The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part Two – The Emperor
Note from the author: This chapter is a little longer than I intended. I think there is too much inner contemplation from Terk and not enough action or tension. What do you think? Please feel free to provide some feedback. I believe this sci-fi story is a great one, but as an amateur writer I need all the help I can get in making sure it is written that way.
Terk sat in his father’s chair on the bridge. His father was not there, which meant Terk was in charge. He wan’t completely in charge, though. General Trevine would take command if he felt Terk couldn’t handle it. Trevine, or tree trunk as many called him, generally left Terk alone, but only because most tasks on the bridge were routine. If there was an emergency, Trevine would take over and completely ignore any of Terk’s suggestions.
This day was as mundane as usual. Terk could sense Trevine’s boredom. The man often was. Trevine was a warrior and like to be constantly active. He was intelligent enough to work the bridge, but he had learned by experience rather than through an education like Terk’s. Terk had tried to argue for more hands-on experience with both Trevine and his father. They agreed, but neither were willing to let go of their authority. Trevine was much like is father in stubbornness and arrogance. It irritated Terk to no end, but there was little he could do about it other than complain. And complaining wasn’t something his father tolerated.
Terk was looking over the engine stats to make sure everything was operating within parameters. Dekel did well enough, but he sometimes forgot to keep an eye on the ___________ sensor. It was difficult to tell whether it was too high or too low because a high number didn’t always mean it was high. The measurement had to be compared mathematically with three other components, which also tended to fluctuate. Biskol was supposed to devise a program to make it easier to tell whether the ____________ reading was normal, but although programming ships was his specialty, he really wasn’t all that good at it. Tredons were not known for making intellectual pursuits a priority. Only lords tended to opt for a formal education and usually had to travel abroad, or in Terk’s case have teachers brought in from abroad, to get it.
Terk was considered highly intelligent, but Jori was the true genius. He absorbed everything he was taught, including aspects of warfare. And he studied even more subjects on his own. If Jori could find the time, he could probably write a program for gauging the _____________. But their father kept them both rather busy. And the more Jori learned, the busier he became because the ship desperately needed the expertise.
His brother was better than him at most things, but Terk wasn’t jealous. There was a time when he was, but Jori was too likeable. And he didn’t have an ounce of ambition in him, other than his desire to learn and learn some more. Kavakian siblings had been known to kill one another off in order to become heir. Terk had seen a couple of his elder brothers do it. And his father had gotten his status in this way.
Although there was once a half-brother Terk considered killing, he would never harm Jori. When Terk became emperor, Jori would be by his side. Terk would handle the leadership and martial aspects of his job while Jori would handle the administrative and technological aspects. Dividing duties in this way would certainly make things much easier. Terk’s father juggled all the duties, except the technological because there wasn’t much of a technological aspect. His father was doing administrative work now, which was why Terk had command of the bridge.
Terk’s musings were interrupted with a beep from the vidcomm. The corner of the bridge window indicated it was Captain General Brevak of the Basilisk.
Terk pressed the answer button on his chair and stood up. Although he could have remained sitting, Terk felt that addressing a high-ranking official in such a way made him look lazy and arrogant. Standing was a mark of Terk’s authority as well as a sign of respect towards the man’s status.
“Brevak, I trust your ship has been repaired and all is well,” he said when the captain general’s face popped up on the screen.
“Yes, my Lord,” Brevak replied.
Brevak was rather young for a captain general, mid-forties, but he was quite capable. He was probably one of the best warrior-leaders of his father’s fleet, at least according to Terk and Jori. He came from a family long dedicated to the Kavakian Empire. But unlike many of the lords who tended to get lazy and leave the work of fighting to lesser-born men, Brevak’s family maintained a strong warrior heritage. They learned their skills both at home and abroad and in many different forms. Brevak was the master of all the basic weapon types and several forms of master arts, was greatly skilled in space combat, and did very well in strategic planning.
His skills were not what Terk and Jori admired most about him, though. Nor was it his unwavering loyalty to the Kavaks. Brevak was an exceptional leader and his men loved him. Terk and Jori had tried to determine what it was about Brevak that made it so, but weren’t around Brevak enough to find out. All Terk knew was that while his father’s men grumbled and complained but did as they were told, Brevak’s men seemed to celebrate their leader.
Terk had tried to get father to send him to the Basilisk so he could tutor under Brevak. But although his father trusted Brevak’s skills and loyalty, Terk sensed a wariness in him.
“However,” Brevak continued, “we engaged with a couple of Alliance ships just before crossing the border and suffered additional damage.”
“Yes, my Lord. Within the hour.”
“Injuries to your crew?”
“No one this time.”
“And what of the Alliance ships?” Terk asked.
“I’m sure they sustained more damage, but I doubt it was significant. They didn’t follow us over, although I think they could have. I will need backup, Sir, if you want me to go back over to destroy them.”
