Archive for April, 2016

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 12 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 12 – Revised

(Here is another completely new chapter that wasn’t in the original version of part one of this science fiction novella. Remember, the revised version has a lot of similarities to the original, but the story has changed. So don’t be tempted to read the unrevised version.)

“I certainly have a better understanding of what you mean,” the captain said when Jori left with the guards to go and see his brother.

“Regarding?” J.D. asked as he sat down at the table in front of him.

“His apparent level of maturity. His attitude. And how unsettling his manners are.”

He made a half-smile in reply. Maybe Captain Arden had thought he wasn’t doing his job, or maybe he just wanted to see for himself. Either way, now the man had a better understanding of what he had to contend with.

He still hadn’t figured Jori out. And he still hadn’t decided on how he really felt about the boy. His jaw hurt from grinding his teeth so much and he’d probably sighed in frustration more often in these past thirty-six hours than he had in his entire life. But so far it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

“Now that we’ve spoken to him, what do you think about this new development?” the captain asked regarding the murder claim.

“I still don’t think he’s murdered anyone,” he said without hesitation. “He looked honestly appalled at the thought of being accused of murder.”

“Agreed,” the captain replied. “Though there’s still a chance he could be lying.”

“Honestly, Sir, he’s made no attempt to lie so far. If he doesn’t want me to know something, he simply refused to speak.”

“Yes. I see what you mean.” The captain’s brow drew down. “I think he definitely knows what this is all about. He could have lied and made something up, as children tend to do. But he didn’t.”

He nodded in reply. “I believe he’s hiding something too, but I have no idea what it could be.” He set his chin in his hand and rubbed his jaw. He was getting used to its bareness now.

“It could be prejudice, as he said.”

J.D. put his hand down and straightened up in his chair. “Could be. I’ve read some of the horrific things that Tredons have done. And after hearing some callous remarks from our own people, it wouldn’t be a stretch for others to take their hatred further. And I imagine there’s a lot of people out there seeking revenge and children make easy marks.”

The captain nodded. “Disturbing, but true.” He sighed. “I’ve sent a message to the Depnaugh Space Station. Perhaps we will get more clarification.”

“In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to get Jori to open up.”

The captain nodded.

“May I make a suggestion, Sir?” he asked hesitantly.

“Of course,” the captain replied.

“A show of good faith, perhaps? While we’re waiting to find out more, we could still head towards the Chevert Outpost.” His heart began to pound. “You truly mean to get him back home, don’t you?” He hadn’t wanted to ask such a direct question, but he had to know for his own peace of mind.

The captain folded his hands and leaned forward with a direct stare. J.D. felt a lump in his throat. His heart raced in anticipation. Please don’t let this be another Kimpke Incident.

“I know you and I don’t know one another well yet,” the captain said calmly. “So let me assure you, I say what I mean.”

He resisted the urge to swallow. “Yes, Sir. I didn’t mean to accuse you otherwise.”

“Don’t apologize, Commander. Never apologize for trying to do what’s right.”

“Yes, Sir.”

*****

Commander Hapker left. Robert leaned back in his chair and sighed heavily. He wanted to believe the child. And despite not knowing Hapker well yet, he wanted to have faith in him as well. But he also had a responsibility to the safety of his crew.

He folded his arms and stared at the viewscreen without really looking at it. Murder was a very serious accusation, one that couldn’t be ignored. Captain Fargoza had been right about it taking weeks to file a warrant through the Alliance. What if the warrant was approved and the children were already back home? Then again, what if the child was right and the charge had been fabricated just for the sake of revenge?

He pinched his bottom lip. The only one who could give answers right now was the child—the child with a countenance just as hard and unyielding as any Tredon warrior he’d ever met. But was it the face of a murderer? His gut said no. But the child was definitely keeping something back.

Hapker might be able to get the information. But it didn’t seem likely that he’d be able to gain Jori’s trust any time soon. Could he afford to wait? So much could go wrong.

Robert sighed again. He sat up in his chair and checked his inbox for any new communications. There were none. Even waiting to hear back from the Depnaugh Space Station would take more time than he cared to give.

He ran his hand down his face. He had to do it. He had to use Liam.

