Archive for the Sci-Fi Part 1 – Revised 3 Category

How to Plot a Novel

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Dragon Spawn Chronicles, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2019 by Dawn Ross

Plot Diagram

I’ve had stories in my head for years. But writing them down into story form has been a challenge. It wasn’t enough for me to simply share the life of a character. I had to find a way to make the events follow a pattern of rising action, climax, and conclusion. There are many ways to do this. The way to plot a novel that I found to be the most helpful when I wrote book three of my sci-fi series during NaNoWriMo 2019 is as follows:

1. Ordinary World – This is the introduction of your main character in their normal world. You also want to show what their goals and motivations are, as well as what is at stake if they fail. Don’t dwell too much on the ordinary world. Otherwise, you will have too much boring information. Only the bare bones of your main character’s setting and backstory should be introduced here. Other important elements can be brought in later in the story as they come up.

For my first book, the ordinary world is where Commander Hapker is wanting to prove himself capable of a job in space but is failing badly so far. His goal is to get his new captain to accept him as the second-in-command on a permanent basis. His motivation is to do what his father said he was incapable of doing. If he fails, he will return home to a life he doesn’t want and face the I-told-you-so attitudes of his parents.

2. Inciting Incident – This is where something changes. It introduces a problem that creates conflict for your main character. The inciting incident should happen very close to the beginning of your story.

For my first book, this happened at the end of the first chapter when an enemy ship crash lands on a planet in the territory that Commander Hapker is assigned to.

3. First Plot Point – This is where the conflict escalates for the first time. It’s the point where the character has no choice but to face the challenge.

In my first book, this is where Commander Hapker leads a team to the planet’s surface to check to see if any of the enemy occupants of the crashed ship survived.

4. First Pinch Point – This is where the main character is discovering the depth of the challenge they face. New things are discovered. The tensions rise. It is also where the first major interaction with the antagonist takes place.

In chapter two of my first book, Commander Hapker finds that one of the survivors is a ten-year-old warrior who has just killed four people and is ready to kill more if necessary.

5. Escalating Conflict – Depending on the length of your story, you can have multiple events that each escalate the story. The depth of what your main character faces becomes more and more apparent.

In my book, the plot escalates when Commander Hapker is assigned to watch over the hostile ten-year-old warrior. In my case, this could almost be considered part of the first pinch point.

6. Midpoint – The main character continues to face new challenges. They are on the defense, mostly reacting to the situations that arise. But then something happens to shift them into being proactive.

I’m not going to tell you what that was in my first book. You will just have to read it for yourself when it comes out in 2020. 😊

7. Second Pinch Point – Just when things are going well for your main character, there is another confrontation with the antagonist that makes things much worse than it was before. It is the herald of your climax.

8. Second Plot Point – This is where the main character is at their lowest. The battle is lost and they have no hope of it getting better. They are ready to give up. But something forces them to change their mind and regain hope. That something could be internal—a memory perhaps. Or it could be external—such as encouragement from a friend or the discovery of an object that will help them.

9. Final Battle – The main character uses his newfound hope to battle the antagonist in one final and enormous effort. This is the apex of your story and should be the most intense. There should be a back-and-forth battle where the main character is winning, then losing, then winning again at the last moment.

10. Return to the Ordinary World – This is the conclusion of your story. The main character has won. They return to their ordinary world but as a changed person.

When I first wrote book one, I did not follow this format very well. My first chapter started with action, which didn’t help the reader begin a relationship with the main character. I didn’t do a good job of introducing the main character’s goals and motivations. And without proper goals and motivations, the main character seemed to have no stakes in what was happening in the story. They could fail or not and it wouldn’t matter. Also, my story escalated well enough in the middle but flagged at the end. This was because I made the final battle too easy.

Save yourself the trouble of rewriting your story several times (like I did), by following this basic plot outline. Your story will come out better because of it, and people won’t be able to put it down.

