Archive for May, 2016

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 16 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 16 – Revised

 

(This is the revised version of part one of my science fiction story. If you’re visiting for the first time and would like to begin with the first chapter, check under the categories or the archives, which are further down. Chapter one of the revised version was posted on January 26, 2016. I highly recommend not starting with the unrevised version. The story has changed and it could be a spoiler alert.)

J.D. ran his hand down his face. “That didn’t go over well at all.”

Captain Arden let out a long sigh. “No, it didn’t. But we have no new information from Depnaugh. They’re being just as secretive, which concerns me greatly.”

“I agree.” So why do I feel so guilty? “But I still don’t think he murdered anyone.”

The captain turned to Liam. “Lt. Garner?”

“I sensed a nervousness from him, but only for a moment. He blocked me after that.”

The captain’s thick eyebrows shot up. “Blocked you?”

J.D. stiffened. “So he knew what you were doing?”

“How was he able to do that?” the captain added.

Liam shrugged. “Not many are capable, but it’s not unheard of. It’s mostly people with reading skills of their own who are able, though.”

He glanced at the captain. “An inherited genetic ability?” What Lt. Stein had mentioned? If the boy was a reader, who knew what he’d been pulling out of his head. A sour taste rose up from his throat.

Liam shrugged again. “If he is a reader, I’d guess he is just a low-level reader. He never tried to get in my head and I never sensed him trying to get into yours.”

That’s good, at least. He cupped his chin. But if he can read me… Did I do or say anything to set him off? He’d tried to reassure the boy, to let him know he was safe. But he also let his frustrations get the best of him and dark thoughts had crept in. If he read that

Captain Arden folded his hands together. “It’s something I should have considered.”

“I should go and try to talk to him.” For whatever good it would do. The boy’s attitude wasn’t so pleasant before. It surely wasn’t going to be any better now.

The captain opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted by the beep of the comm.

“Captain.” It was Lt. Stein’s voice.

“Yes, Lieutenant.”

“You’re not going to believe what I’ve just found out. I request an urgent meeting.”

His heart skipped a beat. Something about Jori?

“Done, Lieutenant. I’m in my ready room with the commander and will call Bracht in from the bridge.”

“I’ll be there shortly, Sir.” The comm clicked off.

“Thank you, Lieutenant Garner,” the captain said to Liam.

Liam nodded and left the room.

He resisted the urge to tap his foot as he waited. What’ve you been hiding, Jori?

Bracht was the first to arrive. No one said anything as they waited.

Lt. Stein couldn’t arrive soon enough. She had a sheen of sweat on her forehead and her face was pallid. Her harried look made his skin prickle.

“May I?” she asked, pointing with a trembling hand at the large viewscreen on the wall opposite of the captain.

Captain Arden nodded.

He and Bracht turned to face the screen. His foot was shaking and he forced himself to stop.

Stein touched her digiview to the side panel of the screen. An image popped up.

“That’s the Tredon Emperor.” Bracht’s voice was rough and there was a hint of disdain in it.

Stein nodded. “Emperor Kavak. The Dragon Emperor. But that only be part of what I wanted to show you.” She touched her digiview and the image on the viewscreen zoomed in to the warriors standing just behind the emperor.

He squinted his eyes at the blurriness. Then his heart did a double-flip. “That’s Jori’s brother!”

“Yes. I believe he be the emperor’s son.”

His throat tightened. Captain Arden flattened his hands on his desk and his mouth fell open. Bracht’s face turned dark and a low rumble emanated from his throat.

“Are you sure?” Captain Arden said. “I thought the last of his sons was dead.”

And wasn’t the Dragon Prince supposedly killed by the Emperor himself? A shiver went down his spine. The conversation he’d had with Jori about why he had so many broken bones ran through his head. I wouldn’t be the first to die by my father’s hand, the boy had said. “I didn’t know he could have any more children,” he said instead.

“I believe the rumors about him not being able to sire any more children, even artificially, be true. But the incident that is said to be causing this happened about ten years ago, after these boys be born.”

Bracht’s grumbling grew louder.

The captain stroked his beard. “But if these are his sons, why haven’t we heard of them before?”

“Perhaps he be protecting them until they became of age.”

His brow tightened. Could it be true? Is this what Jori’s been hiding? “This is just one image. Aren’t we jumping to conclusions here?”

Stein replied by tapping her digiview. Another image popped up on the viewscreen. This one was a split image with Emperor Kavak’s face on one side and a close-up of Jori’s brother on the other.

He sucked in a breath and his throat tightened again. Dear god. He looks like a younger version of the emperor! Jori didn’t look so much like the emperor. But he looked very much like his brother.

“I did a facial map analysis. The results not be conclusive, but the resemblance be uncanny.”

“I knew he was trouble.” The loudness of Bracht’s voice startled him. “Sir! We must lock them up.”

Captain Arden sat silently with his hands folded. His eyes flickered across the dual image as though studying it. “If they really are the Dragon Princes, then we have a very delicate situation here.”

“They’re vicious criminals!” Bracht barked.

