The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Edge of the Dragon’s Shadow (provisional title)
Chapter 4 – Revised
(Note from author: Part one of my science fiction story is being rewritten. A few important aspects of the story are going to change from the original version, so don’t go back and read the other version in order to find out what’s going to happen. Just come by every Saturday for a new snippet of my novella.)
The gentle heat of the healing bed eased the tension in Jori’s body. His pains ebbed away slowly as his body mended. It was a relief, being healed. But at the same time, an invisible weight seemed to press down on him. Each time he reached out his senses to his brother, he felt a coldness wash over him. Terk’s life force was weak—so weak, he feared it would disappear altogether.
He no longer sensed the mad rush of the doctors. They had pulled away some time back. Their emotions had felt reluctant, like they wanted to do more but for whatever reason, couldn’t.
At first, he thought they meant to let him die. In a way, it was what they were doing. But he understood. When the doctors back home knew there was nothing more to be done for a soldier, they called it a state of critical condition. They said sometimes a man could pull out of it and sometimes he couldn’t. It’s all up to you now, Terk. Come on, you can fight this.
Damn those Grapnes. This was their fault. They were the reason his brother lay at the edge of death. And those damned bastards were the reason for the deaths of the other men on his ship.
He felt an ache in his chest. He knew his men were all dead without anyone telling him. The memory of Bok’s impaled body and Veda’s crushed skull flashed into his mind. It wasn’t just what he’d seen, though. He’d felt the voids of their missing life force. They died protecting him, protecting Terk mostly. But still. They were all gone.
The ache in his chest rose. His eyes began to water. Without them, and without his brother, he was left to face the enemy alone. His heart began to flutter, but he pushed his panic down. I’m a warrior, dammit. I won’t be afraid. He’d fight these Alliance weaklings if he had to. Even if they did outnumber him. Even if they were much stronger than him.
A shallow beep indicated the healing bed was done. He reached to open the lid, but someone else beat him to it. Medic Shera smiled down. He barely glanced at her and flicked his gaze at the Alliance officer standing behind her instead. It was the same man as on the planet, a commander by the insignia on his brownish-grey uniform.
The man stood stiff but alert, in a readiness similar to that of a soldier’s but perhaps a little more at ease. He was tall and fairly well-built as compared to the other Alliance men he’d seen, but not as muscular as a Tredon warrior.
And the man had a smirk on his face. Jori clenched his jaw and scowled. The man thinks he’s triumphed over me? He has no idea what I’m capable of.
He sat up quickly. The insult on his tongue died away as the room spun. He gripped the edge of the bed waiting for the the whirling in his head to subside.
“You alright?” the man said.
His vision came back into focus. The man was standing right beside him now. Jori clenched his jaw. The man was close, close enough for him to strike right in the nose. He was strong enough to draw blood. But no. That was Terk’s way, not his.
The insult came back into his head, but so did a sense of the man’s emotions. The commander didn’t feel cocky. He felt concerned. Jori focused on the sensation. Not a hint of arrogance. So it wasn’t a smirk after all. He could see it now. One side of the commander’s mouth was naturally turned up more than the other.
“How are you feeling?” the medic asked.
He turned back to her. “Well.”
“Good,” she said. He could sense her unease as she did a brief medical inspection. He ignored her again. She wasn’t his concern. This place was. They were helping to heal him, but they could have something else planned. He needed a way out for just in case.
He glanced subtly around the room and mapped out all of his surroundings, the way Master Jetser had taught him. Two armed security officers stood just outside the divider that sectioned off the area he was in. He could sense two more on either side of the opening. And a quick glance further revealed two more guarding the main exit. Then there was the commander himself. At least five medical personnel were also nearby. In Tredon, doctors were also warriors. He doubted it was so here, especially since half of them were women, but it was best not to make assumptions. Besides, they were probably all stronger than him. Maybe not as fast, though. Maybe.
There was nothing nearby he could use as a weapon. Not even any medical tools. The security must have had them cleared away. Smart. It’s what he would have done. Well, except his prisoners would be in a cell. Or if they were injured he might let them be healed. But they’d be strapped down. These Alliance people were a little more trusting, but perhaps not so foolish.
