Archive for December, 2016

StarFire Dragons Chapter 3 Rewrite #3

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2016 by Dawn Ross

StarFire Dragons

Book One of The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera Saga by Dawn Ross

Chapter 3

Jori’s head swam. The view of the planet distorted into the interior of the Alliance ship. His skin tingled at the sensation of his molecules being reintegrated. The process wasn’t painful, or even dangerous. But the thought of every fiber of his existence being taken apart and put back together made his stomach writhe. How was it possible for a machine to reconstruct the soul?

The prickling of his skin quickly dissipated and his vision sharpened. He stood on a transport platform, face level with a half-dozen strangers.

Several of them rushed forth. His heart skipped a beat as a skinny man with red hair shoved something at his chest. He slapped it away reflexively and swung his hand back around in a fist. His forward momentum was immediately halted by a strong hand grabbing him by the crook of his arm.

“Whoa, young man,” one of the guards beside him said.

Another hand from another guard clutched his shoulder in an iron grip. A hot flush of adrenaline shot through Jori’s body. He wrenched against the clenching hands. It didn’t work. The men hardened their grip.

His heart jumped into a rapid pulse. “No! You promised! Let me go!”

They tricked him. No one was going to help him. He was their prisoner. He struggled harder but to no avail. If only he weren’t so small. And if only he wasn’t injured.

“Get that gurney over here!” a female off to the side said above the din.

He snapped his attention in her direction. His heart leapt to his throat as both she and the grey-haired doctor from the planet leaned over the unconscious body with something metallic in their hands.

“Don’t hurt him!” He jerked his body and a blast of pain shot through his arm. A flash of searing white erupted in his head followed by a wave of blackness. His legs fell beneath him, but the guards’ hands held him up.

His broken arm burned like molten steel and felt just as heavy. He growled angrily through the pain and quickly regained his feet. The guards spoke but their words didn’t register. He had to protect his brother.

The agony emanating from his arm was excruciating. He paused and breathed in deeply to regain his bearings. The pain abated to a small degree, enough to clear his head.

The guards eased their grip. Fools. With a slight twist and a quick movement, he slipped out and rushed forward.

“Don’t hurt him!” He skidded to the doctor’s side. A quick chop to the man’s forearm sent the device his hand tumbling down.

A pair of stout arms coiled around him like the cords of an iron bola weapon. The pressure on his broken arm blazed in an agony of fire. He squeezed his eyes shut and yowled. His yell turned into a roar as he desperately increased his struggle.

The guard’s crushing embrace held firm. His heart went wild.

“Yo, kid? Kid! Hold up. It’s alright!”

Jori opened his eyes. Another guard knelt down before him. “Listen, kid. It’s just a med-scanner.”

Jori paused. He breathed heavily as the prickling of adrenaline sped through him.

“It’s alright, kid. We’re trying to help you.”

He swallowed hard. Pain racked his body and his racing heart ached in his chest, but he sensed the truth of the man’s words. Stop panicking and think.

The skinny red-haired man hesitated forward. The guard indicated the device in his hand. “See. It’s just a scanner. And this guy here is a medic. He only wants to help you.”

Jori took a closer look at the device. It was the same as what the doctor and that woman held. The medic held it upright so that he could see its face. It was a little different than what they used back home, but it was definitely a med-scanner.

“Help me?” his tone challenged. He glanced back and forth between the guard and the medic. He focused his sensing ability and let their emotions seep in. The medic’s wariness and worry felt like an intruder upon his own emotions, but he held onto it and analyzed it. The man’s feelings were real. And so was the touch of irritation and concern coming from the guard who spoke.

“Yes. Help you.”

The sincerity emanating from the guard cooled him somewhat. He sucked in some breaths and allowed his sensing ability to absorb the other emotions around him.

Carefulness and focus were the primary emotions of the doctor and others in blue who picked up his brother and placed him on a wheeled bed. Urgency filled them as they rushed his brother away.

Jori’s body tensed and his breath quickened again. “Where are they taking him?”

The guard holding him squeezed tighter. Panic welled up again.

The guard in front of him put up his hand. “It’s okay. They’re taking him to the medical bay where they can give him more help.”

There was reassurance in the guard’s voice, as well as in his emotions. Jori took in a controlled breath and let it out as slowly as he could. His body quivered as he took in more air and his skin tingled as he let it out again. He slowly relaxed and glanced around the room at the strangers before him.

Other people wearing the same light blue uniform as the red-haired man stayed back. Their postures, although tense, were not poised to attack. Some held scanners. Others carried medical supplies.

The only ones with weapons were the guards in the brownish-grey uniforms. The sensations from the three guards around him were as vigilant as any warrior. Two others stood amongst the medics. None of them had their weapons out. Some were at the ready with their hands on the phaser holstered at their sides, but the only sensation of hostility came from the one who held him.

Jori’s heart still throbbed, but the pressing need to fight was leaving him. He breathed slower now and forced himself to relax.

“Let him go,” the guard in front of him said to the guard holding him.

“Are you crazy? He just attacked the doctor.”

“I think he understands now.”

The guard holding him harrumphed. “He’s a Tredon. All he understands is violence. Look at how he tried to attack the medic. And let’s not forget how he killed four people on that planet.”

Jori’s face flushed and a sour taste filled his mouth. It was all in defense. He’d certainly like to bloody the nose of the man holding him right now. But if they really were helping, it would be smarter to cooperate. At least for now, until he had his full strength back.