A Few Words on the Soon-to-be-released StarFire Dragons Novel

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Dragon Spawn Chronicles with tags , , , , , on November 5, 2019 by Dawn Ross
Star Trek Enterprise Ship

Star Trek: My favorite space opera

Before you buy this soon-to-be-released sci-fi novel, you should know more about its genre:

This first novel in the series has interesting characters, cool space action, and intense fighting scenes. However, if you’re looking for bazaar space aliens and hard sci-fi (meaning detailed and scientifically accurate) you won’t find much of it here. This is a fantasy story set in a sci-fi world (aka a space-fantasy) where human struggles are the focus (aka a space opera).

Mankind has done tremendous things. In the 20th century alone we’ve created motor vehicles, airplanes, televisions, computers, and other marvelous tech that is way beyond anything our ancestors could have imagined. Not to mention that we’ve sent men to the moon and back, probes to the edge of our solar system and beyond, and several rovers to Mars. It’s not too far-fetched to believe we might someday be able to travel far beyond our solar system and settle on other planets.

Humans are truly amazing. But we’re also our own worst enemies. The dangers the characters in this series face might have a sci-fi flair, but most perils are brought about by human greed, envy, and hate.

Do not despair. This series isn’t intended to instill pessimism in humanity. It’s meant to give hope. For if one person can break the cycle of brutality and hate, then there is hope for all of us.

StarFire Dragons Will Be Published Soon

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Dragon Spawn Chronicles on October 28, 2019 by Dawn Ross

Writing this book has been a long but pleasurable journey. Why has it taken so long? There are a number of reasons. The primary reason is an issue that all artists have. We’re never really sure whether our work is good enough. We are our worst critics. But the good news is that I’ve learned so much since I’ve begun writing this. Each rewrite has made my story better. Thanks to content editors, line editors, numerous how-to-write-books, beta readers, and my NaNoWriMo friends, I believe you will truly enjoy this story.

Send me an email at naturebydawn @ gmail dot com to get on my email list or sign up directly HERE. The email list will give previews of the book as well as announce pre-publishing and publishing dates.

Here’s the sysnopsis of StarFire Dragons, Book One of the Dragon Spawn Chronicles:

The year is 3790. In the galactic region just beyond Cooperative territory lives a brutal warrior race. When an Expedition class starship finds two warriors have crashed on a Cooperative planet, the crew is divided as to what to do. Principles, politics, and prejudice clash as more is discovered about these young warriors and their remarkable abilities. Commander J.D. Hapker, new and unsure of his position as second in command, risks both his career and his crew by taking charge of them. His struggle between what is right and what is necessary intensifies as every option threatens to ignite a war.

Character Motivation in Chapter One Rewrite

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Dragon Spawn Chronicles with tags , , on August 29, 2019 by Dawn Ross

Blue Planet

I’ve rewritten book one of the Dragon Spawn Chronicles a number of times. Each time I finish, I realize there is more that still needs to be fixed. This last time, I really thought I was done. But I just realized my main character still didn’t have enough of a goal or motivation. So I’m asking for your help here. I’m trying to make Hapker’s motivation to not fail in his career be stronger, strong enough to clash with his desire to do the right thing for Jori. Read this and tell me whether it makes you want to continue reading to the next chapter:

1

The Blue Blight

3790:256:02:22. Year 3790, day 256, 02:22 hours, Prontaean time as per the last sync.

A rising vibration hummed through J.D. Hapker’s body as he phased from the space vessel onto the planet. As the phasing sensation dissipated, a chill from this world’s atmosphere took over. Regret for not wearing a helmet sunk in as the tips of his ears and nose turned raw from the cold. The planet air filtered by his nosepiece filled his lungs and radiated throughout his body like a morning frost.

His form-fitting enviro-suit quickly adjusted to the temperature but it took a moment longer for him to regain his bearings. He put his hands on his hips and scanned the distant horizon. The lines between the slate-blue land, ocean, and sky merged seamlessly like a vast heavy blanket of twilight fog.

Only stunted plants grew yet it was more than what had been here a couple decades ago when the terraforming experiment started. Back then, the planet contained only microbial life hidden beneath an infinite bleakness of pale-blue ice. No wonder it was nicknamed the Blue Blight.

The atmosphere eventually attained an oxygen-rich and breathable level, but traces of toxins still lingered in the air. Without his nosepiece, he’d die a slow and painful death if he stayed here for more than ten of the planet’s long day-cycles.