The medic handed him some clothes. He unfolded the black jumpsuit. It was black in color and long sleeve like his uniform. But there the similarity ended. The material was not the same, nor was it the same style. It didn’t even have built-in armor to protect him. He frowned but said nothing. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice. At least it was black.
“I bet you’re hungry,” the medic said. “Would you like something to eat?”
“Yes,” he replied. The healing bed always left his stomach feeling hollow.
“Anything in particular?” she asked. “I believe our processor has some Tredon recipes.”
Instead of food, He gave her a list of nutritional requirements. For some people, food was a vice. He might not be physically strong yet, but he was mentally strong enough not to be weakened by temptation. “I do not care what form it comes in or how it tastes.”
Both the medic and the commander raise an eyebrow, but neither commented. Of course the Alliance was wrought with temptations. Why else would they keep so many women about.
“Very well,” the medic replied.
The medic left. He came down off the healing bed and faced the commander. He chastised himself for automatically going into a militaristic at-ease stance. This was the same way he faced his instructors and his father as a sign of respect. This man didn’t deserve his respect so he unclasped his hands defiantly.
“Hello,” the commander said. When he smiled, the crookedness of his mouth was even more pronounced. “I’m J.D.” He held out his hand in greeting.
Jori glanced at his hand with a frown. A trick? No. The commander felt genuine. Odd. I’m his enemy. Why should I shake his hand like we’re friends? Because of Terk, that’s why.
He tentatively put out his own hand and performed the customary hand shake of the Alliance. “Jori,” he said, giving his own informal name in return. He had decided it was safe to give his real name. He wasn’t well-known. Terk, on the other hand—they couldn’t find out who he was. Or what he’d been up to. Whatever niceness these people were presenting wouldn’t last if they knew.
J.D. noted the boy’s wariness. It wasn’t a nervous wariness, but an alert guardedness of a soldier. “It’s alright,” he said. “We’re going to help you.”
“And what of my brother? Are you helping him as well?” the boy, Jori, replied accusingly.
“He’s stable at the moment, but he’s in really bad shape.” He wasn’t surprised to hear the other boy was his brother. Even though the faces of both boys had been battered from the crash, there was a strong resemblance between them. “He’s in a status we call critical cond—.”
“I’m familiar with the term,” Jori said.
“So you understand it’s not as simple as putting him in a healing bed.”
The boy scowled. “I just said I understood.”
J.D. cleared his throat. “Good,” he said, ignoring the boy’s attitude. “I promise we’ll do whatever we can to help him pull through, though.”
The boy’s frown disappeared. Without thinking, J.D. put his hand on his shoulder to assure him. The boy glanced at the hand with an unreadable expression and he pulled it away awkwardly.
The hardness of the boy’s demeanor returned quickly. “And what of me?” Jori asked. “I’m assuming I am to be held as your prisoner.”
“Actually, you will be staying with me.”
The boy’s brow furrowed, hooding his dark narrow eyes. “Are you to be my interrogator?”
The way he said the word interrogator made him think he really meant torturer. “No! Goodness no. We will certainly ask you questions, but we do not torture people.” My God. What sort of world does this boy live in?
“You say you will do everything you can for my brother. Is this contingent upon my cooperation?”
J.D. raised his eyebrows. Big words for a boy. “No, of course not,” he replied as assuredly as he could. “We’d be grateful for your cooperation, though. And it would certainly help if we knew what was going on, what happened between you and the Grapnes. But we’re not going to hold you or your brother’s life over your head in order to get that information.”
“You swear it?”
“Yes, I swear it,” he replied. J.D. might not know Captain Arden that well, but he doubted the man wouldn’t let the youth die out of spite.
Jori stared at him as if studying him. “Good,” he said. His expression was stone-faced.
J.D. sighed inwardly. No boy should be this hard. I’ve certainly got some rough travels ahead of me with this one.
I’d love to hear some constructive criticism. Please leave a comment below. Praise would be most welcome as well.
(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright February, 2016 by Dawn Ross
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