StarFire Dragons Chapter 2 Rewrite #3

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.

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