The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 24 – Revised
(I’m a bit worried this next part may be too long and boring. It seems like I’m writing about every single meeting the captain has with his crew. Although the information here is very important, I’m wondering if some of it can be cut and inserted as an afterthought elsewhere. Read on and let me know what you think of my science fiction story so far in the comments below.)
Captain Arden made a sweeping hand gesture. “Please, have a seat, Commander.”
J.D. sat, thankful he had the captain to himself before Bracht and the others arrived for this morning’s meeting.
“I’ve been updated on the situation with the elder prince’s health,” the captain said. “How’s the younger one taking it?”
“Not well, Sir. He’s very distraught.”
“That’s understandable. How is his reaction towards us?”
“I believe he knows we really are trying to do everything we can.”
The captain raised his eyebrows slightly. “That’s good. Good to hear.”
“In fact, I believe the incident’s brought us closer.”
The man’s eyebrows went up further. “Really?”
“Yes, Sir.” He smiled. “I’m actually getting to like him. And I think he feels the same towards me. I’m starting to hope you’re right about being able to build a more peaceful future between our people.”
“That’s wonderful news, Commander. It’s unfortunate it came about in this way, though.”
His smile fell away. “Yes. But I think it was already starting to happen.”
“Good job, Commander,” the captain replied. J.D.’s heart swelled. “But it’s not over yet.”
His heart shrank. “No, Sir. There’s still a chance his brother won’t make it.”
The captain’s brows drew downward. “Yes, there is that.”
The conference room door slid open. Bracht stepped in. The warrior nodded a greeting to both the captain and himself before sitting down. A few moments later, Lt. Sam Simmonds arrived, a pleasant man, but an odd-looking one in his opinion.
Simmonds sported a mustache and long sideburns growing down to a point that ended at the start of his bald chin. It wasn’t his facial hair that made him look comical, though. It was the way the man’s large nose turned red at the tip whenever he was nervous or agitated. It reminded J.D. of the jocose performers at the traveling bazaars back home.
Lt. Hanna Sharkey came in next. She gave him a small smile, but her posture was rigid and her face looked strained.
“Lt. Sharkey, I wasn’t expecting you,” the captain said.
“She has some information I think you should hear, Captain,” Bracht replied.
The captain nodded and indicated for her to sit.
She sat. She’d been a part of their conferences before, but her striking blue eyes darted about as though she was nervous.
Lt. Jenna Stein arrived last. She, too, had an edgy look about her.
“Lt. Sharkey, why don’t you begin,” the captain said.
“Sir, there’s a lot of resentment amongst the security officers going around. I believe the information has gotten out and spread in a very bad way.”
J.D. leaned forward. The invisible weight he’d been feeling lately grew heavier.
The captain frowned. “In what way is that, Lieutenant?”
Hanna hesitated. “I believe a group of people tried to pick a fight with the prince the other day.”
He sat up quickly. “When?”
“At the gym, after you left.” She averted her gaze from his, as though she felt guilty for telling on him. Not that he’d done anything wrong. “I don’t know the details, but apparently someone thought it was funny to program the holo-man to look like a Tredon. Words were exchanged, but someone else intervened before it got out of hand.”
J.D. swallowed down the hard lump in his throat. I should have stayed with him. Jori’s going through so much already. “Jori didn’t tell me anything about this.” Why didn’t he tell me?
“Why wasn’t this reported?” The captain’s tone was heavy and stern.
Her brows tilted into an apologetic look. “I only heard it second-hand, Sir. When I asked the officers who were on duty, they pretended to know nothing about it.”
“Sir,” Brach said, “I’ve already arranged to meet with each of them privately about this.”
“Find out what you can, Lieutenant-Commander,” the captain said to Bracht. Then to Hanna, “You say this information has spread?”
“I believe the entire security teams knows, Sir. And probably beyond them as well.”
“Then perhaps I should address the entire crew. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable.” The captain’s voice boomed.
The captain’s eyes were dark. He’d never seen so much anger in him before. “I’ll stay with the boy at all times from now on, Sir,” he said. His gut churned in guilt. Even though it wasn’t his fault, maybe if he had been there this wouldn’t have happened.
“You or Lt. Sharkey,” the captain replied. “Who else do you know for certain you can trust?” he asked Hanna and Bracht.
“I should’ve been able to trust all of them,” Bracht said. His tone was sharp, as though he were angry, but J.D. suspected there was a hint of shame in his voice as well. After all, the man was head of security.
“I agree,” the captain replied. “But hatred for the Tredons runs deep with a lot of people here.”
“The Tredons be doing many bad things,” Lt. Stein added.
“Everyone should be judged as an individual,” the captain said sharply. “So far, the child has done nothing to deserve this.”
“No, he hasn’t,” J.D. added. It’s such a relief having a captain like this. His gut rolled at the thought of what Zimmer would be doing in this situation.
“As…uneasy… as I am about having him here,” Bracht said, “I must agree.”
He gave the Rabnoshk warrior an appreciative nod. The man was hard and unrelenting at times, but he wasn’t as bullheaded as he first thought.
“I believe Lt. Gresher can be trusted, Sir,” Hanna said.
“Very well. You three work out an arrangement,” the captain said.
“Yes, Sir,” both he and Hanna replied at the same time.
“Lt. Simmonds,” the captain said to the science officer. “Tell me what you’ve found.”
