The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part Two – The Emperor
(All of part two of this sci-fi saga has been written during National Novel Writing Month. I’d like to make this part of the story good enough to publish into a book, but I need your help. As you read each of these chapters, please leave me a comment with constructive criticism. If you’d like to read the entire unedited version of this science fiction novella, please email me at naturebydawn at aol dot com.)
The cell was still dreary, but J.T. felt a sense of relief when he was sent back for the day. His body felt heavy and sore from sitting all day. His eyes were dry from staring at computer screens and scanners. And his head spun from all the information he had seen and tried to make sense of.
Doing this day in and day out with little reprieve was having a negative effect on his mood as well. A dark cloud was falling over him. The bright light of hope was beginning to dim. He still had hope, but the uncertainty made it feel less realistic.
Harley, Hanna, and Simmonds must have felt the same. When they were working on the laser, they seemed stiff somehow. Their movements were mechanical and their faces severe.
When they were returned to the cell, they all slumped against the wall. Their shoulders hung low and their eyes were downcast. Simmonds massaged his brow. Hanna mindlessly cleaned her fingernails. And Harley just sat there with a frown on his face.
There was still no word of a plan from Jori or anyone else. Even though J.T. had spoken to him earlier, Jori was keeping his distance. He was even more aloof with the other Alliance crewmembers.
Jori was hard to read, but something about the way he walked stiffly and held an almost frown made J.T. suspect he was feeling the same tension as the others. It wasn’t right. He was just a ten-year-old boy. He should be playing with other kids, not being held responsible for completing a highly technical laser.
J.T. felt a twinge in his stomach. Nor should the boy be expected to go behind the back of one of the most powerful warlords in the galaxy to save J.T.’s life. All his hopes rested on this boy and it wasn’t fair. But it was all he had.
“Hard day?” J.T. asked his cellmates.
“I felt like a little mouse being watched by a pack of dogs,” Simmonds replied. His voice was low, almost feeble. “Why does the emperor have to stand there and watch us too?”
The emperor was around much more often lately. Although the man stood off to the side, J.T. had been feeling the tension in the room. It was like he was a small cargo ship trying to remain unnoticed by the large pirate ship lurking nearby. He couldn’t help but shoot glances at the emperor to see if the man was looking at him. Sometimes he was and his eyes were narrowed as though he were scrutinizing every minute detail. J.T. got a shiver down his back just thinking about it.
“I feel like a piece of meat being drooled over,” Hanna added. “That man Lank is giving me the creeps.”
“Why isn’t Jori doing anything anymore?” Harley asked. His frown was deep and his eyes were brooding.
“I told you about my interview,” J.T. said conversationally. He was referring to the questioning done by Truth Seeker, only at that time he didn’t know she was Jori’s mother. He thought it best to leave that part out now. “I think while Jako was relaying his suspicions about us to the emperor, he was also telling the emperor that Jori was being too lenient on us. Jori says he feels like he’s being watched more closely as well.”
“Did he mention any plans to get us out of this mess?” Simmonds asked.
J.T.’s body felt heavier. “No, I’m afraid not. I have a feeling things aren’t going so well for him. Perhaps Terk is making some plans, but I haven’t had a chance to talk to him.”
Simmonds eyes looked both sad and hopeful. “What about that guard? The one Jori told you we could trust?”
“Jetser,” J.T. said. “I haven’t had a chance to speak with him either.”
“What are we going to do, Commander?” Hanna asked. She had dark circles under her eyes, and her face looked strained. “It’s only a matter of time before Lank tries something. And when he realizes I’m not contagious…” She shivered involuntarily.
“What can we do, Commander?” Simmonds asked. He held his hands out in supplication and his brow furrowed. “We’re constantly being watched.” He glanced nervously at the guards outside the cell and lowered his voice. “It’s bad enough we have so many guards in the room, but the emperor standing there as well really makes it hard for me to do my work.”
“I know,” J.T. said. He tried to sound reassuring but his tone was more resigned. “I’m open to ideas.”
“We create a diversion, then run for the hangar bay and steal some ships,” Harley said.
