StarFire Dragons Chapter 5 Rewrite #3

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Kavakian Empire 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.

So Confused – Best Way to Start a Story?

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Kavakian Empire, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on February 11, 2017 by Dawn Ross

I just finished tweaking my first sci-fi novel, StarFire Dragons. I tweaked the first chapter based on some good advice from someone I consider a professional writer. She said that rather than  just jump right into the action, I need to ground my character in a normal world first. So if you look at my original and my revised 3 versions, you can see the difference. My original started out with the communications officer reporting a distress signal. My recent final version, previously reviewed by said professional, starts out with J.D. sitting on the bridge and wondering what the heck he was doing here. In a way, it establishes ‘his’ problem as a character and I feel that it helps people get to know him a little as well as get a feel for the setting. Then at about the 7th paragraph, we get into the action with the distress signal.

I recently presented this same finalized first chapter to others and several are saying I should jump straight into the action in order to grab the reader’s attention. So which is it? Do I ground the reader first or do I jump straight into the action where no one knows the characters, or even cares? Both sides make valid points.

Getting a story reviewed and getting feedback is a great way for writers to grow. But sometimes these mixed messages can be quite confusing.

What do you think? When you begin reading a book, what do you like best about the beginning? Do you prefer a stage setting first or do you like to dive right into the action?

 

StarFire Dragons Chapter 4 Rewrite #3

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised 3, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2017 by Dawn Ross

StarFire Dragons

Book One of The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera Saga by Dawn Ross

Chapter 4

J.D. caught himself twiddling his thumbs and stopped. The silence of the conference room set his nerves on edge.

Captain Arden sat at the head of the rectangular table. His brows hooded his eyes as he scanned the reports on his deskview. Lt. Jenna Stein frowned as she browsed her digiview. Both Lt. Commander Bracht and Lt. Hanna Sharkey sat erect and looked at nothing in particular. Bracht held a sour look while Lt. Sharkey’s face was placid.

The captain looked up and sat back. His eyes locked with J.D.’s. J.D. braced himself for a torrent of disapproval for saving the lives of their enemies.

But the captain met the faces of each of the officers with the same stoic look. “It seems we have a potential security risk on our ship. Suggestions?”

J.D. let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. There was no hint of criticism in the man’s voice. Perhaps he was off the hook.

“He must be kept in the brig.” Lt. Commander Bracht’s deep voice reverberated through the small conference room.

J.D. winced at the chief of security’s direct and overly bold tone. It sounded as though he was making a demand, but neither Captain Arden nor Lt. Stein or Lt. Sharkey appeared to be bothered by it.

Lt. Hanna Sharkey tilted her head. “The brig? For a single child of no more than ten cycles, Sir?”

Thank you, Lt. Sharkey. She was an impressive security officer. And it wasn’t just because she was undaunted by Bracht’s overbearing attitude. She had a good head on her shoulders when it came to all things security related. Suggesting she be a part of the captain’s advisory team in this unusual security situation was a good call.

“He killed four Grapnes!” the Rabnoshk warrior said a little too harshly. Captain Arden’s eyebrow raised ever so slightly. “Single handedly,” Bracht said more calmly. “Besides, he’s a Tredon. Our enemy. He can’t be trusted.”

J.D. clenched his teeth at the man’s bullish attitude. Yes, the boy was a Tredon warrior. And yes, his phaser had been a kill-weapon. But his actions seemed to have been done out of desperation.

He opened his mouth to say as much but Captain Arden spoke first. “Enemies or not, we are not currently at war with the Tredons. Nor do we wish to be. This situation must be handled carefully. I won’t treat the child as a criminal without just cause.”

The tension in J.D.’s shoulders lightened slightly. The captain’s view was more than he’d hoped for.

Bracht’s nostrils flared. “Killing four men isn’t just cause?”

“It was self-defense,” J.D. snapped.

“We don’t know that,” Bracht shot back. “The Grapnes said the Tredons attacked them and stole their cargo.”

J.D.’s muscles twitched at Bracht’s singlemindedness. “There is no evidence of stolen cargo.” Bracht harrumphed. “Besides,” he continued, “I don’t think he should be held responsible for it if they did. He’s just a boy.”