Liam was a good man. But many people were uncomfortable with what he could do. They feared that even though he wasn’t supposed to use his skills without permission that he’d do it anyway and none would be the wiser.

Their fear was justifiable. Many like Liam had been convicted of just such a crime. It was an invasion, a violation of one’s rights. But the Prontaean Alliance used people like Liam anyway—for situations just like this where lives could be at risk.

He opened the communication link and tapped Liam’s name. A photo of an older man with an oblong face and pale leathery skin popped up on the screen. The ‘Contact’ button below the image stared at him.

He was within his rights to give Liam permission to use his skill, but he had to be careful. Was he using him just to satisfy his own curiosity, to solve this mystery? Or was there a real threat to security?

He rest his chin in one hand and tapped the table with the other. Liam was an easy solution. Too easy. Depending on such people to help make judgements was an easy trap to fall into. Was he ready?

There were other risks as well. He didn’t expect those risks to be a factor with the Tredon child, though. Still, they deserved consideration.

He tapped the screen. The photo disappeared and he was back to the main communications page. Let’s see what the Depnaugh Space Station has to say first.

 

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 March, 2016 by Dawn Ross

You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

 

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 11b – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 11b – Revised

(I wrote to chapter 18 and realized I almost forgot about Calloway. Oh, he’s in this story alright, but there is a huge gap between his first appearance and his second. So I thought it would be a good idea for me to insert another chapter with him in it. Luckily, even though I’ve currently written to chapter 18, I’ve only posted up to chapter 11. So I can slip Calloway in here just in the nick of time for all you. If you’re visiting here for the first time, go back and read chapters 1-11a of this science fiction novella. You can find them either by continuing to scroll down or by checking the categories in the column on the right.)

The volume in the lounge seemed louder when everyone at Mik’s table went silent as Shra approached with their drinks. She set each drink down with a friendly smile. His friends smiled and thanked her in return. He said nothing. After all, she was just doing her job. And he knew the wench didn’t like him anyway, so why waste the effort.

“Awe, come on, Mik,” Sindy said when Shra left. “You’re just saying that cause you got caught.” Her voice sliced through his eardrums. She was pretty enough, though her ass was a little bigger than he preferred. But the image of her rocking on top of him and shrilling like a limpkin turned him completely off.

He took a swig of his Wyndhill ale. He grimaced at the initial bitterness, then enjoyed the velvet sweetness that followed. “Y’all can’t tell me you didn’t want to say the same thing to that little slant-eyed monster.”

Frebt huffed from nostrils so big and wide that Mik could probably stick his big toes up in them. “Yeah, but we weren’t stupid enough to say it out loud.” The man slopped his non-alcoholic drink around as he spoke. Something about his body chemistry or some such sent him running to sick bay if he had more than a half glass. Poor bastard.

“And with the commander there, no less,” Bret added. He was the only one drinking wine.

The primmed up know-it-all thought he was better than everyone else here. But Mik needed a drink and didn’t care who he drank with.

“Come on,” he said, “I didn’t know he was there. Neither did any of you. Kinda messed up how he came to the little shit’s rescue and all, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” Frebt huffed out of his nostrils again.

Finally, someone’s on my side. “I mean, what’s up with this guy anyway?”

“It does seem odd that the captain would commission someone who was nearly discharged and jailed,” Bret said.

“I think he’s kinda cute,” Sindy said.

He rolled his eyes at her. “You only like his rank, which he’s damn lucky to have.”

“I hear he got really high marks at the institute. Top of his class.”

“Seriously?” Maybe Frebt wasn’t on his side after all. “His major is security. Can you imagine a Pholan Peacekeeper having any skills in combat? Those guys are the galactic pussies of law enforcement.”

Bret choked on his wine. Sandy cackled, not even noticing all the heads that had turned at her outburst. Frebt sucked in a loud breath through his wide toe-slotted nose.

“Don’t let the commander hear you say that one,” Sandy said, voice surprisingly low.

He harrumphed. “All I’m saying is he doesn’t belong here. And neither does that little Tredon monster.”

“Yeah, well even the Rabni seems to be going along with it,” Frebt said.

