Archive for June, 2016

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 20 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 20 – Revised

(We’re already up to chapter 20! If you’ve read the unrevised version of this science fiction story, you may have noticed the revised version hasn’t yet gotten to the same scenes. I’m a little worried the revised version may be too long and boring. Please let me know what you think so far. And, btw, if you haven’t read the unrevised version yet, don’t. Start reading the revised version by scrolling down to find Categories in the right hand column. Then click under “The Kavakian Empire” link where it says “Sci-Fi Part 1 – Revised”.)

Mik Calloway stifled a yawn. Eight hours of menial safety inspections really took a toll. It was a simple job that any greener could do. But it was boring as hell. Not to mention how his new status should have meant this kind of shit-work was beneath him. Damn that commander.

He licked his lips and imagined a hard drink running down his throat. It’d have to wait, though. He hadn’t worked out in a couple of days and a bout of boxing would probably do him some good.

He stepped into the tran-car. “Level three, quarters.” His mouth soured when he said it.

Thanks to the commander, he was still sharing a bunk with three ensigns. He’d been schedule to move out into his own private quarters, but the reprimand caused the date to be pushed back thirty days. Jackass.

The tran-car let him off just a short walk to his quarters. When he reached his room, the door slid open automatically.

“Are you friggin kidding me? The boy can’t be—” His roommate, Agni, clamped his mouth shut. Lt. Naran pursed his lips and gave Agni a warning look.

“What? What’s going on?” he asked.

Agni shrugged his shoulders. “Nothing.”

He huffed. “It’s about that Tredon brat, isn’t it?”

“It’s not your concern.” Lt. Naran’s tone was authoritative, as if the man had any pull over him when off-duty.

He pointed at Agni. “But it’s his?” Agni and the lieutenant were as tight as could be, as though being from the same planet and the same continent made them brothers or some stupid shit.

“Mind your own business, Calloway,” Lt. Naran said in the same bossy tone.

“Tchah. Whatever. I could care less about what you duds are talking about.”

He went to his desk and opened the lower cabinet. The sonometer he used for keeping track of his vitals and stats while working out was right at the top. But he pretended to rummage about and discretely triggered the recording device hidden beneath the upper cabinet.

This device had helped him a great deal over the years. He got one of his roommates at the institute kicked out when he learned of and reported the man’s hidden secret. He didn’t say how he’d found out, of course. Then there was the time he’d recorded some intimate secrets from a woman here on the Odyssey and used it to get her to sleep with him.

Mostly, the recording device helped him find out what people were saying about him and kept him apprised of all the juicy gossip.

Once triggered, he grabbed the sonometer and gathered the rest of his workout gear.

“See ya,” he said as he headed out the door. Chumps.

*****

“He’s what?”

The pounding of his heart increased each time he replayed the recording—and so did the heat flaring in his chest.

“No friggin way.” He slammed the recording device down on his desk, sending an echoing crack around the room. If his bunkmates had been here, they’d have given him dirty looks. “I can’t believe this shit.”

He stood abruptly. Who can I tell? Everyone should know about this. But he wasn’t even supposed to know. And if he told anyone, it could come back on him. He couldn’t afford another reprimand. Damn that commander.

People moved out of his way as he stormed down the corridor and into the lounge. A sharp grinding pain surged from his jaw down to his tightly balled fists. He plunked down on a stool at the far end of the bar and fumed.

“Gin, straight up,” he barked at the attendant before the man could even ask.

When the attendant finally set down his drink, he took in a mouthful. He barely grimaced as the burn washed down his throat.

The heel of his foot drummed the floor in no particular rhythm. Not many people were around this close to shift change, but one man caught his eye.

Young Lt. Siven Addams, the too-good-looking, lucky-ass, ass-kisser. The man was sitting all alone, but probably only because he was waiting for his girlfriend, Felissa—a woman he’d do himself in a heartbeat if she’d ever bothered.

Lucky bastard. Siven didn’t deserve that woman, or his rank for that matter. Just because his marksmanship was so great didn’t mean he deserved his high rank.

His rank. Then he already knows! Mik gulped down the rest of his drink and slammed down his glass. There was still a little time before Siven’s girlfriend got off duty, along with a herd of others. It was now or never.

He got off his stool and took the one next to Siven. “Perfect time for a hard drink, huh?” he said.

“I’m drinking a virlini,” Siven replied blandly.

Non-alcoholic then. How does a pussy like this get a woman like Felissa? “Really? I’d think you’d want something a little harder after having to deal with the spoiled little prince all day.”

Siven’s bushy dark brows went up. He put down his drink, splashing liquid on the counter, and glanced around to see if anyone was close by. “How in the heck do you know about that?” he hissed quietly. His brows hooded over now.

“I heard Lt. Naran telling Agni.” He smiled inwardly. One of two things was going to happen here. Siven would make a report against Lt. Naran for telling an ensign or Siven would figure that since the secret was already out, he could tell a certain someone else. Either way, no matter what happened, Mik wouldn’t be implicated. It wasn’t like he was giving the secret out to anyone who didn’t already know.

“Shit. No one’s supposed to know.” Siven’s nostrils flared as his worry seemed to turn to anger.

“I think everyone should know. Especially your friend Laren.”

Siven didn’t reply. The man didn’t much care for Mik, but this was okay since he didn’t care much for Siven either. Still, they had this one thing in common. He couldn’t imagine Siven enjoying being forced to protect the Kavakian Princes. Something had to be done.

“Wasn’t he volunteering his services in a village when the emperor attacked it? Wasn’t his wife and child killed?” Mik continued. “Can you imagine what it must be like for him? Having to try and save the life of the elder brat while the little one walks free on this very ship, without a care in the world for all the people his father has murdered?”

“They’re just a children,” Siven replied stiffly.

