Erebus (Part 4 of Surfers)

[Estimated reading time: 29 minutes]

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Erebus gets a lot of sleep these days. Every morning he wakes up, performs the morning cleaning rituals, re-fluffs the bed, does the three legally-mandated laps in the courtyard, then reads the news. The front page is always the same, so Erebus ignores it: "TRIAL OF THE GALAXY" has a nice ring to it, someone decided a while back, and that is what is usually on the front.

After the news, he takes a long nap. The prison is state of the art, of course, for its unique guest, and for a change Erebus is happy to be sleeping on a flea-less and heated pad. The last weeks of the rebellion were spent shivering in dilapidated buildings and the associated squalor and nastiness of communal living. Escaping the death squads was secondary to getting good sleep, at least in the minds of some.

After lunch and an outside jog, the giant show-guards come and escort Erebus to the courthouse. The prison was built over the course of a week and attached to the courthouse by a see-through tunnel of thick glass. The guards plod along on either side of Erebus and manage to block out the views to either side of him. They're twice as tall as Erebus, each of their paws are as big as his face.

In the tunnel, they talk at Erebus in long sentences mostly composed of swears and idiomatic expressions that all mean pretty much the same thing: "dead asshole walking, step back, dead asshole walking".

They stop talking once the tunnel doors open and reveal a throng of press on the other side. Then it's a short jaunt to the court room. Erebus only hears a handful of curses fly in his direction. Today, it seems, the judge has the courtroom in control once again. Erebus' side still hurts from an attack last week. He still winces when stepping up or down. Thankfully, the entire walk from the prison cell to the courthouse are entirely flat.

Erebus is lead into the defendant corner and is locked in. Out of habit, Erebus wags his tail and turns around once. As he does so, his tail hits the invisible barrier of the booth and a mild shock goes through Erebus. Satisfied that he is locked away, Erebus lies down on the too-small pad and closes his eyes.

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Esteban (Part 3 of Surfers)

[Estimated reading time: 15 minutes]

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Brother Esteban looks up from the book in front of him and lets his eyes wander over the scenery. Forested mountains run roughly east to west here, and Esteban is looking at the ridge-line from the south. Rivers descend from the snow-covered peaks into the forests and run mile after mile, winding this way and that, and disappear from view in the bosoms of the mountains.

Brother Esteban's book lies in front of him, on the table, and it is surrounded by the books of the other Brothers. They sit at a long table on the roof of the monastery and read. It's a cloud-free day, so Brother Esteban's hood is up over his clean-shaven head, the brown material is very warm from the sitting out in the sun.

Esteban takes out a small mirror, holds it in front of himself and plays with it. His fingers toss the mirror around, flip it across knuckles, spin it. Esteban faces his book, but his eyes follow the mirror. After a few seconds, his hand pauses its fidgeting and Esteban holds it still for a breath, a second, a third.

The mirror is trained on a non-assuming spot in the sky, and Esteban squints, wills his eyes to see and his brain to understand.

A handful of blink-and-you-miss-it flashes come from the non-assuming spot in the sky.

Brother Esteban counts the flashes and eyes Brother Darius, then starts again to fidget with the mirror, turns a page in his book. The book is a treatise on river frogs, and seems (to Brother Esteban) to have been scrapped together by frauds who had little understanding of frogs, had likely only seen one from a distance. But the book came in on the weekly supply run, and of course he needed to read it. Through inference and the obviously fake species names, Esteban has been able to conclude that this tome was written by a duo of siblings who-

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