The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part Two – The Emperor
(Do you want to read The Kavakian Empire from the beginning? You can find all the chapters in the archives located in this blog from August 2014 onward. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request to get this sci-fi story sent to you as a word document.)
The prisoners were silent, but the corridor was not. The heavy boots of the Tredon warriors around them tromped loudly in an ominous beat. Every one of the soldiers had a dour look. And every one of them towered over the Alliance crew, surrounding them in an impenetrable wall.
J.T. glanced at Lieutenant Tommins walking beside him. His face was pale and J.T. noticed his throat bob up and down, but the man managed to keep the fear from being evident on his face. Lieutenant Junior Grade Patersen also maintained a neutral expression, but sweat formed on his brow.
After J.T. had spoken to Jori, he only had a chance to tell his cellmates of their chance for survival. His other crew members probably thought they were marching to their deaths.
No one told J.T. where they were going, but he hoped it was to go work on the laser. As they walked on, J.T. caught the look of one of his guards. The big man smiled down at him, showing his stained teeth. His eyes looked almost elated. J.T.’s neck prickled forebodingly.
J.T. almost walked into the man in front of him when the Tredon guards stopped. A set of doors slid open and an acrid scent burned J.T.’s nose. He only wondered about it for a moment. One look into the room and his blood drained from his face. Although there were several Tredon warriors gathered in the room, the room was large and there was a lot of empty space. The most notable was the area surrounding a large metal contraption.
Heavy steel shafts built a rectangular framework that stood several feet tall. The steel may have once been burnished, but it was dull now with blotches of dark stains. A thick chain hung from the center with two iron shackles on the end.
J.T. recognized the smell now—sweat and blood mixed with a cleaning agent that only soured the odor rather than eliminate it. J.T. wanted to spit the taste from his mouth, but his mouth was dry. Jori told him they would be tortured, but J.T. had assumed it would only be if he and his crew didn’t cooperate.
Hanna groaned, but J.T. wasn’t sure whether she was groaning from the pain she was already feeling or because she was dreading additional pain. He couldn’t believe what had been done to her. When the Tredon guards dragged her to his cell earlier, he was sure Jori and Terk had failed to keep her from being raped. Her clothes were torn and her face was a bloody mess. She was barely conscious.
After the guards discarded her, Harley found the hypospray in her hand and injected it. When she became a little more alert she told them what Terk had done. J.T. was relieved, but felt guilty about the beating she had received. And now she was going to get another.
One of the soldiers gripped J.T’s arm painfully and pulled him inside. The move caught him off balance but the vice grip forced him along until he stood a few feet from the front of the contraption. He and his entire crew were lined up before it, then forced to kneel on the cold hard floor. J.T. shivered, but he wasn’t sure if it was from his anxiety or because the room was so frigid.
He watched helplessly as Lieutenant Junior Grade Walden was dragged to the device. Tommins cried out to protest but was cut short when one of the Tredon warriors punched the side of his head. Walden struggled and yelled, but he could barely do anything against the giant men who held him. Walden’s hands were immediately shackled and the slack in the chain was taken up until his arms stretched far over his head and his toes dangled, barely touching the floor. He stopped yelling then, but only because he was hyperventilating.
“The man’s going to piss his pants before we even get started,” one of the dragon warriors standing behind J.T. said. Another warrior laughed.
“This oughta be good,” another said. J.T heard the man make a sucking sound before a glob of spit splattered onto the floor. “Fuckin’ do-gooders are nothing but a bunch of pussies.”
The room was filled with deep voiced warriors making comments. Some were lewd, others were hateful, and a fair few actually sounded gleeful. The entire room went silent, though, when Emperor Kavak stepped forward.
“I have no patience for protests or procrastinations.” The sound of the emperor’s voice sent a shiver down J.T.’s spine. He spoke sharply, though his tone was deep. His dark eyes glowered challengingly. “I expect each of you to put forth your best effort to complete this laser. You will work hard as if your lives depend on it, because it does. And just so you know how serious I am, I’ve invited you here so that you can appreciate my resolve.”
The emperor gave a curt nod to a dragon warrior carrying a long metallic rod. The warrior stepped forward without hesitation and used it to send a spray of blue electricity at Walden. Walden cried out as the blue charge crackled over his body. It lasted only a few moments, but Walden’s scream lasted longer.
J.T. felt dizzy and realized it was because he was holding his breath. His neck and shoulders were tensed and his arms flexed from trying to pull his wrists from the cuffs.
“Stop, you monster!” J.T. tried to stand, but someone behind him thumped his back hard enough to send a sharp pain down his spine and make him crumble forward. There was nothing he could do. He considered keeping his head down so he wouldn’t have to watch, but one of the warriors grabbed him by his hair and forced him back up.