“Yeah, but they’re children who are going to grow up someday. Hell, the young one’s already shown how dangerous he can be. Jack said when they landed on Pensla he watched that child kill four Grapnes. The little shit is already a killer and he’s barely ten cycles old. I can’t imagine what we will have on our hands if his older brother wakes up.”

Siven still didn’t reply, but he could tell the man was thinking about it. The seed was planted, and so he left it alone for now. Perhaps later, he’d make other comments to help the seed grow.

 

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 May, 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 19 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 19 – Revised

(Part One of this science fiction story is coming along. If you’ve missed the previous revised chapters, scroll down to find Categories in the right hand column. Then click under “The Kavakian Empire” link where it says “Sci-Fi Part 1 – Revised”.)

“Well, that was an interesting conversation,” Robert said after the prince had left.

Lt. Stein and Commander Hapker nodded. Bracht said nothing. The warrior kept glancing at the door as though he wanted to follow the boy out so he could keep an eye on him personally. Robert couldn’t blame him. Bracht had been head of security for some time. But the position wasn’t so easy for him at first. The man had a difficult time with delegating tasks because he wanted to do everything himself. Perhaps this time he should be.

“So you not contacted Tredons yet?” Lt. Stein asked.

Robert shook his head. “I wanted to get this murder charge sorted out first.”

Hapker folded his hands in front of him. “Now that we’re fairly certain he’s innocent—“

“He’s not innocent!” Bracht barked.

Robert looked pointedly at the Rabnoshk warrior. “In regards to this matter, I believe he is.” He turned to the commander. “So I will be contacting the Tredons soon.”

“I agree contacting the emperor himself be a bad idea,” Stein said.

Robert nodded. The boy was right. It was highly unlikely the emperor would believe he had not harmed his children. And there was a chance he’d use their presence here as an excuse to escalate conflict. “I will contact this Jax at the Chevert outpost as the child suggested.”

Lt. Stein cocked her head. “Has the admiral been notified?”

An uneasy feeling swirled in his stomach. Despite having nearly complete autonomy out here along the border, he still had to report to a superior. This was no longer a mere border issue. “Not as of yet. Not to worry, he will be notified soon.” But not too soon.

“Your talk with Jori went well?” Robert asked Hapker just as Stein opened her mouth to speak.

“Not great, but better than expected.”

“Has your opinion of him changed?”

“No. But I do think I’m making a good impression on him. He’s put up a lot of walls, but I think I’m finally getting through. I think he’s beginning to trust us.”

Good.

“Don’t be fooled, Commander,” Bracht said. Then he turned to Robert. “Sir, I must alert security about this increased risk.”

Hapker stiffened noticeably. “Sir, it’s bad enough most of the crew has heard these boys are Tredons. If they get word they are also the Kavakian Princes, it could generate more trouble.”

Robert dipped his head in agreement. “I meant it when I told the child his identity should be between us. I understand the crew has strong feelings about having Tredons on board. I don’t want those feelings to be intensified to the point where they do something irrational.”

Bracht squared up his shoulders. “My lieutenants can be trusted, Sir. They must know who they are dealing with.”

Robert brought his folded hands up to his chin and rest his index fingers on his lips. Telling more people increased the risk of the information getting out. Goodness knows many of my crew members have serious grudges against the Tredons. And who better to take it out on than this young Dragon Prince himself. But he had a good crew. Bracht was right. They were trustworthy. And it was important to their safety that they understand the increased risks—as well as the increased sensitivity—of the situation. “You may share the information with the full lieutenant officers only. Make it clear they are to keep this secret.”

“Yes, Sir,” Lt. Commander Bracht replied.

“I know feelings against the Tredons run deep, but I will not have you or anyone else instigating conflict. As security, your job is primarily to protect our crew, but it’s also to protect the child from anyone who wishes to take their grudges out on him. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Sir,” Bracht said in a more subdued tone.

*****

“That is all.” The captain inclined his head to the three of them.

Bracht and Jenna stood to leave.

“Sir, a private moment?” J.D. said to the captain.

The captain tilted his head again. Bracht and Jenna left.

“Yes, Commander?” Captain Arden said.

J.D. thought carefully about what he wanted to say. It had become apparent that the captain and the Rabnoshk warrior were close and he didn’t want to offend. “I’m wondering about Bracht, Sir. It’s obvious he doesn’t like the boy and I’m worried his prejudice may be rubbing off on the others.”

“I’ve known Bracht a long time,” the captain replied casually. “He may be outspoken in this room, but I assure you he is not one to instigate trouble.”

“It seemed he was trying to instigate trouble here,” he replied, careful to keep his tone from sounding accusatory.

“I understand your concern, Commander.” The captain sounded genuine. “I’ve spent a lot of time around warriors like Bracht and of other races. The manners you just saw them display is a form of posturing and I believe these two needed to do it in order to establish one another’s boundaries. You’d be surprised at how well two men who hate each other can get along once their posturing is done.”

“Hmm,” he conceded.

“Granted, Bracht can come awfully close to crossing the line sometimes,” the captain said. “But I believe he is a good deterrent for anything the prince might be considering. I’ve given this child our trust, but Bracht has helped established that our trust will not be taken advantage of.”

J.D. sat back in his chair. “I never thought if it that way.” He quickly replayed the scene in his head and saw Bracht differently this time around. The Rabnoshk warrior was harsh, but only at first. And same with the boy. Towards the end of their encounter, both appeared mollified.

“There’s something I’d like to ask you about, Commander,” the captain said.

“What is it, Sir?”

“What do you think of Rear Admiral Zimmer?”

He tensed at the name but hoped the captain hadn’t noticed. “Uh… well.” The room seemed to suddenly shrink.

“It’s all right, Commander,” the captain replied. “I realize the Kimpke incident left you with some unpleasant feelings, but putting that event aside, what is your honest opinion of the man? This is strictly between you and I and I swear I will not use the information against you in any way.”

