTHER. The mental shout rang inside my head as if I had been standing within a ringing bell.
I ask, “What exactly does that mean?”
“In human equivalents, I will become the supreme leader, king if you will, of all streen. My decisions will not be unilateral, for that is not the way of the streen, but for all practical purposes the streen will follow my leadership either into prosperity or failure.”
“There is, however, a way for the streen, all streen, to tenaciously embark upon this plan of yours with both heart and soul. The streen would either become the governing body of the known galaxy or perish in the attempt. But, in order for the streen to join your path, a sacrifice must be made.”
“What type of sacrifice?” I ask.
“Of you,” Upper Brother One replies matter-of-factly.
“But,” I ask, “Why would you be willing to do this? It has to represent a horrible risk for the streen.”
“We too hear the anguish as you call it,” Upper Brother One laments. “It pours from the innocent much like water from a cracked urn. We also see how the streen are used and the value, or lack thereof, that the current human government places upon us.”
“You were right earlier to equate the streen with justice. Unnecessary brutality is a thing that is foreign to the streen. We would seek to undo what has been done by the current galactic government. In short, we do not feel that the magistrate or his minions is fit to lead. The streen would govern fairly, in a galaxy where its citizens are equal.”
I dare to breath, realizing that I have been holding my breath. I say, “Equality, it seems to me, would be somewhat foreign to the streen given that you have a hive-like society.”
“In the world of the streen, everyone had a voice. Though some are louder than others, all are heard,” replies Upper Brother One. “No individual is discounted, from this solidarity the streen achieve unity.”
“Still, to risk your entire race upon an idea of justice is a venerable, yet terrifying thought. But, I suppose the streen will have to make a stand eventually,” I continue.
“It is only a matter of time until the magistrate sees us for the threat we truly are and decides to eradicate the streen once and for all. Have you not risked the same? For the same reasons?” queries Upper Brother One.
“Yes, but with me it is just that, me. I don’t have an entire race to think about.”
“Are you not the sole Vicissitate?”
“As I told you before, my name is Aaron and whether I like it or not I’m still genetically human.”
Upper Brother One counters, “I believe that you were correct the first time. Though spawned from the genome of man, I believe that you are singular beneath the stars. You were given the name of Aaron upon birth, but you have always been the Vicissitate.”
“But that also no longer matters, what I propose is to make you streen. With your aid, all streen will rally to your cause which in essence is ours as well, just perhaps viewed from a different perspective. The cause of the Vicissitate will become the cause of the streen.”
“What will I have to give up?”
“Everything,” responds Upper Brother One.
I stand there, so close to fulfilling my goal but the only emotion that I seem to be able to manage is fatigue. My shoulders slump as I suddenly feel so very, very tired. I drop the shiner into the gully and instantly Upper Brother One is upon me.
With one paw he gently cups my face, the other cradling the back of my head. I do not resist.
Upper Brother One says soothingly his great maw never moving, “I will take from you everything that makes you who you are. Through me, I will give this essence to the streen, not one or some, but all streen that live.”
“All of them?”
“Will it hurt?” I ask.
“Initially there will be pain. This is necessary part of the transferral process. The pain will open you up, in a sense, giving me a mental conduit with which to extract your essence.”
“But after the initial discomfort will follow another sensation, which cannot be described in language, ours or yours. With this second sensation, there will be no pain.”
“I am ready,” I say taking a full deep breath and swallowing hard.
As one, all six of Upper Brother One’s claws unsheathe and sink into my face, scalp and neck. I scream as I’ve never screamed before, but the pain is but a sharp spike of white hot agony that ends almost as quickly as it begins.
I sense that my eyes have closed, but somehow I can still see. What I behold leaves me in awe. It is as if I am deep within myself looking up at a huge vortex. All of the information, the essence Upper Brother One had called it, is flowing up and out of my body. The vortex builds, surging, dragging effortlessly all my hopes, dreams, conquests failures and triumphs, everything that makes me who and what I am is leaving forever.
I wait in this out-of-time existence for the last of my essence to leave and for the sense of loss that will surely come followed by the cold touch of oblivion. However, I feel neither loss nor anything at all. I observe the vortex, and then there is no me anymore. All that exists now is essence flowing outward into the cosmos. Traveling on an exotic new path, seeking alien minds to merge and blend with, and to finally unite a society as one under a banner of righteous justice. The sacrifice has been made.

Enter into the great galactic government know only as the Vicissitate. Anarchy and strife will not be present. What will be found will be a thriving diverse society that has know peace and profit since it’s bloody inspection approximately a thousand years ago.
Travel to the House of BROTHER, which is the capital of the Vicissitate and discover a statue standing tall in the small garden built directly in front of the building. The statue is of a human male, a man. It is said to be of life size proportions.
This statue itself is not overly intimidating, but average for a human. It stands with a somewhat pensive look carved upon its face, back straight with both hands crossed in front, over his heart.
This statue is composed of a metal that is said to sparkle with a rosette of colors when light strikes its smooth surface. Below the statue, located on a small square stand, is a simple inscription. The inscription reads: Other Brother One, Founder of the Vicissitate.