A heaviness settled over him that had nothing to do with the planet’s strong gravitational force. How had his life come to this? He’d made his parents so proud by following the same career path as his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him.

But it wasn’t enough—not for him anyway. The time he’d spent vacationing with his family in the forests of his homeworld made him want to explore further. So in a decision his father felt was rash and irresponsible, Hapker left home for a career in space.

This was supposed to be a new adventure, but things weren’t going as expected. The decisions were harder, the ethics fuzzier, and his superiors less forgiving. One incident gone awry and now his life had taken a turn as cheerless as this land. If this second chance didn’t work out, he’d have to return home an utter failure and face the disappointment of his father.

Hapker pushed down a rising sense of gloom and walked heavily toward the team of nearby scientists. Gravity made his trek slow and arduous—not that he was in a hurry anyway.

No dust billowed from under his feet. No marks were made on the dense terrain. He was like an elephant tromping on stone.

Excited banter reached him as he arrived within earshot of the team. One of the science officers tapped his finger on the viewscreen with apparent glee. Hapker looked on with envy. It had been a long time since he’d been this excited about his own job.

All conversation cut off at Hapker’s approach.

“Doctor Canthidius,” he said casually in greeting to the lead science officer. The man looked up but neither smiled nor returned the greeting.

Doctor Holgarth Canthidius’s features were more extreme than any Hapker had encountered in his travels thus far. The man’s eyes were like those of a tropical fish. His skin was grey with a hint of blue and he had a round sucker-like mouth.

Since Canthidius came from the nearly all ocean planet of Nomare, his resemblance to a fish seemed a cosmic joke. Hapker would have thought the man was a space alien if he didn’t already know such beings beyond a few lower-life forms hadn’t been discovered yet. As a human, Canthidius was much the same as every other person in the galaxy. But the passing generations of people spread over a wide variety of ecosystems had greatly diversified human characteristics.

“Did you find something interesting?” Hapker asked.

“Nothing that would interest you, Commander,” Canthidius said.

Hapker clenched his jaw. He was the Vice Executive Commander of the Odyssey, the largest and most advanced science and service vessel of the Prontaean Colonial Cooperative. It was his job to monitor the progress of his crew, even if he didn’t understand all of what they were doing.

But Canthidius was right to resent him. Hapker had little in common with his new crew. Prior to this, he served as a Pholatian Protector. Later, he became a high-ranking military officer with the Prontaean Galactic Force. Though he never really fit in with the PG-Force’s hard-core attitudes, his combat and strategic skills meant he had more in common with them than he did with these scientists and engineers.

“Give me an abbreviated version anyway,” he said brusquely to the doctor.

Canthidius went into a long explanation full of technical terms, no doubt talking over his head on purpose.

Hapker suppressed a frown. His lack of understanding threatened to cause his mind to wander as the man rattled on. When the comm beeped in Hapker’s ear, he eagerly raised his hand to stop Canthidius. He pressed the lower part of the comm-strip taped on his neck below his ear lobe. “Hapker here. Go ahead.”

“Commander, we have a situation here,” Captain Arden said. “I need everyone to return to the ship immediately.”

Hapker shifted into high alert. He saw no immediate threat, but his training didn’t allow him to take this as anything less than serious. “Yes, Sir.”

He released the comm and addressed the scientists. “The captain wants us all back on the ship, now.”

“What? Why?” Canthidius replied with a look of consternation.

“No time for questions, Doctor. If you want to know the reason, you can ask the captain yourself, after we get back on the ship.”

Canthidius pursed his fish-like lips in apparent reluctance. Captain Silas Arden had never served in the military, but his crew respected him in the same way everyone respected a general.

Core Story Problems with “StarFire Dragons”

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Dragon Spawn Chronicles with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Book Cover for StarFire Dragons

Last week I discussed the core story problems my content / development editor pointed out. But when I discussed these issues, I discussed them in a general manner. The following applies those issues to my own story, “Starfire Dragons”.