“Backup is a few day cycles away yet. Repair your ship and monitor the borders to make sure they don’t sneak in.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Terk disconnected the communication and the window went back to its view of space. He sat back down in his chair but was careful not to make it look like it was with relief. There had been a time when he would have relished the idea of going to war with the Alliance. But after nearly dying and being rescued by them a few periods back, he had a difficult time seeing them as his enemies.
While Terk didn’t like the idea of Jori endangering himself in order to save them, he did hope they wouldn’t have to die. He especially hoped he wouldn’t have to be the one to kill them. Terk didn’t enjoy killing the way some of his father’s men seemed to. But he had no trouble with killing when it was necessary, although he suspected killing J.T. would bother him. Not to mention that Jori would never forgive me.
Jori came onto the bridge before Terk could contemplate the problem of the Alliance crew further. His brother was apprehensive, though lately that was nothing unusual.
“What are you doing here?” Terk asked.
“Father summoned us.”
“I don’t know,” Jori replied.
Terk felt a spike in brother’s his nervousness. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” he replied as he and Jori made their way to their father’s ready room.
When they entered, their father was focused on his work screen. Terk sensed he was deep in thought and didn’t seem to be in a foul mood.
Good, Terk thought. He still knows nothing.
Terk’s hopes were dashed, though, when his father looked up at him with his piercing dark eyes. Terk felt a mental stab when his father’s anger spiked.
“Jako came to me with a disturbing complaint,” father said.
Shit, Terk thought, blood draining from his face. He had meant to speak to Jako as soon as his shift was over. Now it was too late.
“He says the Alliance crew members don’t know what they’re doing,” he continued.
“Some are more knowledgeable than others,” Jori replied with a calm Terk knew he didn’t feel. Their nervousness had intensified, though neither let it show on their face. Their father couldn’t sense emotions like they could so their ability to hide how they felt was a strong advantage.
The man must have suspected something, though, because his jaw clenched and his nostrils flared. “He seems to think they’re faking it.”
Shit! Terk tried to think of an excuse but his brother beat him to it.
“If they are lying, we’d sense it.”
“How can you be sure? You barely know what you’re doing.”
“I know more than Jako,” Jori said, trying not to sound defensive.
“Terk?” his father said. “Have you sensed any deception in them?”
“No …” His voice cracked. “No, Sir.”
His father glared at them each in turn. Terk suppressed the urge to swallow and held his breath as his father scrutinized them. Both brothers stood stiff in an at-ease stance in hopes of reflecting calm and confidence.
“Just to be sure,” he finally said, “get Derianna … now.”
Shit, shit, shit! Terk thought but kept his face straight. Both brother’s acknowledged their father’s command while keeping their composure, although both were a hundred times more tense than they had been just a moment before.
Derianna was their mother and her ability to sense emotions and lies was much more precise than Terk and Jori’s. Plus she had another skill, one that kept her close while the other concubines tended to get passed on to the men when their father got bored with them.
“Shit!” Terk said out loud once he and his brother were clear of their father’s ready room. If father finds out about our ruse, he’ll be beyond pissed. Terk wanted to be angry at his little brother, and at the Alliance, for getting him into this mess. But the truth was, he was worried. And not worried for himself, worried for Jori.
Their father only had two surviving sons and an assassination attempt that corrupted his DNA kept him from being able to procreate more. But having two sons meant one was expendable.
Terk had been sensing his father’s increased impatience and annoyance with Jori. Although Jori was better than Terk at just about everything, he was very stubborn about certain things. The one annoying father the most was that Jori refused to torture or murder anyone. Oh, he would kill if he had to, but never murder. To make matters worse, rather than simply refuse to do what father told him, Jori often argued with him about it. Although Jori’s reasoning seemed logical, it only served to infuriate their father. Terk was afraid that one of these days his father would lose his temper and take Jori’s punishments too far. It wouldn’t be the first time their father had killed one of their brothers.
Terk pushed these dire thoughts out of his mind. He and Jori would get through this and they would get through it together.
“Warn them quickly,” he said to his brother in their secret language. “I’ll talk to mother.”
Before they could get far, Jori stopped short and held the comm button by his ear. Terk sensed a sharp panic from him. “Yes, Sir,” Jori said.
“What is it?” he asked.
Jori’s face was pale. “Father just called me back. I can’t warn them.”
“Did he say what he wanted?”
Shit. Terk tried to think of something but nothing came to mind. When father called for them, there was no delaying. “I’m sorry, Little Brother, but this might be the end of it.”
“Maybe. Or maybe we’ll get caught, dammit.” Terk glowered, daring his brother to protest.
Jori didn’t say a word, but the look on his face and the emotions emanating from him said it all.
“Dammit!” Terk said. He turned away in a huff and headed towards the harem. Anyone looking at him would have thought he was in a furious mood, but inside his gut churned with worry.
So what do you think of this chapter? Constructive criticism is welcome.
(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright September, 2015 by Dawn Ross
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