The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – First Encounter
(The previous chapters can be found under the “The Kavakian Empire” link under categories in the right hand column, beginning August 2014.)
After his morning duties, J.T. found Jori in the gymnasium. The boy had already been there a while. He was in a steady sweat as he performed a far more complicated version of shadow boxing, including flips, spins, and kicks. Jori was fast and agile, and obviously very good. He had gathered a small crowd of Odyssey crewmen, who watched with awe.
Since it didn’t look like Jori would be done anytime soon, J.T. decided to change into his workout clothes. He ran a few laps around the gymnasium until Jori was finished. When J.T. approached him, Jori told him that though he was done with that particular exercise, he still had a couple hours of training to go.
“A couple of hours?” J.T. asked. “Is it normal for you to exercise for so long?”
“Yes,” Jori stated. “Four to six hours a day.”
“That’s a lot. Do you have time for other studies?”
“Plenty of time. My intellectual studies also take up four to six hours a day, which reminds me … I will need some reading material. I’m currently studying Pershornian Warfare, Fourth Generation, and Alkon’s theories on quantum mechanics.”
“Impressive,” J.T. replied, truly awed. Although he specialized in strategic warfare, he did not get into the complexities of Pershornian warfare until he had entered the Alliance academy. “I can get you a digiview with access to the MDS. You are welcome to read anything you find on the MDS.”
“That is acceptable,” Jori replied.
There was a silence between them as Jori looked over the gymnasium to decide what he wanted to do next. Finally J.T. offered, “How about a game of wall ball?”
“What’s that?” Jori asked.
J.T. explained how two players face a wall and hit a ball back and forth with a racquet. It was J.T.’s favorite exercise. Jori agreed and the two played. It was a long game at which the boy never seemed to tire from. Jori turned out to be very good at it. They each had won an equal number of games when they stopped because Jori hurt his elbow when he fell. They sat on a bench as J.T. and Jori examined the injury.
“It’s not bad,” Jori replied impassively. “But I can’t play anymore today.”
“We should go see a medic to make sure it’s not broken,” J.T. said.
“I don’t need a medic. It’s not broken. Just bruised.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to check,” J.T replied. “And at the very least, we can get you something for the pain.”
“I don’t need anything for the pain,” Jori said firmly. “I would know if something was fractured or broken, so seeing a medic is a waste of time.”
“Okay,” J.T. relented. “Speaking of broken bones, though, Dr. Jerom noticed that both you and your brother have had quite a few.”
“Yes,” Jori confirmed.
Jori did not offer any other information so J.T. pressed. “It’s unusual for someone your age, of any age actually, to have had so many bone reconstructions. How did they all happen?”
“Various things,” Jori replied.
“In exercises, games… I’ve been in a couple of vehicular crashes.”
“So all accidents?”
“Mostly? As in some were intentional?” J.T. asked.
“That is correct.”
J.T. felt his stomach squirm. Why would anyone intentionally harm another, especially a child? “From your father?” he asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.
“From my father, others, and from my Jintal training.”
“Jintal training!” J.T. replied in alarm. Jintal was a harsh training method that was used to build up pain tolerance. “Aren’t you a little young to undergo Jintal training?”
“Yes, but my father found a way to persuade a Jintal master to teach us,” Jori said. He spoke as if it were no big deal and it unnerved J.T. even more.
“You know this is wrong, don’t you, Jori? What your father puts you through is abuse, torture even, and it’s morally wrong.”
“My father is not known for his morality, Commander,” Jori stated matter-of-factly.
J.T. was incredulous. A part of him wanted to comfort the boy, but Jori was so unemotional about the entire issue that J.T. wasn’t sure how to respond.
“Aren’t you worried,” J.T. finally said. “Worried that your father will kill you, or get you killed?”
“I do not think about it,” Jori replied. “I wouldn’t be the first to die by my father’s hand, but there isn’t much I can do about it.”
J.T.’s gut twisted further, making him queasy. “If you could get away from it, go somewhere else, somewhere safe, would you go?”
Jori paused a moment thinking about it. Finally, he said, “No.”
“Why not?” J.T. asked in disbelief.
“Because of my brother. And my mother.”
“Who is your mother?”
“She is one of my father’s concubines.”
“And so if you left, you’d leave them behind?”
“Yes,” Jori replied. “And because I have responsibilities.”
“You are too young for so much responsibility,” J.T. said.
“Fulfilling my responsibilities keeps my alive, Commander.”
J.T. put his hand on Jori’s shoulder. “Oh, Jori. I’m sorry,” he said, not knowing what else to say.
“Don’t feel sorry for me,” Jori replied. His tone was still formal, but seemed softer somehow. “My life is not so dark and dismal as this conversation has led you to believe.”
“Let’s change the topic, then,” J.T. said. His stomach was in knots the disturbing conversation. “Tell me, if you spend most of your day exercising and studying, what do you do for fun?”
“Sometimes exercising and studying are fun,” Jori replied.
“I can see how that can be. But nothing just for the sake of having fun?”
“My brother and I did some fun things at the Melna space station,” Jori offered.
“Like what?” J.T. asked, realizing that Jori was never volunteering any detailed information unless specifically asked.
“We used a holo deck to visit some exotic planet-scapes. And we went to see some laverjack beasts that the Hurvans were transporting.”
“Sounds interesting,” J.T. said sincerely. He asked more about the planet-scapes and found that Jori studied other cultures as a hobby. And they boy’s eyes practically lit up when he talked about the laverjack beasts. Jori was really opening up so J.T. took the opportunity to ask about the scientists.
“What about scientists. Did you speak to some scientists when you were at the Melna space station?”
Jori wrinkled his brow in bewilderment. “That’s an odd question.”
J.T. sighed. He wasn’t sure how to bring up this topic without it sounding accusatory. But he had to ask. “We found some communications on your ship about some scientists and we are wondering what it is about.”
Jori’s eyes darkened and his jaw clenched. “I see,” was all he said.
“Can you tell me anything?” J.T. asked, keeping his tone casual.
“Nothing,” Jori replied coldly. “We are done talking.” With that, Jori got up and marched away.
J.T. cursed to himself. He had been making real headway with the boy and should have waited to ask about the scientists. Or at least found a better way to ask.
(This story is protected by copyright) Copyright January, 2015 by Dawn Ross