Archive for space opera

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 33 – Revised

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

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 33 – Revised

(Here is another brand new chapter. I hinted at some of it in the unrevised version of my science fiction story, so maybe you know what’s coming… maybe.)

Jori sprung forward, landed on his hands, flipped back onto his feet, and repeated three times, adding an extra twist on the last one, and landed facing the direction he had just come. Terk furrowed his brow in determination and then did his own moves down the mat, landing next to Jori with a full flip.

The two went back and forth at increasing levels of difficulty, not really competing yet still trying to outdo one another. Neither of them spoke. They hadn’t spoken since yesterday’s incident at the gym. Jori was irked with Terk’s constant confrontational attitude and Terk was probably upset at him for calling him out on it.

What does he expect? Sure, the Alliance as a whole was their enemy. But Captain Arden’s words kept popping back in his head. Why? Why are we enemies? He still didn’t know the answer. But he knew J.D. wasn’t his enemy. The man had played a large part in saving their lives. And he’d been protecting him while Terk was in a coma. If only Terk would listen and understand.

J.D. walked by, dabbing his forehead with a towel. The wetness of his shirt indicated he was probably done for the day since the man rarely spent more than an hour at the gym.

Jori caught J.D.’s eye. The man gave a nod and small wave, verifying his assumption. Jori dipped his head in return while Terk simply glowered. His brother continued glaring at the man’s back as he headed towards the exit. Jori clenched his teeth and bit back the name he wanted to call his brother. Terk caught the look and the tension between them grew.

“I’m done here,” Terk said abruptly.

“Fine,” Jori replied.

Terk moved to leave. “Well, come on,” he said irritably. “We have to do what the Alliance says and stay together,” he added sarcastically.

Jori growled, but followed. No need to give the guards a reason to act. They were already watching with the intensity of a caged blackbeast, ready to attack as soon as the cage door flew open.

Jori walked the track with his brother sullen silence. He masked his emotions, knowing Terk would unintentionally feed off them. He also kept his mouth closed as they paused at different workout stations knowing if he showed any interest or disinterest, his brother would claim the opposite just out of spite.

A prickling sensation tickled his mind. He stopped.

“Come on already, dammit.”

Terk’s annoyance touched his senses, but the other sensation was too strong to be overcome. “Do you feel that?”

“Feel what?”

Jori looked back to where he thought the sensation might be coming from. There were several people doing various workouts, but their emotions seemed to be a simple mixture of determination and satisfaction.

“Menace.” A shiver ran down his spine. Where is it coming from?

“Menace?” Terk crossed his arms.

“You can’t feel it?” Terk’s ability was not as sensitive as his own. But the feeling was so starkly different from anyone else’s that he should notice. Maybe his own attitude is getting in the way.

Terk stepped beside him and looked around.

The sensation dissipated, as though whoever it was had left.

“Hey,” a man called out from behind.

Jori turned around. His concern was replaced by a spike of annoyance. Calloway.

“If you two are looking for something to do, how about a game of hoop ball?” Calloway wore a kind smile, but Jori could tell there was no sincerity in it.

What’s he up to?

“That’s not such a good idea,” one of his guards, Lt. Sharkey, said before he or Terk could reply.

It was odd seeing a female in charge of security. Odder still was seeing and sensing how much the other guards deferred to her without any hint of disdain—everyone except Calloway, anyway.

“Why not, Lieutenant?” Calloway cocked head in mock confusion. “It’s just a friendly game.”

Lt. Sharkey opened her mouth.

“Certainly,” Terk said. “I don’t mind a friendly game.” Terk also wore a smile, one just as duplicitous as Calloway’s.

Shit. Now they’re both up to something. He scrutinized the surrounding guards. As much as he’d love to humiliate Calloway, no good could come of this.

He glanced at Lt. Sharkey. He got the sense that she didn’t trust Calloway either, but she considered it anyway.

“Yeah, it’s just a game, Lieutenant,” one of Calloway’s team members said.

The other Alliance crew members apparently part of the hoop ball game looked less confident. Lt. Sharkey met the eyes of each. One man shrugged his shoulders. Two gave Terk and Jori a dark glare but masked the look from her. Jori sensed nervousness from some of the others, but none of them spoke up against the idea.

“Very well,” Lt. Sharkey said. “But make sure it stays friendly. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Sir,” Calloway replied.

Calloway’s smile curled up slightly and Jori sensed his smugness. Unfortunately, Terk also felt smug.

Chikusho. Shit.

The game was rather easy and not at all as intense as wall ball. All Jori had to do was pass the ball to other team members or throw the ball in the hoop. Being the shortest player gave him the advantage of being able to dart around the opposing players. And both he and Terk quickly got a feel for aiming the throw of the ball through the hoop.

The four players they had been teamed with had not been happy in the very beginning of the game. But they warmed up to them as their team’s score progressed. As Calloway’s team fell behind, Jori sensed the man’s anger rise.

Jori made a move in one direction, then pivoted in the other. He darted past another opponent attempting to block him only to find Calloway in his way. He feigned again. Calloway didn’t fall for it. Again, back and forth, until Calloway overreached in the opposite direction.

Just as Jori slipped by, Calloway slid his foot in the way. Jori skipped over it, nearly losing his balance in the process. He regained quickly and aimed the ball.

The ball sailed through the air and fell through the hoop. His team cheered. One member actually clapped him on the back.

“Great shot,” the man said.

The other team had the ball now. Jori had a knack for getting the ball away from them when they bounced it, but this time his opponent tossed the ball overhand. He jumped at it, but didn’t even came close.

Jori ran down the court, following the other team to their hoop. Calloway ran up beside him, then purposefully placed his foot in front of him. Jori hopped over it.

The game moved too quickly for him to respond, so he played on. Calloway tried twice more, and failed twice more.

The ball was his once more. He rushed down the court, bouncing the ball as he went. Calloway jumped in front of him. The man held his arms out wide. His stance was also wide, and so was the stupid grin he had on his face. Jori glanced around. All of his team members, including Terk, were blocked by their opponents. His only chance was to shoot the ball. It was a distance shot, but he could probably make it.

Jori held the ball up and took aim. He jumped up and flicked his wrist. The ball sailed out over Calloway’s head.

He didn’t have a chance to see the ball go into the hoop. The palm of Calloway’s hand jabbed him in the sternum, immediately taking the breath out of him. He flew backward. Master Jetser had taught him how to recover from a fall, but he couldn’t think quickly enough and landed with a hard thud.

Calloway barked a laugh. Jori’s face flushed. He quickly regained his feet and balled his fists at his sides. He opened his mouth with an insult ready on his tongue but Terk suddenly stepped between facing Calloway.

His elder brother’s elbow drew back and then a loud pop echoed. “Don’t you dare touch my brother, you fucking ass!”

Calloway landed hard with a grunt.

The guards rushed forward, surrounding him and his brother. He and Terk automatically went into a battle crouch and stood together back-to-back, ready to fight them off.

Evade!

His brother’s command in their Tredon tongue spurred him to duck. The air crackled above him as the stun fire shot past.

“Stop!” a female voice yelled. “Stop, dammit! That’s an order!”

His heart pounded wildly while at the same time the heat of his brother standing behind him gave him comfort.

The guards stopped short. But each of them held their stun guns out, ready to fire. If they thought this would stop them, they were mistaken. Jori and his brother had practiced just such a scenario hundreds of times. They’d each duck and roll to one of their opponents and disarm them. Then they’d take each opponent down, two at a time, whether by turning their firepower against them or by physical force.

“Stand down!” a male voice said.

J.D.

“I said, stand down!”

He and Terk remained in their battle stance. One-by-one, the guards tucked their weapons away and stepped back.

When they were all obviously no longer a threat, Jori stood erect. Terk did so as well, albeit much more slowly. His brother’s face was bright red and his knuckles were white from clenching his fists so tightly.

“What the heck happened?” J.D. said to no one in particular.

“He broke by dose,” Calloway said. The man was still on the ground holding his nose. Blood gushed from between his fingers. No one moved to help him.

J.D. turned his eyes to Terk. The look wasn’t accusatory. Jori could sense the man’s disappointment, though.

“He hit Jori and made him fall!” Terk pronounced each word like he was punching them out. His nostrils flared and his chest heaved.

J.D. looked at Jori. Jori replied with a nod of his head, but said nothing.

“It wad an acthident,” Calloway replied.

“Fucking liar!” Terk turned to go after the man again.

J.D. put out his hand. “Stop!”

Terk stopped and turned slowly to face J.D. A growl rumbled in his throat and Jori could sense his anger boiling over.

“I believe you,” J.D. said to Terk in a much calmer voice.

Terk’s growl died. A hint of confusion stabbed through his anger. Jori sensed the commander’s truthfulness so Terk probably did too.

J.D. turned to Jori. “Are you okay?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s get you to sick bay and have a look anyway, alright?”

“Why?” Terk barked. “So you can verify we’re telling the truth? You think we’re lying about this?”

“I just told you, I believe you,” J.D. said firmly. “This is just protocol.”

His brother’s jaw rippled, as though he were grinding his teeth.

“I thought you left,” Jori said to J.D., hoping to divert his brother.

“Lt. Sharkey called me back. She suspected Lt. Calloway might try something and thought my presence would deter him.”

“Well it didn’t,” Terk said vehemently. “Why in the hell did that ass pick on my brother anyway?” Terk spit on the floor and glared hatefully at Calloway’s back as the man staggered toward the exit.

Jori glowered at the man’s back as well. Interesting how no one is bothering to help him. “He hates us. But since he can’t do anything about it, he resorts to pettiness.”

Terk frowned at his brother, but the look wasn’t hateful. “Why you?”

He shook his head. He and Terk had been taught to take out the strongest opponent first, so Calloway’s actions made little sense.

J.D. put his arm on Jori’s shoulder and looked at Terk. “He’s a bully. Bullies only pick on people they know they can overcome.

Terk huffed. “Jori can easily reduce that baka to a pile of bloody goo.”

J.D. winced. “Let me rephrase that. Bullies only pick on people they think they can overcome.”