The captain’s earnest manner put him at ease. “I think he’s an arrogant ass,” he replied bluntly. Captain Arden raised an eyebrow. I probably should have been more tactful. It was difficult, though. Every time he heard the name Zimmer, he felt a spark of anger. “I felt this way about him from the moment I met him, so my feelings are not entirely based on the fact that he nearly ended my career.”

“Your own actions nearly ended your career, Commander,” the captain replied.

He made an effort to hide the spike of anxiety. Not once since the captain appointed him as his commander a few months ago had the man brought up the Kimpke incident. “I realize this, Sir, and I’m not trying to shift blame,” he replied more calmly than he felt. “I meant to say his method of command compelled me to the actions that nearly led to my dismissal from the Alliance fleet.”

“And what do you mean by his method of command?”

The captain’s curious and non-accusatory tone inspired him to be forthcoming. “He refuses to listen to the advice of his officers, even when presented with compelling evidence. And while many believe he makes decisions based on his intelligence and years of experience, I believe his decisions are severely limited by his ego and by his many prejudices. He never admits when he’s wrong and when things don’t turn out the way he expects them, he somehow manages to make others look and feel responsible.” His heart raced, but it felt good to finally be able to speak out about Zimmer. It occurred to him he may have gone too far with his new captain, but Captain Arden did not look angry or disappointed. If anything, he looked thoughtful.

“And you came to this opinion before you got into trouble?”

“Yes, Sir. I could site you several examples if you’d like.”

The captain swept his hand. “No, that’s quite all right. I am familiar with the admiral’s method of command. Do you know why I requested you as my commanding officer—despite your actions with Kimpke?”

“I’ve always wondered, Sir.” He leaned forward expectantly.

“As subordinates, we are expected to do as we are told even if we disagree. Your actions with Kimpke imply that you will disobey the chain of command whenever you don’t want to do something.”

He opened his mouth to protest but the captain held up a hand.

“I don’t, however, believe this one incident sets a precedent. You no doubt felt strongly about what was happening and you were faced with a moral dilemma.”

“Yes, Sir.” Maybe someone finally understands.

“Although I believe it is important we strictly follow our chain of command,” the captain said, “I don’t believe we should always do so blindly. I actually find what you did to be noble. You were backed in a corner and faced with either doing something against your conscience or disobeying and risking a court martial.”

“I don’t make a habit of disobeying orders, Captain,” he said. “But I honestly don’t think I could have lived with myself if I had done what the admiral ordered.”

“That’s what I hoped for when I took you on, Commander. Out here, we are often faced with moral dilemmas. There will be times when we will have to do things we don’t agree with. But at the same time, it is our responsibility to speak up when we are ordered to do something we feel will cause great harm. I am currently faced with such a dilemma.”

“I’m not sure I understand, Sir.” A brief moment of panic struck him. Is this another Kimpke-like situation?

“Knowing the admiral,” the captain said carefully, “what do you think he would do if he found out we have the Kavakian Princes on board our ship?”

He hadn’t given it much thought, but suddenly understood what the captain was getting at. Sure enough. It’s Kimpke all over again. “He’d order us to bring in the princes for questioning.”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” the captain replied. “And what do you think would happen if we did such a thing?”

“I think if Emperor Kavak found out, he’d have a valid argument for getting a number of other dignitaries to side with him against us. We’d have war.”

“And how do you feel about a war with the Tredons, Commander?”

“Despite how disagreeable I think the Tredons are, I think going to war with them would be a terrible mistake.”

“Are you telling me this because you think it’s what I want to hear, or because it is how you truly feel? You are a strategist, after all, and strategy is a war tactic.”

“True. But I didn’t choose to be a strategist so I could fight in a war.”

“Tell me more.” The captain’s face showed nothing, though eyes made him seem genuinely interested.

“I assume you know I was a Peacekeeper on Pholis for a short time.”

“Yes. You received a medal during that time, if I remember correctly.”

J.D. smiled shyly. “Well, my father was one too. As was my grandfather and great-grandfather.”

The captain’s eyebrows went up. “A family of Peacekeepers. That’s quite a legacy. How do they feel about you being a strategist for the Alliance?”

He let out a soft sigh. Peacekeepers were very different from the militaries of other cultures. They were entirely true to their name. At first, his father had been disappointed with his decision to join the Alliance. But Pholis was a part of the Alliance and the man finally conceded J.D.’s great leadership qualities and his Pholan ways could be a good influence. “He’s proud of me.” His cheeks burned. “He hopes I never have to fight in a war, but he understands it’s sometimes necessary in order to protect the innocent.”

“But you don’t think war necessary now?”

“No. Not at all, Sir. My father taught me strategy isn’t just about fighting. It’s about protecting people while losing as few casualties as possible. If we go to war with the Tredons, many will die. And not just the fighters, but innocent people too. The Tredons will probably use our value of human lives against us. They will strike at military bases as well as homesteads. So the best strategy in this case is to avoid going to war with them.”

Captain Arden nodded. “I’m glad we’re on the same page in all this. So what will you do if the admiral orders us to bring the children to him?”

The notion struck him with dread. “Do we have to tell him?”

“We do. Although I’m given a lot of leeway to make my own decisions without involving our superiors, I believe I am obligated to tell them about the princes. I must report this to the rear admiral.”

He swallowed a lump in his throat. “What about your promise to Jori?”

The captain sighed and his brows drew down. “I’m hoping for the best, Commander. I’m hoping the man will be smart about this. I can’t tell you at this point what I will do if I’m given the order to break my promise to the child. But I can tell you I will be in much the same situation as you were with Kimpke.”

The lump in his throat grew harder. His face flushed with heat and his skin prickled as air from the vent whispered over the sweat on his neck. “I’m with you, whatever happens.”