He let his face go blank. Never let your enemy know what you’re thinking, Master Jetser’s words echoed in his head. Emotion was weakness.

The tactic gained him nothing. A sense of agreement came from the guard in front of him. The man stood and called for another gurney. “We can strap him down.”

Heat washed over his face again. “I’ll not be tied down!”

The guard shook his head. “Look, kid. We’ve got to get you to the medical bay. And we’re not going to carry you.”

The thought of being carried made Jori’s face grow hotter. “I will walk,” he said through clenched teeth.

The guard hesitated. Then he pulled something from the small pouch at his side. “Cuff him.”

A pair of manacles was passed to the guard at his back. His pulse quickened. He sucked in a breath, held it, and then slowly let it out again. It was humiliating being a prisoner on an Alliance ship, not to mention how much more defenseless it made him. But what choice did he have?

He didn’t resist as the guard clamped the cold metal around his wrist—not that the man gave him any opportunity. The blackness threatened again as his other hand was twisted behind him. He winced at the pain but suppressed the urge to cry out. Master Jetser would’ve been proud.

The red-haired medic stepped forward with his scanner. “May I?”

Jori nodded his consent.

The man briefly waved the device over his body. “No internal injuries. You’re darned lucky. But we still need to get you to the medical bay. Are you sure you want to walk?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” he said in a hard tone. It was bad enough being surrounded by the enemy. He wasn’t about to lay vulnerable for them too. He moved to step down off the plat form. The guards’ hands held him by the shoulders but they let him go forward.

The medic’s brow furrowed. “You really should get on the gurney.”

Jori ignored him and followed the other medics down the corridor. He focused his ability ahead to see if he could feel anything from his brother. Generally, he could find Terk anywhere within a few miles. But not this time.

When his senses finally located him, his life force was weak and almost empty. Jori’s throat went dry and a coldness swept over him. His brother was alive. But there was nothing else, no other sensations at all. This was bad. Very bad.

He clenched his jaw and held his breath in an attempt to keep the rising despair at bay. He couldn’t cry here. Not in front of all these people. Not in front of his enemies. You can’t die, Terk. You just can’t.

They turned the corner into the medical bay. Jori froze. He was struck by a smell so clean that it burned his sinuses. The bright lights stung his eyes. He blinked rapidly and his eyes adjusted to see an orderliness to the place that would have put a Zraben munitions store to shame.

In chaotic contrast, a swarm of blue and white-garbed people scurried around the body of his brother like a pack of hungry blackbeasts on a deer. Their charged voices rang out not unlike the anxious yips of the dogs. Jori’s heart hammered as a swell urgency threatened to overwhelm him. The urgency was partly his own but mostly belonged to the medical personnel.

He tilted his head in puzzlement. Perhaps the things he’d heard regarding the Prontaean Alliance were true. His father would have called their compassion for all humankind as a weakness. At the moment, he didn’t care. His brother had a chance to live. He took a deep breath and let some of his tension go.

One of the men wearing white approached and knelt down before him. His green eyes seemed warm somehow, as warm as the brown of his skin.

The guard gripped his shoulder again. “Careful, Doctor,” he said. “He nearly rammed his fist into the nose of the last person who came up to him.”

“I can hardly blame him,” the doctor replied. His voice was deep but smooth. “It looks like he’s been to hell and back, and now he’s surrounded by a dozen people he doesn’t know. Isn’t that right, young man?”

Jori made slight nod. He hoped he kept his surprise of the man’s insight from showing on his face.

“Let’s get you to one of our healing beds so I can take a look at you.” The doctor put his hand on Jori’s other shoulder. Unlike the guards, though, his grip was gentle. And there was a genuine kindness emanating from him. “We’re going to do everything we can to help you.”

“And my brother.” He felt a sudden pang in his gut. It could be a mistake letting them know the other boy was his brother. But it was too late. And they’d probably figure it out anyway. Other than Terk being three years older than him, they looked very much alike. So long as they don’t find out the rest of it. They’d let him and his brother die if they knew.

The doctor nodded. “And your brother. I promise.”

The man spoke truthfully. Jori kept his posture rigid and alert, but let his anxiousness abate. He surveyed his surroundings as he followed the doctor through the medical bay. The room was vast, but seemed to get smaller as they made their way down to the sectioned off areas. Lots of places to hide—if the need arose. And multiple exits, exits that didn’t have anyone guarding them.

He could use this opportunity to get away, but that would be stupid. Let them heal him. If they tried to hurt him later, at least he would be in peak condition.

The doctor motioned for him to enter a small curtained area. The room was stark. The walls and partitions were white, as was the floor and cabinet doors. The cabinets themselves were of surgical steal and so was the casing of the healing bed. The machine gleamed with sterility. With the lid closed, it looked similar to a giant bullet from an old-fashioned gun.

Jori almost gaped at the female medic standing the bed. Her long dark hair weaved with purple strands hung in a braid over her shoulder. Her body was tall and narrow like a chokuto sword and her golden eyes were rimmed with a rainbow of painted color.

The Prontaean Alliance was truly a patchwork of various human cultures. The worlds of Tredon had their own diversity, but nothing like this. No two people here had the same shade of skin or hair and each had a different accent. Most had what was considered a traditional ‘human’ look, but some were more exotic–like the medic and her golden-hawk eyes.