Bracht’s bushy brows folded inward. “You saw what that so-called boy did with your own eyes. He’s dangerous.”

“But he didn’t shoot at us.” The rising heat in J.D.’s body manifested itself in his tone. Men like Bracht gave all military men a bad name. Whether he called himself a warrior, soldier, or security officer, his job should be to defend people, not treat everyone like an enemy and stomp on them with those gigantic boots of his.

One would think mankind should have evolved by now. But no. Men today were very much like the men of Earthen history. Some enlightened. Some innovative. Some ambitious. And some who still used force as their primary means to an end.

The Rabnoshk and the Tredons had a lot in common. Perhaps this was why Bracht was so against the boy.

“He threatened you,” the warrior insisted.

“He was just trying to determine if we were a threat.” The black look in the boy’s eyes popped back into his head. No child should have such a hard look.

Bracht’s lips curled into a sneer. “Obviously you were no threat at all since I heard you surrendered to him.”

J.D. bristled. “That is enough, Lieutenant Commander.” He eyed Bracht sternly. He wanted to say more, to defend his decision, but he had already given a full report of his actions. There was no reason to defend them against this man. He was from a generation of Protectors, not a generation of barbarians.

Bracht clamped his mouth shut. His frown deepened, but he didn’t argue further.

The captain glanced back and forth between the two of them. His demeanor gave no indication of what he thought of this outburst. J.D. resisted the urge to fidget. Captain Arden’s apparent indifference always made him feel like a fish in a bowl.

The captain set his elbows on the conference table and intertwined his fingers. “Lieutenant Stein?” he said, addressing Jenna, the ship’s chief anthropologist.

Lt. Stein squared up her shoulders. Her high cheekbones and thin arched eyebrows gave her a snobbish look. She certainly had pride in her job, but her mannerisms never came across as arrogant. “I would not underestimate these Tredon fighters at any age.” Her native language of the desert world Kochuru was rhythmic and flowing, but her accent in this universal language was harsh and halting. “There be no telling when this boy began training…or what sort of training he had.”

“So you’re recommending the brig as well?” Captain Arden said.

Lt. Stein’s black wavy hair swished as she shook her head. “I’m not sure that be called for, Sir. We all be officers here. No civilians for him to be a threat to. Besides, though the Tredons do be our enemies, we can never make peace if we treat even their children as criminals. I recommend a full armed security detail, no less.”

J.D. frowned. “Armed? If this boy has training, we risk him being able to disarm someone.”

Bracht grunted. “Which is why he should be in the brig.”

J.D,’s jaw tightened again. “That’s not what I meant. I say unarmed. And if he causes trouble, then we can restrain him. Whatever fighting skills he has, he’s not that strong yet.” And certainly your security team can handle a small child.

“And what of the other one?” Bracht asked of the older and probably much stronger Tredon boy.

He suppressed a sigh. “We’re not even sure he’ll live.”

The captain rest his chin on his steepled fingers. His face was unreadable. After a moment of silence, he lay his hands flat on the table. “I’m not going to put a child in the brig unless he gives us a reason. That is my final decision. We’ll worry about the other one if he makes it. I will, however, proscribe stun weapons only and a four-man detail of security on each of them at all times.”

J.D. almost slumped from the deflation of tension. The expected rebuke for bringing the enemy onto the ship never came. And that the captain seemed to side with him on this other issue was almost enough to set him completely at ease. Almost. If the boy turned out to be nothing but trouble, all the blame would lie with him.

“I have six in sickbay now, Sir,” Bracht replied. “Should I call two of them off?” Bracht’s tone sounded almost insubordinate—almost.

“No,” the captain replied. Only a small lift of his eyebrow indicated he heard the tone as well. But he didn’t acknowledge it in any other way. “Let’s keep the security on him until we have had a chance to speak to him. Commander,” he said to J.D., “I want you to go down and talk to him.”

J.D. nodded. “Yes, Sir.”

The captain turned to Bracht. “Lieutenant Commander, organize a security detail shift of six to stay on him for now and add security to engineering and other off-limit areas of the ship.”

Bracht seemed somewhat mollified by the captain’s acknowledgement that the boy could be a security risk. “Yes, Sir.”