The captain’s composure remained calm. “Their father is a criminal. I have no evidence that these boys are.”

Bracht snorted. “Their family name is evidence enough.”

His initial shock began to wear off. Pieces were starting to come together. “This is probably what Jori’s been hiding.” It made sense. The boy’s secrecy. His defensiveness. “He’s been trying to protect his brother.” It was like someone had thrown ice-cold water on his face. Only instead of opening his eyes to a raging river, a swell of understanding washed over him.

The captain nodded. “It would explain what the Grapnes were after. And the bounty hunters.”

“Two Kavakian Princes make a great ransom,” Stein said.

He frowned. “Or be used as a way to get revenge on the most hated man in the galaxy.” His gut churned at the thought. If they had turned those boys over to the bounty hunters, there was no telling what sort of tortures they would have been subjected to. Whoever the boys’ father is, they don’t deserve that.

“You know. If you really think about it, this is a great opportunity,” Captain Arden said.

He stiffened and his gut roiled. “Opportunity for what?” His tone was sharper than intended. His imagination took flight as all sorts of gruesome opportunities came to mind.

“If the emperor can’t have any more children, as Stein says,” Bracht said, “then we have the power to put an end to the Kavakian reign once and for all.”

His heart clenched. “You mean kill them?”

The captain put up his and. “No one’s going to be killed.”

“Keep them.” Bracht’s eyes were hard. “Force the emperor to abdicate.”

He felt a flash of heat. “You mean take them hostage and hold them for ransom, the way those ruffians intended?”

“Yes. That’s exactly what I mean. Keep them and force them to tell us what they know of the emperor’s plans and military might.”

He cringed. His fists tightned and the heat rose. “You can’t. They’re not paws in some game. They’re children.”

“Children of a man who’s committed genocide.”

“No,” the captain said sharply. “The opportunity I’m referring to is the opportunity to sow peace.” Sincerity was apparent in the man’s face.

He kept picturing Rear Admiral Zimmer sitting there. Except Zimmer would probably agree with Bracht. He unclenched his hands. Captain Arden isn’t Zimmer.

“Making friends with the boys won’t make us any allies,” Bracht scoffed.

“Perhaps not now,” the captain admitted. “But if these are the heirs, then maybe someday.”

Bracht twisted his face.

“Commander.” The captain leaned towards him. “Why don’t you talk to Jori. Send him my apologies for using Liam and see if we can help assure him that he’s still safe.”

Bracht’s face was even darker now. “We’re going to supplicate ourselves to them!”

“Do you mean to tell me, Lieutenant Commander,” the captain said in a hard tone, “that you truly advocate locking these children away and subjecting them to torture? The same as was done to your brother by his enemies?”

J.D.’s eyebrows shot up. This wasn’t in Bracht’s file.

Bracht looked down at his feet and shifted his stance. “It’s not the same thing,” he mumbled.

“Isn’t it?” The captain paused dramatically.

Bracht didn’t look up. Whatever had happened to his brother, it seemed to have left a very strong impression.

“This violence and hate has got to stop somewhere,” the captain continued. “We can either try to make peace with our enemies or we can commit the same atrocities and be just like the emperor himself. I think you know very well where I stand on the matter. It’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Why you chose to serve on this ship?”

The captain was talking to Bracht, but he couldn’t help but feel like he was speaking to him as well. A memory of him sitting on his grandfather’s lap and watching the news flashed in his mind. He was just a boy at the time, but he remembered how happy his family was to hear the Alliance and the Rabnoshk people had made peace. He remembered it because most other people were angry. After all the Rabnoshk warriors had done, they’d said, how could peace be made with them? The power of peace is far greater than the power of war, his grandfather had said.

He wasn’t sure he agreed at the time. But after the Kimpke incident, he began to understand. He didn’t accept the commission on the Odyssey just because it was the only decent offer he’d received. He accepted it because of Captain Arden’s reputation as a peacemaker.

From what he’d read in Captain Arden’s files, the man had received commendation for his part in the making of peace between the Alliance and the Rabnoshk people. Was Bracht a part of that too? The two of them had served together long enough.

The captain glared at Bracht, but the man still looked downcast with his shoulders slumped and his chin resting on his chest. “Yes, Sir.”

The captain’s eyes softened. “I’m not saying we should let our guard down. I’m merely saying we should give the child a chance—the same kind of chance you and I had given to one another that time long ago.”

J.D. wanted to stand up and cheer. Not because Bracht was being rebuked for his hateful behavior. If anything, he saw the Rabnoshk warrior in a whole new light. It was because of how genuine the captain’s words had felt. If only I had served under him a year ago.

But a year ago, he had still been eager to prove his worth as a security officer. If Kimpke had a son and if he and his son were the only ones on that ship, would he have fired on it then? In his younger years he would have seen the logic in an eye for an eye. If Kimpke can take our sons, then we should take his.

But he wasn’t that ignorant youth any longer. Even though Jori was being a brat, and even if he was the son of a man who’d committed heinous crimes, he couldn’t willingly allow anyone to harm the boy. There were a few unsettling differences between Jori and other boys his age. But he was still just a boy—a boy who was only trying to protect his brother.