The woman’s elongated fingers pressed a white button on the bed and the bed hissed open. The inside practically glowed with the electrical currents flowing through the translucent gel-like cushion.

Jori had used one of these technologically advanced healing beds before. All one had to do was lie on it and the gel conformed to the body as the body sunk in. The gel was too thick to enter the orifices, but malleable enough to surround all the body parts. The specialized electrical currents running through the gel triggered the body’s own immune system to work and heal faster while replenishing its nutrients at the same time. Jori could already heal quickly, but this bed would mend him much faster. Hopefully, these Alliance doctors would use it to heal his brother as well.

The doctor motioned Jori to sit on the healing bed. “What’s your name?”

Jori said nothing but sat. He eyed the one guard who followed him in and kept his senses focused on the other two standing outside the partition. They may be helping, but it didn’t mean he had to trust them. Maybe they had other motives. Maybe the Grapnes told them about Terk. Maybe they planned to do whatever it was the Grapnes were going to do.

“I’m Doctor Gregson and this is Medic Shera.”

He still didn’t reply.

Medic Shera handed the doctor an oxygen mask. “Well, young man,” the doctor said, “I’m going to need to set your arm. This will make it so you won’t feel a thing.”

The doctor brought the mask to his face. He jerked back. “No.” The security officer moved forward, but the doctor made a slight wave of his hand. Jori felt the officer’s suspicion but the doctor didn’t seem concerned.

“It’s just so you won’t feel the pain when we set your arm.”

“No anesthesia. No drugs.” Being injured and at their mercy was difficult enough. It’d be worse if he was drug-addled too.

“Are you sure?”

Jori locked eyes with the man. “Do it.”

The doctor hesitated. He glanced at the nurse and back, then at the guard.

The guard shrugged and stepped forward with a key to remove the cuffs. “If you want that arm fixed, I suggest you not harm my friends.”

If it had been the guard who had restrained him, Jori probably would have jammed his elbow into the man’s neck as soon as he was released. But it wasn’t. He looked the guard steadily in the eyes. “I’ll cooperate.”

The cuffs came loose. His broken arm flopped down with a twinge but he managed not to let the others see how the igniting pain affected him.

The doctor put his hand on the shoulder of his good arm. “Alright now. Sit back.”

Jori leaned against the open hood of the healing bed. The doctor got on one side and the medic on the other. Both put their weight against him to hold him down. He didn’t need to be held down, but he didn’t voice a complaint.

“Ready?”

He nodded.

The doctor pressed down on his arm. Pain radiated sharply. He gritted his teeth and grunted, but he didn’t dare cry out. His head swam and nausea swirled in his gut as the sharpness dulled. He breathed heavily, but in a controlled way that helped him deal with the pain.

“Are you sure you don’t want any anesthesia?”

“Just hurry up, dammit!” Their kindness grated his nerves.

With a sudden snap, the doctor jerked his arm bone into place. The pain was blinding, white and hot. The room spun now. His vision darkened as blackness closed in. He growled to keep from going unconscious, but not loudly enough for it to count as crying.

The doctor stepped back. Jori inhaled and exhaled deeply as the man did a quick scan.

Dr. Gregson’s eyebrows went up and his lips turned down. “You were very brave.”

Jori scowled. Brave? What did bravery have to do with it? The people of the Alliance obviously knew nothing of bravery.

The pain in his arm slowly subsided into a heavy throb. The doctor and medic helped him undress, and then guided him down onto the healing bed. The warm gel enveloped him as he slowly sunk in. He closed his eyes and let the warmth relax him. A small oxygen mask was placed over his nose and mouth, allowing him to breath. Then the lid closed, leaving him immersed in a sea of soft white light.

The bed hummed to life. Rather than sleep, Jori concentrated his senses on what was going on in another part of the sick bay. The tension of the numerous doctors and medics were the strongest emotions. He focused his ability and found the weak life force of his brother again. A lump formed in his throat and he swallowed it down. He couldn’t lose his brother. They had to save him. They just had to.

*****

J.D. sifted through the last remnant of charred debris in the cargo hold. Protein bundles, just as the manifest said. I don’t get it. The Grapnes claimed the Tredons stole their cargo but everything this ship held was accounted for in the manifest.

Captain Arden said he’d been trying to get more information from them, but the Grapnes wouldn’t or couldn’t say what this mysterious stolen cargo was supposed to be. This race wasn’t known for their honesty but they had to be after something.

His crew had checked other parts of the ship as well. Nothing of apparent value was found. Not a darned thing.

He took in a deep breath through his nose and gagged. Although his breathing apparatus filtered out the smoke, it didn’t filter out the smell. His nose stung with the odor of the burnt cargo.

He stood and stepped from the Serpent’s gored innards to its charred head. The cockpit didn’t look as damaged, but it smelled worse. The bodies had been removed, but the smell of cooked flesh lingered.

Footsteps sounded behind him. “Sir,” Lt. Sharkey said. “We’ve confirmed. There are nine bodies, not including the four Grapnes. They’re all Tredons, all male, all adults.”

He pressed his lips together and frowned. No slaves. And if one had been a Grapne prisoner, it might have explained the elusive cargo the Grapnes were claiming. He didn’t really want to find any innocent victims on this ship, but it sure would have explained this mystery. And he would have something to report to the captain. So far, he had nothing. The man was going to think he wasn’t doing his job.