“Another oddity. I thought Rabnoshk warriors despised Tredons.” Usually Bret’s formal haughty tone annoyed him. This time, not so much.

“Hey chaps,” a boyish voice said. It was big-eared Vigan. Short and creepy-looking Vigan. “Did you hear?”

“Hear what?” he and Frebt said at the same time, only his own tone was more annoyed. Either the nosy little munchkin overheard them talking, not good, or he had used his diminutive height to sneak close-by.

Vigan leaned in and lowered his voice. “Those Tredons we took on board … They’re wanted for murder.”

He scoffed. “Of course they are. Aren’t they all?”

“No. I mean there’s a warrant and everything.”

Mik’s annoyance slipped away, replaced by interest. Frebt and Sindy goaded the little man for more details. Vigan smiled as he spoke, as though enjoying all the sudden attention. He told them all about the ship they’d encountered and about how the warrant was for the Tredon boys.

“No friggin way,” Sindy said loudly.

“I can’t believe the little shit is still allowed to walk around freely,” he added.

“If this is true,” Bret said, ever the pragmatic uppity bastard, “then why didn’t the captain turn them over?”

Vigan shrugged. “I didn’t hear that part.”

Mik slammed down his glass. A slop of ale splashed his hand. “This is going too far. We have to do something.”

“What can we do?” Frebt asked.

He let out an exasperated breath. “I don’t know yet. But we’ve got to do something.”

“Perhaps there is more to this than we know,” Bret said.

He twisted his mouth and scowled at the man. Uppity prig. “I know all I need to know about those fucking brutes. They killed two of my comrades during our first assignment out of the institute, and nearly killed me as well. And if you think that little runt wouldn’t kill any of us if he had half the chance, you’re a bunch of idiots.”

Bret said nothing. Neither did anyone else. The awkward silence lingered and his drink suddenly tasted sour. Just another fucking day ruined by that murderous slant-eyed space-thug. He had to do something. He didn’t know what yet. But he’d figure it out soon enough.

 

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 April, 2016 by Dawn Ross

You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 11 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 11 – Revised

(Here is another completely new chapter that wasn’t in the original version of part one of this science fiction novella. Remember, the revised version has a lot of similarities to the original, but the story has changed. So don’t be tempted to read the unrevised version.)

“What’s wrong?”

J.D. tilted his head. How does he know something’s wrong? He was tempted to answer that it was nothing, but honesty, or partial honesty anyway, was probably best. “Something’s come up and the captain wants to meet you.”

Jori’s mouth tightened, but otherwise his face was as emotionless as usual. He went willingly, for that he was grateful.

“Jori,” he said after they got on the tran-car. “I want you to know that I’m on your side. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but I truly want to help you.”

“And the captain? Does he want to help me too?”

He hesitated, but only for a moment. Captain Arden had done all the right things, but he had no way of knowing how the man really felt. Was he simply following rules, or did he really agree that handing Jori over to those space vultures was a bad idea?

“I think so,” he replied.

“You think so?” There was a little heat in the boy’s tone.

He sighed. “I’m fairly certain,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t know the man well yet. But everything he’s done and everything he’s said indicates he wants to help you too.”

“So this is about him wanting to help me? Or does he want something from me?” Jori sounded skeptical.

“It’s like I said, something’s come up. All he wants is a little more information than what you’ve given so far.” That, or he thinks I haven’t done my job so he’s doing it himself. His stomach twisted. “You can’t blame him. Wouldn’t you want to know more if you were in charge of a crew?”

Jori didn’t reply. He showed no emotion either—as usual. I hope I’m not scaring him. He touched Jori’s shoulder for a brief moment. “Just remember, I’m on your side.”

He expected the boy to make some sort of derision, but he remained silent and his face was unreadable.

Captain Arden was waiting for them in his ready room. He was surprised no one else was there. This was good. Too many people and Jori might get defensive. Perhaps the captain had heeded him.

“Welcome, young man,” the captain said. He was smiling when he put out his hand. “I am Captain Robert Arden.”

“Jori,” the boy replied. He looked at the hand with what might have been askance, but took it.

“Please, have a seat.” The captain gestured to one of the chairs.

