StarFire Dragons Chapter 3 Rewrite #3

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.

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