Making the Primary Protagonist Face a Hard Choice

I seemed to have two primary protagonists, J.D. and Jori, neither of which had to face a truly difficult choice. Jori was faced with a choice where he could either please his father by hurting J.D. or not hurting J.D. and suffering the consequences of his father. But he makes his choice too easily. And the idea of consequences from his father is too distant for the reader to grasp. J.D. is faced with a choice where he could either go against his superiors to help the enemy child he’s come to care about or follow orders and betray the child. Again, he makes the choice too easily and he slips out of the consequences.

I admit, making characters I love makes it really difficult to put them in tight spots. But it’s got to be done if they’re going to truly grow, which leads to the next heading.

Helping the Primary Protagonist Grow

Both J.D. and Jori grew as people but not in a profound way and not in such a way where they had to face a final antagonist in order to grow. J.D. became less wishy-washy, but I think he’s still too wishy-washy in the end. At first glance, it would seem Jori made the most growth, but when you consider some of his history and his teachings with Master Jetser, he already had a foundation to build on.

Choosing One Primary Protagonist and One Primary Antagonist

As my editor, Kristen Lamb, pointed out, my story had no primary antagonist for the primary protagonist to fight. I thought my antagonist was more of an intangible one—our human tendency to hate someone because they are different than us. But how can there be a final battle with a human flaw? If I were to keep this human flaw as my primary antagonist, I would have put it into a single human form.

Jori as the Primary Protagonist?

If I choose Jori as the primary protagonist, who will be his primary antagonist? It can’t be J.D. because he would be downgraded to secondary protagonist. It could be the captain, but this would cause me to rethink the entire series I have mapped out. If I made Rear Admiral Zimmer the primary antagonist, I’d have to bring him more into the story. If I make Calloway the primary antagonist, I will need to give him a higher rank. Things to consider.

J.D. as the Primary Protagonist?

My other option is to make J.D. the primary protagonist. His primary antagonist can’t be the captain for the same reason indicated above. It could be Zimmer, maybe even Calloway. In a way, it could be the Alliance itself. After all, he’s struggling with a dilemma of duty versus morality. If the Alliance represents duty, he’d have to make a hard choice regarding morality. But the Alliance itself can’t be a defeated antagonist without a human form. Jori comes across as his antagonist at first, but my future stories won’t allow for him to be the primary antagonist.

Terk as the Primary Antagonist?

Perhaps Terk could be J.D.’s primary antagonist. Terk would have to wake up sooner and his father’s beliefs would have to be stronger than Jori’s. The only thing is, I will need to think of a way to defeat Terk without killing him (as Kristen suggested) because he’s an integral part of book two. I know, I know, Kristen. Having a “little darling” as you call it could be a huge boulder in the path of a successful story. But I will find a way to blow up that darned boulder and still keep my character. Perhaps defeat could mean thwarting Terk’s plans.

Creating a Final Epic Battle

No matter who I choose as my primary protagonist, I need to make sure they defeat my primary antagonist in a battle of some sort. Battles don’t always have to be with actual fighting. But considering Jori and Terk are warriors and J.D. is a strategist, I think this makes the most sense. I see a huge space battle scene forming.

Conclusion

If I really want to improve my writing and make this story great, much of it will have to be changed. A lot will need to be cut out. And some things may not go the way I had originally planned. While this seems harsh or even discouraging, I’m not put off by it. If anything, I’m raring to go. My mind is churning with ideas. “StarFire Dragons” isn’t going to be published when planned, but it will be published. And it will be my best work ever.

Finding Core Story Problems with a Content / Development Editor

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Dragon Spawn Chronicles, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Have you ever heard the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know”? It is very difficult to critique your own writing skill. My beta readers helped but the feedback they provided just touched the surface of what was wrong with my story. So I hired a professional content / development editor, one that looks at the overall story development. And let me tell you, Kristen Lamb’s feedback was phenomenal.

I knew my story wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t know why. I hoped it was good enough, but knew deep down that it wasn’t. When she discussed her findings with me, it was like a lightbulb came on and I was struck by lightning at the same time.