“Commander?” The captain’s eyes were softer now.

“Yes, Sir?” Oh, wait. He’s waiting for my reply. “I mean, yes, Sir. I’ll talk to him.” He doubted it would do much good at this point. But he wanted to try.

*****

Jori stalked out of the ready room, ignoring the sound of his guards scurrying to catch up. He’d had it with these people—them and their false backstabbing niceness.

A rising heat swelled within him. How stupid do they think I am? They say I’m not a prisoner, yet they still treat me like a villain. He balled up his fists tightly. Why can’t they just believe me?

He marched deliberately down the corridor towards the gym, eager to vent on the holo-man program. His thoughts whirled chaotically—Calloway’s nasty comments, J.D. ignoring him this morning, the sight of his men lying dead, J.D. calling him a childish brat, J.D. angry at him, Liam attempting to get inside his head and J.D. just sitting there watching, J.D.’s coldness earlier, His brother lying lifeless, J.D.’s genuine warmth on that day when he first visited his brother and nearly cried. He misstepped and dipped low in order to regain balance. He was faking. That wasn’t real.

He shook his head dismissively, but the memory of the man’s emotions kept resurfacing. Was he pretending? Emotions can’t be faked, can they? He clenched his jaw and his fists in determination. It wasn’t real! And even if it was…he betrayed me!

A deep hurt spiked in his chest and grew like a dying star. Only instead of cooling like the star, the hurt grew hot enough to smother out the fire of his anger. His chest tightened and his sinuses began to tingle. He blinked at the growing wetness in his eyes. Don’t cry you baka. You’re acting like a foolish child again.

He turned the corner and found himself in sick bay. It wasn’t where he’d meant to go. But Terk was here. His brother, the only one who really understood him—the only person he had here on this damned ship. If only he wasn’t dying.

A burning tear began to fall down his cheek. He quickly wiped it away and held his breath, trying to hold in his tears as well.

“Get out,” he said through gritted teeth to the guards who were watching his brother.

His tears threatened to burst. The damned guards couldn’t move fast enough.

One of the men gave him a dirty look. He bared his teeth at him in reply. He would have growled too, but was sure it would come out sounding more like a wail instead.

When the guards closed the privacy curtain behind them, his head fell to his brother’s bedside. A sob escaped. Dammit! He should be angry. He wanted to be angry. But the stupid tears had to fall instead. Why the hell am I crying? Why should I care about what J.D. did? He really was acting like a stupid spoiled child. J.D. was right.

He pursed his lips, trying to keep anyone from hearing the sounds of his anguish. But his facial muscles seemed to have a mind of their own. His mouth opened and a low moan came out. He cradled his head in the crook of his arm and let the racking sobs loose.

A swarm of emotions spiraled around like space debris on the cusp of an event horizon. And one by one, the emotions crossed over, falling towards the lonely singularity that was him—all alone with no one to protect him, no one to trust, and no one to give him comfort.

 

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.

 

Advertisements

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 15 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 15 – Revised

 

(Begin reading “The Kavakian Empire” science fiction story by following the link under categories in the right hand column. Be sure to read Part 1 – Revised, which began January 26, 2016. The unrevised version isn’t as good and has changed.)

Jori turned to the other side, pulling his covers with him. It was almost time to get up and he hadn’t even slept yet. The face of Lord Mottrick Panske kept popping into his head.

Motty was his informal name and he and Terk called him Motty the Haughty. To say that Motty was a spoiled rotten brat was a vast understatement. He had never seen anyone throw a fit until the day Motty’s father told him he couldn’t visit the airfield that day. The boy actually wailed while stomping his feet. If he or Terk had ever considered doing something like that, their father would have knocked them senseless. But Motty’s father actually gave in.

He punched his pillow, trying to puff it up, then turned over to his other side. To think this stupid commander had compared him to that snotty stuck-up shit-head.

He was nothing like that boy. He replayed the dinner scene in his head. If he had been like Motty, he would have spit the food out and demanded some rare delicacy or another. He would have made fun of the captain’s beard or Bracht’s stupid curved mustache.

No, he wasn’t anything like Motty. He had a right to be upset. And he couldn’t let them figure out his secret. What he knew of the scientists wasn’t such a big thing, but if they’d discovered why he needed the information, it would change everything.

Terk was still in critical condition. Nothing had changed in these past few of days—not a single thing. Every day he visited him, it was like sitting next to an empty shell-casing.

He could tell the doctors were doing what they could. And he sensed that the captain and commander had meant what they said about helping him. But he was no fool. If they found out the truth, Terk would die for sure.

So his behavior was warranted. He had to keep them from asking questions. That he had been rude to them was their own fault.

He rolled onto his back and looked at the ceiling. It was, wasn’t it?

His cheeks felt suddenly hot. He growled and turned over onto his stomach, pulling the pillow over his head.

Stupid baka. Fool. The commander was wrong. And what the hell was up with that apology? He wasn’t afraid. What a ridiculous notion. One couldn’t have a father like his and be afraid of a man like J.D. He was too damned nice. He’s a stupid baka. I could kill him.