Jori’s cheeks burned. J.D.’s words troubled him, though he didn’t know why. Perhaps it was the man’s corresponding feeling of disgust. Why did he touch my shoulder when he said that? Why did he wince at what Terk said? Does he think we are bullies too? Some Tredons were. His father certainly could be. I’m not though, am I?

*****

Terk clenched and unclenched his fists against the tingling sensation in his fingers as the adrenaline coursed through him. “He’s a coward for trying to hurt my little brother. You shouldn’t have stopped me,” he said to the commander.

“While I agree Lt. Calloway was way out of line,” the commander replied with an annoyingly calm look on his face, “and he will get punished for it—your reaction made it look like you were the instigator rather than the other way around.”

He grunted. Master Jetser had said something similar on more than one occasion, but why in the hell should he care what others think?

The commander shrugged his shoulders. “It’s over now, at least. Let’s just go on to sick bay, alright?”

Terk heated again. “He said he’s okay. He doesn’t need to go to your stupid sick bay.”

The commander stiffened at his tone. He could sense a touch of uneasiness in the man and it almost made him smile.

“Well, I’m going anyway.” Jori briskly stepped away.

Terk opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again and growled instead. He caught up to his brother, giving both him and the commander a dark look.

He deserves to die,” he said to Jori in their secret language as they headed toward sick bay.

His brother sucked in his breath. “J.D. has done nothing!

He sensed the commander didn’t know what they were saying, but the man’s head cocked slightly at hearing his untranslated name.

Terk frowned. “I meant Calloway. But the commander too. All of them. They are our enemies.

Jori’s eyebrows went up slightly. “They saved us.”

He let out an exasperated sigh as a new heat flushed over him. “Not this damned argument again.”

His brother’s brows turned back down. “You wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for them.”

He stopped short and turned to his little brother, leaning in close to his face. His teeth clenched so hard that a pang ran from his jaw and down his neck. “I don’t understand why you like him so much. He’s a pussy.”

He’s not.” Jori steadily held eye contact.

He clenched his fists as a strong urge to knock some sense into his little brother came over him.

“Is everything alright?”

The commander’s voice grated his nerves but he ignored him. He could sense the man’s apprehension, but the feeling was overpowered by the determination he sensed from his little brother.

Terk straightened. As much as Jori frustrated him sometimes, he wouldn’t hit him. It wasn’t because Jori would hit him back. It was because he wouldn’t. Somehow, this bothered him more than anything. Besides, it wouldn’t do any good anyway. Stubborn brat.

Terk held his annoyance in check but refused to let the argument go, especially since he was right about this. “He is a coward. I can practically feel him shaking in his boots when he’s around us.”

He’s just being cautious.”

He’s afraid.” Terk spoke through his teeth.

And yet he still doesn’t cower. Master Jetser says bravery is when you stand tall despite your fear.”

I don’t give a damn what Master Jetser says. I still say he’s a coward.”

Calloway’s the coward.”

Which only brings me back to my original argument.”

Jori squared his shoulders. “Calloway got what he deserved. You humiliated him. You broke his nose and didn’t even get in trouble for it. I’d say that’s punishment enough.”

He huffed at Jori’s naivety. Men like Calloway needed to be put in their proper place—at the bottom. “You’re weak. You know that? You stayed too long with mother.”

Jori set his jaw firmly, but Terk could sense the comment stung. He averted his gaze from Jori’s hard stare. The comment was unfair and he knew it. Jori could outdo him in almost every physical activity. The only things holding him back was his current lack of strength.

Despite his guilt, Terk wasn’t about to apologize for the comment. “Fine. Maybe we’ll just hurt him a bit when we make our escape.”

He turned away and the two of them began walking again. The commander kept pace, radiating a sense of unease along the way.

We don’t have to escape.” Jori said. “They’re letting us go.”

Terk growled in frustration. “We can’t just walk away from here without doing something to make up for our failure.”

Father was going to be so pissed. He was Daiichi Prince and it was his duty become the fiercest of warriors. It was bad enough those damned Grapnes had caused a fiasco. Grapnes of all people! He had no intention of continuing to play nice with these Alliance cowards.

Jori scowled. “Father doesn’t have to know we were ever here.”

Dammit, Jori. Don’t you get it? We failed. I failed.” He leaned in slightly as they walked and pointed emphatically at his chest. “I can’t go home empty handed.”

Why not? Why should we try so hard to please someone who doesn’t really care about us?

Terk growled. “Because we have to be strong.”

I am strong. I don’t have to be hateful like father in order to be strong. Master Jetser says there is strength in standing up for what is right.”

Fuck Master Jetser!

“Hey!” The commander put out his hand to stop them.

Terk stopped but gave the man a dark and hateful look.

“I don’t know what you two are arguing about, but—“

“It’s none of your business,” Terk said through clenched teeth.

A sense of anxiety spiked from the commander, but the man squared up his shoulders. Terk glared at him, daring him to interfere.

Jori stepped between them with is back to Terk. “It’s nothing, J.D. Just an argument between brothers.”

The commander didn’t move. Terk kept his eyes locked to the man. He wasn’t about to be the first to turn away.

Jori stepped back into him, forcing him to step back. He looked down at his brother in reflex, breaking the lock.

His face tightened along with another wave of heat that swept through him. “Dammit, Jori.”

Jori’s face was dark red and his eyes like daggers. “Stop this, Terk. He is not our enemy.”

The torrent of fury his little brother radiated gave him pause. Not because he was afraid, but because he knew this level of determination. If he made a move against the commander, he had no doubt Jori would try to stop him and he’d have no choice but to fight with his brother too.

His stomach roiled at the thought but he pushed it down. He held his brother’s glare for a moment longer, then turned away abruptly. “Fuck this. I’m going back to the gym. You and your friend can go on to sick bay if you want.”

He marched back the way they had come, not caring if anyone followed. The guards did, of course. All six of them.

*****

Derovichi scrolled through the information on his tablet. The captain had told him to leave it on his ship in their docking bay, but he needed to get this work done. Fortunately, getting the tablet right out from under their noses had been as easy as breathing, just as easy as it had been in getting the other perantium suits.

Someone tapped Derovichi’s shoulder. He looked up from the tablet and saw no one.

He stood, not the least bit afraid. “No games. Show yourself.”

A shimmer wavered in the air before him and coalesced into a man. Except for the silver suit the man wore, it was like looking in a mirror. Many outsiders couldn’t tell one Chekrosian from another, but in this case making the distinction was actually a challenge. Derovichi recognized the same jutting chin, the long but not too long face, the narrow lips and sunken eyes.

“It worked.” His twin brother grinned widely.

“So the security officer’s information was valid.”

“I have a plan.” Conovichi’s grin widened further.

Derovichi returned the smile. “I’ll notify the others. The six of us should be able to pull this off.”

 

THIS IS THE LAST CHAPTER I WILL PUBLISH ON THE BLOG

To find out the end, you will need to wait until my book is published. This could take time depending on whether I can find some beta readers to give me feedback, whether the feedback requires a lot of rewriting, how long it takes for the book to be edited, and how long it takes for me to format it for both an e-book and a paperback.

I apologize for getting you hooked and not letting you read the end. But if any of you are artists (whether it be with music, fine art, dance, or writing) then you understand how much work goes into what we do and how important it is for us to be compensated.

 

I’d love to hear some constructive criticism. Please leave a comment below. Praise would be most welcome as well.

(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright August, 2016 by Dawn Ross

You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 32 – Revised

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

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 32 – Revised

(This chapter is even newer than the last. The following two scenes were not even mentioned in the unrevised version of this science fiction story.)

J.D.’s skin prickled and his jaw tingled as though his blood had drained from his head. His breath caught every time one of the two princes swung or kicked at one another. The two boys sparred in a blur of motion. Jori whirled and twisted like a blade in a cyclone, with Terk moving nearly as fast.

Although it was only Terk’s second day out of bed, his treatment was complete and he was at full strength now. Yet he still barely matched the moves of his little brother.

One of Jori’s kicks caught Terk right in the jaw. Spittle flew, and maybe even a little blood. J.D. flinched, certain that Terk’s temper would ignite and the two would fight for real.

The two stopped for a brief moment. Terk shook his head, then spit off to the side. His expression was blank. Not a hint of anger showed.

In one quick motion, he raised his fists and the two sparred once again.

After two hours of sparring, a rather large crowd had gathered. Most had their mouths agape. Not even Lt. Commander Bracht and Lt. Gresher’s sparring bouts looked like this. Bracht, though strong and fast, definitely didn’t have Jori’s agility and flexibility. And the two men didn’t land nearly as many hits as the two brothers.

A deep thud sounded as Terk’s leg jutted into Jori’s gut. The boy tumbled back, but quickly somersaulted to his feet just as his brother honed in for another attack.

J.D. hesitated to stop this. To others, it might appear the two brothers were fighting. Yet, somehow he knew they weren’t. Despite the intensity of their movements, neither did any serious damage to one another. Dear god, this must be their normal.

The sparring ended abruptly, as though the brothers had reacted to an indiscernible signal. The two bowed respectfully to one another. The whispers of the onlookers grew louder, but no one seemed to be brave enough to direct their questions and comments to the princes themselves.

Terk turned away toward the exit of the gym while Jori made his way to J.D.’s side. Terk stopped short and turned to his brother with a half-frown. He hesitated a moment, then met with J.D. as well.

“We’re ready to go,” he said with a hint of irritation in his voice. He scowled down at his brother, who returned the look with a dark one of his own.

Instead of leaving, the three of them ended up stopping to watch the officers using the various martial equipment. Terk squared up his stance and crossed his arms in front of the speed bag where Bracht was practicing. The back of J.D.’s neck prickled. The increased rate of his heart quickly caught up with the beat-beat-beat of the bag being hit.

“What the hell?” Terk said loudly. “You have a tame Rabnoshk? So much for them being a superior warrior race.”

Bracht caught the speed bag in both hands and growled. “Fool, boy! You know nothing of what it means to be a true warrior.”

Terk reddened. “A true warrior doesn’t serve his enemies.”

“A true warrior knows hate is his only enemy. One day, perhaps you and your barbaric peoples will evolve and learn this.”