Lightning Bulb

The lightning strike was because nothing pains the heart more than hearing the story you’ve poured your soul into still needs more work. The lightbulb was because she also provided feedback that encouraged me to move forward. My writing is great. My story is on the right track. And the story problems can be fixed. Here is what she said:

Luke Skywalker Fights His Father

Your Primary Protagonist Has to Face a Hard Choice

You can’t just throw trouble at your character and always have him make easy choices to get out of trouble. You have to really push them to the edge in the final act. You have to force them to do something that goes against their nature. And you have to make the choice a sacrifice no matter which they choose. Think about how Luke in “Star Wars” is forced to kill his own father. His hard choice—sacrifice the galaxy to save his father or sacrifice his father to save the galaxy.

Labyrinth Ludo Sarah Sir Didymus

Your Primary Protagonist Has to Grow

Your character starts out one way at the beginning of the story and learns something so profound from his journey that he changes into someone else. I don’t mean literally, though it could be literal, like in “The Fly”. And I don’t mean their whole persona. I mean something about his or her character changes. Think about Sarah in “The Labyrinth”. She began with the romanticized view that she was a Cinderella-like person forced by a wicked stepmother to care for a spoiled sibling. Then she faced a real adventure and learned to appreciate her life and her brother.

Choose One Protagonist to Focus On

Although you can have multiple protagonists, only one will face the hard choice and truly transform and grow in the end. Consider “Star Wars” again. There are many great protagonists in the story. And they all have grown in their own way. Han Solo isn’t such a scoundrel after all. Neither is Lando. Leia and Han fall in love. But the primary protagonist is Luke. He’s the one who grew the most—from the whiny kid in the beginning to a Jedi master at the end. He’s also the only one who truly faced the heart of the Empire. And he’s the one who sacrificed the most when he made his choice.

You Have to Have One Strong Antagonist

When you just throw trouble after trouble at your character like I did, it’s more difficult for your character to face a hard choice at the end. And as you will see in the next heading, it’s more difficult for them to fight a final battle.

The Departed

Your Primary Protagonist Has to Face the Primary Antagonist in the End

I wanted to add “and Win” because I like my heroes to win. But they don’t have to win in order to make a powerful story. The movie, “The Departed” comes to mind. Although Billy Costigan killed Colin Sullivan in the end, Billy was also killed. Anyway, without one primary protagonist and one primary antagonist, you can’t have the hard choice with the big battle at the end. You simply have a journey from one place to another with no ultimate purpose to keep your reader interested.

What This Means for “StarFire Dragons”

To keep this post from getting too long, I will post my musings on this next Saturday.

Conclusion

As writers, we can either let critiques bring us down and keep us from writing, or we can accept them as learning experiences and work on improving our skill. Because the feedback I received from Kristen Lamb was so spot on and made so much sense (and wasn’t at all contradictory like it was with the beta readers), I’ve chosen the later route. I strongly encourage you all to get your own stories reviewed by a content / development editor. They’re well worth the money. You can’t become a great writer if you don’t learn what you don’t know.

StarFire Dragons Chapter 5 Rewrite #3

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Dragon Spawn Chronicles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2017 by Dawn Ross

StarFire Dragons

Book One of The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera Saga by Dawn Ross

Chapter 5

The gentle heat of the healing bed eased the tension in Jori’s body. His pains ebbed away slowly as his body mended. It was a relief, being healed. But at the same time, an invisible weight pressed down on him. This can’t be happening. It just can’t.

His senses were still focused on his brother. Terk’s life force was weak—so weak, it might just disappear altogether. The weight threatened to crush him.

He redirected his ability once again on those surrounding his brother. A sensation of concentration and persistence emanated from them. Their lack of malice hopefully meant they were truly trying to save Terk’s life.

Suddenly, their determination pulled away. Jori’s chest tightened. Are they just going to let him die?

His heart raced. He moved to get up, but couldn’t. The healing bed’s operations couldn’t be interrupted.

If he let his heart rate increase enough, a doctor might come and stop the machine. But he breathed heavily and steadily, trying to calm his racing thoughts instead.

The sensations from Terk hadn’t changed. Yet the doctors and medics felt reluctant and defeated. But why? If only he could actually read thoughts or pull out information and not just sense emotions.