“I’ll stand,” Jori replied without looking down at the chair.

J.D. clenched his jaw. Is he purposely being rude?

“Very well.” The captain sat down facing him and folded his hands on the table.

J.D. remained standing by Jori’s side.

“I want to personally welcome you aboard our ship,” the captain said.

Jori raised an eyebrow, but thankfully said nothing.

“I promise you’re safe here. And you have my word that we’ll do everything we can to help your brother.” Captain Arden sounded genuine. J.D. hoped he was. He was an Alliance officer and should be on his captain’s side. But shouldn’t Jori have an advocate?

“As though he were part of the Alliance?” Jori responded with a hint of skepticism in his tone.

“Yes,” the captain confirmed.

“Even though he is your enemy?”

“Yes. We treat everyone with equal care here.”

Jori seemed thoughtful, but it was difficult to tell. He still showed no emotion. And his stance was the usual formal at-ease stance.

“I’m sincerely sorry about the rest of your crew,” the captain added. “The crash was severe. You and your brother are very lucky to be alive.”

“Your arrival is part of the reason we are still alive, Captain,” Jori stated matter-of-factly. He didn’t sound grateful, but neither did he sound hostile. “Now can we get to the point? The commander said you wanted more information.”

J.D. resisted the urge to groan. So much for not being hostile. But the captain didn’t flinch. In fact, he had a neutral expression on his face as well. The two could have a contest to see who could be the most difficult to read.

“Very well,” the captain replied. He unclasped his hands and turned the small viewscreen on his desk around so Jori could see it. “We’ve encountered some very disturbing information and would like to hear your side of it.”

If there had been a contest, Jori would have lost. His face turned dark and his brows hooded over his glowering eyes. “It’s a lie,” he said. His nostrils flared. “We haven’t murdered anyone.”

“Can you tell me what did happen?” The captain’s tone was neutral. “Why they would say you murdered someone?”

“I assure you, Captain, that neither myself, my brother, nor any of our crew members committed any crimes on or near that space station.” The boy’s tone was hard and his eyes blazed.

“They must be after you for some reason.” It almost sounded like an accusation, but the captain’s tone was still calm.

“Prejudice, perhaps,” Jori said. He practically spit the words.

“Perhaps you acted in self-defense?” Captain Arden said.

Jori growled. J.D. put his hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright. You can tell us. We’re not turning you over to them no matter what.”

Jori jerked his shoulder away. “Then why do you want to know?”

“This is serious, Jori,” he replied sternly. He understood the hostility. He really did. But the boy’s attitude was getting to him.

Jori pursed his lips and inhaled deeply through his nostrils.

“Jori,” the captain said in politely. “We just need to know for security reasons and for our own peace of minds. Murder is a serious crime and I think we have a right to know if their claims are valid.”

“I told you, we’ve committed no crime. Not on Depnaugh and not with the Alliance.”

“I believe you. I really do,” Captain Arden said.

“And so do I,” J.D. added. He meant it, too. However hostile Jori was being right now, his reaction didn’t fit someone who was guilty. He seemed truly appalled by the accusation.

“But there’s something going on here, and it has me concerned,” the captain continued. “I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s going on.”

“If you knew, you wouldn’t help us.”

J.D.’s stomach did a flip. There was something to this, then. Maybe not murder, but something.

“I promise you, even if you or your brother did commit a crime as heinous—“

“We didn’t commit a crime,” the boy said loudly.

Captain Arden put up his hand. “If you did, if, it wouldn’t change what we’re doing to help your bother. And we aren’t going to harm you.”

“We did not kill anyone,” the boy said through gritted teeth. His tone was low and unnaturally calm. “We did not harm anyone. And we did not commit any crimes.”

The look on Captain Arden’s face didn’t change. He kept his eyes locked on the boy, perhaps in contemplation or maybe he was waiting to see if Jori would say more.

Jori stared back at him. He jutted his chin out with a determined stubbornness. His eyes still burned.

J.D.’s heart hammered in his chest. This boy is not making me look good.

Captain Arden broke the silence by taking a deep breath. “Very well,” he said. “Although I know there’s more to this than you want to admit, I do believe you. I won’t press you for now, but I will be looking into this.”

