The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part Two – The Emperor
Chapter 11 – Revised
(Be sure to read last week’s book review of The Emotion Thesaurus. Sometimes I am unaware of my writing weaknesses until someone points them out. Some comments from readers for part one of my science fiction story told me they were having a difficult time getting into the characters. I wasn’t sure what I could do about it until I read The Emotion Thesaurus. As per last week’s post, I learned a lot form this book. And as such, I think I can use the information I learned to make a big improvement on chapter 11 of part two. So here is the revised version.)
Terk sat at his father’s desk in the ready room. He was alone. His father had gone to bed a while back. Terk should have gone too, but he had something, someone, to take care of, someone he should have dealt with earlier if he hadn’t been so busy.
Terk tapped the tabletop loudly as he waited. His jaw was sore from clenching his teeth, but he had too many thoughts going through his head for the pain to register.
From what Jori had said, all father had wanted when he called him back was to get an update on the progress of the laser. Jori said father was suspicious, but only about the Alliance crew. Nothing else. Nothing else Jori will tell me anyway. Even though Terk wasn’t there, he had sensed Jori’s apprehension and his father’s agitation. Jori and I are going to have a little talk later.
Terk felt tensions growing all around. It was like he was skimming a planet’s atmosphere, one wrong move and the ship would spin out of control, crash and burn. We were almost discovered, Terk thought. That man nearly caused a disaster. A shiver went through him. No. Don’t think about what could have happened. Terk tightened his fists. Think about what will happen if I don’t get this under control.
Terk felt his face flush as he considered the audacity of Jako’s actions. He clamped down on his teeth so hard that pain shot down his neck and to his arms. He clenched his hands until they were white. That damned skinny little bastard went behind my back! Terk slammed his fist on the table. He so badly wanted to beat the shit out the man, to hear him cry and beg for forgiveness.
No. I need to stay in control, he told himself. Terk took a couple of deep breaths and tried to keep his emotions from spilling over. If he went off on Jako, his father would be suspicious as to why. Terk could make something up, but the situation was too tenuous already. He had to do more than just make Jako afraid. He had to convince him of a better way. It was the smart thing to do.
It was Master Jetser’s idea, of course. Terk never would have thought of it. He had a tendency to let his anger get away from him. But Master Jetser’s idea was a really good one and Terk wanted to play it out. The tension in his jaw relaxed somewhat, but he didn’t completely let go of his anger. He still needed it.
Terk sensed Jako’s approach and sat up straight and tall in his father’s chair. He clasped his hands in front of him in order to keep them still.
Terk could sense Jako’s nervousness, but the man actually had the nerve to let out a sigh of relief when he entered the room. Terk pursed his lips and glowered. He thought he was going to see my father sitting here.
When Jako noticed Terk’s look, he averted his eyes and licked his lips. Terk felt the corner of his mouth twitch. Good. The bastard finally has the sense to be nervous.
Terk’s first instinct was to yell at the man before him, but he kept his tone steady. “Do you know why you’re here?” he asked through gritted teeth.
Jako shifted his feet. “No, my Lord.” He licked his lips again. “I’m doing the best I can considering the inferiority I have to work with.”
Terk’s frown deepened at Jako’s lack of self-control. If Terk ever fidgeted in front of his father like this, he’d get the shit beat out of him. But since this was how he wanted Jako to react, he disregarded it. “My father just proved the Alliance crewmen know what they’re doing, and that they’re cooperating.”
Jako frowned. “Really?”
“Do you doubt him?” Terk leaned forward and glared coldly.
“N-no. Of course not, my Lord. It’s just that, well, I don’t see how it is possible.”
Terk sat up straight again and gave Jako a blank look. Put him at ease, Master Jetser had told him. Let him talk first. And then let the hammer fall. “So you think they’re completely worthless.”
“Completely, my Lord.” Jako met his eyes. Terk suppressed a scowl and kept his face neutral as Jako spoke. “When I ask them questions, they barely know the answers. They don’t seem to know what tools to use. And when they do use the right ones, they use them wrongly. I have to constantly fix their mistakes.”
All true, Terk thought. Damned this man for being too smart for his own good. Terk wanted to knock Jako upside his head, but he leaned forward expectantly and kept his tone light in order to play out Master Jetser’s advice. “And you don’t think their ignorance is an act?”
Jako puffed out his lean chest and lifted his chin. “Not at all, my Lord. I think they’re lying in order to save their skin.”
Time for the hammer. Terk raised his eyebrows. “So you can complete this laser all on your own?”
Jako blinked rapidly. His mouth hung open for a moment as he considered his response. “Um, y—“
Terk let his mask fall and his scowl return. His tone deepened. “Don’t lie to me, Jako.”
Jako paled. “Well… no,” he said slowly. More quickly he added, “I can do it with more help. With real help.”
Terk gritted his teeth. “This help you speak of is not available.”