He reflected on what their emotions could mean and a memory popped into his head. Master Jetser had been hurt so badly once that he was in a coma for three days. The doctor had said he was in critical condition, which meant there was nothing else to be done except wait. Perhaps it was the same situation here. It’s all up to you now, Terk. Come on, you can fight this.

Damn those koshinuke-tachi/cowards. This was the Grapnes’ fault. They were the reason his brother lay at the edge of death. And those damned bastards were the reason for the deaths of the other men on his ship.

An ache in his chest swelled. His men were all dead. No one had to tell him. The memory of Bok’s impaled body and Veda’s crushed skull flashed into his mind. It wasn’t just what he’d seen, though. He’d felt the voids of their missing life force. They died protecting him, protecting Terk mostly. But still. They were all gone. All of them. It was just him… and maybe Terk.

The pain in his chest spiked. His eyes watered. Without them, and without his brother, he was left to face the enemy alone. His heart fluttered, but he pushed his panic down. I’m a warrior, dammit. I won’t be afraid. He’d fight these Alliance weaklings if he had to. Even if they did outnumber him. Even if they were much stronger than him.

There was nothing to be done now, though, but wait. He shut out all his thoughts and let his body relax. After some time, a shallow beep indicated the healing bed was done.

The lid slowly opened. Medic Shera smiled down at him with her sparkling yellow eyes. He barely glanced at her and flicked his gaze at the Alliance officer standing behind her instead. It was the same man as on the planet, a commander by the insignia on his brownish-grey uniform.

The man stood alert, in a readiness similar to that of a soldier’s but perhaps a little more at ease. His hair was the color of the Vandoran sand dunes. He was tall and fairly well-built as compared to the other Alliance men he’d seen, but not as muscular as a Tredon warrior.

And the man had a smirk on his face. Jori clenched his jaw and scowled. Baka/Fool. The man thinks he’s triumphed over me?

He sat up quickly. The insult on his tongue died away as the room spun. He gripped the edge of the bed waiting for the whirling in his head to subside.

“You alright?” the man said.

His vision came back into focus. The man was standing right beside him now. Jori clenched his jaw. The man was close, close enough for him to send a strike straight up into his nose. He was strong enough to draw blood. But no. Hitting a man just because he was irritating was Terk’s way, not his.

The insult came back into his head, but so did a sense of the man’s emotions. The commander didn’t feel cocky. He felt concerned. Jori focused on the sensation. Not a hint of arrogance.

So it wasn’t a smirk after all. He could see it now. One side of the commander’s mouth was naturally turned up more than the other.

Medic Shera put her hand on Jori’s shoulder. “How are you feeling?”

He turned back to her. “Well.”

“Good.” She smiled, but he could sense her unease as she did a brief medical inspection. He ignored her again. She wasn’t his concern. This place was. They were helping to heal him, but they could have something else planned. He needed a way out for just in case.

He glanced subtly around the room and mapped out all of his surroundings, the way Master Jetser had taught him. Two armed guards stood just inside the divider that sectioned off the area he was in. He could sense two more on other side of the opening. He delved with his senses further. Two others who felt like guards were near the main exit.

Then there was the commander himself. At least five medical personnel were also nearby. In Tredon, doctors were also warriors. He doubted it was so here, especially since half of them were women, but it was best not to make assumptions. Besides, they were probably all stronger than him. Maybe not as fast, though. Maybe.

There was nothing nearby he could use as a weapon. Not even any medical tools. The security must have had them cleared away. Smart. It’s what he would have done. Well, except his prisoners would be in a cell. Or if they were injured he might let them be healed but they’d be strapped down. These Alliance people were a little more trusting, but perhaps not so foolish.

The medic handed him some clothes. He unfolded the jumpsuit. It was black in color and long sleeved like his uniform. But there the similarity ended. The material was not the same, nor was it the same style. It didn’t even have built-in armor to protect him. He frowned but said nothing. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice. At least it was black.

Despite feeling nervous, medic Shera met his eyes. “I bet you’re hungry. Would you like something to eat?”

The hollowness of his stomach became apparent. “Yes.”