J.D thought he saw the boy flinch. The look on his face didn’t change, though. “And I suppose you don’t mean to let us go home, then. We are your prisoners.”

The captain’s eyebrows went up. “We have every intention of finding a way to get you home.”

“Every intention, which means there’s a chance you won’t.” The boy narrowed his eyes.

“I can’t give you a one-hundred percent guarantee if I don’t know what’s going on.”

“I see.” Jori pursed his lips. “So I’m stuck here until I tell you.”

The captain frowned slightly, but otherwise looked unperturbed. “That’s not what I meant. If you did murder someone, if,” he added, putting up his hand again, “and depending on the circumstances, you would have to answer for your crimes.”

“Unless they lie and make up evidence, you won’t find me or my brother guilty of any crimes.”

The captain made a slight nod. “So long this is the case, I will see that you get home safely. We don’t hold people against their will.”

The boy’s eyes seemed to weigh the captain’s words. His scowl faded.

“So far, though,” the captain added, “you haven’t told us how we can contact your parents.”

“All you have to do is get us to the Chevert Outpost,” the boy said. His tone was less hostile, but still assertive. I believe you’re headed in that general direction anyway.”

“I can’t leave you two to fend for yourselves,” the captain said. “Not with this warrant out there.”

“There’s a man there named Jax. He will protect us and get us home.”

“I’d prefer to get you directly to your parents.”

“Trust me, Captain. You don’t want to meet my father.”

A chill shivered down his back.

 

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 March, 2016 by Dawn Ross

You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

Sketches for Book Cover – Starfire Dragons

Posted in Book Art, Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , on April 9, 2016 by Dawn Ross

I have a basic idea for the book cover art for Part One of the Kavakian Empire: Starfire Dragons (Starfire Dragons is still a preliminary title unless I can come up with something better). The story opens up with a spaceship known as a Serpent being chased by another spaceship known as a Cougar. And the two ships are racing towards a blue-grey planet. So based on the descriptions I used in my story, here are the sketches of this scene.

Book Cover Part One Basic Sketch

The basic book cover art outline for Starfire Dragons, Part One of The Kavakian Empire.

Serpent Ship Sketch 2

The basic idea I have for the Serpent spaceship.

Cougar Ship Sketch 1

The basic idea I have for the Cougar spaceship.

My art sketches are really generic. Even though I am an artist, I really have no idea how to draw or paint a spaceship. So I have an artist that will be working on this for me.

What do you think?

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 10 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 10 – Revised

(You may have noticed I changed the name of this science fiction story. Edge of the Dragon’s Shadow seemed too long. And it sounded more like a fantasy than science fiction title. So how about Starfire Dragons instead? By the way, this is a completely new chapter that wasn’t in the original version of part one. Remember, the revised version has a lot of similarities, but the story has changed. So don’t be tempted to read the unrevised version.)

 

“Captain. We have a small ship with a trajectory on a direct intercept,” Lt. Triss Stever announced on the comm.

“On my way.” Robert blinked. His eyes were dry from reading his officers’ reports, and he rubbed them briskly before leaving his ready room.

On the bridge, Stever was already on her way back to her station at the helm. She had been in charge while he worked. She was a great officer, but didn’t have much experienced on the bridge. Lt. Stein, Commander J.D. Hapker, or Lt. Commander Bracht generally supervised when he was away. But Stein was on her scheduled rest time and both Bracht and Hapker had their hands full with security and the Tredon child.

Although the young boy had not caused much trouble, his own crewmen had. Lt. Junior Grade Mik Calloway’s reported behavior was disturbing. Normally, he wouldn’t allow his crew members to be disciplined so harshly. It reminded him of his previous commander, Frida Findlay, who was too much by the book. The disciplinary action that Hapker had taken, though heavy, was justly warranted. If the child had reacted hostilely to the remark, the already sensitive situation could have been made even more so.

His legs felt a little rubbery as he walked and there was a tingling in his upper back thighs, signs that he’d been sitting for too long. So after nodding to each of his crew members, he stood rather than sat.

“Commander,” he said into the comm, “Are you available for the bridge?”