Lt. Sharkey’s brow furrowed. “If the boy isn’t going to be in a cell, where is he going to stay?”

The captain looked at J.D. “Commander?”

He was about to suggest an officer, but something about the look the captain was giving him told him he was asking something else. “Me?”

The captain’s stoic features didn’t change. “He’s of a warrior class, which means he’s used to a ranking hierarchy. I need someone of high rank and with martial skills to instill authority. Besides, I hear you’re good with children.”

“That’s no mere child,” Bracht muttered.

J.D.’s mouth fell open and he snapped it shut again. His martial ability was decent enough, but his specialty was in strategic warfare not hand-to-hand combat.

This was another test… or perhaps a punishment for bringing the boys onto the ship in the first place. But then again, he couldn’t argue with the captain’s logic. Although he wanted to give the boy the benefit of the doubt regarding security, now that he was faced with being directly responsible for him he wondered if he’d taken the wrong stance.

What have I gotten myself into?

 

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.

Simple Steps to Writing a Novel

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Typewriter for Writing a Story

So you have a story in your head and you suddenly feel inspired to write it. You sit down and you open a Word document. The story flashes through your head. The action, the heartache, the drama. But where do you start? How do you start? Suddenly you’re overwhelmed.

While some writers can simply start writing by the seat of their pants (called pantsers), some of us need a little more structure and guidance. If you are one of the later, here are some tips on where to begin.

Firefly Cast of Characters

Establish the Main Characters

If you’ve been thinking about your story for some time, you may already know who your characters are. You may also know things about them such as what they look like, where they work, their strengths and weaknesses, and so on. Either way, you need to create a character journal with all their information. The more important your character is to the story, the more thorough this journal should be.

Dwarves Bilbo and Gandalf in Rivendell Hobbit Movie

Establish the Setting

This is something else you might already have in mind. Creating a journal about it will help you fine tune it. A journal is also a great way to keep track of details later on as you write your story.

Set Up the Story Structure

If you’re having trouble just sitting and writing, having a story structure can help. The first structure you need to consider is the three acts basic acts that most good stories should have. The acts also help you determine your overall plot.

The first act establishes your setting and characters, and then brings about the inciting incident. The inciting incident is the event that rocks your character’s boat, the even that calls for his or her intervention. This incident can be something as simple as a death of a family member to something as cataclysmic as an explosion wiping out half a city. The second act consists of your character trying to resolve the situation only to find it’s not easy. Two steps forward, one step back. The third act contains the climax and the final wrap-up.

I have only given the basics of the three acts. If you’re having trouble with this, there are a ton of books and free online resources that can help.

Notecards for Writing a Story 001

Map Out the Outline

An outline is not the same thing as the story structure described above. The outline consists of the story structure, but it is much more detailed. It doesn’t just help you with your timeline, it also helps you establish important scenes, show you where gaps are, and gives you something to refer to as you write.

I have written an article previously on how using index cards helps me establish an outline – Outlining Your Novel with Index Cards. Make it fun with colored index cards!

Decide the Point of View

This can be a tricky one. Before you write, you really need to know how you plan on telling the story (or showing it, I should say). Here’s an article titled, Point of View Writing. It gives the basics and in an easy-to-understand way. The article states that Third Person, Limited is the most common point of view in fiction. I agree. And it is the point of view I use. I find it the easiest to use and the easiest for readers to fall into. But whichever you use, be sure you are consistent.

Decide the Tense

There are only two choices in writing tense: past tense or present tense. One would think that writing in present tense would be best because it establishes the immediacy of what’s happening. But past tense can work just as well. For some reason, I tend to do my outlines in present tense, but write my novel in past tense. Whichever you choose is fine, just be sure to be consistent. The Write Practice has another great article regarding writing in past tense versus present tense.

Book Time Clock Ticking

Write

This can still be the hardest part. But a friend and fellow writer posted something on her blog recently – Write Bravely. What does it mean? It means write and don’t worry too much about what others think. Don’t worry if your point of view or tense is off or whether you have enough descriptions in your scenes. Just write. You can worry about all that other stuff later.