Terk uncrossed his arms dramatically. He puffed out his chest and clenched his fists. “You think you’re better than me, you fucking Rabnee?”

“That’s enough!” J.D. quickly stepped between them. “Lt. Commander,” he said to Bracht, “I suggest you go back to your practice.”

Bracht jutted out his chin. “Gladly, Sir.”

The Rabnoshk warrior pounded the bag anew. It was the same rhythm, yet somehow louder and more menacing. The security officer guards were still but looked ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. Each one of them glared threateningly at the daring prince.

I’m going to have a talk with that man. Bracht had just set a terrible example in front of the crew. Not that it was unprovoked, but he should have ignored the boy. No good can come of this.

“Is everyone here a coward?” Terk said loudly.

The beat of the speed bag faltered. J.D. suppressed a curse. “Do you think it’s smart to try and pick a fight with every member of this crew?” he said to the prince before Bracht could make another comment.

“You mean this crew of weaklings?” Terk made an emphatic gesture with his hand.

“I mean an entire ship full of people who hate you and would rather see you dead than walking these halls.”

“I’m not afraid of you. But I can tell you’re afraid of me.” The elder prince smiled dangerously.

J.D. ignored the flight-side of the fight-or-flight sensation welling up within him and stood firm. “I don’t deny that your behavior gives me a reason to be concerned.”

“Reason to be concerned?” Terk made a derisive snort.

He let the comment pass. “But don’t think for one moment that I’ll let that stop me if you cross a line.”

“And just what do you think—“

Jori stepped between them. “Achta!” he said to his brother. “Isha dong wacha be? Dukka ma sevi den… agi den.” Jori’s tone was harsh and his brow furrowed in a heated glare.

Whatever language the boy had spoken, J.D. had never heard it before. It wasn’t Tredon yet it was obvious Terk understood.

The elder prince bared his teeth angrily. J.D. braced himself, expecting Terk to turn his rage loose on the boy.

Jori stood fearlessly against his taller and larger brother. The two of them glared at one another with balled fists hanging at their sides. The air around them seemed to crackle. J.D.’s heart froze. If the two fought for real…

Just as he mustered the mindfulness to intervene, Terk’s posture visibly relaxed and his face went blank. His eyes broke from his brother and bored into J.D.’s.

“Lucky for you, my brother likes you.”

Without waiting for a reply, the elder prince turned and stalked away.

J.D. glanced down at Jori. The boy’s face looked nearly ready to spit fire as he watched Terk’s back. It was difficult seeing him as a ten-year-old boy right now. Is Terk afraid of him?

“Thank you,” he said to the boy.

Jori made a sharp nod, but said nothing.

 

I’d love to hear some constructive criticism. Please leave a comment below. Praise would be most welcome as well.

(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright July, 2016 by Dawn Ross

You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

 

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 31 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 31 – Revised

(This is a completely new chapter in my science fiction story. I think I only mentioned this scene briefly in the final scene of the unrevised version. As I’m writing this, I realize I need a lot more tension. But I’m not quite sure how to do it. Please read this, and then feel free to offer some tips.)

Terk slammed the digiview down, making J.D. jump in his seat.

He’s more childish than his little brother. He opened his mouth for a rebuke, but thought better of it and pressed his lips together instead. It wouldn’t do any good anyway.

“I gotta get out of this damned bed!” Terk threw the covers off and swung his bare feet to the floor.

“The doctor said you should rest one more day,” Jori said, seemingly unfazed by his brother’s outburst.

“I don’t give a shit what he said. If I lay here for a minute longer, I’m going to implode with boredom.”

J.D. winced. The elder prince’s annoyance was almost palatable. Please, no more temper tantrums.

Terk’s outburst yesterday had nearly caused an incident. In a bout of frustration, the elder prince had sent his tray crashing into the wall. His face was red, most likely from embarrassment at not having much strength. When security had rushed in with their stun guns ready, Terk’s face had turned redder, probably from outrage. Thankfully, the paligenesis treatment was still in progress and the prince was incapable of reacting with anything other than curses.

It had taken some convincing to get the officers to stand down… and even more to get Terk to cool down. Perhaps Bracht had been right about keeping the princes in the brig. Well, Terk anyway.

“At least take it slow,” Jori said.

Terk didn’t listen. He stood abruptly from the bed and took a step forward. The move made him stumble like a drunken Bodenkan mercenary.

J.D. suppressed a smirk, not bothering to help the grouchy prince. It would serve him right if he fell on his butt.

Jori rushed to Terk’s side only to stop short as his brother stabilized. The elder prince managed to remain upright. He took a few deep breaths and then walked over to get the clothes Hanna had brought.

Terk pulled off his gown to change. Despite the atrophy, his arms and legs were corded with muscle. He was lean as compared to J.D.’s own build, but looked as fit as any of the Alliance security officers who guarded him. I only hope they will be able to handle him if things really get out of control… which is where things seem to be heading.

J.D. stepped out to give the boy some privacy. Jori hung back a few moments, probably to make sure his brother wouldn’t lose his balance, then met J.D. on the opposite side of the privacy curtain.

It had only been two days since Terk had awoken, but he was fully awake and growing more irritable by every passing hour. And the more irritable the elder prince became, the more difficult it was for J.D. to keep his calm composure. Jori probably sensed this but didn’t comment on it.

Terk didn’t seem to have the same level of intellect as his younger brother. Jori spent as much time studying as he did practicing in the gym, but the elder prince only used his digiview to find instructional or entertaining martial vids. When Jori had mentioned the exciting things he’d learned when reading about Pershornian warfare, Terk waved him off. And when J.D. had suggested a game of schemster, the young man twisted his mouth as though he’d eaten something sour.

The privacy curtain slid open. “Let’s go,” Terk said.

To his surprise, Terk walked steadily, pausing only long enough to give the security officers a dirty look as he headed out.

Dr. Jerom looked up from the digiview he was reviewing. He opened his mouth to say something, but was too far away to be heard. J.D. shrugged his shoulders, giving the man an apologetic look. Dr. Jerom snapped his mouth shut and shook his head. Terk wasn’t the first patient to ignore his advice.

J.D. glanced at the two Kavakian princes as the three of them headed down the corridor towards the gym. Terk’s upper lip perspired, but his jaw was set in apparent determination. The young man’s eyes were dark yet bright at the same time, as though he were trying to decide whether he was angry at himself for feeling so weak or excited about finally getting out of bed and doing something other than browsing a digiview.

Terk seemed very much like Jori in a few ways. He often had the same placid look, though somehow colder looking. He was just as terse and mistrustful. And he seemed to have Jori’s same ardor for physical activity. Earlier when Jori told him about all the activities available here, the elder prince had seemed riveted.

Even now, Jori was talking about it. J.D. had never heard so many words come out of the boy’s mouth at one time. Nor had he seen the boy express so much emotion. Jori’s eyes were bright and there was almost a smile on his face. It was obvious he was enamored with his brother and exceedingly glad to have him back.

Terk’s eyes suddenly lit up at the pretty young woman headed down the corridor towards them. The elder prince’s mouth curled up and he looked the woman up and down with obvious interest.

J.D. cringed. If he’d ever looked at a woman like that, he’d likely get his face slapped. But the woman either didn’t notice the leering look or was ignoring it.

Terk turned his head to watch her behind as she passed. A heat rose in J.D.’s chest. It wasn’t the first woman Terk had given that leering look to. One of the security officers returned his look with a hard stare, to which Terk had responded by rolling his eyes. And one of the medics pointedly ignored him as she checked his diagnostics, and then rushed away never to return again.

“Don’t look at people like that,” he snapped. “She’s a human being, not prey.”

Terk stopped dead in his tracks. His face darkened and he gave J.D. a penetrating glare. “What? You think I’m some sort of animal?”

He bristled, but getting angry wouldn’t help the situation. “Look. I don’t know how you treat women in Tredon,” he said, trying to keep his tone neutral. “But here, we treat everyone with respect.”

“And just how was I being disrespectful?”

“Leering is not appropriate. Women here find it highly offensive.”

Terk cocked his head ever so slightly.

The confused expression threw him off. He really doesn’t understand, does he? “Do women look at you the way you looked at her?” he asked, hoping to explain it from a different perspective.

“Yes,” Terk replied with a look on his face that seemed to add the words, ‘of course’.

Well, he is the prince. “What if they don’t give you that look? What if you look at them like that and they don’t return it?”

Terk shrugged. “I move on to someone else.”

“You do?” J.D. didn’t mean to say it out loud. He tried not to box people into a stereotype, but it was difficult in this case since Tredons were notorious for committing rape. The files he’d read described Tredons like the barbarian hordes of old where women were taken as spoils of war.

Terk’s face darkened again. “I’m not an animal.”

J.D. put up his hands. “That’s not what I meant. I’m sorry.”

Terk’s face softened somewhat. “If she’s not interested, she’s not interested.”

“She’s a little old for you, isn’t she?”

“I prefer older.” Terk’s eyes brightened and a small smile spread across his face.

J.D.’s stomach soured. “Well here, you are considered a child and any sexual activities with children are highly illegal.”

Terk smirked. “I’m not a virgin.”

He got the feeling Terk was telling the truth. “That’s not the point.”

The elder prince scowled. “So what is?”

J.D. sighed. Where was I going with this again? No, not the stereotype.  “The point is, even if you were an adult, people here don’t like to be leered at. It’s disrespectful. You’re more apt to make that woman feel uncomfortable than anything.”

Terk made a dismissive noise and shook his head. He turned away and they went on to the gym in silence.

The elder prince made a low whistle the moment they entered. J.D. had forgotten how large the recreational areas on Prontaean Alliance ships could be and tried to imagine how grand it looked through Terk’s eyes. Most ships couldn’t accommodate the space, but the Prontaean Alliance felt they could keep crews in space longer if they offered such amenities.

Jori and Terk took the lead with Jori pointing out all the various activities. The expanse to the right was nothing but weight equipment. Cardio machines were further up. Several large sectioned-off rooms for playing sports were further on. Then as they came around the gym’s jogging track, Jori pointed out the gymnastic equipment and several open areas for stretching, martial practice, or for playing other sports. The tour ended at a section where Lt. Gresher sparred with Lt. Addams.