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” He entered the information on his digiview and transmitted it to the captain.

He stared blankly at his surroundings, holding the digiview under his arm with one hand and cupping his bare chin in the other. The bareness of his face sent a heavy wave over him. Different face, different life.

He’d been so young when he entered the Prontaean Alliance Institute that the beard was the only way people took him seriously. But he was older now, thirty-five. The exuberance of youth had left him and it was time to look his age.

He’d accomplished much of what his younger-self had wanted to accomplish. First commanding officer of a star ship was a great achievement. His father was proud. But the Kimpke incident changed him. It changed him for the worst. It rattled his confidence and turned him into an unremarkable man who tripped over every step.

Another wave of acrid smoke spiked him out of his thoughts. He shook his head and focused on the task at hand. “Have you been able to access anything here yet?” he asked the officer working under one of the consoles. Perhaps the Tredons had information the Grapnes wanted.

“Not yet, Sir. Things here are pretty damaged. I might be able to get some data from the cad deck but I have to take this apart to reach it.”

“Do it.” Something more was going on here. The mystery of it compelled him onward. This sort of excitement was one of the reasons he’d joined the Prontaean Alliance Fleet to begin with. But Captain Arden made him nervous. Just how far would the man go to get answers from the two Tredon boys? His stomach soured at the thought. I can’t be a part of another injustice.

 

There will only be one more rewrite after this, so please give me as much feedback on this sci-fi novel as you can!

(This science fiction novella is protected by copyright) Copyright December, 2016 by Dawn Ross

This story is free to share so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

StarFire Dragons Chapter 2 Rewrite #3

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2016 by Dawn Ross

StarFire Dragons

Book One of The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera Saga by Dawn Ross

Note from Author: I split up chapter 1 into two chapters. So the following is the other half of chapter 1, now named chapter 2. I am in the process of rewriting all the chapters. My goal is to be done before the end of January. At that time, I will resubmit my work to more beta readers. Please feel free to comment on what you read here. This will greatly help me to improve my story.

 

Chapter 2

A rising vibration hummed through J.D.’s body as he and his team instantly transported from the ship to the planet. The sensation quickly dissipated but was replaced by the chill of the planet’s surface. He blinked a few times to regain his focus and bearings as his enviro-suit adjusted to the temperature.

For a brief moment, he regretted not wearing a helmet. The tips of his ears and nose immediately turned raw from the cold and the air he sucked in through the nosepiece chilled him to the core.

Even though he was a jog away, the black mass of the StarFire spaceship dominated his sights. Pockets of red flames billowed into a thick haze. Charcoal puffs either rolled upward into the gray sky or drifted across the drab blue land.

A flash of light burst like lightening within the thundercloud of smoke engulfing the StarFire. He was immediately thankful for the full range of vision as he watched a stream of laser light escape from the cloud and into a small group of distant forms, throwing one of them back.

The remaining forms returned fire. He narrowed his sight and identified the two oppositions. Three Grapnes in tan suits shot wildly at a single black-garbed Tredon hunkered down behind a large bit of mangled ship debris.

The Tredon form seemed unusually small. He squinted, trying to peer through the smoky haze.

A ribbon of clarity wafted by. The Tredon stood and fired another shot at the Grapnes. Both the height and build of this Tredon was all wrong. Tredon warriors were generally tall and muscular.

A chill went down J.D.’s spine. The Tredon warrior was just a boy.

There were two Grapnes now, both firing relentlessly. He swallowed down a rising dread. “Deflectors up.” His voice sounded nasal with the filtering device fitted into his nostrils.

He pinched the sides of another device hanging from his belt. An electric buzz indicated the activation of his invisible body shield. “Make sure your weapons are on stun and fire only if fired upon.” He pulled his phaser from the holster and glanced at its setting. “Let’s go!”

He ran hard over the slate-blue land, phaser in hand, and headed towards the general direction of the action. Each heavy breath of the stale filtered air compounded his effort. The planet’s stronger gravity pull made his legs feel like metal stumps. His feet pounded solidly on the flat dry surface. Dust would have been flying everywhere if he were on his home planet, but he might as well have been running on rock here.

A few members of his team grumbled about the distance under their breath. He let it go, saving his own breath from having to explain. The gash in the ground to their left should have told them why. The transporter chief had no way of knowing the extent of damage the crashed StarFire had left upon the land. Any closer and his team could have been deposited in the middle of burning bits and pieces of wreckage.

His heart pounded in his ears. A point of decision fast approached. He couldn’t get in the middle of the fight. He’d have to pick a side. But which one?

The Tredons were their enemies but other than the one shot the Grapnes were the only ones still firing. And it was two of them against a mere boy. Never mind that he was a Tredon. He was still a boy.

“Medics, stay back!” His chest felt ready to burst from the exertion as he led the security team onward.

“Security.” He gulped in a few breaths. “Take aim. Don’t fire.”

He raised his arm and touched the trigger as he and his team came within shouting distance of the Grapnes. “Stand down! In the name of the Alliance, stand down!”

The Grapnes paid him no mind. He opened his mouth to repeat the order when a blast from the Tredon’s weapon sent one of the Grapnes backward and into a heap on the ground.

He quickly recovered from his surprise and signaled half his team in the direction of the boy while he and the other half headed towards the remaining Grapne. “Stand down, all of you!”

