The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 9 – Revised
(So far, the revised version of part one of this science fiction story is much the same. But there are a few important differences, so please don’t be tempted to read the unrevised novella version. Just keep stopping by here every Saturday for the Kavakian Empire Part One.)
The door slid open and J.D. stepped into the empty tran-car. “Docking bay.” When the door closed, he stretched his mouth into a wide yawn. A tingling sensation spread over him. He held his breath at the height of the yawn, trying to hold on to the revitalizing feeling, but the heaviness of fatigue rolled quickly back in.
Having two security officers keep guard inside his quarters overnight hadn’t alleviated the anxiety of having the Tredon boy there. It wasn’t that he was afraid. Uneasy, maybe. Wary. Perhaps even a little bit concerned. But mostly confused.
He massaged his eyes and brows to alleviate his fatigue and stimulate his brain cells. Jori was an enigma. One moment the boy was making snide remarks. The next, he was nearly in tears over his brother. And when his eyes dried up, his face went back to the same blank expression as though nothing had happened.
A chill went down his spine. Was he truly upset? Or was it just an act to put me off guard? He’d tried to learn more. He asked Jori more questions, simple questions such as what his brother’s name was. But the boy didn’t speak another word for the rest of their time together. It was like he was operating on autopilot—or maybe contemplating some devious plot.
He gave himself a slight shake to ward off the unease. It wasn’t something he needed to worry about right now. The guards had escorted Jori to visit his brother again. He was getting a break while he attended his duties.
The tran-car opened at the front end of the docking bay. He pulled his shoulders back and made his way to the back transport area where the crashed Tredon ship had been brought.
“Has anyone found anything?” he asked the leading officer on duty.
The man straightened and stood respectfully. “We’ve finally gotten some recordings from the cockpit, Commander,” he said. “They don’t tell us much, but there is something odd.”
“Odd? Odd how?”
“Well, Sir. The older boy was the pilot. He was the one who executed the skimming maneuver.” J.D. raised his eyebrows. “And he was also in charge.”
He jerked his head back. “In charge? Are you sure?”
“It seems that way, Sir. Here. See for yourself.”
The officer led him to a viewscreen and played a fuzzy recording with disjointed sound.
It was difficult to see the faces through the static and missing pixels, but the boys’ statures were easy enough to distinguish.
His stomach fluttered. Sure enough, the eldest boy was operating the flight controls. And although the sound was muddled, he thought he heard one of the men call him sir.
“Can you enhance the audio?”
“This is the best I could do, Sir. I tried everything.”
“So there’s no indication of what the Grapnes were after?”
“I did manage to pull the incoming communications recordings, Sir. The sound is just as bad, but Lt. Rorna can read lips. The Grapne simply demanded surrender. That’s all.”
So Jori was telling the truth about that.
“I also found an outgoing communication, Sir,” the officer said.
He tapped on the screen and the message played out loud. ‘We have acquired some supplies as well as the information you wanted about the scientists, Father. We are returning home now and should arrive in half a period.’
He rubbed his chin. There was no visual, but the voice sounded like it could be the older boy. The tone was formal, as though he was talking to a superior officer, but he called the man father. Perhaps his father was a captain or a major belonging to one of the Tredon warlords. It would explain why a boy was in charge. “That’s rather vague,” he said. “Any other outgoing messages?”
“Just a basic request to dock at the Depnaugh Station, Sir. I’m sorry.”
“Any other records that explain anything about these scientists?”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. I will take this to the captain. Is there anything else of importance?”
“Nothing that seemed significant,” the officer replied. “But you might find the crash video of the cockpit interesting. It shows why only the boys survived.”
The officer played another video. Although this recording was worse, he could see enough. Goosebumps prickled his skin. The men yanked both boys away from the cockpit window. Then they pulled them down and shielded them with their bodies.
His own instinct would be to protect children, but these were Tredons—by all accounts, loudmouthed, aggressive, bloodthirsty warriors. This selfless act that put their own lives at risk was surprising, to say the least.
J.D.’s stomach roiled. He had hardly any useful information to pass on. Some commander he was. He might as well be a petty officer for all the value he’d contributed to this ship so far.