His stomach rolled in nausea. Maybe he was being a brat. So what? How else was he going to keep them from asking so many damned questions?

What would Master Jetser do? He certainly wouldn’t act like Motty. He’d jut out his square jaw and refuse to say anything. But would he be polite? Maybe he might, to put them off their guard—maybe.

He plopped his head back onto the pillow. Fine then. He’d stop being a brat. If they asked him questions again he’d either give them as little information as possible or not answer at all. Perhaps he’d even try to be a bit more polite about it. Not too much though. Not enough to let give J.D. the idea that he’d been right.

 

Sleep never really came. His head ached from lack of sleep, but he was too alert to lay there any longer. He threw the covers off just as the commander came out of his room.

“Morning,” J.D. said to the two men guarding inside the room with a smile. “Good morning, Jori,” he said a little more formally.

Despite the cooler tone, he didn’t sense any anger or frustration from the man. Odd. He didn’t sense much of any emotion at all.

His stomach squirmed. He wanted so badly to be angry at J.D. for talking down to him and calling him a childish brat. He wanted to, but his temper had cooled. And maybe the commander wasn’t so bad.

“Sleep well?” J.D.’s tone was polite, but Jori could feel he was forcing it.

“Well enough,” he said. If the commander didn’t really care whether or not he slept well, then why should he tell him the truth? What was the truth anyway? That I felt bad for my behavior last night? Hell no.

Honestly, he could really care less whether the man was angry with him or not. It didn’t matter either way, so long as they didn’t find out the truth.

Jori ate his bland breakfast in uneasy silence. J.D. didn’t try to start a conversation, nor did he try to convince him to eat something with more flavor, like he had done the day before and the day before that.

The man’s mood didn’t alter a single bit from the cool neutrality, but the churning of Jori’s stomach increased so much that he couldn’t finish his meal.

J.D. glanced at the half-eaten food. Not a hint of concern emanated from him. “You should get dressed now. The captain wishes to speak to you.”

Jori swallowed the lump in his throat and got dressed mechanically. Maybe I should say something. But what dammit? There was nothing to say. And no reason to say anything. It wasn’t like they had to be friends or anything.

His cheeks grew hot. He clenched his teeth as the burning sensation moved through his sinuses and to his eyes. Don’t cry you stupid baka.

He sucked in a breath, then another. The sensation abated and he blinked away the water that had built up in his eyes.

He tried to think of something to say, something to break this chilling sensation, as they headed towards the captain’s ready room. But nothing came to mind. He swallowed the lump in his throat again and jutted his chin out as they walked. To hell with him.

He’d been so focused on what J.D. was—or wasn’t—feeling that he didn’t notice the captain’s emotions until the ready room door opened. Captain Arden greeted him with a pleasant smile, but his emotions were hard and humorless.

“Welcome, Jori.” The captain’s smile faded quickly. He sat with his elbows on his desk and his hands folded together, not bothering to try to get Jori to have a seat as he had done before. “After last night’s dinner, I feel the need to speak with you more formally and come to an understanding.”

Jori suppressed the urge to swallow. Chikusho. Shit. His heart skipped a beat. Something bad. Something bad is about to happen. Terk? Is Terk okay? No, he could still feel him. It was something else. Maybe they know.

A million scenarios ran through his mind but he managed to keep his rising panic from showing on his face. Think, dammit. Think.

There was a man he had never seen before standing behind the captain’s chair. He had an eerie smile on his leathery face.

There was no emotion in the man. None. He frowned. This was worse than the emotionlessness from J.D. He should at least be able to sense the man’s life force. But there was nothing. It was like he wasn’t even there.

“This is Lt. Junior Grade Liam Garner.” Captain Arden said. “He’s here to help me today.”

There was something off about the man. He immediately put up a mental shield, as his mother had taught him to do. All his internal turmoil was put aside. He nodded to the man with a polite grimness and steeled himself for whatever was about to come.

“Now Jori,” the captain went on, “I’ve made it clear that you are a guest here and we will not mistreat you. I will keep this promise. But you must understand, I still have a job to do. I not only have a crew to protect, but I have a responsibility to my superiors and to the Alliance as a whole. This means Commander Hapker and I will question you from time to time.”

“I understand, Sir,” Jori replied. A feeling of guilt crept up and he mentally forced it back down before it could escape. Liam’s eyes bored into him and his concentration almost faltered.

“To be fair,” the captain continued, “from now on we will only ask you questions in a more formal setting such as this. This way, you do not need to worry about anyone manipulating you.”

Jori nodded in reply, glancing again at Liam. The man was still smiling. There was nothing behind that smile. He shivered inwardly but held his concentration.

“Good,” Captain Arden said. “Then I need to ask you more about your mission. We’ve been able to verify everything you’ve told us so far. But we also know there is more to it. We have reports that you and your brother were seen speaking to Shekaka. He’s a very disreputable man, you know. He’s a known spy who deals with the trading of sensitive information. I must ask you what information has he passed on to you two, what it has to do with scientists, and what the bounty is for.”