“Even if the order is given and I decide to obey?”

He resisted the urge to wipe the sweat from his brow. “To be honest, Sir. I’d disobey the admiral if he gave me the order directly. But you’re not like him. Not at all. I’m with you.”

The captain stared into his eyes as though weighing the truth of his words. “We haven’t known one another for long, so I greatly appreciate your loyalty.”

“My father says the best kind of loyalty is the one that’s earned.”

“Your father is a wise man. I hope to meet him some day.”

He smiled at the thought. The two would get along, for certain. But his father’s gregarious nature would probably overwhelm the stolid captain.

“Can I ask when you’re going to tell the rear admiral?” he said.

Captain Arden frowned. “My current plan is to notify him somewhere in the midst of the written monthly report rather than by contacting him directly.”

“You can do that?”

“It’s a fine line. But I may be able to make an argument in my favor.”

He smiled inwardly as relief washed over him. I like this man more and more. “If we get to the Chevert Outpost as soon as we can, there might be a chance the admiral won’t see the information in the report until it’s too late.”

“This is my hope as well. But we’re still several days out.”

“Perhaps contact this man Jax right away. This way you can tell the admiral you’ve already notified the Tredons that you’re returning the princes, and any deviation from this plan might spark a war.”

The captain stroked his beard. His eyes appeared thoughtful at first. But then they clouded. “Somehow, I doubt it will deter the admiral.”

J.D. sighed despairingly and sat back in his chair. I’ll just have to wait on Brinar’s Bluff until then, his mother’s favorite phrase chimed in his head. “I guess all we can do is wait and see what happens.”

“And have faith in the system,” the captain added.

 

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 18 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 18 – Revised

(I’m worried this chapter may be repeating too much from a previous chapter. So if this feels like déjà vu, let me know. Let me know which parts you think can be deleted, if any. If you’ve missed the previous 17 chapters of this science fiction story, scroll down to find Categories in the right hand column. Then click under “The Kavakian Empire” link where it says “Sci-Fi Part 1 – Revised”.)

Captain Robert Arden sipped his coffee. Black. Bitter yet smooth. And just the stimulation he needed for the weighty decisions he had to make.

“We are harboring a dangerous enemy, Captain,” Bracht bellowed. “He should be placed in the brig immediately.”

“I am well aware of how you feel about the boy, Bracht. While I agree he has the potential to be an even greater risk than I first thought, he is still just a boy. I will not lock him up unless he gives me reason to.”

Bracht huffed.

Lieutenant Stein leaned forward. “As Dragon Princes, these boys be even more dangerous than we assumed. There be no telling how many genetic enhancements they’ve inherited. Intelligence, strength, speed, these all be things we’ve seen evidence of. But what else is there that we haven’t seen?”

True enough. But the presence of the Kavakian Princes held implications far beyond the security of this ship. If the emperor finds out we have them

He rubbed his brow. The situation was exceedingly delicate. Things could easily get out of hand. The Alliance and the Tredons were not currently at war, but to say things were tense between them was a vast understatement. If something happened to the Tredon princes, then nothing would stop an all-out war.

His coffee suddenly tasted even more sour than usual. He didn’t know if he could handle another war. The Rabnoshk Battle of Grendork from a couple decades ago still haunted him. The battle at least resulted in both sides finally opening their eyes to the levels of destruction their hatred had wrought. Peace followed, but there was still much left to heal.

Bracht leaned his big bulk forward. “We should keep him in the brig.”

If one didn’t know the Rabnoshk warrior as well as he did, they’d think he was making a demand. The man was certainly brusque. But he’d trust him with his life…and the security of this ship.

Bracht’s notion was tempting, but it didn’t sit right with him. Barring the child’s attitude, he exhibited no signs of violent intent. He should give be given the benefit of the doubt, regardless of who he was. After all, peace began with trust. And if Bracht’s people could become allies after decades of being enemies, so could the Tredons.

“I have made my decision on this matter.” His tone was low and firm.

Bracht opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by the sound of the ready room doors sliding open. Commander Hapker entered with the Dragon Prince at his side.

“I must protest, Captain. This boy is extremely dangerous.” Bracht flicked his hand vehemently. The youth looked smug at the remark. “How do we know he won’t kill the commander in his sleep?”

The child’s face darkened. “I do not kill people in their sleep.” His voice came out in a growl and he glared boldly at the tall and well-built warrior.

Bracht bared his teeth hatefully and held the stare. The child didn’t flinch or cower and his glare matched the man’s.

“Bracht,” Robert warned.

The staring contest broke. The child turned away and faced him with a cool composure. He stood like a soldier, his eyes alert, his body erect with his legs shoulder-width apart, and his hands clasped behind his back.

“Welcome, young man.” He smiled kindly but the child did not smile back. There was no emotion on his face, just in the bold confidence of his dark eyes. “I’m sure Commander Hapker extended my apologies, but I appreciate this opportunity to give them to you in person.”

Jori only nodded.

“I do sincerely apologize for allowing Lt. Garner to use his skills on you. However, I don’t regret my decision to do so. I have the safety of my crew to consider. And although it pleases me a great deal that I have been able to help you and your brother, your presence here poses a number of concerns.”

“So you take back what you’ve said about helping us?” The child’s eyes darkened.

He rest his elbows on the table interlocked his fingers. “Rest assured that nothing has changed in regards to you or your brother’s well-being, or to my promise that we will get you home.”

“Even though we are your enemies?” His eyes flickered into disbelief.

So much expression in those eyes. They reminded him of the eyes of another young warrior not so long ago. Well, Bracht wasn’t this young when they’d met. But still young…and full of ardor. “Yes. We treat everyone with equal care here.”