Another quick shot from the Tredon boy and the last Grapne fell.

J.D. stopped short. “All teams halt!” One of his teammates bumped into him.

Did that boy just single-handedly take out four Grapnes? He wasn’t certain, everything happened so fast, but he thought the boy had only fired four shots. Four Grapnes, four shots. His skin prickled. His own skill in marksmanship was above average, but he doubted he could have hit his marks so quickly and accurately—and under such distress.

All firing ceased. Either the Tredon boy was hit too or he finally decided to obey. Or he was weighing his chances against them.

J.D. shuddered. “Make sure your deflectors are up but hold fire.”

He reunited the two security teams and walked carefully towards the Tredon boy’s hiding place. “Lower your weapons, but be on the ready,” he said to his team. The last thing he wanted was to appear either threatening or vulnerable.

A dark-haired boy stepped out from behind the chunk of wreckage with a small hand-held weapon aimed ready. J.D. froze. He couldn’t identify the weapon. Only its barrel and the two dark piercing eyes of the Tredon boy above it were visible.

J.D’s throat caught. The boy was targeting him directly. A sinking feeling filled his gut. He might have to kill a child—or a child might kill him. His instinct told him to take aim again, but he couldn’t bring himself to threaten a child.

He gestured to his team. “Hold fire.” He glanced back to make sure everyone obeyed. One of the officers still had his phaser aimed, but he lowered it as soon as he saw J.D. looking at him. He almost didn’t blame the man. The Tredon boy had not fired at them yet, but he looked determined enough.

By the roundness of the boy’s face, he guessed him to be about ten years old, maybe older considering how tall he was. But whatever his age, he looked every inch a soldier in his black uniform. The boy’s stance was well balanced, poised both defensively and offensively and at a sideways angle in order to present a smaller target. The hateful look in his dark eyes along with the way he held his weapon indicated he was not only ready, but willing to fight.

J.D’s pulse quickened. The boy’s glower was solid and direct. It was as if he was daring him to make the first move. J.D. held eye-contact, but kept his posture open in order to keep from looking confrontational.

“We’re here to help,” he said. His adrenaline flushed through his body, but he kept his voice calm. Without taking his eyes off the boy, he holstered his phaser and put his hands out in a nonthreatening gesture. Maybe it was a stupid move. But he had to diffuse the situation somehow. And his deflector shield would protect him if the boy decided to attack.

With another gesture, he indicated to the medical personnel behind him. “I have three medical officers with me. Do you or your crew members need medical attention?”

The boy didn’t respond.

It was possible the boy didn’t speak the universal language. He pressed a button on the comm on his wrist and his translator repeated what he’d said in the Tredon language.

The boy still didn’t reply.

J.D. resisted the urge to swallow down the saliva building up in his mouth. The youth obviously needed aid. He had blood on his forehead and his other arm hung at an odd angle. The boy didn’t show any signs of being in pain, though. If anything, he looked ready to spit fire.

“We’re not here to harm you. I promise.” He pressed his comm again for the translation.

The boy didn’t move or speak. The only thing J.D. could hear was his own heart pounding in his ears.

After a few tense moments, the Tredon boy slowly lowered his phaser, revealing a soot-blackened face with even more blood on his cheek and down his jaw line. J.D. let out his breath, but didn’t let go of his vigilance. He kept his body shield on and double-checked the holster at his waist to make sure his weapon was easily accessible.

Without a word, the boy turned and walked away. J.D. kept his hand on his holster as he and the team followed him towards the crashed ship.

“Sir? Aren’t we going to arrest him?” one of the officers asked.

J.D. frowned at the man. “Arrest him for what? For defending himself?”

“He’s a Tredon,” another officer said.

“He’s a boy,” he replied sternly. “And he’s injured. We’ll deal with any crimes he may have committed later.”

“What about the crimes he will commit?” the officer mumbled.

J.D. glared at the man. “What was that, Lieutenant?”

The man averted his gaze. “Nothing, Sir.”

J.D. took in a deep breath and almost choked. Heat flushed his face and hot acrid air entered his lungs. Smoldering metal pieces of debris littered the ground. Fire was still burning in places and the smoke thickened as he got closer to the ship.

Despite the haze, a couple of bodies could be seen just inside the gaping wound of the StarFire. Twisted limbs, blood, pieces of tissue, and the smell of burning flesh assaulted his senses. That anyone had survived this crash at all was surprising.

The boy led them straight to one of the bodies. J.D. set his nervousness aside and knelt down by the unconscious warrior. It was another boy, and older one but still a boy, and his body was greatly broken. He was sure the boy was dead, but pulled out his med scanner anyway. A wave of lines popped up on the screen. He moved the scanner closer to the body to make sure it was picking up the right signal. I’ll be darned. This boy was alive—barely.

“Here!” He waved his hand to get the attention of the medics.

Dr. Jerom stepped through the debris and squatted down by his side with his own scanner. A dozen different readings popped up on the larger screen, but J.D. couldn’t understand any except the waves of the heartbeat. “We need to get him to the medical bay immediately,” the graying man said. His cleft chin jutted out firmly.

J.D. didn’t know the doctor well, but felt a sudden respect for the man. At least someone seemed willing to help these Tredon children.

He turned back to the younger boy. The youth’s dark eyes were hard, but he thought he saw a look of concern in them too. “We can help him on our ship,” he said. “We can help you both, but you have to trust me and put your weapon down.”

