The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 10 – Revised
(You may have noticed I changed the name of this science fiction story. Edge of the Dragon’s Shadow seemed too long. And it sounded more like a fantasy than science fiction title. So how about Starfire Dragons instead? By the way, this is a completely new chapter that wasn’t in the original version of part one. Remember, the revised version has a lot of similarities, but the story has changed. So don’t be tempted to read the unrevised version.)
“Captain. We have a small ship with a trajectory on a direct intercept,” Lt. Triss Stever announced on the comm.
“On my way.” Robert blinked. His eyes were dry from reading his officers’ reports, and he rubbed them briskly before leaving his ready room.
On the bridge, Stever was already on her way back to her station at the helm. She had been in charge while he worked. She was a great officer, but didn’t have much experienced on the bridge. Lt. Stein, Commander J.D. Hapker, or Lt. Commander Bracht generally supervised when he was away. But Stein was on her scheduled rest time and both Bracht and Hapker had their hands full with security and the Tredon child.
Although the young boy had not caused much trouble, his own crewmen had. Lt. Junior Grade Mik Calloway’s reported behavior was disturbing. Normally, he wouldn’t allow his crew members to be disciplined so harshly. It reminded him of his previous commander, Frida Findlay, who was too much by the book. The disciplinary action that Hapker had taken, though heavy, was justly warranted. If the child had reacted hostilely to the remark, the already sensitive situation could have been made even more so.
His legs felt a little rubbery as he walked and there was a tingling in his upper back thighs, signs that he’d been sitting for too long. So after nodding to each of his crew members, he stood rather than sat.
“Commander,” he said into the comm, “Are you available for the bridge?”
“Yes, Sir,” Hapker replied, his voice made slightly deeper because of the comm. There was a way to make the comms more precise, but he’d found it unsettling to have it sound like the man was right here when he wasn’t.
“Should I open a channel to the ship, Captain?” Lt. Brenson asked.
“Let’s wait for them to contact us.”
He reviewed the information on the viewscreen while he waited for Hapker to arrive. Their current distance provided very little about the ship, other than that it was small and a still few minutes away.
Hapker arrived quickly, probably grateful for an excuse to get away. Based on what he’d read in the man’s report, the child still hadn’t opened up and was uncomfortable to be around.
“Captain,” Hapker said as he stood next to him.
“We have a ship that looks like it wants to meet us,” he said, making a slight nod towards the viewscreen. “No other information yet.”
The Commander stood straight and tall as he looked over the screen. But the slight shift of his feet and the way his eyes darted at the information indicated he was probably excited. Ah, to be young again. His own pulse was slightly elevated, but mostly out of curiosity than excitement. At fifty-two, he’d seen and done quite a bit and it took a lot to get his blood running.
“Sir, it’s a Bantam.”
Not one of ours, then. Bantams were small independently owned cargo vessels. They were a popular choice for those who worked along dangerous borders. And for pirates.
“Shields up.” It was unlikely this was a pirate ship. It wouldn’t be seeking them out if it were. Most likely, it just needed repairs or some such, but better to be safe than sorry.
“No communications yet?” Hapker asked.
The question was unnecessary. If there had been an attempt at communication, Brenson would have said. But Hapker was new and didn’t know the crew all that well yet.
“Not yet, Sir,” Breson replied unperturbed.
More information about the Bantam popped up in a section of the viewscreen. It was registered as the C.T.V. Spike and operated by Captain James Fargoza. There were no current warrants for the man, although he had been cited in the past for minor cargo infractions. And he was also a licensed bounty hunter. Interesting, but not surprising in this part of the territory.
“They’re hailing us now, Sir.”
Robert gave Brenson a slight nod. A man’s face popped up in the middle of the viewscreen. “Captain Robert Arden of the Pronaean Alliance here. How may we assist?”
“Captain James Fargoza of the Bantam Spike,” he said, confirming the registered information. The man was probably about Hapker’s age and dark-haired like himself. But any similarities ended there. The man’s hair was wild, as was his beard. His nose was wide and flat and scar ran across his chin. “We’ve been sent for a wanted group of Tredons and were told you have ‘em.”
“Told by who?” The only way they could know was if the Grapnes had told them or if they had intercepted the secure report he had filed with his superiors. He couldn’t imagine the Grapnes telling them. But then again, it was exceedingly difficult to intercept an Alliance report, let alone decrypt one.
“Word gets around, Sir,” Fargoza replied.
Robert frowned at the man’s vagueness. Dealing with these types was almost always like a game of tug-of-war. “And what do you want with these Tredons?”
“There’s a bounty on ‘em, on the two Tredon boys, to be exact.”
Robert raised an eyebrow. He glanced at Hapker, who also had an eyebrow raised. “A bounty? From who? And for what?”
“Authorities at the Depnaugh Station, for murder.”
His chest tightened. “Send me the report, Captain Fargoza.”