“Despite what you say, I can’t help but to feel my brother’s life may be contingent upon my cooperation.”

“As next in line, I’d think you wouldn’t care,” Bracht said snidely.

Robert looked at him pointedly but the man didn’t seem to notice.

“Do not speak of what you do not know,” Jori warned the man through gritted teeth.

Lt. Commander Bracht’s eyes blazed hatefully and a growl rumbled in his chest. The child’s poise remained cool, but his eyes burned.

“That’s enough, Bracht. Or I’ll have you wait outside.” He admired the man’s tenacity…most of the time. It’s what made him an excellent security officer. But this situation needed to be handled with diplomacy.

He turned back to Jori, “We’re doing whatever we can to save your brother’s life no matter what. I promise you we will get you back home safe. Not as prisoners. No ransom. Just home.”

“It would not be so for you if the situation were reversed.”

Jori’s sober tone made his spine tingle. The Lt. Commander harrumphed loudly but the child ignored him. Although these two warriors had more similarities between them than they probably would have liked, there was one major difference. Bracht’s disgust was plainly evident with the way he grimaced, while the boy’s face gave nothing away. Only his eyes, and occasionally his tone, revealed anything.

“Nevertheless,” he replied, “it is not our way to take children as prisoners, nor let anyone needing medical care die.”

“He’s no ordinary child,” Lt. Commander Bracht muttered.

“Even if it was my father you’d saved from the planet?”

Lt. Stein sucked in a breath. Both J.D. and Bracht’s eyes widened. His own hands twitched. Thank goodness this wasn’t the case. But his answer was still the same. “Of course. We would do our best to help even if it were your father’s life on the line.”

“Why?” The child’s tone was flat. Only his eyes reflected his puzzlement.

“It is not our way to simply let people die. The Prontaean Alliance does indeed consider your father as a criminal, but we would still try to save his life so that he could stand trial for his crimes.”

The boy’s mouth twitched. “I find your justice system bewildering, Captain. You know he’s guilty. My father knows he’s guilty. Why waste time with a trial? It would be simpler to just let him die…assuming you had that opportunity.” His tone was a little sharp, but not confrontational.

Bracht made a low grunt in agreement.

“We believe every person has a right to a fair trial, a right to defend their actions, and a right to receive impartial judgment.”

The boy shook his head as though in disbelief. “And what keeps you from putting my brother and me on trial?”

“So far as I know, you’ve done nothing illegal.”

“So far as you know.”

Bracht let out low rumble.

His spine tingled again. “Are you saying you’ve done something illegal?”

The child narrowed his eyes. “Not in your territory. But I’d think you’d consider the likelihood of us doing so in the future.”

“What you do is your own choice. Your family history doesn’t have to presage your future.”

The placidness of Jori’s face was broken by the wrinkling of his brow. “We are enemies, Captain.”

He brought his folded hands up and rest his chin on the point of his two index fingers. “Why? Why are we enemies?”

*****

The question caught him off guard. Jori’s mind raced. Dozens of things, things he’d heard his father or his father’s men say, came to mind. But each one of the reasons seemed weak.

The Alliance had killed a few of their best warriors. But he’d read the reports. Those men had been causing trouble in Alliance territory.

The Alliance had intercepted some of their ships and confiscated cargo. True. But he knew what the captain’s response would be. Tredon ships weren’t allowed in Alliance territory. And since Alliance vessels were likewise not allowed in Tredon territory, it was fair. Not to mention the stark difference between how Tredons in Alliance territory were treated when compared to how people from the Alliance were treated when found in Tredon territory.

He’d asked Master Jetser this very question once. General Trevine interrupted and said the Alliance was nothing but a bunch of do-gooder know-it-alls. Jetser later told him this wasn’t a good enough reason. The real reason was because of how large the Prontaean Alliance was and because it only kept getting larger as planet after planet joined them. This was a threat to his father’s rule because it meant they would soon be powerful enough to destroy him if they chose.

He opened his mouth to tell Jeter’s reason to Captain Arden, then closed it again. He knew what the man’s response would be to this as well. The Alliance didn’t expand by conquering. People joined them of their own free will.

This is another trick. He’s trying to trick me. So what if his ancestors had acquired their territory by force. So what if his father’s intent was to get back what his grandfather had lost. Captain Arden didn’t understand their ways.

His cheeks grew hot and he clenched his fists.

Captain Arden put up his hand. “It’s all right. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot.”

J.D. put his hand on his shoulder. He almost flinched. The man had been standing quietly beside him for so long he’d almost forgotten he was there. “I’m sure your people feel their reasons are valid.”

Damn right they do. But even if they did feel their reasons were valid, were they rational? Doesn’t matter. These are my enemies either way.

The captain folded his hands again. “Now that you know we mean well, I’d like to get clarification on a few things. Your reluctance to tell us who you were is completely understandable. Since you didn’t lie to me and only withheld the information, I assume you’ve been telling the truth on the other questions we’ve asked?”

“I’m no liar.”

“I believe you. I really do. But what do you suppose the Grapnes wanted? And the bounty hunters?”

He scowled. Just because the captain knew his secret didn’t mean he had to spill his guts. At the same time, though, it would be nice to have the captain off his back. His earlier anger at the captain’s little trick with the reader had mostly been all cried out. “Ransom or vengeance, I assume.”

“So they know who you are?”

“No one was supposed to know, but one of my men let it slip.” Bok was a braggart even when sober. Add a little drink while visiting one of Depnaugh’s many pubs, and he became a loudmouthed baka.

“I see,” the captain said. “Why would your father send you both out there? Wasn’t he worried about the danger?”

He huffed. Father worried about danger? “How will we gain experience if all we do is play simulated games?” The heat was rising to his cheeks again. He didn’t like being questioned—even if the questions did seem reasonable. “This was just supposed to be a simple mission. One we could have completed if they hadn’t found out who we were.”