“So, Commander,” Terk said with a sly look on his face. “What do you say you and I have a little sparring competition?”

J.D. suppressed the urge to wince. If the younger prince was at level nine, there was no telling what level the elder prince was at. Even in his weakened state, Terk was probably a lot more skillful than him. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”

“Why? Are you scared?”

“No. Just practical.”

Terk made a small laugh. “Yeah? How’s that?”

“If you beat me, especially despite you’re condition, I will look bad in front of my crew.” Terk smirked at that. “If I beat you,” he said and Terk huffed, “I’m afraid it will sour our relationship. We only have a few days left together. I’d like to make the best of it.”

Terk turned to the closest group of security officers. “How about any of you?”

Two officers darkened and the third’s eyes went wide.

“No,” J.D. said loudly. “If you wish to spar, use the holo-program.”

“Over here,” Jori said, gesturing towards the far wall.

“Fine.” Terk strutted by the guards with a smug look on his face, making the two officers turn even darker.

J.D. sighed inwardly.

*****

J.D. fell heavily in the chair without meaning to. Captain Arden didn’t show any reaction, so J.D. assumed the casual motion was acceptable since it was just the two of them here in his ready room.

“I take it things are not going so well with the elder prince?” Captain Arden said.

He sighed heavily. His shoulders ached from holding so much tension. “I’ve never had such a need to practice meditation.”

“That bad?”

“Nothing violent, at least not yet. He’s very…” Rude? Confrontational? Moody? All of the above? “Surly.”

“The younger one was the same way. But you two seem to have made friends.”

I wish I were as confident as he sounds. “I hope so. Because right now I feel like tossing him in the brig.”

“So I take it it would be a bad idea to ask him about his mission.”

“Yes, Sir, it would. As curious as I am to find out what they meant regarding the scientists, I very much doubt he would reveal anything and I fear trying would cause even more trouble than it did with Jori.”

The captain frowned. “Let’s hope it’s nothing.”

“Short of keeping them prisoner, I don’t think we have a choice but to let it go.”

The captain cleared his throat and somehow managed to sit up straighter than he already was. “Speaking of prisoners,” he said in an ominous tone. “Zimmer has ordered we take the children to him.”

He froze as if he’d suddenly stepped onto the ice planet, Sardeer. “What? You can’t!”

The captain lifted his eyebrow at J.D.’s tone.

“You promised them,” he continued, trying to control his rising panic. “If you go back on that promise, there’s no telling what they’ll do. And I’m willing to bet they’re quite capable.”

“Then we’ll have to make sure we’re ready to handle them when they find out.”

“Sir, you can’t! You know it’s wrong. They’re not criminals. I admit the elder prince is a handful, but what happened to trying to handle this diplomatically? What happened to making a good impression on them in hopes of gaining their trust for future peace?”

The captain put up his hand. J.D. ignored him.

“What happened to trying to avoid a war? If Admiral Zimmer takes them into custody—“

“Enough!”

He snapped his mouth closed, cutting off the dozens of other arguments that spun around in his head. He breathed heavily while gripping the armrests of his chair.

“I know the consequences,” Captain Arden said in a moderate tone.

How can he be so calm? He gripped the chair so hard that a pain surged up his arm. It’s the Kimpke incident all over again. He’d wondered earlier whether the captain would choose duty over morality, and it seemed his question was now being answered.

“It’s not something I want to do,” the captain continued.

“Then don’t do it!”

The captain put up his hand again. “And it’s not something I’m going to do if I can help it. I’m speaking to you privately now because I need you to help me think of a way out of it.”

“Disobey him.”

“A way that won’t get us both a dishonorable discharge.”

He sat back in his chair heavily and loosened his grip on the armrests. The pounding of his heart throbbed in his ears.

“Getting the information we know they have won’t help. It will only wet the admiral’s appetite,” J.D. said bitterly. “We can help them escape somehow.”

“Only if we can find a way to do it without anyone getting hurt or anyone being put under investigation.”

“I’ll take the blame,” he replied. It would mean the end of his career. His gut churned at the thought, but he’d rather sleep at night than let Zimmer instigate a war.

“That’s very noble of you. But I’m not ready to lose another commander. We’ll think of something between now and when we get to the Chevert Outpost.”

J.D. straightened. “We’re still going to the Chevert Outpost?”

“We still have our other guests to drop off. And I convinced Admiral Zimmer this location would be more convenient.”

He sighed and some of the tension in his shoulders loosened. “May I suggest, Sir, that we say nothing to Jori and Terk about this until we know for certain what we’re going to do?”

“Excellent idea.”

“Anything else, Sir?”

“No. I think that’s quite enough. Don’t you?”

J.D. stood and made a tight smile. “Yes, Sir. I do.”

“Good. But I do have one more thing to say before you go?”

“Sir?”

“This conversation is strictly between you and I. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Captain. If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer not to get anyone else involved.”

“Agreed.”

 

I’d love to hear some constructive criticism. Please leave a comment below. Praise would be most welcome as well.

(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright July, 2016 by Dawn Ross

You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

 

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 30 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 30 – Revised

(Part of this chapter is new. The other part was in the unrevised version of my science fiction story. Hopefully, I have done a better writing job this time around. Any tips or advice? Please comment below.)

 

“How is our patient?” Captain Arden asked J.D.

“Very well, physically,” J.D. replied. “There’s no sign of brain damage and the paligenesis treatment will have him on his feet in another day or so.”

He shivered involuntarily. Although the elder Prince Kavak’s muscles had atrophied, the paligenesis machine was helping to rebuild his cells. So rather than spend days or even months on rehabilitation, the young man would be back at his full strength by the time they got him to the Chevert Outpost.

“And non-physically?” the captain asked, catching on to his hint.

He sighed. “Attitude-wise he’s no worse than Jori was when he first arrived. But I get a sense that he has a bit more of a temper.”

“And he probably be better able to act it out,” Lt. Stein added.

The captain furrowed his brow. “Do you get the impression he’ll act out, Commander?”

He shrugged. “He seems fine with me, but he’s been giving the security guards some ugly looks.”

“Do you think he knows about Laren?” the captain asked.

His gut twisted painfully. He hadn’t told anyone about Jori’s confession. He should have told the captain that Jori and his brother had played a part in the attack on Gereva. He wanted to. He wanted to trust the man. Surely, the captain would understand the boys weren’t directly at fault, that their father put them up to it.

But Captain Arden was still an enigma to him. He seemed to be a man of both morals and of duty. And when the two conflicted, he suspected the captain would choose the moral path, but he still didn’t know him well enough to be entirely sure.

“I don’t,” J.D. replied regarding Laren. “If he did, I don’t think he’d be cooperating as well as he is right now.”

“The child might tell him,” Lt. Stein said.

Another shiver went through him. “Maybe.”

“If I may, Sir,” Bracht said. “When the elder prince is released from sick bay, both children should be required to stay together at all times so I won’t have to split the security detail.”

“I agree,” J.D. said, hardly believing he’d said it. “Remember, Jori is a level nine in hand-to-hand combat.”

Lt. Stein let out a low whistle. She must have missed this piece of information from one of his earlier reports.

“He’s smaller, so probably can’t use his skill as effectively yet,” he continued. “But his elder brother may be a different story.”

The Alliance security officers averaged level five. J.D. himself was a level seven. And Bracht was the only one above Jori at level ten. Actually, the Rabnoshk warrior was well beyond level ten, but the holo-system only went up to ten.

Captain Arden frowned. “Very well. Do you mind having both children in your quarters?”

“I actually think it would be best,” he replied. The two of them were obviously close. Perhaps Terk would be more considerate of the consequences of his actions with his brother around.

“We can reinstate that two or more guards also stay in your room,” Bracht added.

He stroked his chin. I trust Jori, but can I trust Terk? Would having security in my room be a provocation or should I show him I trust him? Bracht would no doubt think him a fool if he did the later. And maybe he was. “No. I think I’ll be alright.”

The captain’s eyebrows went up again. “Are you sure?”

He nodded. “For now.”

The captain folded his hands. “It’s decided then. However, there is another security issue we must be concerned about. The source of the signal disruptions has still not been found.”

“Sir,” Bracht said. “Security has reported no unusual activity from the Chekrosians. Their presence must be coincidence.”

“Probably so, but they must still be considered. I want the reports of their activities to be more detailed.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“That is all I have,” the captain said. “Anyone else?”

“Captain, Sir,” Bracht said. “I have concluded my investigation on the rumor that someone was harassing the child.”

“Yes, I’ve read the report. So in your personal opinion, was the rumor unfounded?”

“No, Sir. I believe something did happen. But considering no one has confessed and that the child has said nothing of it, I assume it was a relatively minor incident. And I believe I have made myself clear to the team regarding how I feel about such behavior.”

The captain turned to him. “Commander?”

“I honestly haven’t had a chance to find out anything from Jori. But I concur with the Lt. Commander.”

The captain nodded. “Then if that is all?”

J.D. glanced at the others and they glanced at him. No one said anything.

“Good day, then. Dismissed,” the captain said.

****

Robert reviewed Lt. Chandley’s analysis. So far, it was inconclusive. The Chekrosians’ vessel was quiet. His own crew members had manually scanned every corner of the Odyssey, including around the Chekrosians’ quarters, and reported everything was normal. And when the signal disruption was actively occurring, the ship’s internal sensors were unable to locate the source.

Robert stroked his bearded jaw. At least the disruptions had subsided. But he wasn’t certain whether this was a good thing. It would be odd if it was simply something in space they’d passed through because no similar anomalies had ever been reported before. Or if it had been glitches in the system that had now self-adjusted, it would still mean a problem since such corrections should’ve showed up in the ship’s auto-log.

Any other captain might let this go. But he’d learned long ago to never dismiss anything as a mere coincidence. Perhaps I’ll order another manual scan.

The beep of the comm interrupted his thoughts. He glanced at the small viewscreen on his desk and cringed.