“I’m afraid not much, Captain,” Simmonds replied. His mustached turned down in a frown. “The Chekrosians have been very secretive about their work. There are only rumors saying they’ve found a way to use it and manipulate it off planet.”
Simmonds didn’t need to say what ‘it’ was. He’d read the report about their new visitors while Jori was watching over his brother. Nothing stood out specifically as being suspicious, but he couldn’t ignore the fact that they were here at the same time as the Kavakian Princes.
“It’s their right, I suppose,” the captain replied. “This substance is from a planet in their own system. They own it.”
And they have autonomy. One thing that made the Prontaean Alliance so large was its strict rules against interference. His own home planet opted to be more involved in the Alliance, but not all planets made this same choice. If the Chekrosians wanted to keep this stuff to themselves and not share the technology, they could.
“Can perantium interfere with certain signals?” the captain continued.
Simmonds’s brow furrowed. “Not that I’m aware of, Sir. But if they’ve found a way to stabilize it off planet, I would assume it would be by some sort of electromagnetic induction or some such.”
“I need you to work with Lt. Chandly on finding a way to trace and track it. No one’s noticed anything at the source of the ship itself, but that’s where I want you to start.”
“Yes, Sir.” Simmonds made a slight bow. “Also, Sir. I did read one noteworthy report. Apparently in its gaseous state, perantium can go through a solid object without affecting its original solid state.”
The hairs on the back of J.D.’s neck went up. “Are you saying that if their ship is made of perantium, it can travel through solid objects?”
“I doubt their technology has gotten that far, Sir. But if it has… well, it would’ve had to have gotten very far indeed to do such a thing with something as large as a ship.”
“Let’s assume it can,” the captain said. “And let’s assume they may have other objects with them that can as well. I don’t know how they’d use such a technology, but inform security.”
Bracht and Hanna nodded.
“I have more information security should know about,” Lt. Stein said.
The captain put up his hand to forestall her. “Is that all you have, Lieutenant?” he said to Simmonds.
The captain inclined his head toward Lt. Stein.
“The Tredons and Chekrosians do have other ties,” she said. “One recent and very unpleasant one. Apparently, Tredon pirates attacked a transport vessel with Chekrosian travelers on board. Those not killed in the attack be taken prisoner and probably sold into slavery. Chekrosians be very strong, great for working in Tredon mines.”
Oh no. J.D. leaned back in his chair. The weight threatened to crush him. “I can see what Jori knows of it,” he offered reluctantly.
“No. That won’t be necessary,” the captain replied. “Even if he does know of it, there’s not much he or we can do about it.”
“He can tell us exactly where the Chekrosians were sent,” Bracht protested.
The captain sighed. He leaned forward into his hand and stroked his beard. “Commander Hapker,” he finally said. “What do you think? Are you close enough with the child yet to ask him about this?”
He swallowed, trying to stimulate away the dryness from his throat. “I don’t think so, Sir. And I honestly don’t want to push it at this point.” He let out a sigh. “I will, if needed. But to be honest, Sir, there are a million other things we could ask him about. How far do we go before it becomes an interrogation? He’s just a boy.”
“Sir,” Hanna offered. “Intelligence probably already knows many of the places with higher slave populations. I mean, I feel bad for the Chekrosians, but why target only one group of people to save? There are already dozens, if not hundreds, of Alliance citizens living as slaves in Tredon.”
“Exactly my point,” J.D. added. “We ask about one group, we may as well ask about them all.”
“Finding out about Chekrosians may save trouble being caused by these guests,” Lt. Stein said. “If they be up to something, we may be able to stop it by giving them information.”
“It may not be enough,” the captain said. “Even if they do have the technology to do something about it, those children still offer a great bargaining chip.”
The captain continued to stroke his beard. His brows furrowed deeply. “No,” he eventually said. “Let’s keep the child out of this for now. I really can’t see how the information could do anyone any good.”
“Sir, there be something else you should know,” Lt. Stein said. The captain nodded to her. “The non-Chekrosian be who he says. And his records do be clean. But I looked further and it seems he once be a Prontaean Alliance officer.”
“Yes, Sir. And furthermore, he not be traveling with the Chekrosians until after the warrant be issued by Depnaugh.”
“How is that possible? Did he meet them along the way or something?”
“No, Sir. The records from the Depnaugh space station indicate he left with the Needletail when it departed.”
“When it departed?” J.D. frowned. “That would mean it departed after the warrant was issued.”
“That seem to be the case, Sir.”
“And this means the Needletail out-paced us somehow,” the captain added. “Are you sure there isn’t a mistake in the records?”
“I triple-checked, Sir. It appears the Chekrosians must have hired the ex-officer as soon as they knew the Tredon Princes be aboard our ship. And then somehow caught up and passed us.”
A tingling sensation went down J.D.’s spine. “So they’re after Jori.”
“Either that, it be just coincidence. But I don’t believe in coincidences, Commander.”
“Nor do I,” the captain said. “Especially not in this case. Bracht, I can’t stress enough how important security is right now.”
“I will make every effort to stress this upon them, Sir,” the Rabnoshk warrior replied.
Yes. Please do. J.D. sat back in his chair and sighed. Poor Jori. Because of his father, he was surrounded by even more enemies than he thought. And to top it all off, the boy was doing it all alone. Well, he has me. I don’t care what he is or what his father’s done. I’m on his side.
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.