If finding the time is a problem, make the time. Give up a television show or two. See if your significant other can help take up a chore or two. Even an hour a day is better than nothing. You’re story is never going to get written if you don’t make the time. Here are 10 Ways to Create More Time in Your Day.

Conclusion

Try not to look at novel as one big huge project. Big projects are easier to complete when you break them down into smaller projects. Use the headings I’ve used in this article as mini-projects. Even the heading Write can be broken down. Just take it one chapter at a time. One chapter at a time and you’ll get there. Good luck!

Tips for Writing Dialogue

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Dialogue

We all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing. Me? I’m tend to be a little skimpy on describing the scenes and the characters. But I think I’m pretty darned good at dialogue. Other writers may not be so good at it. Perhaps the conversations between their characters seem too contrived. Or perhaps the characters come across as too stiff and formal. Or every character sounds the same. So here are some tips to help improve dialogue.

Get in the Characters’ Heads

-Motives

Each of your characters has a different motive. So what they say is generally going to be motivated by what they want. For example, say Jack really likes this girl, but his friend Kevin happens to know the girl isn’t really into him. So while Jack is busy talking about how great this girl is, Kevin will try to find a way to hint about the girl without hurting Jack’s feelings. Perhaps he will start out by pointing out all her flaws.

-History/Background

Another way to get into the characters’ heads is to remember they all have different backgrounds, different beliefs, different occupations, and so on. This is going to affect how they speak. Someone from the country may be more inclined to use slang. A doctor will be most likely to use correct medical terminology and medical jargon. Someone who is religious might go around blessing and praying for everyone or by often attributing things to God’s will.

-Personality

The different personalities of each character will also need to be considered. If Steve is self-absorbed, he might not care about why Sally is crying and so he’s either going to ask half-heartedly or not at all, depending on their relationship. If Joe tends to keep to himself, he’s not going to say too much in a conversation and to have him suddenly spill his heart out will not make any sense.

Grammatically Incorrect

People don’t always speak in a grammatically correct way. They might use slang or improper words like ain’t, y’all or irregardless. They might use a lot of filler words like um, yeah, well. They might use gone instead of went like, “She’s gone to the store” instead of “She went to the store.” They might use me when they should use I or I when they should use me like, “him and I” or “him and me”. They might end the sentence with a preposition, such as, “Where you at?” instead of “Where are you?” they might say should of instead of should have. The list goes on and on. And for the sake of readers, it will help if each of your characters has a different quirk. One way to get an idea for all the different ways people speak is to listen.

Be Clear About Who is Speaking

Be clear about who is speaking, but not by overusing names or by overusing tags. By overusing names, I mean by one character saying the name of the other character over and over. For example:

     “Hello, John. Good to see you.”
     “Hello, Fred. Good to see you too.”
     “So, John. How’s your family?”
     “Great, Fred. Blah, blah, blah.”
     “That’s great to hear, John.”

You see what I’m getting at. By overusing creative tags, I mean by always adding John said or Fred said. Some people get around this by using creative tags like John coaxed or Fred persuaded. This can get a little annoying for some readers. That John coaxed or Fred persuaded should be obvious by what they said and the way they said it, not by the use of a creative tag. Don’t get me wrong. Creative tags have their place. There will be times when you will want to say John whispered or Fred mumbled. But use these creative tags very sparingly and not just as a way to use something other than said or replied.

A great way to give an idea of who is speaking without the use of tags is with action. For example, consider the above conversation modified with actions:

     Fred eagerly put out his hand and grinned widely. “Hey, John. So good to see you.”
     John’s eyes lit up. “Hey! Great to see you too.” He grasped Fred’s hand and shook firmly.
     Fred clapped him on the shoulder. “Gosh. It’s been forever. So how’s the fam?”
     “Great.” John’s brows went up. “Can you believe Ashley got into Berkley?”
     “Wow! That’s great to hear.”

Action is a great way to add more feeling into the conversation. But one can overdo it on the action as well, so mix it up. Use said or replied when needed since readers find these tags less annoying. Use an occasional creative tag only where appropriate. Use action. Or, as you may have noticed in the last sentence of the conversation, use nothing. There are only two people speaking so there is no need always specify who said what. Another way you can get away with not indicating who is speaking is if your character has a unique voice. As stated in another article I wrote, there is no need to say Yoda said because everyone knows Yoda by the way he speaks.