Communication was cut off and the viewscreen went back to the full information display. The document from Captain Fargoza came quickly and Brenson had it put up within moments.
“It appears authentic,” Brenson said. “I’m verifying the code now.”
The notice had the Depnaugh seal located in the top right corner. The words, ‘Wanted for Murder’ were bolded across the top. The Serpent’s id number was given and he knew without looking that it was the same.
His skin went cold. So the Grapnes were telling the truth about this part?
Perhaps. But not entirely. He read the smaller words on the document. The warrant was for the Tredons traveling on board the Serpent, but it didn’t give the names of any of them. The closest it came to identifying any individuals was its mention of two young Tredon boys. Whether they were the ones who actually committed the murder or not was not specified.
“The time stamp is only a half-a-day old,” Hapker said.
He was right. This warrant was issued a full day after the Grapnes’ claim. Perhaps after their failed attempt, they’d contacted the Debnaugh Space Station to have a formal warrant issued. Once done, the information was public and bounty hunters like Captain Fargoza could take action.
“What do you think?” he asked Hapker.
“We can’t, Sir,” the commander said. “We can’t turn them over to these people. This report is too vague.” He spoke quickly and the way his brows folded together made him look worried.
Hapker’s reaction surprised him. Most people on board the Odyssey hated the Tredons. And Hapker himself had admitted the child made him feel uncomfortable. Yet, if he wasn’t mistaken, his commander was defending him.
“I agree on both points,” he replied. “I mean, what do you think about the accusation? Do you think this child murdered someone?”
Hapker signed and rubbed his jaw. “We know he’s capable of killing, Sir. But I don’t know. I mean, other than showing how capable he is … I just don’t know, Sir. I don’t feel like he’d blatantly murder someone. Maybe there was just cause. Or maybe his crew put him up to it.”
He nodded. It made sense.
The commander let out his breath. The look of worry was still on his face.
“Hail Captain Fargoza,” he said to Brenson.
The man’s face popped up on the screen again. “Captain,” Fargoza said, “we’re ready to take ‘em off your hands.”
“Not just yet, Captain,” he replied. “The document doesn’t have enough information. And since they are already in our custody, you will have to file a claim with the Prontaean Alliance.”
“Begging your pardon, Sir,” Fargoza said with a hint of impatience, “but that could take weeks.”
“I’m afraid it’s the law.”
“I understand that, Sir. But you understand we’re just trying to make a living. We’ve come all the way out here. Fuel is expensive and I have to pay my crew.”
“I’m sorry, Captain. The Depnaugh authorities will need to provide evidence before we will acknowledge the warrant. Even then, I’m not inclined to hand over children.”
“They’re Tredon’s, Sir. I’m sure Depnaugh thought that was explanation enough.”
“What do you know of the circumstances?” Hapker asked.
Fargoza didn’t answer right away and his eyes narrowed slightly. “Nothing,” he said. “But they’re Tredons. Surely you know what they’re like.”
He’s hiding something. Why am I not surprised? “Even with Tredons, we’re not turning anyone over without more details on their crimes,” he said, managing to keep his tone light.
Fargoza’s lips curled and his brow furrowed. The expression disappeared quickly, though, as if he were trying to control a temper. His mouth spread into a smile instead. “If I may make one more argument, Captain Arden.”
He nodded, though there probably wasn’t anything the man could say that would convince him.
“We all know how brutal Tredons can be. I’m sure you have better things to do than babysit these two murderous little creatures. Yes?”
Rather than reply, he stared at the man with mock patience. Yes, Tredons were brutal. But he didn’t like how he’d referred to the children.
“Your directive prevents you from doing what should be done to them,” Fargoza continued. “Just let me take care of them for you and no one else has to know the rest.”
His stomach turned. He had no doubt what was in store for the children if he turned them over. A harsh rebuke came to mind, but he pressed lips together to keep from saying it. “Sorry, Captain,” he managed to say politely. “Not without the proper documents.”
Captain Fargoza’s lips contorted into a snarl. “It’s your funeral,” he said, and ended the communication.
The back of his neck prickled. Hapker let out his breath noisily and his shoulder’s relaxed noticeably. Interestingly, the danger Fargoza implied didn’t seem to concern him. He really doesn’t believe he’s a murderer, does he? Should I be concerned? Hapker had little experience with Tredons and it was normal for people to trust—especially in children. He only hoped the trust wasn’t blind.
“Let’s see if we can find out what’s going on,” he said to Hapker. “Bring the young man to my ready room.”
“Sir,” Hapker replied. He hesitated. The look of worry returned. “I don’t think Jori will respond well to pressure.”
“Understood, Commander. It’s about time I met the boy, though.”
Hapker looked like he wanted to say more, but didn’t. The commander often seemed unsure of himself. It was concerning—not something he’d expect from a man who’d stood up to an admiral.
He put the thoughts aside for now. Something was going on with these Tredon boys and he was going to get to the bottom of it.
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 March, 2016 by Dawn Ross
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