He barely heard what the captain had said. A slight tingling sensation buzzed in his head. What the hell?

His concentration almost slipped away again. No, not slipping. He met Liam’s deep set eyes. He’s trying to pull it away. His pulse raced. “What is he doing?” he asked in alarm.

“What is who doing?” J.D. asked.

“Him!” He pointed at Liam. “Get out of my head!” he told the man.

“He’s a reader, Jori,” the captain replied calmly. “He’s not going to hurt you.”

“Tell him to stop!” His heart raced fearfully. Men like this were dangerous. They delved into a man’s innermost thoughts and there were many things, personal things, private feelings he didn’t want exposed. “This man is trespassing and I do not like it. I want him out!”

“Liam, stop,” the captain said calmly as he gestured to the man behind him.

As the buzzing in Jori’s head abated, Jori’s panic swirled into anger. His face flushed and his nostrils flared as he breathed heavily trying to calm his racing heart.

When he was certain that Liam was out of his head, he turned a dark scowl towards the captain. A slew of curses came to mind, but he wasn’t about to make the same childish mistake as last night. He held his anger in check and kept his tone neutral. “It wouldn’t have worked, Captain,” he said through gritted teeth. “I know how to defend myself against a reader.”

Captain Arden’s mouth was turned down. “You understand I had to try.”

The man actually looked sorry, but his own emotions were in turmoil. A deep settling angst boiled into fury, then spiraled back into fear. His heart raced at how close they could have come to finding out the truth. He was good at blocking readers, but still, a breach wasn’t impossible.

His body began to shake as the adrenaline wore off. His racing heart slowed. “You act like my friend. You pretend to care with your promises of helping my brother. You treat me as a guest. But this… this!” His voice trembled slightly. “There can be no trust between us, can there?”

The captain steepled his fingers under his chin. “I want to trust you, Jori.” His voice was annoyingly calm. “But how can I do that if you won’t tell me anything?”

“I’ve already told you I’m no murderer. There is nothing else you need to know.” He stomped his foot and turned abruptly. He didn’t care if it was childish. He’d had enough.

Neither J.D. nor the captain attempted to stop him as he stormed out.

 

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 14 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 14 – Revised

(Read the previous revised chapters under the “The Kavakian Empire” link under categories in the right hand column. Be sure to select the “sci-fi part 1 – revised” option. This science fiction story has changed a little and could be confusing or act as a spoiler alert if you try to read ahead.)

Dinner is going to be an interesting event. J.D. dragged his steps as he and Jori headed to the common area where the captain had arranged a special dinner. He was sure it was meant as a gesture of goodwill, but no doubt Jori would see it as an attempt at bribery. Yep. This is going to be interesting.

Jori’s previous formality and distance was nothing compared to now. He wasn’t just being overly formal, he was cold and curt… That is, if he even bothered to answer at all.

What did the boy expect anyway? It wasn’t like they were trying to force the information out of him. Things could be much worse. Still. It had to be hard for him.

He realized his jaw was clenched and tried to relax. For a brief moment, they’d had a real conversation. He couldn’t give up—not yet. “I believe the captain has requested Genevian dishes for dinner. Have you ever had Genevian?”

“It hardly matters, does it?” Jori replied.

His teeth clenched again. Brat. “Probably not,” he said instead with as much kindness as he could muster. “But I’m only asking out of curiosity. There’s no harm in asking, is there?”

“Ask your questions then. But do not think you can trick me by being nice to me, and then asking.”

“No one is trying to trick you, Jori.”

Jori made a grunting noise but said nothing.

He sighed heavily. Patience, J.D. Patience. Keep in mind what he’s going through.

The common area was busy. It was funny how many people happened to decide to visit the common room at the same time the captain scheduled a dinner. But at least with the captain present, everyone would be on their best behavior.

Well, maybe not everyone. The boy’s face was as emotionless as usual, but it could change at any moment.

The captain stood at the front of the table located in the corner. The man was actually smiling, which wasn’t something he’d seen very often. “Welcome, Jori.” Jori acknowledged him with a gesture but did not smile in return. “I’d like to introduce you to a few other members of my crew. You remember Lt. Commander Bracht, Lt. Jenna Stein, and Dr. Beck Jerom?”

“Yes,” Jori replied.

“This is Lt. Chandly, one of our operations officers.” The captain gestured to the young-looking man. “Lt. Sara Fisher from engineering, Lt. Rik Gresher from security, and Lt. Triss Stever, one of our helmsmen.”

Jori greeted each one with a nod, but didn’t offer any pleasantries. That in itself wasn’t necessarily rude, thank goodness. Some cultures had no such customs.

The captain motioned his hand to one of the chairs at the table. “Please, have a seat.”

Jori pulled the chair out, but didn’t move to sit. J.D. frowned. Great. Here we go.

The captain sat one chair down from Jori. J.D. took the chair between him and the boy. Bracht sat on the captain’s other side and the wide grinning Gresher took the chair on Jori’s other side.