He sucked in his breath and stood up straight as he entered the captain’s ready room. Captain Robert Arden gave him a slight nod and tilted his head towards an empty chair at the table where Lt. Jenna Stein and Lt. Commander Bracht were already waiting.
“Report,” the captain said. His voice sounded terse and his eyes were hard.
He resisted the urge to swallow. The captain was always this austere. It didn’t mean anything. At least he hoped it didn’t. It was just the captain’s way. “I’ve just sent you a detailed report of yesterday’s events. But here’s the highlights.”
He briefly related his conversations with Jori. And just to show he was trying to be thorough in his job, he also gave an overview of the information from the crashed ship, a report the captain had no doubt already received.
“So the boy didn’t know what the Grapnes wanted either?”
“I wouldn’t say he didn’t know, Sir. He said the Grapnes didn’t tell them what they wanted, and this seems to be true. But he’s not very forthcoming in information. There’s still a possibility that he knows but doesn’t want to say.” He held his breath, expecting the captain to chastise him for not making the boy give him more information.
The captain tapped his bottom lip with his index finger. “The message about the scientists sounds concerning. Perhaps it has something to do with what the Grapnes were after. Ask him more about this. Be persistent but gentle.”
He nodded and softly let out his breath.
“If the still refuses to say anything, I will consider getting Liam involved,” the captain added.
Liam. He felt a twang in his gut at the thought of what the man could do. But his methods weren’t harmful. And they were sound. “I will try, Captain,” he replied. “But I’m not sure if I can get Jori to reveal anything.”
“Is he giving you trouble?”
“No, actually. It hasn’t been too bad.” Frustrating, yes. But not bad. “He just isn’t very talkative.”
“That’s understandable, considering his situation,” the captain replied. “I’m sure it will take a little time for him to warm up to you.”
“Thank you, Sir,” he said. “But it’s not that he’s shy. He’s not a timid child at all. He’s guarded, yes, but he also seems to be very self-possessed. And he’s highly intelligent. He seemed to know a lot about our engine room functions. And he even beat me at Schemster.”
“He beat you?” The captain’s brow furrowed. Jenna’s eyebrows went up. Bracht’s frown deepened. No one else on the ship had been able to outplay him.
“Yes, Sir. I admit, however, that I wasn’t taking the game seriously. I won the second time, but just barely.”
“Impressive.” The captain steepled his fingers under his chin.
“Yes, Sir. He seems rather mature for his age as well. It’s a mistake to think of him as an ordinary child. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the son of some high ranking warlord or something.”
“I knew he was dangerous,” Bracht said.
“I agree with your assessment,” Lt. Jenna Stein said to him. “If he be of high rank, his intelligence may be because of enhanced genes.”
“How’s that?” the captain asked. “I thought the Tredons had also stopped the genetic enhancements after the Gene wars.”
“Careful breeding,” Jenna replied. “These past hundred years or so, the Tredon warlords only be procreating with women who carry enhanced genes, which be why there was nothing in his medical assessment to indicate genetic modification.”
“Leave it to the Tredons to find a way to cheat,” Bracht added.
“Select breeding is not against the law, however,” Captain Arden said. “But it’s something we should take into account regarding security. We don’t know what genetic abilities he’s inherited.”
“Yes, Sir,” Bracht replied. “I suggest we strictly limit his access to only the common areas of the ship. No more visits to the engine room.”
“I agree.” Turning to J.D., the captain added, “There is something else I need you to try and talk to him about. Dr. Jerom found a lot of bone reconstructions in both of the boys.”
“I have many myself,” Bracht said. “It’s probably just a result of training.”
“No. There are so many, it is beyond concerning. I would say it’s alarming, in fact—especially when you consider how young they are.”
His skin crawled and his stomach knotted.
“You think they be abused?” Jenna asked, echoing what he was thinking.
“Even if they were, what can we do about it?” he added.
“Yes, Lt.,” the captain said to Jenna. “I think they’ve been abused. Dr. Jerom was hard pressed to find bones that hadn’t ever been broken. Those that were, were broken at different times, which rules out the possibility that they were involved in a single cataclysmic event.”
Nausea rolled around in his gut.
