The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – First Encounter
Rough Draft – Chapter 10
(Click August 2014 to current under the Archives to read the previous chapters on this sci-fi space opera story.)
Jori was left with his brother and the security detail in sick bay while J.T. went to the docking bay to follow up with the findings on the crashed Tredon ship. The senior officer on duty approached him and reported that they were able to recover some information.
“Video recordings of the cockpit confirm that the two boys are indeed the Kavakian Princes,” the officer said. “They never state it in any of the communications, though.”
Communications could be intercepted so J.T. suspected the princes never broadcasted their identity in order to keep it secret. They were vulnerable away from their own territory, especially with only a few warriors and a small ship to protect them.
“Did you find out what the Grapnes were after?” J.T. asked.
“They never said. Not even when the prince asked them directly. They just simply demanded surrender.”
J.T. suspected the Grapnes must have discovered who they were and taken advantage.
“I did find this, however,” the officer said as he pointed at a line on the digiview screen. “I think it’s a message from the prince to the emperor.”
The officer tapped the line and the message played out loud. “We have acquired some supplies as well as the information you wanted about the scientists, Father. We are returning home now and should arrive in half a period.”
“That’s rather informal and vague,” J.T. said. “He didn’t even announce who he was. Are you sure it was from the prince to the emperor?”
“He sounds young,” the officer replied. “The two princes were the youngest ones on the ship. And who else would their father be?”
J.T. agreed. It wasn’t Jori’s voice, so it must have been his older brother’s. “What about these scientists he mentioned? Did you find anything more?”
“Nothing, Sir. There’s nothing in the ship files and no mention in any other communications or video recordings. And we’ve recovered all that we could.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. I will take this to the captain,” J.T. said. “Is there anything else of importance?”
“Nothing that seemed significant,” the officer replied. “But you might find the crash video of the cockpit interesting. It explains why the younger prince survived.”
J.T. visited Captain Arden in his ready room. Lt. Jenna Stein and Lt. Commander Bracht were there as well. J.T. related his recent discussion with the officer in the docking bay.
“I agree with your take on the Grapnes’ intent. That was my deduction as well,” the captain said. “Commander, ask the boy about the scientists. Be persistent but gentle. If he refuses to say anything, I will consider getting Liam involved.”
J.T. did not care for Liam. The man made him uncomfortable. But his methods were sound. “I will try, Captain,” J.T. replied. “But I’m not sure if I can get Jori to reveal anything.”
“Is he giving you trouble?” the captain asked.
“No, actually. He’s being cooperative. But he isn’t very talkative.”
“That’s understandable, considering his situation,” the captain replied. “I’m sure it will take a little time for him to warm up to you.”
“It’s not that,” J.T. said. “He’s not a timid child. Jori’s guarded, yes, but he also seems to be very self-possessed. And he’s highly intelligent. It’s a mistake to think of him as an ordinary child.”
“I knew he was dangerous,” Bracht said.
“It’s not surprising,” Lt. Jenna Stein offered. “The Kavakians stopped the genetic enhancements at the same time as other cultures when the practice was strictly outlawed. However, I believe the Kavakians found a way around the laws.”
“How’s that?” the captain asked.
“Careful breeding,” Jenna replied. “These past hundred years or so, the Kavakian emperors have only been marrying women who carry enhanced genes. Part of the reason why so many of the emperors’ offspring do not survive is because they are terminated for not carrying the enhancements.”
“That’s barbaric,” J.T. said.
“Leave it to the Tredons to find a way to cheat,” Bracht added.
“Select breeding is not against the law, however,” Captain Arden said to the Lt. Commander. “But it’s something we should take into account regarding security. We don’t know what all their genetic enhancements entail.”
“Yes, Sir,” Bracht replied. “I suggest we strictly limit his access to only the common areas of the ship. No more visits to the bridge or engine room.”
“I agree.” Turning to J.T., the captain added, “There is something else I need you to try and talk to the young prince about. Dr. Jerom found a lot of bone reconstructions in both of the boys. There are so many, it is beyond concerning. I would say it’s alarming, in fact.”
“You think they are being abused?” Jenna asked.
“Even if they were, what can we do about it?” J.T. added.
“Yes, Lt.,” the captain replied. “I think they’ve been abused. Dr. Jerom was hard pressed to find bones that hadn’t ever been broken. Those that were, were broken at different times, which rules out the possibility that they were involved in a single cataclysmic event.” J.T. felt a little sick at the thought. Jenna seemed to as well. “I know there is not much we can do about it,” Captain Arden said, “but I feel we should ask and do what we can for them while they are here.”