He sighed heavily, then composed himself and pressed the answer tab on the screen. “Rear Admiral Zimmer,” he said to the admiral through the vid-comm. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“I hear you have the Kavakian princes on board your ship, Captain,” Zimmer said crossly. The elder man’s wrinkled face was creased in a perpetual frown over his weak chin. “And I’m wondering why you didn’t notify me directly.”

Robert’s heart sunk. “My apologies, Admiral. Since they are just boys, I didn’t think their presence warranted a priority report,” he said, hoping he sounded nonchalant.

“Having the sons of the Alliance’s worst enemy on board your ship is not a priority?”

“Since they are just children, I figured not, Sir.”

“You figured wrong. Just what did you plan on doing with the children, anyway?”

“I am in the process of making arrangements to get them home, Admiral.”

“Out of the question,” Zimmer said angrily. “We could use these children to negotiate the release of some of our people.”

Robert hoped his dismay didn’t show on his face. “If the emperor found out we have his children it will likely trigger a war.” Darn it. Everything’s been going so well up until now. His stomach rolled uneasily.

“We can reinforce our borders,” Zimmer replied offhandedly. “I will be at Caspan in eight days. I want those children brought to me immediately.”

Dear god. Does this man have no brains at all? The Alliance didn’t have the resources to effectively reinforce the border against a horde of Tredons. I’ve got to think of something.

“Capsan?” he replied. “But that’s at least thirty day-cycles away for us, Sir.” He tried hard not to let his anger show. The fool.

“Where are you now?” Zimmer asked.

He gave his coordinates.

“Very well,” Zimmer said. “We can meet at the Chevert Outpost. I am only about ten day-cycles from there. I will see you then.”

“Yes, Admiral,” he replied. Chevert. It’s where I wanted to go anyway. He’d get there a few days before Zimmer. Maybe I can come up with something before he arrives.

“One more thing,” Zimmer said. “I take it you haven’t contacted the emperor to tell him we have his children.”

“No, Sir,” he confirmed.

“Do any other Tredons know?”

“I have not contacted anyone as of yet, Sir.”

“Good. Keep it that way.”

“Yes, Sir.”

The conversation ended and the viewscreen blinked back to Lt. Chandley’s report. He sat back heavily in his chair. What am I going to do? He had so hoped to keep this from Zimmer. Now he was going to have to break the promise he made to the younger prince. This is not good. This is not good at all.

 

 

I’d love to hear some constructive criticism. Please leave a comment below. Praise would be most welcome as well.

(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright June, 2016 by Dawn Ross

You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

 

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 29 – Revised

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

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 29 – Revised

(This chapter is a rewrite of chapter 20 from the unrevised version. I have enhanced it and also hopefully explained some parts better. If you haven’t read the unrevised version, don’t. This revised version of my science fiction story is much better. It is more fully developed and hopefully gives more insight into the characters through deep PoV.)

Jori awoke with a gasp and found himself surrounded by a swirl of darkness. His body stiffened. He held his breath and listened. Nothing. Nothing but the sound of his pounding heart.

He blinked rapidly at the shadows. Light slowly filtered in. The blackness turned to greys. Shapes became more defined. That’s right… I’m in J.D.’s quarters. The tension in his shoulders fell away. The commander had convinced him to sleep here tonight while Lt. Gresher stayed with Terk.

Jori didn’t know Lt. Gresher well. Even after questioning the man and sensing his sincerity, it wasn’t until J.D. assured him he was trustworthy when he finally decided Terk would be safe.

So what woke me up? His mind churned, trying to recall. No fleeting images teased his memory. If he’d been having another nightmare about Gereva, surely he’d still have a lingering glimpse. There was nothing, though, nothing but a feeling he was missing something important.

He closed his eyes and spread out his senses. His mind’s eye pictured the sun shining through the broad leaves of the hardimen tree, bringing in the feeling of warmth and strength he’d come to associate with J.D. A peacefulness drifted in as well. J.D. was sound asleep. Whatever had woken Jori up hadn’t had any effect on the commander.

Jori fanned out his senses. The four guards standing outside radiated boredom. One of them also had a stench of sorts, making Jori think of the smelly cage of a blackbeast. Calloway. He wrinkled is nose and tightened his jaw.

It had been some time since Calloway had been close enough for him to feel. The man hadn’t been either his guard or Terk’s for some time. For whatever reason, though, Calloway was standing guard now. Maybe he’s the reason I woke up. But no. Calloway’s foulness was fairly mild right now.

He stretched out his senses a little further. A few other Alliance officers walked by now and then, but none of them felt threatening. He lay back down with a sigh, too tired to think on it further.

The heaviness of sleep slowly began to fall. Then a sensation similar to a brush of wind suddenly tickled him. He sat up abruptly and froze in place, listening to the delicate sensation.

“Terk!” I can feel Terk!

The covers flew off in one wild swoop. He leapt out of bed and zoomed to the door. The door panels slid open too slowly for his pace, forcing him to twist his body sideways through the opening at the last moment.

The slick floor of the corridor met his bare feet causing him to falter. But he recovered quickly and sprung forward eagerly.

“Hey!” Calloway grabbed him by the arm, jerking him to a halt. “Where are you going?”

A low growl escaped his throat. “To see my brother.” He jerked his arm but Calloway had him tight.

A swelling heat ignited in his cheeks. He gritted his teeth with determination and then twisted his arm swiftly and jerked at an angle out of the hold, just like Master Jetser had taught.

His fists balled at his sides and he gave the man a hateful glare.

Calloway returned the look. “No you don’t. You’re staying right here.”

Jori kept his fists at his sides, but stepped into a defensive fighting stance with most of his weight balanced on his back leg. “I dare you to try and stop me.”

As much as he wanted to rush to his brother’s side, a part of him had been looking forward to a confrontation with this man. He was perfectly poised to make a quick front kick into the man’s groin. Calloway would double over and he’d give him another kick right under the jaw. When the other guards came after him, he’d leap over Calloway and use the man as a shield so that all three of them couldn’t rush him at once.

Calloway put his hands on his hips. “Oh, please. Give me a reason. I’d love to throw your little royal ass in the brig.”

His face grew hotter. “Not only do you lack the skill, you insignificant minion, you also lack the authority.”

“You don’t know anything, you little shit.” Calloway’s face twisted sourly. “I’m in charge here now and if you try to leave I’ll kick your little ass. Then I’ll tell the commander I had no choice because you attacked me.”

His fingernails dug into his palms as a surge of adrenaline infused his body. “Besides the fact that you’ll be laid out before you can so much as raise your hand to me, there’s another problem with your plan.”

“And what’s that? You think—”

“These other officers here don’t like you well enough to lie for you,” he interrupted. The emotions from the other guards told him he was right. His mouth twitched upward into what he hoped was a mocking smile.

“They won’t stand up for a spoiled Tredon prince either.”

“I don’t need them to stand up for me. But they will report the truth of this incident.” At least I hope they will. “And the truth is I have every right to go see my brother whenever I wish.”

Calloway’s face darkened. He could tell by the man’s clenched jaw and tightened fists that he was thinking about following through with his threat.

Jori glared at him intently, keeping his balance ready for a front kick. The guards, seen clearly from the corner of his eye, stayed back. Their emotions were a mixture of contempt and anger, but oddly, not all of it was directed at him.

Calloway must have realized this. He eventually stepped back. “Fine, you friggin brat.”

“That’s what I thought,” he replied disdainfully.

After using his senses to make sure none were going to attack him, he relaxed his stance. His body prickled as the adrenaline made its way out.

He took a deep calming breath, subtle so no one could hear it, and then promptly turned about and headed towards sick bay.

The guards followed, but they made no move to stop him. Calloway whispered some negative comments just loud enough for him to hear, but he ignored them. He would deal with this man some other time. Terk was much more important.

*****

J.D. ambled sleepily from his bedroom. His eyes fell to where Jori’s cot was set. He blinked the gumminess from his eyes in confusion. The rumpled lump of blankets didn’t contain a boy. The bed was empty.

“Jori?” He turned to the bathroom. The door was open and the lights were off. A quick glance around the rest of the small room showed no sign of the boy. Well, that’s strange. Jori had left early before. But he’d usually folded his blankets up first.

He poked his head outside his quarters. “Jori?”

The security officers were gone too.

He must’ve gone to see his brother.

He came back in and sat at his desk. The small viewscreen blinked to life with a touch of his finger. He tapped a few keys and entered the security log.

“What?” For some reason, it showed Jori and the officers were still here.

“Security. Report,” he said into his comm.

“Lt. Sharkey here,” the comm came back.

“Lieutenant. Can you verify whether Jori and security are in sick bay?”

J.D. rest his chin on his palm as he waited for Hanna to reply.

“Sir?” she replied a few moments later. “The log says team epsilon has the boy at your quarters while team kappa reports he’s with them. I take it the boy is not with you?”

“That’s correct. He’s not here and neither is team epsilon.”

“I’ll run a quick bioscan for you, Sir. Then I’ll contact them to verify their whereabouts.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

He tapped his chin and waited a few moments.

“Sir, bioscan confirms both teams are in sick bay,” Hanna said. “I contacted team epsilon. They claim they updated the log and there must have been a glitch.”

J.D. frowned. “Who is in charge of team epsilon?”

“Lt. Mik Calloway, Sir.”

Glitch? He shook his head. “A glitch seems highly unlikely, doesn’t it, Lieutenant? Like once in a trillion unlikely?”

“Yes, Sir. It does.” Hanna’s tone indicated she knew what he was hinting at—that Calloway was lying.

“I trust you’ll handle this further?”

“You bet, Sir.”

He didn’t need to tell her how to handle it. Hanna didn’t like Calloway any more than anyone else did. There’d been some reluctance to promote the man to begin with, but Lt. Gresher thought he should be given a chance. J.D. had agreed … to a point, anyway. Everyone deserved a chance, and sometimes even a second or third chance. But he had a bad feeling about Calloway. The man reminded him of the poisonous skins of the salamanders he’d see on fishing trips with his dad back home.

“Thank you, Lieutenant. I’ll see you later. Hapker out.”