Jenna frowned deeply. “I suppose it not be surprising.”
“I know there is not much we can do about it,” Captain Arden said, “but I feel we should ask and do what we can for them while they are here.”
“I’ll talk to him,” he said.
“And see if you can find out who we can contact in order to get them home.”
“Thank you,” Captain Arden said to the group. “That’s all I have for now.”
J.D.’s fatigue was gone. He felt good as he jaunted towards sick bay to meet Jori.
However severe Captain Arden’s looks seemed to be, the man was nothing like Rear Admiral Zimmer. This meeting would have gone much differently if Zimmer had been in charge. He would have been scolded and the man probably would have ordered him to use more force with the Tredon boy.
Although Jori was considered his enemy, and even though the boy frustrated him, there was no way he’d hurt him—no matter what his orders were. It would be the Kimpke incident all over again. And his career would be over for sure this time.
“Where’s Jori?” he asked one of the security officers guarding the other boy.
“I believe he went to the gymnasium, Sir.”
Maybe I can get Jori to play a game of wall ball or something. It could be a way to get him to open up a little.
He went to his quarters and changed his clothes. Then as he headed towards the gym he hummed a happy tune from his homeland. He really needed to stop worrying about his status here. After all, Captain Arden had requested him as his second in command despite the Kimpke incident. This had to be a good thing.
The gymnasium was a big place. Weight machines were in one area, cardio machines in another. There were various courts sectioned off along the edges of the gym. Some could be used for a variety of sport games while others were for more specific activities such as gymnastics or martial arts.
He expected to find Jori in the martial area. Lt. Rik Gresher was teaching a class there, but Jori wasn’t around. After walking around the gym’s track, he finally found the boy working out in one of the holo-stations.
A dozen officers surrounded the area, watching and whispering. When he peaked between them, he could see why. The holo-station made a realistic cracking sound as Jori’s staff smacked the side of a holo-man that was made to be about Joir’s height. Another short holo-man appeared behind him, but he reacted quickly, swinging his staff around and taking the holo-man’s feet out from under him. The boy jabbed the end of his staff into the holo-man’s chest. It disappeared and another holo-man appeared.
Jori moved faster than he could believe, and with astounding precision. He felt his blood run cold as holo-man after holo-man fell to its virtual death. Even without a phaser or the strength of a man, the boy had the potential to be deadly. It made his own martial skill look pathetic in comparison. Probably best not to let him know this.
The last holo-man disappeared. The boy froze in an offensive stance, as though waiting for more. His face was red. Sweat dripped from his brow and his chin. And he breathed heavily.
“You think you’re something, doing you?” someone said.
What the heck? He glanced at the four security officers.
The newly promoted Mik Calloway stood with his arms folded and his lips curled in a sneer. “But you’re nothing but a slant-eyed space-thug.”
Jori straightened. His face turned a darker red and he bared his teeth. J.D. imagined his own face was just as red. He clenched his jaw as a swelling heat surged throughout his body.
“Lt. Calloway!” He quickly pushed through the group of onlookers and planted himself directly between the officer and the boy. His nose was inches away from Calloway’s. “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Calloway went white. “Nothing, S—“
“Nothing? Nothing! Your job is to guard, not shoot your mouth off.” His blood was boiling.
“But he’s a murderous—”
“He’s a guest on this ship! Were you not told to be civil?”
Rather than appear chastised, the man scowled darkly. At least he wasn’t stupid enough to try and make another excuse. There was none.
“Don’t let me hear another harsh word come out of your mouth again.” He glared at the man until he looked away. He didn’t look down, as someone ashamed might do.
I knew I shouldn’t have allowed this man to be promoted. “Rest assured, this behavior will not go unmarked. I will speak to you about this later.” After he cooled down. And in private. Reprimanding an officer in public was not something he did. It was something Zimmer would do, but not him.
He stood there for a few moments longer before finally turning to Jori. He half-expected to see the same angry look on the boy as before. But it was gone. Jori stood in an at-ease stance with an emotionless cold look on his face.
I’d love to hear some constructive criticism. Please leave a comment below. Praise would be most welcome as well.
(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright February, 2016 by Dawn Ross
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