The Conversation Has a Purpose

I can’t tell you how many times I planned for a conversation to go one way, but ended up having it go another. If you force the conversation, it sounds contrived. But if you let it flow naturally, you might end up going off on a tangent. What you need is to find a way to get the conversation to flow naturally so it goes where you want it to go. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Even though people in real life conversations have a tendency to veer off topic or quickly change the subject, try not to do this in your dialogue. Every conversation should have a purpose, whether it’s to convey information, to get an idea of the characters’ points of view, or to establish tension between two characters. For example, my sci-fi story is about the relationship between two enemies. So there is no reason to have a chapter where one of these two characters has a conversation with a third character about knitting. This is an extreme example, but you see what I’m getting at.

If you feel two characters need to have a long conversation before they get to the primary purpose of the conversation, see if you can find a way to slim it down or skim over to the good part. Although it is better to show than tell, sometimes it is acceptable to simply tell by stating they talked about this and that for a good hour while having tea or something.

Pauses, Hesitations, Interruptions

I have a bad habit of interrupting people and I’m not the only one. People interrupt other people all the time. Then there are those people who like to take the time and think about what they’re going to say before they say it. And there are people who hem and haw with filler words before they finally get to the point. Some people talk a lot with almost no pause for breath while the other party simply shrugs their shoulders and interjects a few uh-huhs and such.

Change of Subject is Purposeful and Explainable

Don’t let your characters simply change the subject without a good reason. Changing the subject without some sort of explanation can be very jarring for the reader and can make the conversation seem contrived.

Characters Lie

Have you ever asked someone of they’re feeling okay and they say yes even though it’s obvious they’re not? Have you ever spoken to someone who told you one thing but did another? Or a person who is nice to your face but gossips about you behind your back? People are not always truthful when they speak. You can make the lie obvious or not-so obvious, depending on your purpose. Just keep your purpose in mind. Let’s use the dialogue above and change it to show what I mean.

     Fred eagerly put out his hand and grinned widely. “Hey, John. So good to see you.”
     John’s eyes lit up. “Hey! Great to see you too.” He grasped Fred’s hand and shook firmly.
     Fred clapped him on the shoulder. “Gosh. It’s been forever. So how’s the fam?”
     John’s face fell. “Great.”
     “Yeah?”
     John shrugged. “Yeah. Just fine.”

John’s body language indicates things are not so fine but he doesn’t want to talk about it. Fred can be oblivious or he can pick up on it, depending on his personality, and you can reflect this in the continuing dialogue.

Conclusion

Remember, all things in moderation. Don’t have characters interrupt people all the time. If your character has a tendency to speak incorrectly, don’t force it so that every single sentence is wrong. If your character uses filler words like um, don’t interject the filler words every single time they speak. The overuse of anything can easily turn into an annoyance. Balance is the key. Balance your actions and tags as well.

These are just a few tips to help with dialogue. If you can think of some more, please feel free to comment below.

Tips to Improve Your Story by Writing Better Characters

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Toy Story on Writing Characters

I don’t care whether you have a sci-fi, fantasy, western, action/adventure, mystery, drama, or other genre. The characters in your story are just as important as the story’s plot. Without characters, you have nothing. With mediocre characters, you have a mediocre story. You could almost get away with a mediocre story if you have excellent characters. So how do you build great characters? Here are some great tips:

Write Their Backstory

When I began writing The Guardian of Destiny, I had a very difficult time writing the main character. I just couldn’t get into him. It wasn’t until I really got to know him by writing his backstory from his childhood to the present that made me really understand who he was. When you tell your actual story, you don’t have to provide your character’s entire backstory. Just include the parts relevant to the story and/or a few of the interesting parts that reveal why your character is the way he is.

Physical Characteristics

I’ve noticed some writers include very little character description and let the reader fill in the blanks. As a reader, I kinda prefer this myself. But I’ve come to realize that most readers want at least a little bit of a description. So make the descriptions unique or interesting. This is especially important when you have multiple characters. The more characters you have, the more difficult it will be for your reader to keep up with them all. So give them a unique feature or two. Perhaps one character has thick eyebrows or one has a unique color of eyes. Go beyond facial features. Perhaps one character has a limp or one is overly tall.