“I’ll talk to Jori,” J.T. said.
“Thank you,” Captain Arden said to the group. “That’s all I have for now. I will see you all at my table for dinner tonight. Commander,” he said to J.T., “the young prince is invited as well. And there is one more thing I need to speak to you about.”
Lt. Jenna Stein and Lt. Commander Bracht left the room, leaving J.T. and the captain alone.
“What is it, Sir,” J.T. asked as he sat back down.
“I will be contacting the boys’ father soon,” the captain said. “And as you can imagine, I’m quite daunted by the task. After all, what is a mere captain doing contacting an emperor, an enemy emperor no less? By all rights, this should be handed by officials from the Alliance council, not me.”
“I agree,” J.T. replied.
“To notify the council, I have to go through the chain of command. Let me ask you, Commander, what do you think of Rear Admiral Zimmer?”
J.T. tensed at the name but hoped the captain hadn’t noticed. “Uh… well,” J.T. hesitated, feeling a little trapped.
“It’s all right, Commander,” the captain replied. “I realized the Kimpke incident left you with a bad taste in your mouth, but putting that event aside, what is your honest opinion of the man? This is strictly between you and I and I swear I will not use the information against you in any way.”
The captain’s earnest manner put J.T. at ease so he spoke honestly. “I think he’s an arrogant ass,” he replied bluntly. Captain Arden raised an eyebrow. J.T. probably should have been more tactful in his answer, but his emotions about Zimmer were strong. “I felt that way about him from the moment I met him so my feelings are not entirely based on the fact that he nearly ended my career.”
“Your own actions nearly ended your career, Commander,” the captain replied.
J.T. made an effort to hide his anxiety. Not once since the captain appointed him as his commander a few months ago had he brought up the Kimpke incident. “I realize that, Sir, and I’m not trying to shift blame,” J.T. replied more calmly than he felt. “I meant to say that his method of command compelled me to the actions that nearly led to my dismissal from the Alliance fleet.”
“And what do you mean by his method of command?”
Captain Arden’s tone was curious, not accusatory, so J.T. answered honestly. “He refuses to listen to the advice of his officers, even when presented with compelling evidence. And while many believe he makes decisions based on his intelligence and years of experience, I believe his decisions are severely limited by his ego and by his many prejudices. He never admits when he’s wrong and when things don’t turn out the way he expects them, he somehow manages to make others look and feel responsible.” J.T.’s heart raced, but it felt good to finally be able to speak out about Zimmer. It occurred to him that he may have gone too far with his new captain, but Captain Arden did not look angry or disappointed. If anything, he looked thoughtful.
“And you came to this opinion before you got into trouble?” the captain asked.
“Yes, Sir,” J.T. replied. “I could site you several examples if you’d like.”
“No, that’s quite all right. I am familiar with the admiral’s method of command. Do you know why I requested you as my commanding officer, despite your actions at Kimpke?”
“I’ve always wondered, Sir,” J.T. said.
“As subordinates, we are expected to do as we are told even if we disagree. Your actions at Kimpke imply that you will disobey the chain of command whenever you don’t want to do something.”
J.T. opened his mouth to protest but the captain held up a hand.
“I don’t, however, believe this one incident sets a precedent. You no doubt felt strongly about what was happening and you were faced with a moral dilemma.”
“Yes, Sir,” J.T. replied. Maybe someone finally understands, J.T. hoped silently.
“Although I believe it is important that we strictly follow our chain of command,” the captain said, “I don’t believe we should always do so blindly. I actually find what you did to be noble. You were backed in a corner and faced with either doing something that went against your conscience or disobeying and risking court martial.”
“I don’t make a habit of disobeying orders, Captain,” J.T. said. “But I honestly don’t think I could have lived with myself if I had done what the admiral ordered.”
“That’s what I hoped for when I took you on, Commander. Out here, we are often faced with moral dilemmas. There will be times when we will have to do things we don’t agree with. But at the same time, it is our responsibility to speak up when we are ordered to do something we feel will cause great harm. I am currently faced with such a dilemma.”
“I’m not sure I understand, Sir,” J.T. said. He realized in a brief moment of panic that he may be facing another Kimpke-like situation.
“Knowing the admiral,” the captain said, “what do you think he would do if he found out we have the Kavakian princes on board our ship?”