“Trust you?” The boy practically snarled the words, but his pronunciation of the universal language was perfect.

J.D.’s eyebrows shot up. So the boy did understand. “Trust me.” His body still burned from the adrenaline rush, but he kept his voice calm. “Put down your weapon, son, and we’ll get you both some medical attention. I promise.”

The boy’s demeanor didn’t change. J.D. held his breath. The youth glanced back and forth from him to the body. Despite the dry heat from the wreckage, sweat formed on J.D.’s brow. He could take the weapon. He should take it. His body tensed.

Finally, the boy’s glower seemed to soften and J.D. thought he heard him sigh. The youth ever so slowly held up the phaser by its butt. J.D. exhaled and took it from his hand.

He almost dropped it when he saw it was a StarFire phaser. This weapon didn’t have a stun setting, only a powerful kill setting. The Grapnes were dead then, not just stunned. It was self-defense—but still, he was only a child.

He sucked in a breath and let it out again, trying not to think of the implications. He shook off his unease and took out two transport detectors from a pocket in his jumpsuit. “These are so our ship can beam you on board,” he said. The boy didn’t reply. “You’ll be transported to our transport pad on the ship with the doctor here, then be taken straight to the medical bay.”

The boy still didn’t say anything. His posture was stiff and although he no longer looked ready to fight, he seemed to be as alert as any full-grown soldier would be.

“You three.” J.D. pointed to the three nearest security personnel. “Escort these two boys with the doctor to the medical bay.” He tapped his comm to open a channel to his ship above. “Six to beam up, two for immediate medical attention.” There was no need to mention the two were Tredons. He made a promise. If Captain Arden didn’t like it, too bad.

Unease whirled in his gut as he watched the small group disintegrate. He’d take a dishonorable discharge before he’d let a child die—even a Tredon child. Captain, I hope you have a heart.

He stood for a moment longer, eyes unfocused. His lungs burned with the heat of the still burning ship and smoke stung his eyes. He coughed again and collected himself before making his way to clearer air.

“Commander,” one of the security officers said. Lt. Hanna Sharkey’s cheek had a smudge of black and her blue eyes were watery from the smoke.

“Yes, Lieutenant,” he replied.

“We haven’t found any other survivors, Sir.”

His stomach rolled. “Were any of the other passengers children?”

“I don’t think so, Sir. They were all adults as far as we could tell.”

Great. What were they going to do with two orphaned warrior boys capable of killing and who’d probably been taught to hate them since birth?

He blew out his breath. Perhaps Tredons weren’t as bad as he’d heard.

“How many?” he asked.

“We’ve counted seven bodies so far. There may be a few more.” Lt. Sharkey’s face was stone. The bun she wore in her sandy hair made her cheekbones stand out, but the squareness of her jaw still gave her a masculine look.

He nodded. Considering the size of the ship, there could be two to three more bodies to be found. “Any indication of why the Grapnes were chasing them? Slaves? Precious cargo?”

“We’re still checking, Sir, but it’s hard to tell.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant. Keep looking.”

“Yes, Sir.”

He went back to surveying the wreckage. The ship looked like a giant dead carcass with its side slashed open and its guts exposed. The entire rear was demolished. All the energy and unstable elements from the engine hull made for a mighty explosion. From what he recalled from his studies, some ships like the Serpent purposely had long bodies in order to help protect the crew in front from such blasts. In this case, the explosion blew all the way through the cargo hold and into the living area. The front cockpit was still intact, but only on the outside. The inside reminded him of the pit of a dying campfire—black with some glowing embers, and nothing resembling what had existed before.

He shook his head. There couldn’t possibly be anything of value left, so what the heck did the Grapnes hope to find? Whatever it was, it must have been worth risking their lives for. Four Grapnes dead, just like that. He hoped it wasn’t a mistake to bring the Tredon boys onto his ship.

He swallowed down his unease. No matter what Captain Arden thought, he did the right thing at the moment. He only hoped his decision wouldn’t backfire later. God help us.

 

(This science fiction novella is protected by copyright) Copyright December, 2016 by Dawn Ross

Free to share so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

Go Beyond Telling Your Story – Show It and Make the Reader Feel It

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2016 by Dawn Ross
Cinderella's Slipper

A talented writer can show you and make you feel this magical scene.

One of the biggest obstacles I’ve had to overcome as a writer is learning how to show the story rather than tell it. Anyone can tell a story, but not everyone can make the reader feel like they are actually a part of the story. So how does one write in such a way as to bring the reader into the story? Let me start with showing you the difference between telling a story and showing a story.

 

The prince slipped the glass slipper onto Cinderella’s foot. It fit. The two smiled at one another and then hugged. They lived happily ever after.

 

Short and sweet but not very engaging, right? First of all, it happens too quickly. I could drag it out more by describing more of their actions. But ‘dragging’ a scene out isn’t what separates showing from telling. There is so much more to it. Here is my rewrite:
The glass slipper glided easily onto her foot, sending a shiver up her spine. This was happening, this was really happening. But would he recognize her in these rags? Would he be able to see her through the soot and grime on her face?

He raised his head. Her breath caught as his blue eyes locked onto hers. Goosebumps prickled across her arms. She smiled tentatively, hoping against hope.