J.T.’s brow wrinkled dubiously. “Sounds simple, but how do we get passed our guards?”
“Our diversion will make a lot of smoke, then we can sneak by.”
J.T. frowned. Harley was young and rash. He obviously hadn’t though things through very well. “Okay. How do we get to the hangar bay? Does anyone know what part of the ship we’re on or even what level?”
“No, but if the princes really are trying to help us, they’ll tell us.” Harley said the word princes with a sneer.
“And I suppose you expect them to give us weapons too so we can fight the dozens of warriors who will block our path.”
“Why not?” Harley’s tone was sour.
“Even if we could get away with such a thing, the soldiers here are armed. They easily outnumber us and are trained fighters, to boot. Besides, even if we did manage to steal a ship, how far do you think we’ll get in Tredon territory before the Dragon or another Tredon ship catches up to us?”
“We can’t just sit here without even trying, Sir.” Harley was agitated. His tone was almost insubordinate.
J.T. gave Harley a pointed look. “Trying a plan that is most likely going to get is killed isn’t a plan.”
Harley crossed his arms. “I’d rather die than finish that laser,” he said. His bottom lip almost came out as a pout.
“I’d rather die than become Lank’s pet,” Hanna added.
J.T. wrinkled his brow in disbelief. “So you two seriously think this is a good plan?”
“No,” Hanna said. “But we’ve got to do something.” She began biting one of her nails.
“So let’s talk to the princes and remind them they owe us,” Harley suggested. His tone was hard.
“They’re just kids. What do you expect them to do?” J.T. asked.
“Something.” His eyes widened in annoyance when he said the word.
“They’re keeping us alive,” J.T. said.
“Yeah, so we can get this laser working for them. They’re just as bad as their father.”
“If that were true, Hanna would be somewhere else right now.” J.T. glanced at Hanna and Hanna glanced away.
“We can’t finish this laser,” Simmonds said. “I don’t know if the boys are using us or not, but it sure seems like we’re fixing the laser for them.”
J.T. shook his head. “Jori is just helping us stay alive.”
Harley’s mouth twisted in disgust. “You still think your princes will help?” he scoffed.
“Watch your tone, Lieutenant,” J.T. warned.
J.T.’s nostrils flared and he took a breath to hold his temper. “We will get out of this,” he said.
Harley threw his hands up. “How, Commander?” he said. His tone was insolent. “You keep coming up with excuses as to why we shouldn’t try to escape.”
J.T. tensed with irritation. “The plans we’ve thought of so far are too dangerous.”
“To dangerous for whom? For us or for the princes? It’s like you don’t even want to escape.”
J.T. stood up and loomed over Harley. “That is enough, Lieutenant!” J.T.’s face was red and heat flushed through his body. “It is my job to keep you alive and I can’t do it if you’re making half-cocked suicide attempts that will get us all killed.”
Harley glared but didn’t reply. J.T. held his stare and sat down slowly. Harley eventually broke eye contact and looked down. J.T. glanced at the others and they pointedly looked away.
He took a deep breath to calm himself and spoke in a smoother tone. “Believe me. I’ve been running plan after plan through my head. None of them have even a slim chance of succeeding. So if we can’t come up with something to save ourselves, the very least we can do is come up with a way to make sure the laser never works.”
“Sabotage,” Hanna suggested.
J.T. nodded his head. “Agreed. There are a number of things we can do. I think we, at least, have that much knowledge.” Simmonds and Hanna nodded their heads. Harley still stewed. “For now, though, I think it’s still a ways away from being completed. We can bide our time and come up with a viable plan for escape,” the word viable was stressed for Harley’s sake, “or hope that the Alliance comes to rescue us.”
“What about the princes?” Simmonds asked. “Do you think they will still help us?”
J.T. was still feeling hopeful, but was not as optimistic. “I’m sure Jori wants to. Whether he can or not is a different story. To be honest, though, I hardly think it’s fair to expect two children to help us.”
Please comment below to tell me what you thought of this chapter. I’m an amateur writer and am in desperate need of constructive criticism.
(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright November, 2015 by Dawn Ross
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