One by one, each of J.T.’s men were tortured with the rod. Every single one of them cried out. A few even begged. J.T.’s stomach clenched with a mixture of fear, anger, and guilt. These were his men. He was responsible for them so it was his fault this was happening.
No, not my fault. It’s his fault. A surge of hate washed over him when he looked at the emperor. After getting to know Terk and Jori, J.T. had realized that not all the stereotypes of the Tredons were true. But looking at Emperor Kavak now with his dark eyes and baleful frown, J.T. saw the embodiment of all those terrible stereotypes.
Terk and Jori stood on either side of him. They resembled their father in many aspects but neither of them glowered the way he did. Their faces were a complete blank. J.T. wondered what they were thinking right now. Were they enjoying this or hating it? Did they agree or disagree with what their father was doing?
Harley’s torture ended. When the guards removed his shackles, he slumped into their arms and let himself be dragged away. Only J.T. and a couple others hadn’t had their turn yet. The warriors weren’t moving to get someone else, so for a brief moment J.T. hoped it was over.
Nothing happened. The dragon warriors began to mumble amongst themselves. J.T. began to relax.
“Now!” J.T. jumped at the sound of the emperor’s voice. The entire room went quiet. Terk and Emperor Kavak were glaring at one another eye to eye. Well, nearly eye to eye. The emperor stood at least a head taller. They held the stare for a moment before Terk abruptly turned away and stomped over to the prisoners.
“Get him up!” Terk pointed to Simmonds. Two guards jerked him up. Terk snatched the rod from the man who had been using it earlier. His expression looked very much like his father’s now. His brow furrowed in anger. His jaw was clenched. And his nostrils flared.
J.T.’s gut began to tighten. It was bad enough that the emperor was forcing his children to watch, but this was even more depraved.
As soon as Simmonds was secured, Terk unleashed the blue electricity. Simmonds cried out. He begged. At one point, J.T. thought he was going to bring up Terk’s stay on the Odyssey, but Terk shot the blue light at him before he could say much.
As soon as Simmonds had received as much punishment as the others, Terk slapped the rod back into the other warrior’s hand and stormed back to his father’s side.
While Simmonds was taken down J.T. watched the interaction between Jori and his father. J.T. couldn’t hear what was being said, but there was no doubt that the man expected Jori to do what his brother had just done.
Jori shook his head in refusal. The emperor grabbed his arm. His other hand balled into a fist. He bent low to put his face in Jori’s face and said something, probably something threatening. Jori did not cower and he didn’t give in. He shook his head defiantly. J.T. held his breath as the emperor raised his fist. But the strike didn’t come.
“Get out of my sight, coward.” The emperor jerked Jori’s arm away so harshly that Jori almost fell. J.T. sighed in relief as Jori marched out of the room. Terk watched his brother leave. He was no longer scowling. The boys were hard to read, but J.T. was certain that it was fear he saw in Terk’s eyes.
Hanna was next. The warriors hooted and hollered as she was hung in chains. J.T. heard a number of lewd comments. Hanna was in no shape to retort. She groaned as she hung there and screamed when the shock came. Fortunately, she passed out almost immediately. J.T. worried they were going to keep going, but one of the other warriors made the torturer stop.
Two warriors were unshackling her when J.T. was abruptly yanked up. It was his turn. He was the last one, either by chance or by design because he was the highest ranking.
J.T. felt his chest tighten as he was being forced into the chains. His heart hammered, but he refused to let them know how frightened he was. They shackled his hands and pulled him upward until his body was taut.
I’m not going to cry out. I’m not going to cry out. It became his mantra. But when the blue electricity hit him and surged across his body, J.T. shrieked in agony. The shock of it was astounding and the pain was overwhelming. He’d never felt anything like it before. He broke his arm once while on a hike and was left to suffer for hours before rescue came. But that pain was nothing like this. Even after the first shock was over, sharp pains danced across his body. His head and chest felt like it was going to burst.
Just when the pain was starting to subside, another jolt blasted over him. It happened again several more times. J.T. wasn’t sure how long it all lasted, but he was sure they were torturing him more than they had the others.
By the time it was over, J.T. felt like his body had been shattered. He couldn’t move. It wasn’t because he was paralyzed, though. It was because he was completely spent. As soon as the Tredon warriors released the shackles, he slumped into their arms.
The warriors dropped him to the floor. J.T. mentally embraced the coldness of it. He was so glad it was over.
“Lucky for you, you are all currently indispensable,” the emperor said to the prisoners. His voice was an intrusion into J.T.’s newfound respite. “I was going to make an example of one of you and have you experience real torture. Ankgar has some very creative ways to bring about enduring agonizing pain. The last man I sent to him lived for weeks after being flayed alive. You will be his next victim if you fail me.”
J.T. cringed in horror. This isn’t over. This is just the beginning.
(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright June, 2015 by Dawn Ross
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