His eyes twinkled and a grin spread across his handsome face. Warmth flooded through her and her eyes burned with tears. He remembered her.

But no. This had to be a dream. It couldn’t be real. She looked down at her soiled clothes. Her nose twitched at her own sour scent. There was no way he could love someone like her. She was just a servant, a simple nobody.

She squeezed her eyes shut and brought her dirty hands to her face. A piteous sob escaped her throat. Her chest heaved and hot tears pushed their way out.

The warm touch of his hands as he cupped them over hers magically settled her. She let her shaking hands fall and hesitantly opened her eyes.

His face was a handbreadth from hers. “It’s you.” The warmth of his sweet breath whispered across her lips. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” His fingers gently wrapped around hers.

Dream or no, she couldn’t resist the tenderness in his eyes. She let go of one of his hands and delicately brushed his cheek with the tips of her fingers. He was real. And somehow he still saw her in the same way he had on that enchanted night.

He enveloped her into a longing embrace and she melded into the strength of his passion. All the world around her disappeared. It was just him and her, lost together in a whirl of everlasting joy.

 

This rewrite showing is obviously much longer than the telling part. But perhaps it didn’t really seem like it because hopefully you felt like you were a part of the experience. As stated earlier, it’s not because it is longer that makes it more engaging. Here are some things that helped show the story:

Emotions – Cinderella shared her emotions. And she didn’t just tell the reader she was nervous, ashamed, or relieved. She showed her emotions with her actions, gestures, internal sensations, and internal thoughts. Actions, his blue eyes locked onto hers. Gestures, she delicately brushed his cheek with the tips of her fingers. Internal sensations, warmth flooded through her. Internal thoughts, she didn’t think this was real.

Other Senses – Cinderella doesn’t just tell us what happened. She shows us what she sees, smells, and what she feels both internally and externally. Engage your readers by trying to include two or more of the five senses – sound, sight, smell, touch, and taste.

Adjectives – Adjectives have a way of putting more feeling into nouns. They help to bring those nouns to life. Consider Cinderella’s piteous sob, sour scent, and dirty hands. Consider the prince’s warm touch, blue eyes, and sweet breath. Consider their enchanted night.

Conflict – Conflict somehow has a way of really engaging the reader. Conflict keeps the reader guessing and keeps them hoping for the best. It creates setbacks and gives heroes the opportunity to show who they really are. And it makes things more real. Although the Cinderella story is a fairy tale, I’ve made her more real by showing her internal conflict. In real life, a man and a woman don’t just fall into easy love without some sort of internal doubts. Conflict can be external as well as internal. After studying how to show a story rather than tell it, consider doing some research on the many ways you can add conflict.

Word Choices – Consider the words you’re using when you’re setting a scene and showing your story. Use words that support the emotions. Consider sharp words when there is strong negative emotion or lots of action, or soft words for slow-paced scenes or gentler emotions. When Cinderella looked down at her soiled clothes, hopefully the word ‘soiled’ helped convey her doubts about herself. When she delicately brushed the prince’s cheek with the tips of her fingers, hopefully the word ‘delicately’ showed how she was still uncertain but beginning to believe. When they hugged, hopefully the words ‘longing embrace’ conveyed how relieved both of them were to be together again. Somehow, I don’t see the words ‘strong hug’ doing the trick.

Sentence Lengths – The emotions of certain scenes can sometimes be conveyed better through the lengths of your sentences. Action scenes or other scenes meant to be fast paced can be written with one-syllable words and short choppy sentences. Longer sentences help slow the momentum of the story. Love doesn’t happen quickly so love scenes like the one above do better with longer sentences.

Don’t Overdo It – Sometimes, showing can get a little out of hand. I thought about adding more to Cinderella’s doubts by having her speak back to him and being more hesitant to believe this was real. But sometimes enough is just enough. You don’t want to bore your reader with too much detail. And you don’t want to dwell on one emotion for too long.

Telling Has Its Place – Sometimes telling is actually appropriate. Telling could be used to skim over boring parts that have no real value in the story other than to get your character from one place to another. An example would be if one of your characters just experienced an event and is now telling another person. Rather than go into dialog relating events the reader already knows about, the writer can tell the reader, “Jack told her everything in a rushed breath.”

But use telling very sparingly. There are better ways to transition a character. You can end the chapter at one scene and begin a new chapter in another scene. You can have your character thinking about something important as they move from one place to another. Or you can insert a sub plot so that something happens as the character is going from one place to another.

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned about showing a story and engaging your reader. I hope I’ve covered all the points but if I’ve forgotten something, please feel free to add a comment or two.

How to Write Unique Character Voices

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2016 by Dawn Ross

Yoda and Bad Grammar

Have you ever read a book but couldn’t get into the story because the characters were so flat? There could be many reasons why a character is flat, but the one being discussed here is in regard to the way they speak. When everyone speaks in the same way, it makes it difficult for the reader to see them as individuals. It also makes it difficult for the reader to tell who is speaking if there are no tags present.

If you’ve been reading my sci-fi story, you have probably noticed that I’m in no way an expert at making each of my characters speak differently. But I’ve been studying the subject intensely and have been trying to apply what I’ve learned. Here are some general ideas on how to make each character sound unique:

Word Choice

Different people often use different words for the same things. Example 1 – One person may go around saying ‘awesome’ all the time while another may say ‘cool’ or ‘nifty’. Example 2 – One person may use a lot of big words while another person would use simpler words. Example 3 – One person could speak in a more formal manner while another uses more slang. Example 4 and the one I’ve used for a few of my characters – One person never curses while another curses all the time.