“Yes, Sir,” Hapker replied, his voice made slightly deeper because of the comm. There was a way to make the comms more precise, but he’d found it unsettling to have it sound like the man was right here when he wasn’t.

“Should I open a channel to the ship, Captain?” Lt. Brenson asked.

“Let’s wait for them to contact us.”

“Yes, Sir.”

He reviewed the information on the viewscreen while he waited for Hapker to arrive. Their current distance provided very little about the ship, other than that it was small and a still few minutes away.

Hapker arrived quickly, probably grateful for an excuse to get away. Based on what he’d read in the man’s report, the child still hadn’t opened up and was uncomfortable to be around.

“Captain,” Hapker said as he stood next to him.

“We have a ship that looks like it wants to meet us,” he said, making a slight nod towards the viewscreen. “No other information yet.”

The Commander stood straight and tall as he looked over the screen. But the slight shift of his feet and the way his eyes darted at the information indicated he was probably excited. Ah, to be young again. His own pulse was slightly elevated, but mostly out of curiosity than excitement. At fifty-two, he’d seen and done quite a bit and it took a lot to get his blood running.

“Sir, it’s a Bantam.”

Not one of ours, then. Bantams were small independently owned cargo vessels. They were a popular choice for those who worked along dangerous borders. And for pirates.

“Shields up.” It was unlikely this was a pirate ship. It wouldn’t be seeking them out if it were. Most likely, it just needed repairs or some such, but better to be safe than sorry.

“No communications yet?” Hapker asked.

The question was unnecessary. If there had been an attempt at communication, Brenson would have said. But Hapker was new and didn’t know the crew all that well yet.

“Not yet, Sir,” Breson replied unperturbed.

More information about the Bantam popped up in a section of the viewscreen. It was registered as the C.T.V. Spike and operated by Captain James Fargoza. There were no current warrants for the man, although he had been cited in the past for minor cargo infractions. And he was also a licensed bounty hunter. Interesting, but not surprising in this part of the territory.

“They’re hailing us now, Sir.”

Robert gave Brenson a slight nod. A man’s face popped up in the middle of the viewscreen. “Captain Robert Arden of the Pronaean Alliance here. How may we assist?”

“Captain James Fargoza of the Bantam Spike,” he said, confirming the registered information. The man was probably about Hapker’s age and dark-haired like himself. But any similarities ended there. The man’s hair was wild, as was his beard. His nose was wide and flat and scar ran across his chin. “We’ve been sent for a wanted group of Tredons and were told you have ‘em.”

“Told by who?” The only way they could know was if the Grapnes had told them or if they had intercepted the secure report he had filed with his superiors. He couldn’t imagine the Grapnes telling them. But then again, it was exceedingly difficult to intercept an Alliance report, let alone decrypt one.

“Word gets around, Sir,” Fargoza replied.

Robert frowned at the man’s vagueness. Dealing with these types was almost always like a game of tug-of-war. “And what do you want with these Tredons?”

“There’s a bounty on ‘em, on the two Tredon boys, to be exact.”

Robert raised an eyebrow. He glanced at Hapker, who also had an eyebrow raised. “A bounty? From who? And for what?”

“Authorities at the Depnaugh Station, for murder.”

His chest tightened. “Send me the report, Captain Fargoza.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Stand by.”

Communication was cut off and the viewscreen went back to the full information display. The document from Captain Fargoza came quickly and Brenson had it put up within moments.

“It appears authentic,” Brenson said. “I’m verifying the code now.”

The notice had the Depnaugh seal located in the top right corner. The words, ‘Wanted for Murder’ were bolded across the top. The Serpent’s id number was given and he knew without looking that it was the same.

His skin went cold. So the Grapnes were telling the truth about this part?

Perhaps. But not entirely. He read the smaller words on the document. The warrant was for the Tredons traveling on board the Serpent, but it didn’t give the names of any of them. The closest it came to identifying any individuals was its mention of two young Tredon boys. Whether they were the ones who actually committed the murder or not was not specified.

“The time stamp is only a half-a-day old,” Hapker said.