“But these men are useless,” Jako said. His shoulders slumped and he kept glancing away, refusing to meet Terk’s dark eyes.
“Wrong.” Terk slapped the desk hard and stood up quickly. Jako flinched and took a wary step back. “They can help you.”
“How?” Jako shifted from foot to foot.
Terk put his hands behind his back walked stiffly from behind the desk. “Let’s pretend we kill the Alliance men now and leave it all to you. And when the laser can’t be fixed…” Terk stood directly in front of Jako now. He stared hard into the man’s eyes, not giving Jako any choice but to meet his stare. “…who is my father going to blame?”
Jako’s eyes went wide. Terk’s ability felt the man’s apprehension. He felt puffed-up as a result, but he kept the smugness from showing on his face.
“B-but it won’t be my fault. I don’t have enough help,” Jako said.
“Who else is he going to blame?” Terk’s scowl deepened and nostrils flared. “My father might put some of the fault onto Jori, but of the two of you, who is more expendable?”
Terk noticed Jako’s adam’s apple bob up and down. Good, he is afraid, Terk thought. He suppressed a smile and felt some of his tension ease. Now to convince him.
“This is what I propose,” Terk continued. He still frowned and looked Jako in the eyes, but he tried not to sound as hard. “Even if these Alliance men might not know all of what they’re doing, let’s try to squeeze as much usefulness out of them as we can. Who knows, perhaps we’ll get lucky. And if not, much of the blame can be laid at their feet instead of yours.”
Jako let out a breath. “Yes, Sir,” he said.
Terk felt the man’s anxiety fall away again. I can’t have that, now can I, Terk thought. Jako was convinced, but Terk had a reputation to uphold. “One more thing, though,” he said.
Terk leaned in nose-to-nose with Jako and gave the man his most menacing glare. “Jori is your immediate superior in this.” Terk’s voice was quiet. If he spoke any louder, it would come out as a growl. “You report any problems you have to him.” Jako took a step back and Terk took a step forward. “If he thinks it is important enough, he will come to me and I will go to our father.” Another step back and another forward. “If you ever go over my head again, I will open the air-lock and let you out. Do you understand me?”
Jako hit his head on the wall as he tried to take another step back. Terk held his glare.
Terk pulled back made his face go blank in order to keep his self-satisfaction from showing. “Good. I’m glad we’ve cleared this up. Dismissed.”
Jako stood straight and tried to regain his composure. Terk went to sit back behind his father’s desk.
“Sir, one thing, though,” Jako said. He licked his lips again and cleared his throat. He straightened the front of his uniform and met Terk’s eyes.
Damn, I should’ve stayed standing there, Terk thought.
“I’m worried because it seems the young lord is helping the prisoners,” Jako said.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Terk replied. Terk furrowed his brow and gave Jako a warning look. It wasn’t because Jako was being brave, though that did annoy him. And it wasn’t that the damned bastard couldn’t leave things well-enough alone, though that irked him as well. Terk’s heart pounded in his chest and he felt his body go tense. He’s jealous, he thought. The fucking bastard is jealous of Jori and he thinks I’ll support his suspicions because he believes my brother and I are rivals.
“I swear, Sir. He’s always—“
“I’ll take care of it,” Terk said. He leaned forward and glared fiercely. But Jako, as smart as he was, missed the signs.
Terk slapped his hand down on the desk again. Jako jumped.
“I said I’ll take care of it.” Terk stood swiftly and held Jako’s eyes as he stamped his way forward again. A warmth spread over him like fire.
A loud thud resounded in the room when Terk slammed the skinny man up against the wall. Jako’s face went deathly pale and his eyes fully dilated while Terk’s face was red and hot and his eyes cold and dark. “And if you breathe even a whisper of this ridiculous accusation to my father, I won’t kill you.”
“Y-you won’t?” Jako blinked his eyes and tried not to meet Terk’s hateful look.
“No. I will send you to Ankgar.” Terk breathed heavily through his bared teeth and shook with rage. “And I will stand there and watch as he peels away your skin, patch by patch. I’ll smile as he slowly dips you into a pot of boiling water, only to pull you out again so that you can live on. You will be crying out agony but I will be laughing with joy as you live rest of your life in perpetual pain.”
Terk’s nose burned with the smell of Jako’s urine. Jako was even whiter than he had been before. He trembled violently. Terk could tell the man wanted to offer platitudes, but his fear paralyzed him.
Finally, the respect I deserve, Terk thought. There was no room for smugness now, though. Only the raging fire within him. He didn’t care how sensible Master Jetser’s advice had been. If Jako got his brother in trouble, Terk would make damned sure the bastard suffered in the most agonizing way possible.
So tell me, did this chapter do more to make you connect with the characters? Did I do a better job of building the scene and with not making the conversation seem so contrived? Do you think I benefited from The Emotion Thesaurus? Please comment below to tell me what you thought.
(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright October, 2015 by Dawn Ross
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