J.D.’s shoulders relaxed a little when Jori finally sat down. Was he waiting for the captain to sit? That’s oddly polite.

“So Jori,” the captain said. “Have you ever had Genevian food?”

“Yes, Captain.”

More tension fell away. Thank goodness his reply wasn’t as caustic as the one he’d given him earlier.

“I hope you like it.” The captain smiled again. “If not, we can order something else for you.”

“It’s fine.”

J.D. glanced at the strangeness of the boy next to him. Is this the calm before the storm?

“So, how do you like our ship so far, Jori?” Lt. Gresher asked.

“It is surprisingly well maintained.”

“You should see our cells,” Bracht grumbled almost inaudibly.

“Bracht,” the captain said harshly.

“What’s the matter, koshinuke?” Jori retorted, using the Tredon word for coward. “Are you afraid a child will be able to overwhelm your crew?”

J.D. cringed inwardly. The storm has arrived.

Bracht growled in reply.

“Bracht!” the captain yelled. “You will apologize at once.”

The Rabnoshk warrior turned so dark red, he was sure the man was going to explode.

“There’s no need, Captain,” Jori replied. “A forced apology is no apology at all.”

Thank goodness. It looked like hail for moment there. He tapped his foot nervously. But the clouds are still dark.

The captain glared at Bracht but did not push for the apology. The room fell into an uncomfortable silence.

The captain broke the silence by clearing his throat. “Well, Jori, I will be contacting Jax soon to make arrangements to get you home. If you’d like to speak to him as well, I’d be happy to make arrangements.”

Jori made a motion with his head but didn’t say anything.

“We can see about contacting your family as well,” the captain added.

“That will not be necessary. Jax will do it.”

“Are you sure? Surely you want them to know you’re all right.”

“I’m sure,” Jori said a little more firmly.

The conversation lagged for a bit, but the captain tried to get it started again. At first he asked casual questions, which Jori answered in his usual brevity. J.D.’s body tensed tighter and tighter as each probing question solicited terser replies.

Jori banged his fork onto the table. “I assure you, Captain, that if you try to torture the information out of me, you will still find out nothing.”

The storm brewed and threatened to turn into a hurricane. His jaw hurt from being clenched so tightly.

The captain sat back abruptly. “Torture? We’re not going to torture you. We’re simply trying to get to know you. That’s perfectly reasonable isn’t it?”

“I suppose you have a right to interrogate your prisoners.” Jori replied contemptuously. “Shall I sit in a dark room while your Rabnoshk warrior goads me?”

“Jori, that’s enough.” J.D. slammed his hand down on the table hard enough to make the silverware bounce with a metallic ting. “You seem far too mature to be acting like such a child.”

Jori gave him a dark look and he returned it in kind. The silence crackled.

The boy eventually looked away, but the rest of the evening was spent in sullen silence.

 

After dinner, he and Jori returned to his quarters for sleep. The boy’s continued silence unnerved him. His own storm was threatening now. He had to say something before it spun out of control.

“You were very rude at dinner, Jori,” he said harshly. “You know, we are trying hard to be polite and make you feel comfortable. And we are doing everything we can to help you and your brother. I don’t expect you to spill your secrets, but I it’s not unreasonable to expect you to be courteous… and perhaps show a little gratitude.”

“We are not friends.”

“We don’t have to be friends to get along.” His voice was loud, but not quite yelling.

“Is that your rule? I must be courteous and show gratitude or my brother dies?”

“How many times do I have to say that we’re not going to hold your brother’s life over your head? All I’d like to see is a little civility. Is that so much to ask?”

“It’s not the only thing you’ve asked for.”

“What do you expect? Of course we’d like to know things. But no one is going to torture the information out of you and no one is trying to trick you.”

“I’m not stupid, Commander. I know you don’t want me here. Half your crew would rather see us dead than help us.”

“That’s not true.”

“It is true.” His tone was hard. “I can feel it. Your Rabnoshk warrior did nothing but give me murderous looks and your captain can’t wait to be rid of me.”

“Maybe if you’d quit acting like a childish brat.”

Jori scowled darkly but didn’t say anything more. He hadn’t meant to say it, but his frustration had finally gotten the best of him. His jaw throbbed painfully and his head felt ready to explode.

Jori finally looked away. J.D. took a deep breath. A cramping pain went up both his arms and he realized his hands were in fists. A sudden wave of coldness swept over him. What have I done? The boy had probably thought he was going to hit him.

His anger fell away. He ran his hand down over his face. “I’m sorry, Jori. I’m upset at you but I’m not going to hurt you.”

Jori’s face twisted and his eyes darkened again. “I’m not afraid of you.”

He sighed heavily. “Nor should you be.”

The boy’s glare disappeared. And even though Jori’s face went back to the emotionless mask, he thought he saw a look of contemplation there. I hope he’s not thinking about killing me in my sleep.

 

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 13 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 13 – Revised

(This is a revised chapter from the original version of part one of this science fiction story. It is very much the same except I’ve tried to write it in deep PoV. Even though this chapter is similar to one in the original, the revised novella has a lot of changes. So don’t read the unrevised version in order to skip ahead. Stay tuned every Saturday for another chapter.)