She smiled. “Anything in particular? I believe our processor has some Tredon recipes.”

His mouth watered at the thought of an almost rare guniku steak seasoned with yakume. But his body needed replenishing. Instead of food, He gave her a list of nutritional requirements. For some people, food was a vice. He might not be physically strong yet, but he was mentally strong enough not to be weakened by temptation. “I do not care what form it comes in or how it tastes.”

Both the medic and the commander raised an eyebrow, but neither commented. Of course the Alliance was wrought with temptations. Why else would they keep so many women about?

“Very well.” She inclined her head.

As soon as she turned her back to leave, Jori stepped down off the healing bed and faced the commander. He chastised himself for automatically going into a militaristic at-ease stance. This was the same way he faced his instructors and his father as a sign of respect. He defiantly unclasped his hands.

“Hello.” When the commander smiled, the crookedness of his mouth was even more pronounced. “I’m J.D.” He held out his hand in greeting.

Jori glanced at his hand with a frown. A trick? No. Oddly, the commander felt genuine.

He considered not taking it. After all, this man was the enemy. But then he remembered Terk.

He tentatively put out his own hand and performed the customary hand shake of the Alliance. “Jori.” It was his informal name and the safest one to give. He wasn’t well-known. Terk, on the other hand—they couldn’t find out who he was. Or what he’d been up to. Whatever niceness these people were presenting wouldn’t last if they knew.

*****
J.D. widened his smile. Shaking hands had to be a good sign. “Nice to meet you, Jori.”

His smile faltered when the boy did not smile back. Jori’s eyes were naturally narrow, but not in a way that conveyed suspiciousness or slyness. They were hard and piercing. And they were fixed on him like a predator on the hunt, making his neck prickle.

The rounded look of youth was almost unnoticeable with the way Jori carried himself. His posture was rigid, but at the same time he looked ready to spring into action.  It wasn’t a nervous wariness, but an alert guardedness of a soldier.

A strained silence settled.

J.D. cleared his throat. “I know our people aren’t on the best terms, but you don’t need to be concerned. We’re going to help you.”

The boy’s nostrils flared and his jaw twitched. “And what of my brother? Are you helping him as well?”

Brother? He was only a little surprised. Even though the faces of both boys had been battered from the crash, there was a strong resemblance between them. “Yes. Our doctors are doing everything they can. He’s stable at the moment, but he’s in really bad shape. He’s in a status we call critical cond—.”

“I’m familiar with the term,” Jori said.

“So you understand it’s not as simple as putting him in a healing bed.”

The boy scowled. “I just said I understood.”

J.D. resisted the urge to clear his throat again. “Good,” he said, ignoring the boy’s attitude. “I promise we’ll do whatever we can to help him pull through, though.”

The boy’s frown disappeared. Without thinking, J.D. put his hand on his shoulder to assure him. The boy glanced at the hand with an unreadable expression and J.D. pulled it away awkwardly.

The severity of the boy’s demeanor returned quickly. “And what of me? I’m assuming I am to be held as your prisoner.”

“Actually, you will be staying with me.”

The boy’s brow furrowed, hooding his dark narrow eyes. “Are you to be my interrogator?”

J.D.’s stomach soured. Even ancient Earthen barbarians couldn’t match the brutality and horrors of what he’d heard about Tredon interrogators. “No! Goodness no. We will certainly ask you questions, but we do not torture people.” My God. What sort of world does this boy live in?

“You say you will do everything you can for my brother. Is this contingent upon my cooperation?”

J.D. raised his eyebrows. Big words for a boy. “No, of course not,” he replied as assuredly as he could. “We’d be grateful for your cooperation, though. And it would certainly help if we knew what was going on, what happened between you and the Grapnes. But we’re not going to hold you or your brother’s life over your head in order to get that information.”

“You swear it?”

“Yes, I swear it.” At least he had no intention of doing such a thing. Hopefully, Captain Arden wouldn’t either.

Jori bored into him with a studious stare. “Good.” His expression was stone-faced.

J.D. sighed inwardly. No boy should be this hard. He certainly had some rough terrain ahead of him with this one.

 

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.