*****

Eight guards stiffened in attention from their previous state of varying boredom. J.D. nodded at Lt. Gresher, then locked eyes with Lt. Jr. Grade Mik Calloway. He pursed his lips and gave the man a penetrating look. Calloway’s face paled in reply.

“As you were,” he said to all the officers, and then stepped into the prince’s room.

He stopped short. Something was different.

Jori was asleep by his brother’s side. Nothing unusual there. But his brother, Terk, had his arm around Jori’s shoulder.

Is he awake? He glanced up at the monitor. It was all alien to him. The ups and downs of the various monitoring systems could have been recording subspace signals for all he knew. He couldn’t even tell which of them was for the heartbeat.

He glanced back down at the boys and his heart jumped. Terk was looking right at him.

“You’re awake,” he said in a higher-pitched tone.

Terk made a slight nod. “You must be Commander J.D. Hapker.”

J.D. forced himself to smile. “And you must be Prince Kavak.”

“Daiichi Prince Kavak,” Terk corrected.

A shiver went down his spine. Terk spoke with the same bluntness as Jori, but his tone was much deeper, more ominous. “Yes, of course. My apologies.”

Terk made another nod, hopefully indicating the slight was forgiven.

“How are you feeling?” He resisted the urge to shift his feet. Don’t be stupid. Prince or not, he’s still just a person. Prince Kavak, or Daiichi Prince Kavak, wasn’t the first dignitary he’d ever spoken to, nor the highest ranking. But maybe the deadliest.

“Tired, but glad to be alive,” Terk replied. “And well. I understand I have you to thank for it.”

He made a slight smile. “You really have Captain Arden to thank.”

“Yes. I suppose so. But it’s you Jori has spoken so well of.”

J.D.’s heart swelled. “I feel the same for him. I hope you and I can be friends as well.”

Terk raised his eyebrow. His face was otherwise blank.

J.D. felt another shiver run thought him. “If not friends, at least not enemies,” he added.

“We shall see. But for now, leave us be,” Terk said tersely. “My brother is asleep and I am tired.”

J.D. flushed at the dismissal. He dipped his head and left the room.

Here we go again.

*****

Terk kept his eyes open long enough to see the commander close the privacy curtain. His lids fell heavily, but more in a state of relaxation than for sleep.

I don’t get it. What’s Jori see in him? The commander was weak. It was obvious the man wanted to play nice. He couldn’t blame him. No one wanted a Kavak as an enemy. But it wasn’t just the commander’s mannerisms. He could sense the man’s good will as well. Friends? What a baka. Fool.

At least most of the guards outside had enough sense to hate him. Their hostility wafted over his senses. But they were weak too. One moment, their hate would be at a boil. Then like a marishi adding ingredients to her potion, a dash of fear and a pinch of reluctance sent their hate away in a flit of smoke.

Weak fools, all for the taking. And he needed take quite a bit. Father was going to be so pissed when he found out he’d lost all his men, his ship, and the cargo. He’d failed completely. But I can make up for it so easily. What’s the loss of a few men when compared to an entire Alliance patrol vessel carrying hundreds of Alliance officers?

“We can’t,” Jori mumbled.

Terk flinched. “What?”

“We can’t. They’re not all bad.” Jori said the last part in their secret language. They dared not speak in the Tredon language for fear that the guards had a translator device.

Terk fumed. He hated how well Jori could read him. They both had the same ability, but Jori’s was more sensitive. He said he couldn’t read minds like a reader, but it sure in the hell seemed like it sometimes. “You don’t even know what I’m thinking.”

“I can feel it. You hate them. And I can tell you’re also thinking of father.”

“Hell yeah, I’m thinking of father. I’ll consider myself lucky if I don’t find myself in another coma.”

“These people saved you. They saved both of us. We’d be either dead or under torture right now if it wasn’t for them.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You explained this to me already.” Terk flicked his wrist. “Just because they saved us doesn’t mean we owe them anything.”

“Don’t we?” Jori’s annoyance was evident in both his tone and his emotions. “I, for one, am glad they saved you. Why shouldn’t I be grateful?”

Are all little brothers this annoying? “The fact that they saved us makes them weak and stupid.”

“They are far from weak or stupid. I’ve been watching them,” Jori argued in the same secret language. “I know we don’t have to owe them anything. I just don’t want to hurt them. They helped us when they didn’t have to. And if we’re going to harm anyone, I’d rather do it to people who deserve it.”

“They are our enemies,” he replied firmly.

“Why? Because our father says so? Everyone is father’s enemy. It doesn’t mean we have to be.”

Terk clenched his jaw. “If we don’t come back with something, father will punish us.”

“Father is going to punish us no matter what. We lost our entire crew. He’s not going to overlook that. Besides, I don’t care if we get into trouble.”

He sighed irritably. Stubborn brat. He wasn’t afraid of father either, but he didn’t want to have to lay bed ridden again either. His punishment would be severe. And there’d be no healing bed, no pain meds, nothing until his father was satisfied he’d suffered enough. Considering how terribly he failed, that could be a very long time.

He knew what Jori’s reply would be, so he said nothing. He was too tired to argue anyway. His strength would come back soon enough. And when it did, he’d do what he wanted whatever Jori thought.

 

I’d love to hear some constructive criticism. Please leave a comment below. Praise would be most welcome as well.

(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright June, 2016 by Dawn Ross

You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

 

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 28 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 28 – Revised

(This is a new chapter, one that’s not in the unrevised part one version of my science fiction story. The first part was added to give more insight to how Jori feels about his brother nearly being murdered. The second part was added to connect Calloway with the visiting strangers. Let me know what you think in the comments below.)

The comforting warmth of Terk’s hand in his was countered by its lifelessness. Please, Terk. You can pull through this. Jori clenched his jaw to keep the rising tide of tears at bay. The burning sensation in his sinuses came in an occasional wave, threatening to overwhelm him if he dwelled too long on the state of his brother. He breathed steadily, like Master Rivochi had taught him, and the sensation receded again.

He squeezed his brother’s limp hand, hoping against hope the gesture would be returned. But it wasn’t going to happen. Not now. Not while Terk was still in a coma.

He could only sense a vague feeling of his brother’s life force. He might have woken up already if it wasn’t for that damned medic. But there was no change—not positive change anyway. Terk had lost weight from laying there so long. He looked thinner now and his skin was a sickly grey. Come on, Terk. Please wake up. I need you.

J.D.’s kindness was a comfort, even now as the commander sat awkwardly in the chair breathing softly as he slept. This man had stayed with him here in Terk’s room all night and for most of the day, and was the only one he could truly trust in this cage of blackbeasts.

A dull ache from sitting had set in from his behind and up his back to his shoulders. He dared not leave here and entrust his brother’s safety to any of these people again. Only Dr. Jerom and Dr. Gregson were allowed to tend to him now. And only J.D. and two security officers J.D. said he trusted were allowed inside Terk’s room. He’d sent two of the outside guards away earlier because their hatred was so strong they were influencing his own emotions.

He hadn’t sensed that person he’d felt the other day again, the one who’d made him feel like he was being hunted. Whoever it was, it wasn’t the same one as the medic who tried to kill Terk. They were probably still around somewhere, waiting to attack, waiting until he and his brother were more vulnerable.

A fiery heat swelled in his chest. If Terk died, he’d make these people pay. One way or another, he would. Why in the hell have I been so compliant all this time? He’d been behaving himself. He hadn’t made any trouble. And yet, here Terk was, still in a coma after ten days, all because of this Alliance man.

The bastard couldn’t take on his brother awake, so he had to do it while he was helpless. Koshinuke. Coward. How can anyone murder someone so defenseless?

The fire in his chest suddenly turned cold. Gereva. I killed those people. The image of a young girl popped into his head. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected when he stepped onto that space station. Dead warriors, perhaps. But not the old man with his head taken nearly clean off by a shard of flying metal. Not the woman with the bottom half of her torso missing. Not the woman clutching the infant that had been crushed to death when the blast threw them against a wall. And not the little girl with dead eyes—the little girl who was about the same age as he.

Nausea rolled in his stomach. His mouth watered. He clenched his jaw and breathed deeply through his nostrils to keep from heaving. He squinted his eyes, hoping the image of the little girl would go away. But it didn’t. That little girl could have been the medic’s daughter for all he knew.

We didn’t mean to, dammit. Terk doesn’t deserve to die.

The wave of burning tears threatened again. He clenched his fists. Breathe.

The sensation slowly faded. He hadn’t been able to hold it in back then, though. His father had beaten him for it, but the physical pain was nothing compared to the mental torment he relived nearly every night for a month afterward. The nightmares still plagued him on occasion. Those little girl’s eyes still haunted him.

He tried asking why those people had to die. But asking his father had been a mistake. The man felt no sympathy for any of them. Terk had tried to mimics their father’s lack of concern, but he could tell his brother felt guilty for killing those people too.

The privacy curtain slid open. J.D. jerked awake as Doctor Jerom stepped in. The doctor smiled but the gesture didn’t touch his bloodshot eyes. The man walked with a slumped posture and there was a brief sensation of guilt mixed in with the doctor’s fatigue—probably due to his failed promise to help Terk get better.

“I have some good news,” the doctor said with a tiny spike of optimism emanating from him.

Jori straightened. “He’s going to be okay?”

Dr. Jerom patted his hand downward. “Now, now. I don’t know that yet. I’m sorry.”

A feeling of heaviness fell over him but he remained sitting up straight. “What’s the good news, then?”

“The good news is the drug our medic gave your brother had no lasting effects. It’s out of his system now.”

“What was it?” J.D. asked.

“We think it was a form of ciculata, a poisonous plant variety. How Laren got a hold of it, I don’t know. We have none here on the ship. Fortunately for your brother, it was given in small doses so it wouldn’t be picked up by our monitoring system. If the doses had continued, though, the poison would’ve caused severe and irreversible consequences and eventually death.”

A prickling sensation ran up Jori’s arms and down his back. “So its effects have been reversed, but he could still die?”

Dr. Jerom sucked in a huge breath. “Yes, the effects have been completely reversed, but your brother has suffered a severe trauma from the crash. I’d like to say he’s improving. Much of his external and internal wounds have healed. But there’s still a risk that some of them won’t heal at all. Some wounds … like brain damage … can’t be repaired, no matter how good the immune system is.”