Word Order

Yoda from Star Wars would be a great example of word order. Instead of, “You have become powerful. I sense the dark side in you,” he says, “Powerful you have become. The dark side I sense in you.” Another example would be in Spanish versus English. In English, we say, “The yellow book,” but a direct translation from Spanish “El libro amarillo,” is “The book yellow.”

mordor-grammar

Grammar

Have you ever noticed that not everyone speaks in proper English? Someone had pointed out how one of my characters said, “From who?” instead of the proper, “From whom?” How many people do you know who actually say the word ‘whom’? There are a few, I’m sure. But I personally seldom ever hear the word. Also, how many people say words improperly, like ‘irregardless’ or ‘supposably’? It’s okay to have misspelled or mispronounced words when a character is speaking. However, be careful not to overdo it or it will annoy your reader. Here is a great resource for words that are often pronounced incorrectly – http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/style-and-usage/mispron.html

Idioms

If you’re writing in close-third person, even your descriptions should be closely aligned with the character. For example, one of the characters in my story describes things or uses idioms related to animals. So when he describes a color, he describes it in a way that relates to an animal. Some characters may also speak their idioms out loud, such as, “knee-high to a grasshopper” or “uglier than sin”. Keep idioms in mind whether the character is speaking them, thinking them, or describing the scene around him.

Foreign Words

One of my main characters occasionally uses foreign words. Make sure to use the foreign word so that the reader can still understand it based on its context. The reader might not know what the word ‘koshinuke’ means but in the right context they might realize it means ‘coward’. As with misspoken words, be careful not to use too many foreign words or it will annoy your reader.

Filler Words

Filler words are meaningless words. Perhaps one of your characters says, ‘um’ a lot. Or they may begin almost every sentence with, ‘Well…” Also, perhaps they also end just about every sentence with a word or phrase such as, ‘ey?’ or “ya know?’. Here are some great examples I’ve found – http://blog.brandyourself.com/product-tutorials/6-filler-words-that-wont-get-you-hired/

Other Ideas

How about a character with a lot of faith? Perhaps they say, ‘Thank God’ or ‘Thank the Lord’ a lot. Maybe they give a lot of blessings or offer prayers. Other ideas – overly polite characters, blunt characters, characters who talk a lot, characters who keep it short and simple, characters who mispronounce certain letters, characters who sigh a lot, and so much more!

Listen to how different people speak and take note of the different words they use. Does a doctor speak differently from a farmer? Does a policeman speak differently than a politician? Does someone whose native language is Chinese speak differently than someone from Australia? Listen and learn and you too can develop unique character voices.

*****

In addition to writing unique character voices, here are four ways you can show which of your characters is speaking:

Three ways to tell who is speaking:

  1. With tags like ‘he said’ or ‘she replied’. (Note, avoid using too many creative tags like ‘he insisted’ or ‘she hissed’. Readers tend to skim over the more common said and replied tags and get hung up on creative tags. Besides, the character’s actions and the construction of their speech should speak for themselves. Another point is people don’t hiss or growl words. So if you use a creative tag, use it sparingly and use it appropriately.)
  2. With actions. For example, instead of “Don’t do that,” Mike said, say, Mike shook his finger. “Don’t do that.” Incidentally, different gestures might be another way you can distinguish your characters. For example, perhaps Mary crosses her arms a lot or George twitches his mouth when he’s thinking.
  3. With the character’s unique voice. Take Yoda, for example. For anyone writing fan-fiction, there is no reason to say, Yoda said. Simply writing in the unique way he speaks will tell the reader who is speaking.
  4. With tone. Perhaps this is just my own technique, but in some situations I like to describe the tone in which the speaker is speaking. I don’t use this technique often. It’s usually only used when I want to emphasize how a character might have a different sounding voice or when my character is using a different tone than usual and I can’t seem to find any other way to convey it. For example, “If you ever do that again…” Mike’s tone rumbled from the lowest octave. Another example, “So, what’cha up to?” Jake’s voice was naturally gruff, but there was a friendliness to his tone. Here is a link I found on other ways to describe a tone of voice – http://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/thesaurus-category/american/words-used-to-describe-someone-s-voice

If you have any other ideas on how to write unique character voices or to show who is speaking in your story, please comment below.

National Novel Writing Month Winner 2016!

Posted in The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2016 by Dawn Ross

NaNoWriMo Winner 2016

I did it! I completed the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge for 2016. I wrote over 50,000 words in November towards another novel. Book Three of the Kavakian Empire has its first draft written. It is nowhere near complete, though. There will probably be two to three rewrites and much editing to be done before it will be published. And that goal is quite some time away since I’m still rewriting book one of this sci-fi epic!

Speaking of book one, I’m still in the process of rewriting it. I had planned on having it ready to publish by the end of this year, but it will probably still be another six months or so before it’s ready. Why? Rewriting is such a detailed process. Each chapter needs to be evaluated and possibly modified. My first set of beta readers had a lot of great tips for making the story better. Hopefully, there will be fewer such tips in the second wave of beta readers. Then editing will still need to be done.

Anyway, I just wanted to pass on the good news. Thank you for following my blog. 🙂

Dawn Ross