 

J.D. breathed in a heavy rhythm. A pleasant burning warmed his calves and thighs. Sweat trickled down his back.

The weight lifting area came back into view as he rounded the track. Eleven. One more lap to go.

The same people he’d passed earlier were still there. He shook his head at the sight of Bracht lifting a substantial amount of weights on the bench press. Thank goodness the machine had been fixed. Lt. Gresher had earned two broken ribs when the device failed to take over after he’d lost his grip. If it had malfunctioned while Bracht had been working out, the man would have been crushed for sure. And it would have taken dozens of people to life the barbell off of him. Exaggeration? Yes. But not by much.

He jogged towards the open padded area where Jori was still doing his tumbling exercises. In the time it took for him to jog three steps, Jori had done a roundoff and a series of flips. He would have whistled in awe if he hadn’t been trying to keep his breathing even. The boy might actually be good enough to be in the Prontaean Games. He was fast, agile, and, based on what he had seen him do on the balance beam earlier, he had a great sense of balance.

A crowd had gathered just as they had done yesterday. But after Calloway’s punishment, he was fairly certain no one else would give the boy any trouble, especially not with Hanna in charge today. He could always count on her to do every aspect of her job well.

He pumped his arms and increased his pace for the final lap. His legs burned but he pushed harder, taking ever deeper breaths. A few more yards. Breath. Breath. Almost there. His heartbeat throbbed in his ears.

Done! He sped by the weight machines and slowed back into a jog as he ran up to where Jori was doing one-handed somersaults. He found a spot between the spectators and sat down to catch his breath. His pulse slowed but still pounded.

The mat felt cool on the back of his legs as he stretched them out before him. As usual after a workout, he could touch knee to nose and barely feel the stretch. Still, the burning in his legs abated, not quite like ice, but just as soothing. He stretched his toes toward him and let out a long breath, almost like a sigh.

As he stretched, he watched Jori do more flips, cartwheels, and somersaults. The boy showed no signs of tiring. Oh, to be young again. Not that he was old. But he’d probably break his neck if he tried that stuff.

Jori walked over to him just as he finished stretching. The boy’s face was red with a sheen layer of sweat, but nothing about his posture indicated he was tired.

“That was very impressive, Jori.”

Jori nodded in reply. Whether as a way to say thanks or as an acknowledgement, he wasn’t sure.

Probably the latter. “You ready to go?”

Jori frowned. “It’s only been an hour. I have a couple more to go.”

“A couple more? Is it normal for you to exercise for so long?”

“Yes. Two to four hours a day. Sometimes more.”

“Really? That’s a lot. How much time do you spend studying?” As intelligent as the boy was, he had to be spending quite a bit of time with lessons, which meant very few hours left for playing.

“Four to six hours a day, which reminds me … I will need some reading material. I’m currently studying Pershornian Warfare, Fourth Generation, and Alkon’s theories on quantum mechanics.”

He almost missed a step. “That’s a really impressive reading list.” Although he specialized in strategic warfare, he hadn’t gotten into the complexities of Pershornian warfare until he’d entered the P.A. Institute.

Jori replied with a shrug.

“I can get you a digiview with access to the MDS. You are welcome to read anything you find on the MDS.”

“That’s acceptable.”

The boy looked over the gymnasium, probably looking for something else to do. An uncomfortable silence fell between them. He could leave Jori with the security officers and work on some scheduling. As much as he hated scheduling, the idea actually seemed pleasant. But he did have another duty to attend to. Jori didn’t seem to have as much of an attitude today, so perhaps this was his chance.

 

“How about a game of wall ball?” He pointed toward one of the side rooms where two people playing could be seen through the plexiglass.

“What’s that?”

He led Jori over to the players. “Two, or sometimes more, people face the wall and hit the ball with a racquet up against it.” It was his favorite exercise. And although it might be a little intense for most children, he bet Jori could handle it.

“Very well.”

 

The boy never seemed to tire. They played for far longer than he’d intended. And although legs were beginning to feel rubbery, he was actually having fun. Jori was pretty good. The boy lost most games, but this only seemed to make him try harder.

It was Jori’s turn to hit the ball. It bounced over to the other side of the court. The boy went for it in a dive and crashed to the floor, his elbow hitting first with a loud crack.

J.D. cringed and rushed over to Jori to make sure he was okay. The boy sat up and cradled his arm. He winced, but the look was fleeting.

“You allright?”

Jori stood up. “It’s not bad.” His face was completely unreadable.

“Come on. Let me take a look.” He led him out of the room and they sat on the bench outside. The boy’s elbow was red, but the bone didn’t seem broken.

“I can keep playing.”

“We should go see a medic to make sure it’s not broken.”

“I don’t need a medic. It’s not broken. Just bruised.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to check. And at the very least, we can get you something for the pain.”

“I don’t need anything for the pain.” Jori frowned. “I would know if something was fractured or broken, so seeing a medic is a waste of time.”