Jori swallowed hard. His eyes watered. Terk could still wake up, but he might be brain damaged?

The heaviness nearly crushed him. If Terk awoke but had brain damage, father would kill him. Then he would start a war with the Alliance and kill more people, probably starting with innocent people like that little girl on the space station.

J.D. put a hand on Jori’s shoulder. “He’ll pull through. If he’s even half as strong as you, he’ll make it out fine.”

The tears threatened again. I’m not strong. I’m weak. Still, J.D.’s words gave him hope.

“There’s still a chance he’ll make it,” Dr. Jerom added. “I agree, your brother’s pretty strong. His immune system is one of the most efficient I’ve ever seen.”

Jori could sense the doctor’s honesty as well as his compassion. It was confusing. The hate from the medic, from Calloway, and from others on the ship was intense, but somehow the concern from Dr. Jerom and J.D. was even stronger. These two were not so bad. Captain Arden didn’t seem to be either. Perhaps it was like Master Jetser had once said, There’s good and bad in all races so judge each man individually.

Fine. So not everyone here deserved payback if Terk died.

*****

“You look stressed,” Mik Calloway said to his security partner for today’s shift.

Jack sighed. “Yeah. I just got roped by Lt. Commander Bracht.”

Oh hell. Mik suppressed the urge to swallow. Did your skinny-ass tell on me? Roped was Jack’s way of saying questioned, probably regarding the same thing the Rabnoshk warrior had grilled him on. “So what’d you say?”

“Nothing. I can’t afford to get written up.”

He suppressed a sigh of relief. That no one wanted to get in trouble for antagonizing the Tredon prince was all that kept him from getting in trouble again. Besides, the little shit deserved it and everyone knows it. Jack had been one of the security officers on duty at the time and if anyone would’ve snitched on him, it would’ve been him.

Jack’s real name was Jacques Harmel and everyone called him Jack or Jack Hammer. It was funny because this man was nothing like the huge industrial machines used in demolitions. His frame was so small, he wondered how in the heck the man had made the cut as a security officer to being with. Jack’s personality was weak, too. He was a well-known pushover. What a wonder that Bracht hadn’t caused him to spill his guts all over the warrior’s shiny black combat boots.

“Same here,” Mik replied. “I wonder how he even heard about it to begin with.”

“The little Tredon?”

“Naw. If he had said anything, he would’ve pointed us out to the commander.” His new best friend, apparently.

No, it probably wasn’t the little warmonger. It could be Felissa, since she’d interrupted all their fun. But that would’ve been stupid since her boyfriend Siven was there too. Whoever the hell it was fortunately didn’t give any names.

Mik shifted his stance. His calves ached from standing so long. At least he’d been taken off the menial work, though. Not that it was any more exciting to watch over their Chekrosian guests.

“How about that lecture he gave,” Mik said, referring to the rant from the Rabnoshk warrior about how important it was to keep the peace. As if the Tredons had any interest in peace.

Jack shook his head. “Yeah, that was a ringer.”

Mik had no idea what he meant by that word. By the context, he’d guess Jack didn’t mean laughable. Lt. Commander Bracht was such a hypocrite. The man hated Tredons as much as anyone else, but he was such an ass-kisser to the captain.

Captain Robert Arden, man of peace. What a joke. If I wasn’t for Arden, they wouldn’t be putting up with the barbaric Rabnoshk warrior to begin with—or the fucking little Tredon monsters.

He dared not say this to Jack, though. Nor to anyone else for that matter. Most of his fellow officers were oddly loyal to Bracht and the captain. Loyal to a bully and his wuss of a captain. This new commander was turning out to be a wuss as well. How in the hell did I come to serve on a ship like this to begin with? Captain Richforth would’ve tossed the spoiled little prince in a cell with nothing more than a bone to chew on.

“I don’t get it. Those two should be locked up, not pandered to,” Mik said.

“Maybe,” Jack replied. “They are just kids.”

Not you too! “Murderous little cutthroats, you mean,” he said venomously. “You saw that child take out four Grapnes. He murdered four adults in less than ten seconds.”

Jack shrugged. “Yeah. I guess you’re right.”

I know I’m right. Fucking pushover. Jack Harmel never disagreed with anyone. He was a jack hammer made of rubber.

Mik straightened up importantly as one of the Chekrosian guests came out of their room. Another came out of her room. Then another. And even the non-Chekrosian one. They all went into their captain’s quarters, the man called Derovichi. From what he’d heard, they did this every day. They all slept in their own quarters, but they mostly hung out in their leader’s room. I hope they’re plotting the deaths of those little shit-heads.

I wish there was a way I could help. He knew exactly where both of the Tredon princes were. Part of his duty, after all, was to make sure these guests here didn’t cross paths with the little Tredon monster.

He thought about slipping a word to one of the Chekrosians, but there was always another officer with him. He’d been lucky no one told on him the last time. After Bracht’s harangue, he doubted he could get away with it this time.

All it would take is one word, though. Sick bay. That’s it. The little freak had been spending a lot of time in the gym, but he was probably too afraid to now. Lately, he’d been spending most of his time in sick bay with his monstrous brother. So much so that he caught Laren trying to kill him yesterday.

The details of that incident alluded him. A dozen different stories circulated already, but not a single one of them were first-hand accounts. The only two verified facts were that Siven received a good kick in the balls and Laren was in the brig. Where the fucking little princes should be.

As far as he was concerned, Laren deserved a medal. Well, he would’ve if he’d actually succeeded.

An odd chill went through him. He rubbed his arms.

Jack shivered visibly. “The circulators must be off.”

Whatever. They stood in silence for a while. He had no interest in having a conversation with this man, especially if he was going to agree with him only to turn around and take sides with someone else later.

He stiffened again as the people from Derovichi’s room came out. He tilted his head. Funny, I don’t remember seeing this man go into the room earlier. Perhaps the man had slept in Derovichi’s room. Perhaps the two men were a couple. Gag.

Derovichi greeted them with a friendly smile, and led them all to the common area lounge.

The guests took up a table perfectly situated near the place where Mik and Jack stood guard. It was perfect because he was close enough to hear them talking. If they were up to something, he’d be the first to know. He wouldn’t tell on them, of course, unless Jack decided to. He’d hope it would open a door so he could help them.

If only I could sit and have a drink with them. But that wouldn’t be at all wise. If these men were up to something and he’d been seen socializing with them, he’d be blamed in no time.

Their conversation was dull at first. But then he heard someone mention the word, Tredon. He stiffened and turned his head slightly so he could listen in better.

“It was a bad idea coming this close to Tredon territory. It’s a good thing this Alliance ship came to our rescue,” one of the Chekrosian’s said.

Subtle. Very subtle. He suppressed a smile. He found it difficult to believe these people didn’t know their own comrades had been taken by Tredons and sold into slavery just a short time back.

The talking went on. Finally, Derovichi turned to Mik and Jack. “You two work in this part of space. Are the stories we’ve heard about the Tredons true?”

Mik told them about his personal experience from a few years back. Jack actually told them about the Tredon child shooting and killing four men in cold blood. He didn’t tell them the child was now on board this ship, though, of course. Slick. Mik followed Jack’s lead and also told them about Laren’s family without actually mentioning Laren’s name or that he nearly succeeded in killing the elder Tredon prince while he lay in sick bay in a coma. If only I could give them that little piece of information.

The strangers invited Mik and Jack to drink. He wanted to say yes, but had to decline.

“It’s not allowed,” Jack said.

“After you’re off-duty, then,” Derovichi replied.

Mik looked at Jack and Jack looked back. It was obvious the hammer wanted to. I so wish I could! But I can’t risk the implications it could cause.

“I’d really love to,” Jack said. “But I’m afraid it would be a conflict of interest.”

Smart way of putting it.

Derovichi tilted his head. “A conflict of interest?”

“Sorry. I’m afraid I can’t explain,” Jack replied.

Mik gave Derovichi a look he hoped held some hidden meaning. “Lt. Harmel right. It’s a shame, though, because I bet we have a lot in common.”

 

 

I’d love to hear some constructive criticism. Please leave a comment below. Praise would be most welcome as well.

(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright June, 2016 by Dawn Ross

You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.

 

The Kavakian Empire Part One Chapter 27 – Revised

Posted in Sci-Fi Part 1 - Revised, The Kavakian Empire with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2016 by Dawn Ross

The Kavakian Empire

A Space Opera by Dawn Ross

Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)

Chapter 27 – Revised

(This is also a rewrite from the unrevised version. It also hasn’t changed much. But even if you’ve already read the unrevised version, you really should still read this revised one. And if you haven’t read either version, you should probably start out by reading chapter 1 of the revised version, which was posted in January 2016.)

Jori’s eyes burned angrily.

“Jori, I’m really sorry about what just happened,” J.D. said with sincerity. “You know I’m telling the truth.”

“If I hadn’t been here, that man might have killed my brother,” Jori said heatedly through clenched teeth.

“I know. I’m sorry, I really am,” he replied. “I know some of us don’t like the Tredons, but I didn’t expect anyone to take things so far.”

“How can I trust you now? How can I trust anyone? Who will try to kill my brother next? Will it be you?”

“That’s not fair, Jori,”J.D. replied with a hint of rebuke. “I think you know I don’t condone this. But you’re right. I messed up. I completely underestimated my crew.” He sighed and rubbed his brow, then ran his hand down to his chin. “I guess the hate of some runs deeper than I imagined,” he said out loud but more to himself.

Jori looked away. “Why don’t you hate me?” he said in a softer tone.

“What?” The boy’s abrupt change in tone threw him off. “Why would I hate you?”

The sound of Lt. Addams coughing diverted his attention. The lieutenant had already left the little room, along with the other officers. And if those other officers were taking Laren to the brig, then it meant Addams was the only guard still here.

“Hold on,” he said to Jori, and then left the room.

Addams was sitting on an exam table while a medic did a body scan.

“Lieutenant,” he said to the man. “Are you alright?”

Addams nodded.

“He’s going to be fine, Sir,” the medic replied.