Ben Affleck

J.D., the character in my new sci-fi series, has a crooked smile. I like to think the smile looks a little like Ben Affleck’s. Jori has a Japanese look, though I never state this because of the genre. I try to hint at it with the color of his skin and hair, with the shape of his eyes, and with the fact that he occasionally uses Japanese words.

Gestures, Habits, and other Noticeable Characteristics

Speaking of the words a character uses, this is another way to help individualize your characters. People watching is something writers do all the time. It’s a great way to pick up on the little things people do that make them individuals. Perhaps you notice someone who taps their foot all the time or someone who plays with their hair. Habits can include someone who smokes or someone who is always drinking coffee. J.D. strokes his chin a lot. Jori and Terk curse a lot, Terk more so.

Strengths and Weaknesses

List your character’s most prominent strengths and even a few of his weaknesses. If a character has nothing but strengths, never does any wrong, it makes for a very boring character. No one is perfect, so even the best characters will have a few things they’re not good at. Jori has a lot of things going for him. He’s highly intelligent, has a lot of common sense, and is greatly athletic. He even has a tendency to be modest and considerate, though you wouldn’t know this in the beginning of the story. So it seems he’s practically perfect. But he’s not. He has a bit of a temper, which sometimes gets him into trouble. He also has a tendency to keep his feelings to himself, which makes other people think he’s an emotionless jerk.

I admit I’ve read (and liked) books where the hero seems to have no character flaws. It’s true some people like a story with a perfect white knight hero. So if this is your character, make sure your story makes up for the lack of character conflict in other ways, such as with a great plot and interesting twists.

Stand by Me Movie

Relationships

How the character relates to others says a lot about them. What are their relationships like with their parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, and others? Do they have a lot of friends, or few? Are they loyal to one spouse or do they like to sleep around? Depending on your story, you may even want to consider your character’s relationships with animals. One character I particularly like in my story is Mik Calloway. He’s a complete ass. And one way you can tell this is by how he is with his coworkers. Even though he’s hanging out with them, he only thinks negative thoughts about them. And he only admits that he’s hanging out with them because he doesn’t want to drink alone.

Occupation

Be sure to consider the character’s occupation when writing their character. Stereotypes exist for a reason, so think about the stereotypical dentist, racecar driver, jock, lawyer, cop, and so on. But be careful about making your character cliché. Even though people tend to fall into certain stereotypes, they are still individuals. Jori, for example, is immediately viewed as a stereotypical warrior with a bad attitude and hot temper. But as you will see later in the story, there is so much more to him than that. Use stereotypes to your advantage by perhaps making your characters see other characters in a stereotypical way, but then have them learn a lesson by learning otherwise later on.

Cardinal Richelieu of the Three Mustketeers

Beliefs

Your character’s beliefs go beyond just what their religious preferences are. Think about the core values of your character? Does he believe each man for himself or does he believe in helping others? Is he open-minded or stuck in his ways? Does he tend to see the best in others or the worst? Is he a strictly by-the-book kind of guy or will he break the rules to right a wrong or to get ahead?

A Character’s Journey

Whatever happens in your story, whether your hero is out to save the galaxy, meets the love of his life, destroys the evil warlord, or catches a serial killer, these events are going to change your character forever. Hopefully, they are going to help your character grow. Even the bad guy could learn something new. When you develop your story, think about what your character is going through and what lessons they can learn from it. Think about how their lives are changing and will change as the action progresses.

Create a Character Journal

I forgot where I learned this from, but it has been the most helpful piece of advice I’ve ever received when it comes to writing characters. The character’s journal consists of everything listed above, plus a few extra if you’d like. If your character journal is a physical one, cut out pictures of what your character might look like or what he might wear. If you can draw, draw the pictures. Draw his home and/or his favorite things. If your character journal is a digital one, like mine, attach images. One person I know uses Pinterest to collect pictures that fit their characters.

Conclusion

The more you think about all the aspects of your character, the better chance you have of creating a deep and memorable character. And the more memorable your character, the better chance you have of creating a memorable story. If you have any additional tips for creating great characters, please feel free to comment below.

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.