He sighed. The boy certainly could be stubborn. “Okay.” He wiped his forehead. He sighed again, this time in hesitation. This was the perfect opportunity. “Speaking of broken bones, though, Dr. Jerom noticed both you and your brother have had quite a few.”

“Yes.” Jori shrugged.

He waited a few moments, but Jori didn’t offer anything more. “It’s unusual for someone your age, of any age actually, to have had so many bone reconstructions. How did they all happen?”

“Various things.” As usual, his face showed no emotion.

He gritted his teeth at the boy’s brevity. “Like what?”

“In exercises, games… I’ve been in a couple of vehicular crashes.”

“So all accidents?”

“Mostly.”

His gut began to churn. “Mostly? As in some were intentional?”

“That is correct.”

The uneasiness in his stomach doubled. Why would anyone intentionally harm a child in such a way? “From your father?” He didn’t really want to hear the answer, but he had to ask.

“From my father, others, and from my Jintal training.”

“Jintal training!” His gut felt like it was doing the tumbling exercises Jori had been doing earlier. Jintal was a harsh training method used to build up pain tolerance. “Aren’t you a little young to undergo Jintal training?”

“Yes, but my father found a way to persuade a Jintal master to teach us.” The boy’s nonchalant tone unnerved him.

“You know this is wrong, don’t you, Jori? What your father puts you through is abuse, torture even, and it’s morally wrong.”

“My father is not known for his morality, Commander,” Jori stated matter-of-factly.

His mouth fell open. A part of him wanted to comfort the boy, but Jori was so unemotional about the entire issue, he wasn’t sure how to respond.

“Aren’t you worried,” he finally said. “Worried that your father will kill you, or get you killed?”

“I don’t think about it. I wouldn’t be the first to die by my father’s hand, but there isn’t much I can do about it.”

The urge to vomit welled up. “If you could get away from it, go somewhere else, somewhere safe, would you go?”

The boy’s eyebrows went up. He met his eyes and glanced from one to the other as though searching.

“I mean it.” He put his hand on Jori’s shoulder.

The boy finally looked away. “Thank you, but no.”

He jerked back. It wasn’t just at the boy’s negative reply, but also because it was the first polite words the boy had ever said to him. “Why not?”

“Because of my mother.”

“You don’t want to leave her behind.” He gave Jori’s shoulder a gentle squeeze.

“Correct,” Jori replied. “And because I have responsibilities.”

He shook his head. “You are too young for so much responsibility.”

“Fulfilling my responsibilities keeps my alive, Commander.”

Now I know why he doesn’t show any emotion. He’s trying to numb his feelings. He rubbed the back of Jori’s shoulder. “Oh, Jori. I’m sorry. No one should have to live that way.”

“Don’t feel sorry for me.” The boy’s tone was still formal, but seemed softer somehow. “My life is not so dark and dismal as this conversation has led you to believe.”

“Tell me the good things, then.”

“My brother. My brother. My friends.”

“Those certainly sound like good things.” He took a deep breath in order to calm his gut. It had knotted up painfully during this disturbing conversation. “Tell me, if you spend most of your day exercising and studying, what do you do for fun?”

“Exercising and studying are fun.”

“I can see how that can be. But nothing just for the sake of having fun?”

“My brother and I did some fun things at the Melna space station.”

“Like what?” His stomach fluttered this time. The boy was actually opening up to him.

“We used a holo deck to visit some exotic planet-scapes. And we went to see a pair of laverjack beasts that the Hurvans were transporting.”

“Sounds very interesting.” He asked more about the planet-scapes and found that Jori enjoyed a number of nature activities, including hiking and rock climbing, things he greatly enjoyed himself. Jori still kept any emotion showing on his face, but it was exciting to see the way his eyes lit up when he talked about a survivalist excursion he had been on recently with his brother.

The conversation turned to the boy’s interest in animals. It wasn’t just the ferocious creatures like laverjack beasts he was interested in. He seemed to like animals and even began asking about the dogs he had seen with people during their tour of the ship’s botanical garden.

Their conversation went very well for a while longer. He still hadn’t managed to get a smile from the boy, but he felt he was really close.

Eventually, the conversation led to Jori’s interest in the sciences, and the perfect opportunity came for him to bring another issue up. “What about scientists? Did you speak to some scientists when you were at the Melna space station?”

Jori wrinkled his brow in bewilderment.

The question was slightly out of place. He knew it the moment he’d said it. How can I say this without sounding accusatory? “We found some communications on your ship about some scientists and we are wondering what it is about.”

Jori’s eyes darkened and his jaw clenched. “I see. You’re just being nice to me in order to trick me.”

“What? No.” He waved his hand in dismissal. “That’s not it at all.”

The boy narrowed his eyes. “Liar.”

“I mean yes, I do want information. But me being nice to you… it’s genuine.” It really was. They were having such a good conversation, pleasant even.

Jori stood up. “We’re done talking,” he said coldly, and walked away.

Darn it. We were connecting. He ran his hand down his face and to his chin. He had been making real headway with the boy. Now they were back to square one. Darn it. I should have waited a little longer.

 

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.