“What was your mission?”

He clenched his fists. The captain was pushing it. The man knew it too. He could sense it. “Just supplies and information, plain and simple. No thievery. No killing.” Simple, and yet we still failed. His cheeks burned again, but this time in shame.

“This information you speak of, it was about scientists, was it not?”

The captain’s tone was casual, but he knew better. “That’s none of your business. I’ve already made it clear that we’ve done nothing illegal.”

“Fair enough.” He sensed the captain’s curiosity fall away. “Now, how can we contact your father directly so that we can tell him you’re alright?”

He tensed. What would his father think if he found out he was here, being treated as a guest on an Alliance ship? He’d think I’m a traitor. That’s what. “You actually think speaking to my father is a good idea?”

“Don’t you want to let him know you’re safe?”

He huffed again. “He would never believe I’m safe here. Even if I told him so myself.” His father would probably torture him when he got home in order to force him to say what he believed the truth to be. Their mission had already failed terribly. It was bad enough he and Terk would return with no ship, no cargo, and no men. But if father found out they’d also been captured?

The best way to recover from this mission was to lay all the blame on Bok and pretend they’d escaped certain death all on their own. They at least still had the information on the scientists. But his father wouldn’t trust the information if he knew they’d spent time here.

“I think he’d realize you’d been kept safe when we finally get you home.” The captain’s tone was confident but he could sense the man’s uncertainty.

“Not if my brother doesn’t make it.”

He sensed a spike of fear in the captain. From Lt. Stein and J.D. as well. Bracht was still stewing, but only mildly now.

“I see your point. So you still recommend this man named Jax at the Chevert Outpost?”

“Yes.”

“How do you know you can trust him? I don’t know a lot about Tredon politics, but I do know there are a number of Tredon lords who would love to see an end to the Kavaks.”

“Jax is no lord. He’s just a merchant. Many lords covet his position, though, for their younger sons. My father’s favor helps him keep his position. He’d be a fool to get on his bad side—or ours, for that matter.” Not to mention how Terk had once saved his life. Jax would certainly be grateful if he was able to return the favor.

“Very well. I will think on it. Thank you, Prince Kavak.”

“It is Daini Prince Kavak, as in second. My brother’s not dead.” A pang pierced his chest.

Lt. Stein stepped forward. “So there are only two of you, then? Two princes, I mean.”

A flash of heat surged through him. He wasn’t supposed to reveal that. Damn these Alliance people.

He gave her a dirty look. The captain seemed to be pretending he hadn’t heard her. “My apologies. Thank you, Daini Prince Kavak,” he said. “Though may I suggest we keep your full identity between us? For your safety, of course.”

“Very well. Just Jori, then.” He extinguished the heating embers. Everyone would know soon enough that his father only had two heirs left.

“Thank you, Jori.” The captain’s smile was kind. “I appreciate what a wonderful guest you’ve been so far. I hope we can continue our cordial relationship.”

Wonderful guest? Cordial? This man is full of sickeningly sweet politeness. “I’ll continue as before, unless self-defense or the defense of my brother becomes necessary. You have my word.”

“For whatever that’s worth,” Bracht muttered.

He ignored him. Dammit. I shouldn’t have said that last part. When Terk woke up, if he woke up, they still had a duty to their father to steal information or commit sabotage. How had he forgotten about that?

 

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 17 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 17 – Revised

(This is the much better 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.)

Someone came into the room where Terk lay. Jori didn’t have to look up to see who it was. He could feel him.

J.D.’s warm hand rest on his shoulder. “No change?”

His heart constricted. I don’t want to talk right now. You’re not my friend. The words were there but he couldn’t bring himself to say them out loud. He kept his head down so J.D. couldn’t see him cry.

“There’s still a chance he’ll make it.” The man gave him a slight rub on the shoulder.

J.D. probably thought he was sad because of his brother. He was, but it was more than that. You betrayed me. A pang in his chest welled up. An urge to tell the man to go away and leave him alone formed on his lips. He swallowed down the saliva building in his mouth instead.

He’s not pretending. His own emotions were in turmoil, but somehow J.D.’s compassion had pushed its way through. If he cares so much, why did he betray me? He should ask him. The accusation was ready to fly. But then J.D. would be angry again. And he’d leave.

They sat there together for a long time without saying anything. He let J.D.’s concern wash over him like a fresh blast of air from a cooling system into an engine room. His cheeks were still hot, but his tears were drying up.

Something else about J.D.’s emotions began to niggle at him. The more his own emotions began to calm, the stronger the sensation came.

Dread. That’s what it is. Dread. The awful feeling crept over into his own emotions.

Jori finally looked up. “What’s wrong?”

J.D.’s eyebrows shot up and he sensed a spike of unease from him. “Me? What do you mean?”

“Something’s wrong. The captain wants to hurt me, doesn’t he?”

“What?” J.D. sat up quickly. “No. No one’s going to hurt you.”

“Then what is it?” His voice came out sounding angry, but it was worry that he felt.

J.D. sat back and signed. “I need to talk to you about something. Later of course. After you’ve spent some time with your brother.”

“It’s okay. I can come see him again later. What is it?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” His heart was pounding. I need to know.

J.D. stood.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

“Back to my quarters where we can talk privately.” He gave a significant glance towards the curtain where guards stood just on the other side.

Jori swallowed down the lump in his throat. The walk there was silent, but at least the tension between them this morning was gone. The commander felt apprehensive but there was an odd mixture of sanguinity in it. Is he going to apologize? Does he expect me to apologize? Does he hate me? His chest tightened. Is he tired of me and going to pass me over to someone else? Or put me in a cell?

They sat down on the padded chairs in the lounge area of his quarters. J.D. brought his chair closer to Jori’s so the two of them were facing one another. The man put his elbows on his knees and wrung his hands.