“Has someone alerted the captain?” he asked Addams.

“Yes, Sir.” The man’s voice croaked from the pain he was obviously feeling. “He’s on his way here now

“Good. Thank you.”

Dr. Jerom approached.

The medic explained Addams’s symptoms and the medication he planned on giving. Dr. Jerom nodded his approval.

“Doctor,” J.D. said before the man could leave. “I need you to analyze this.” He handed the hypospray over. “I was told it contained hippoceretine, but I don’t think it’s what’s in it. I think it might be something that caused the boy to go into convulsions the other day.”

Dr. Jerom’s eyes widened. “Why? Who in the universe would do that?”

He swallowed down the lump in his throat. “I think Laren has a very serious grudge against the Tredons. They killed his wife and child after all.”

Dr. Jerom’s arched brows drew together and light brown eyes darkened. “I knew about this, which was why I wasn’t letting him tend to the patient.”

“Was security made aware that he wasn’t allowed?”

The doctor’s face paled. “I didn’t think to tell them, Commander. I’m sorry. I had no idea he’d do something like this. None at all.”

J.D. nodded in understanding. Dr. Jerom was no security officer. He had no reason to think like one. But if only it had occurred to him. Then they wouldn’t be in this mess right now.

He shook his head to himself and went back into the room with Jori and his brother.

Jori no longer looked angry. But instead of having the usual blank look, the boy’s face had a haunted appearance to it. He was looking down at nothing on the floor and his normally stiff posture was slumped.

“This wasn’t your fault, you know,” J.D. said, assuming the boy was feeling guilty for what nearly happened to his brother. It was only natural to take blame, even when it was obvious others were at fault.

“Yes it was,” Jori replied quietly.

J.D. cocked his head. “You were there? You were there at Gereva?” he guessed.

Jori hesitated. He looked down at his brother, then back to the floor again. He fidgeted with his hands for a few moments before finally meeting J.D.’s eyes. “I killed them. I killed that man’s family.” The boy swallowed hard and looked away guiltily again.

His chest tightened. “What? How?”

Jori, still casting his eyes down, spoke in a low voice. “It was three years ago. My father directed an aerial battle over a small space station called Gereva. He allowed my brother and I watch. At some point he asked us if we’d like to help by firing torpedoes. He’d never allowed us to participate in a real battle before so we eagerly agreed. We . . .”

His shock turned into dread. He put a comforting hand on Jori’s shoulder and knelt down so he could look into the boy’s watering eyes. “It wasn’t your fault,” he said.

“It was,” Jori replied. Tears began to fall down his reddening cheeks. “We had fun doing it, too. We even had a competition to see who could make the biggest explosion.”

He swallowed down the hard lump in his throat. “Oh, Jori,” he said sadly. “You didn’t know what you were doing.”

Jori shook his head as if to agree. “We learned, though. After our soldiers secured the space station, our father took us inside. There were so many people, women, chi—” Jori suppressed a sob.

J.D. moved to comfort him, but Jori put up his hand to hold him back. “I could feel the ones who were still alive,” the boy continued. “But they didn’t get to live for long.”

Saliva welled up in his mouth. He swallowed it down, along with the urge to vomit. “You didn’t know, Jori.” That bastard! What kind of sick monster teaches his children to murder innocent people and then takes them down to look at the gored bodies? “Your father did this, not you.”

“I’m a criminal.” A look of earnestness and guilt filled the boy’s eyes. “You should take me into custody and let me answer for my crime.”

“You’re not a criminal,” he replied as he rubbed Jori’s arm consolingly. “You couldn’t have understood what you were doing. I know you’re really mature for your age, but you are still naive in many ways.”

He remembered how he was when he was about Jori’s age. The only thought he may have given to consequences was on how his mother and father would lecture him if he got caught. Jori couldn’t have been more than seven years old at the time. He couldn’t have fully comprehended what destroying that space station meant. Even Rear Admiral Zimmer with all his experience had seemed blind to the real consequences of firing on what appeared to be nothing more than a hunk of metal.

“I understood when we walked through the station,” Jori replied. He looked back down to the floor.

“But you didn’t understand before.”

“No. But I should have. I should have known.” The boy glanced up with pleading eyes.

“I don’t think you could have known. Not really. But you know now, don’t you?”

Jori nodded and looked back downward.

“You came to understand the consequences of such actions and you won’t want to do it again, right?”

“No. I won’t want to. But my father will want me to. I may not have a choice.” The boy’s face looked pained.

He swallowed hard. “Someday you will. And then you can make better choices.”

Jori nodded again.

He put his arm around Jori’s shoulder and pulled him into a hug. The boy didn’t resist.

“It’s all right,” he whispered close to the boy’s ear. “Everything will be all right.”

A wave of heat washed over him. The emperor had manipulated this innocent boy. Looking down at him now, it was obvious Jori knew he’d done something terribly wrong. And it was obvious he regretted it. But would he carry what he learned from the experience to adulthood or would he harden himself against it and follow his father’s footsteps?

*****

Jori was wiping his eyes when Doctor Jerom approached the doorway and motioned for J.D. to come talk to him.

He gave Jori a comforting pat on the shoulder, and then followed the man out to where Captain Arden stood waiting on the other side of the room.

“How’s the child taking this?” the captain asked.

“He was angry, but I think he’s calmed down now,” he replied.

“That’s good,” he said. “What happened?”

He explained what had occurred with Laren, including Laren’s reluctance to hand over the hypospray and the series of following actions. Dr. Jerom added that Laren wasn’t even allowed to tend to the boy to begin with.

“How did Jori know?” the captain asked.

“He can sense emotions.”

“He’s a reader?” Captain Arden’s eyes widened.

“Not like Liam,” he said almost defensively. He thought he had included this information in one of his reports, but must have forgotten. “Jori says he can only sense the emotions others project. His ability isn’t strong enough to classify him as an actual reader.”

One of the captain’s eyebrows went up. “I see,” the man replied in a tone suggesting they would discuss this later. “So he sensed Laren was up to something?”

“Yes,” he replied. “Was he? Was Laren up to something?” he asked, turning to the doctor.

“I’m not sure what’s in the hypospray yet,” Doctor Jerom said. “But whatever it is, it certainly isn’t hippoceretine.”

His gut churned. “So Laren was trying to harm the boy.” Darn it. He didn’t want to believe Laren would do such a thing. Now, he had no choice but to believe it.

“It appears so,” the captain said. His mouth turned downward.

“I think,” Doctor Jerom said, “Laren has tried this before.”

“When the boy nearly died the other day,” he said.

Doctor Jerom nodded. “If you don’t mind, Captain, I’d like to run a few more tests.”

“Certainly, Doctor,” the captain replied. “Commander, I’d like to apologize to the child.”

“Yes, Sir,” he said and led the captain back to the room where the next shift of guards now stood.

He pulled the curtain open. Jori stood from his brother’s bedside. The boy took on his usual formal posture with his hands clasped behind him and his shoulders pulled back. He quickly masked his face so it reflected no emotion, but his eyes were still a little red around the rims from crying.

“Jori,” the captain greeted. “I’m so very sorry about what just happened. I assure you I will do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

“I’m sure you know it isn’t naivety that makes me believe you, Captain,” Jori said formally.

“Commander Hapker told me of your ability,” the captain replied.

“Good,” Jori said tersely. His dark eyes were on fire. “Because if I didn’t know you were telling the truth about this incident, if I didn’t believe you truly meant to protect my brother, this conversation would be going very differently.” The boy cocked an eyebrow.

J.D.’s mouth fell open. Things had been going so well between the two of them, he’d forgotten how blunt the boy could be.

The captain didn’t seem the least bit ruffled by Jori’s tone or the threatening look. “I understand, Swent Prince. I’m glad you know I am telling the truth. And I hope you can tell how much I truly mean it when I say I want your brother to fully recover.”

Jori’s dark expression seemed to soften. He made a sharp nod.

An awkward silence hung for a moment before the captain finally excused himself and left.

J.D. crossed his arms and gave the boy what he hoped was a reproving look. “You could have been a little more polite to him, you know. It wasn’t his fault.”

“He’s the captain, isn’t he?” Jori said, not really asking. “His fault or not, this is his responsibility.”

“And he is taking responsibility,” he replied with a hint of sternness.

“I know.” Jori frowned. The anger was gone from his eyes. “Look, J.D. I know you and I have come to a better understanding of one another. But I still need to keep my guard up. I can’t afford to keep exposing my weaknesses.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean.” The boy’s frown deepened.

His crying? “Being upset about your brother is not a weakness.”

Jori pushed back his shoulders and his face went back to his typical emotionless look. “Such sentiment is weakness. Emotion is weakness.”

“Is this what your father tells you?”

“Yes. And Master Jetser too.”

“They probably mean you should control your emotions, not eliminate them. I can see how hiding your emotions can be important in some situations. But having emotions is not a weakness unless you lose control of them or let them control you.”

“Maybe. But you know how I feel about my brother. If you wanted to, you could use my sentiment against me.”

“There are people in this world who would do such a thing. But it doesn’t make you weak. Having compassion for others is a good thing. If you don’t, if you don’t care, then you’re just a bully.”

“I’m supposed to be a bully. It’s what being a Kavak is all about,” he said with a hint of sarcasm in his tone.

“If this is what your father tells you, I think he’s wrong. There are better ways to lead than to bully people.”

“Maybe,” Jori replied. “But if you weren’t the man you are, if I were on another ship, perhaps, my emotions would have made me vulnerable.”

“Unfortunately, that’s quite possible. But think about this. Your sentiment for your brother just saved his life. And I’d be willing to bet your brother would do the same for you. Together, you and your brother are stronger because of your emotions.”

Jori cocked his head. “Maybe.”

He clapped Jori’s shoulder and smiled. “You know I’m telling the truth.”

The boy frowned. “Just because you believe it’s true doesn’t’ mean it is.”

He broadened his smile. “Of course it does.”

Jori gave him a dubious look but didn’t argue.

 

I’d love to hear some constructive criticism. Please leave a comment below. Praise would be most welcome as well.

(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright June, 2016 by Dawn Ross

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