He was right. This warrant was issued a full day after the Grapnes’ claim. Perhaps after their failed attempt, they’d contacted the Debnaugh Space Station to have a formal warrant issued. Once done, the information was public and bounty hunters like Captain Fargoza could take action.

“What do you think?” he asked Hapker.

“We can’t, Sir,” the commander said. “We can’t turn them over to these people. This report is too vague.” He spoke quickly and the way his brows folded together made him look worried.

Hapker’s reaction surprised him. Most people on board the Odyssey hated the Tredons. And Hapker himself had admitted the child made him feel uncomfortable. Yet, if he wasn’t mistaken, his commander was defending him.

“I agree on both points,” he replied. “I mean, what do you think about the accusation? Do you think this child murdered someone?”

Hapker signed and rubbed his jaw. “We know he’s capable of killing, Sir. But I don’t know. I mean, other than showing how capable he is … I just don’t know, Sir. I don’t feel like he’d blatantly murder someone. Maybe there was just cause. Or maybe his crew put him up to it.”

He nodded. It made sense.

The commander let out his breath. The look of worry was still on his face.

“Hail Captain Fargoza,” he said to Brenson.

The man’s face popped up on the screen again. “Captain,” Fargoza said, “we’re ready to take ‘em off your hands.”

“Not just yet, Captain,” he replied. “The document doesn’t have enough information. And since they are already in our custody, you will have to file a claim with the Prontaean Alliance.”

“Begging your pardon, Sir,” Fargoza said with a hint of impatience, “but that could take weeks.”

“I’m afraid it’s the law.”

“I understand that, Sir. But you understand we’re just trying to make a living. We’ve come all the way out here. Fuel is expensive and I have to pay my crew.”

“I’m sorry, Captain. The Depnaugh authorities will need to provide evidence before we will acknowledge the warrant. Even then, I’m not inclined to hand over children.”

“They’re Tredon’s, Sir. I’m sure Depnaugh thought that was explanation enough.”

“What do you know of the circumstances?” Hapker asked.

Fargoza didn’t answer right away and his eyes narrowed slightly. “Nothing,” he said. “But they’re Tredons. Surely you know what they’re like.”

He’s hiding something. Why am I not surprised? “Even with Tredons, we’re not turning anyone over without more details on their crimes,” he said, managing to keep his tone light.

Fargoza’s lips curled and his brow furrowed. The expression disappeared quickly, though, as if he were trying to control a temper. His mouth spread into a smile instead. “If I may make one more argument, Captain Arden.”

He nodded, though there probably wasn’t anything the man could say that would convince him.

“We all know how brutal Tredons can be. I’m sure you have better things to do than babysit these two murderous little creatures. Yes?”

Rather than reply, he stared at the man with mock patience. Yes, Tredons were brutal. But he didn’t like how he’d referred to the children.

“Your directive prevents you from doing what should be done to them,” Fargoza continued. “Just let me take care of them for you and no one else has to know the rest.”

His stomach turned. He had no doubt what was in store for the children if he turned them over. A harsh rebuke came to mind, but he pressed lips together to keep from saying it. “Sorry, Captain,” he managed to say politely. “Not without the proper documents.”

Captain Fargoza’s lips contorted into a snarl. “It’s your funeral,” he said, and ended the communication.

The back of his neck prickled. Hapker let out his breath noisily and his shoulder’s relaxed noticeably. Interestingly, the danger Fargoza implied didn’t seem to concern him. He really doesn’t believe he’s a murderer, does he? Should I be concerned? Hapker had little experience with Tredons and it was normal for people to trust—especially in children. He only hoped the trust wasn’t blind.

“Let’s see if we can find out what’s going on,” he said to Hapker. “Bring the young man to my ready room.”

“Sir,” Hapker replied. He hesitated. The look of worry returned. “I don’t think Jori will respond well to pressure.”

“Understood, Commander. It’s about time I met the boy, though.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Hapker looked like he wanted to say more, but didn’t. The commander often seemed unsure of himself. It was concerning—not something he’d expect from a man who’d stood up to an admiral.

He put the thoughts aside for now. Something was going on with these Tredon boys and he was going to get to the bottom of it.

 

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 March, 2016 by Dawn Ross

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