He could almost taste the commanders’ worry. He stiffened and stared intently, waiting for him to speak.

J.D. looked away, as though in thought. After a long moment, he took a deep breath and spoke. “First of all, I wanted to apologize for what happened with Liam. It wasn’t something we wanted to do, but we felt it was necessary.”

He frowned. A tart reply came to his lips but he suppressed it.

“But we understand now. You’re afraid of what we will find out and that we’ll hurt you or your brother because of it.”

His throat caught. His pulse began to quicken.

“Well, I promise you it changes nothing. We’re still going to do everything we can to help your brother. And we’re still going to get you home.”

He glanced from one of J.D.’s eyes to the other. The man was nervous, he could feel it. He knows. He sat rigidly, not daring to speak.

“We know, Jori. We know you’re Emperor Kavak’s son. We know you and your brother are the Dragon Princes.”

He sucked in a breath. His chest tightened and suddenly he couldn’t breathe. A sharpness burst in his chest, like someone had grabbed his heart and was squeezing the life out of it. He pulled back, then glanced around the room assessing for a way out.

“It’s alright, Jori.” J.D. touched his hand. “Look at me,” he said in a quiet tone. Jori met his eyes. “We’re not going to hurt you. And we’re still going to help you.”

He swallowed the dryness in his throat. It feels like he’s telling the truth. Doesn’t it? His own emotions were spiraling out of control. “Why?” His voice sounded like a croak.

“Because. Because no matter what we think of your father, you’ve done nothing wrong.”

“How do you know?” His tone was challenging but his heart was racing in trepidation.

“I don’t know for certain. It’s just something I feel.”

He said nothing and tried to control the whirl of emotions. Somewhere in the mix was a sense of sincerity. It wasn’t his own so it must be J.D.’s.

“Jori.” J.D. clasped his hand. “Our people may be enemies. But you and I? You and I don’t have to be.” He gave a slight squeeze.

Does he mean it? Does he really mean it? Or is he just trying to manipulate me? He stood abruptly. “I’m going to the gym.” Everything threatened to flood out of control. He had to go.

“Huh? Now?”

“Now.” His own emotions threatened to detonate, but he still sensed J.D.’s confusion as well as a spike of irritation.

“I’ll go with you.”

“No. I’ll go alone.” He stiffened in resolve, trying to force the flood down. Emotion is weakness.

He sensed resignation from J.D. And the hint of disappointment he also thought he sensed from the man nearly sent him over the edge. I don’t get it. I’m his enemy. He’s faking. He’s got to be. But he feels so sincere.

He raced out.

Things blurred from there. Before he knew it, he was activating the holo-man program in the gym.

His emotions exploded at the same moment he took out the first holo-man. The flood came out in a raging yell. Tears streamed down his face. He couldn’t stop them. But he moved so fast and furiously against the holo-man that he doubted anyone would notice.

*****

J.D. sat alone in his quarters. He moved to get up with the intention of going to see how Jori was doing. But he plopped his back against the chair with a heavy sigh for the tenth time.

Back in sick bay, Jori had known something was wrong. Maybe he really is a reader. If this was the case, the boy had to already know how sincere he was. So there wasn’t much he could say or do now that would make much difference.

Leave him be. He’ll come around on his own. Those were his father’s words. He’d said them after J.D. and his brother had gotten into an argument over a girl. They’d both said hateful things, things which would’ve led to blows if mom hadn’t stepped in.

Jori just needs some time. And maybe I do too.

He got up and went to the lounge. There were several people there, but not so many that he couldn’t find an isolated booth in the corner where he ordered a stiff drink and sat in thought.

A few officers from around the room dipped their heads in greeting when he met their eyes, but no one bothered him. It didn’t matter that he was off duty. His rank probably intimidated them from approaching. Not that he wanted to be bothered right now, anyway.

He took a sip of his drink, just enough to bite the tip of his tongue and warm his throat as it went down. He didn’t drink often, so this was a nice respite.

He tried not to think of Jori. Tried and failed. The boy’s abrupt behavior after he’d just made a sincere overture of friendship stung worse than the alcohol. Why does he keep pushing me away? I give him my trust and it means nothing.

Doubt niggled in his mind. If he was truly seeking friendship, shouldn’t Jori have sensed it? Maybe he wasn’t really making the effort he thought he was. Maybe Captain Arden had assigned the wrong man for this job.

He was about to take another sip of his drink when someone dropped down on the seat across from him.

“I hardly ever see you here.” Hanna wore a small smile.

Even though his respite was shattered, he actually didn’t mind her interruption. She was the only one on this ship he knew well. They’d been good friends at the P.A. Institute and she’d been serving under him when the Kimpke incident went down. She had even testified on his behalf during his trail.

Hanna was like one of the guys in many aspects, including her manly form. But she also had the intuition that most men seemed to lack. It made her the perfect person to speak to at this moment.

“I really needed a drink,” he said.

“The Tredon boy’s giving you trouble, huh?”

He sighed. Jori’s presence was certainly troublesome. But in looking back, the boy’s behavior was mostly justified. He was just trying to protect his brother.

“Not so much as you’d think,” he replied. “It’s just that…” Just what? That he’s the son of the notorious Dragon Emperor? He couldn’t tell Hanna this. Not in this setting. He ran his hands down his face in thought.

An attendant came by the table. Hanna ordered a drink. When the attendant left, she folded her hands in front of her. “It can’t be easy for him here.”

“No. I know it can’t.” He cupped his chin. “He won’t open up to me. Every time he comes close, something happens and I have to start all over again.”

“That’s understandable.”

“Understandable but frustrating.”

“Put yourself in his place.”

Try to see things from his perspective, his father had said of his brother. These words applied for just about everyone, but right now they especially applied to Jori. He quickly replayed the recent events in his mind.