J.T. hadn’t given it much thought, but he suddenly realized what the captain was getting at. Sure enough, he thought, it’s Kimpke all over again. To the captain he said, “He’d order us to bring in the princes for questioning.”
“Exactly what I was thinking,” the captain replied. “And what do you think would happen if we did such a thing?”
“I think if Emperor Kavak found out, he’d have a valid argument for getting a number of other dignitaries to side with him against us. We’d have war.”
“And how do you feel about a war with the Tredons, Commander?”
“Despite how disagreeable I think the Tredons are, I think going to war with them would be a terrible mistake.”
“Are you telling me this because you think it’s what I want to hear, or because it is how you truly feel? You are a strategist, after all, and strategy is a war tactic.”
“Sometimes fighting is necessary,” J.T. replied. “But strategy isn’t just about fighting. It’s about protecting. And it’s about protecting while losing as few casualties as possible. If we go to war with the Tredons, many will die. And not just the fighters, but innocent people too. The Tredons will use our value of human lives against us. They will strike at military bases as well as homesteads. The best strategy in this case is to avoid going to war with them.”
Captain Arden nodded in agreement. “I’m glad we’re on the same page in this. Let me tell you what I’m facing and let’s see if you have any ideas on what we can do to avoid a war.”
J.T. nodded and so Captain Arden explained how contacting the emperor himself could cause problems. “He’s not going to believe we intend no harm,” he explained.
“What if we put off telling him for as long as possible?” J.T. replied. “We could wait until we reach the Chevert outpost before contacting him.”
“That’s an idea,” the captain said. “I’d think Jori would want to speak to his father sooner, though.”
“I can talk to him,” J.T. offered. “I think our main problem, however, is with what Zimmer will want us to do. How do we handle this if he orders us to bring the boys to him?”
“I am hoping you can help me come up with some ideas. My current plan is to notify him through the monthly report. After all, I’m given a lot of leeway to make my own decisions without involving our superiors,” the captain explained.
“It’s a fine line,” J.T. said, “but you may be able to argue your way out of a reprimand if you handle this on your own. I say you because the rear admiral will not listen to any argument I make.”
“Nor I, most likely,” the captain replied with a frown. “Finding out more on the scientists the elder boy alluded to may be helpful. If it’s valuable information, it could distract him.”
“Understood,” J.T. replied. “I will do my best to see if I can get Jori to trust me.”
“If not, there’s the reader.”
J.T. pointedly ignored the reference to Liam. “There’s another concern I have,” J.T. said instead. “How are we going to get the princes home? Even though the Chevert outpost is in neutral space, we’re just one ship. The emperor could lay a trap for us there… or anywhere.”
“I agree,” the captain replied. “If we can wait to contact the emperor until the very last moment, then all we’d need to do make sure the boys are in good hands and leave immediately.”
“Rear Admiral Zimmer isn’t going to like this when he finds out. We’re really pushing the gray area, aren’t we, Sir?” J.T. asked.
“We are,” the captain agreed. “If you disagree with this, Commander, feel free to let me know. I can’t promise I won’t order you to do something you don’t like, but I will listen to any objections you have.
“I have no objections, Sir,” J.T. replied earnestly. “I’m with you one hundred percent.”
This space opera is protected by copyright. Copyright December, 2014 by Dawn Ross.
Ooh, plot twist! Though how would Terk have been able to transmit a message without Jori hearing him if their ship was small? Maybe my understanding of the ship is off, but I was picturing a single “room” with multiple stations.
I’m also walking away with a couple of questions: what’s up with these genetic enhancements? The term is kind of self-explanatory, but it got barely a mention and seems to be something that might have played a significant role in the empire’s history and development.
Also, why would they be surprised that the boys have had lots of broken bones over an extended period of time? This is a barbaric warrior race… shouldn’t they expect something like that?
I can’t help but wonder if the last line is something J.T. said to Zimmer before they had problems too…
Jori did know. He just didn’t say. Your understanding of the ship being a single room with multiple stations is correct. With the genetic enhancements, I was hoping to build on this more as the story progresses. Do you think I need to explain it a little more now or leave it a mystery to be revealed later? Also, I’m thinking that as a civilized race, they would still be surprised at all the broken bones because the boys are so young. From my own perspective, I know child abuse is real. But I would still be surprised, and even sick to my stomach, if I was presented with such evidence. Perhaps I could insert what I’ve just said as part of J.T.’s internal thoughts. Regarding J.T.’s comment to Captain Arden, I think I need to work on J.T.’s internal dialog there as well. Thanks again for all your input! 🙂