He took a sip of his drink and the sharp taste of the alcohol hit him like a lightning bolt. Liam.

Thinking of the man and his ability to dig around in people’s minds always made him squirm. But this time his gut churned with guilt as well. He’d told Jori he was on his side. He told him he could trust him. And then he showed distrust by allowing Liam to do his thing. No wonder the boy kept pushing him away.

“You’re right.” He nodded his head. “I know this isn’t the prevailing feeling amongst the crew, but I don’t think he’s the monster everyone wants to make him out to be.”

“I agree with you. But I can understand why they feel this way. Tredon warriors have done some godawful things.”

“He’s just a boy.”

“A boy who’s probably seen more death than any of us combined.” She sat back and shook her head. “You have to wonder what sort of impression that makes on him.”

His stomach started tumbling again. He imagined Jori standing beside his father as the man tortured another human being. That the boy was forced to grow up with such violence and be expected to learn the tricks of the trade was sickening.

The boy could easily end up being just like his father. He has no other options. His heart ached as he recalled his conversation with the boy about why he had all those broken bones. He has no choice but to live up to his father’s expectations.

He took another drink then sat back gloomily.

Hanna’s face seemed to brighten. “Maybe his time on this ship will do him some good.”

He appreciated her trying to cheer him up. “It’s not so far.”

“It might be and you just don’t know it. It’s hard to read that kid. I’ve only seen two emotions coming from him—blank indifference and anger.”

He grunted in reply. But then he remembered how Jori had almost cried. “I think he feels more emotions. He’s just reluctant to show them.”

“Probably.” Hanna shrugged her shoulders. “I can’t think of anyone better than you to make a positive impression on him.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” She smiled. “You have a way of talking to people. You’re not so big-headed that you always think you’re right. You listen to people. And if you disagree, you say it in a way that doesn’t put them off.”

“Huh.” His cheeks burned. It could have been the flush of alcohol in his blood, but then again it had been some time since he’d received a compliment.

“I wonder if this kid has ever been exposed to someone like you,” Hanna said.

“I’m not sure if he’s seen that side of me. I’ve lost my temper at least once. Said something I shouldn’t have.”

Hanna shrugged. “Sometimes that’s necessary. As long as I’ve known you, you’re only stern when you have to be. And you’re always fair about it.”

“Maybe.” His cheeks flushed again.

“Come one.” She touched his arm casually. “I’m sure the kid is used to far worse. Besides, if I know you the way I think I do you probably apologized. A kid used to being dictated to, one who probably sees everyone always acting like they’re better than everyone else and never admitting when they’re wrong, has got to be at least a little impressed with you.”

His cheeks really burned now. If it had been another woman, he’d think she was flirting with him. He shook his head.

“He’s probably too young to recognize it yet. But seriously J.D., you really are the only one who has any remote possibility of being a good influence on him.”

“Really?”

“Really.” Her tone was reassuring.

Maybe, just maybe, there was still a chance. He was so close before with getting Jori to open up. If he could just help him see what life was like without cruelty, maybe he could show the boy how to make better choices. And perhaps the Tredons and the Alliance could have the peace that Captain Arden so hoped for.

Maybe. It was worth a try at least.

 

He and Hanna talked for a little while longer and afterward he returned to his quarters. Jori returned about an hour later.

J.D. clicked off his digiview. When he looked up at Jori’s face, his shoulders slumped. The boy’s face was blank—as usual. “How are you doing?” he asked anyway.

“Well.” The boy’s eyes didn’t even flicker.

“Can we talk?” he asked gently.

Jori didn’t say anything, but he put his hands behind his back and stood in an attentive at-ease stance.

He suppressed a despondent sigh and turned his chair so he was facing the boy directly. “I realized something earlier. I realized I should have stood up for you when the captain allowed Liam to read you. I told you I was on your side, and I failed you in that. I’m sorry. I truly am.”

Jori’s brow furrowed. “You think you should have gone against your captain?”

It wouldn’t be the first time. “I should have at least said something against it. As I said, I didn’t disagree with his decision. But you shouldn’t have to face all this alone.”

Jori was silent for a moment. The boy kept eye contact and glanced from eye to eye, as though searching for something. The scrutiny gave J.D. the urge to fidget, but he pushed the feeling down.

“You really do want to help us and get us home,” the boy finally said.

“Yes,” he answered even though it wasn’t a question.

“I wish to speak to Captain Arden.” His tone was hard, but not demanding. “You say this, despite who we are. But I must hear it from him.”

He straightened. “You really are a reader, aren’t you?”

Jori’s eyes darkened. “I can’t do what that man Liam can do. I don’t invade peoples’ heads and pull out their thoughts like a thief.”

“I’m sorry,” he said sincerely. “I didn’t mean to accuse you of anything.”

“I can only sense emotions that people give off.” Jori’s tone was slightly softer. “It’s barely any different from someone who can read body language.”

A very low-level reader, then. One that doesn’t even require registration, at least according to Alliance regulations. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, then stopped himself so Jori couldn’t sense his unease. “Can all Tredons do this?”

“No. Just my brother and I…and our mother.”

“Not your father?”

“No.”

That’s a relief. “I bet this ability probably comes in handy,” he said carefully.

“It is why I didn’t shoot you when you and your men confronted me on Pensla,” Jori said humorlessly. “It’s why I trust you when you say you will help save my brother and why I must hear confirmation from the captain directly.”

He flushed at the word ‘trust’. Perhaps he’d made some positive headway after all. “Fair enough.” He nodded. “I’ll arrange it for tomorrow. But don’t worry too much in the meantime. I know the captain intends to help you.”

Jori made a nod. It was a good thing J.D. was more certain about where Captain Arden stood now. Otherwise, Jori probably wouldn’t have believe him.

 

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.