The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 11 – Revised
(Here is another completely new chapter that wasn’t in the original version of part one of this science fiction novella. Remember, the revised version has a lot of similarities to the original, but the story has changed. So don’t be tempted to read the unrevised version.)
J.D. tilted his head. How does he know something’s wrong? He was tempted to answer that it was nothing, but honesty, or partial honesty anyway, was probably best. “Something’s come up and the captain wants to meet you.”
Jori’s mouth tightened, but otherwise his face was as emotionless as usual. He went willingly, for that he was grateful.
“Jori,” he said after they got on the tran-car. “I want you to know that I’m on your side. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but I truly want to help you.”
“And the captain? Does he want to help me too?”
He hesitated, but only for a moment. Captain Arden had done all the right things, but he had no way of knowing how the man really felt. Was he simply following rules, or did he really agree that handing Jori over to those space vultures was a bad idea?
“I think so,” he replied.
“You think so?” There was a little heat in the boy’s tone.
He sighed. “I’m fairly certain,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t know the man well yet. But everything he’s done and everything he’s said indicates he wants to help you too.”
“So this is about him wanting to help me? Or does he want something from me?” Jori sounded skeptical.
“It’s like I said, something’s come up. All he wants is a little more information than what you’ve given so far.” That, or he thinks I haven’t done my job so he’s doing it himself. His stomach twisted. “You can’t blame him. Wouldn’t you want to know more if you were in charge of a crew?”
Jori didn’t reply. He showed no emotion either—as usual. I hope I’m not scaring him. He touched Jori’s shoulder for a brief moment. “Just remember, I’m on your side.”
He expected the boy to make some sort of derision, but he remained silent and his face was unreadable.
Captain Arden was waiting for them in his ready room. He was surprised no one else was there. This was good. Too many people and Jori might get defensive. Perhaps the captain had heeded him.
“Welcome, young man,” the captain said. He was smiling when he put out his hand. “I am Captain Robert Arden.”
“Jori,” the boy replied. He looked at the hand with what might have been askance, but took it.
“Please, have a seat.” The captain gestured to one of the chairs.
“I’ll stand,” Jori replied without looking down at the chair.
J.D. clenched his jaw. Is he purposely being rude?
“Very well.” The captain sat down facing him and folded his hands on the table.
J.D. remained standing by Jori’s side.
“I want to personally welcome you aboard our ship,” the captain said.
Jori raised an eyebrow, but thankfully said nothing.
“I promise you’re safe here. And you have my word that we’ll do everything we can to help your brother.” Captain Arden sounded genuine. J.D. hoped he was. He was an Alliance officer and should be on his captain’s side. But shouldn’t Jori have an advocate?
“As though he were part of the Alliance?” Jori responded with a hint of skepticism in his tone.
“Yes,” the captain confirmed.
“Even though he is your enemy?”
“Yes. We treat everyone with equal care here.”
Jori seemed thoughtful, but it was difficult to tell. He still showed no emotion. And his stance was the usual formal at-ease stance.
“I’m sincerely sorry about the rest of your crew,” the captain added. “The crash was severe. You and your brother are very lucky to be alive.”
“Your arrival is part of the reason we are still alive, Captain,” Jori stated matter-of-factly. He didn’t sound grateful, but neither did he sound hostile. “Now can we get to the point? The commander said you wanted more information.”
J.D. resisted the urge to groan. So much for not being hostile. But the captain didn’t flinch. In fact, he had a neutral expression on his face as well. The two could have a contest to see who could be the most difficult to read.
“Very well,” the captain replied. He unclasped his hands and turned the small viewscreen on his desk around so Jori could see it. “We’ve encountered some very disturbing information and would like to hear your side of it.”
If there had been a contest, Jori would have lost. His face turned dark and his brows hooded over his glowering eyes. “It’s a lie,” he said. His nostrils flared. “We haven’t murdered anyone.”
“Can you tell me what did happen?” The captain’s tone was neutral. “Why they would say you murdered someone?”
“I assure you, Captain, that neither myself, my brother, nor any of our crew members committed any crimes on or near that space station.” The boy’s tone was hard and his eyes blazed.
“They must be after you for some reason.” It almost sounded like an accusation, but the captain’s tone was still calm.
“Prejudice, perhaps,” Jori said. He practically spit the words.
“Perhaps you acted in self-defense?” Captain Arden said.
Jori growled. J.D. put his hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright. You can tell us. We’re not turning you over to them no matter what.”
Jori jerked his shoulder away. “Then why do you want to know?”
“This is serious, Jori,” he replied sternly. He understood the hostility. He really did. But the boy’s attitude was getting to him.
Jori pursed his lips and inhaled deeply through his nostrils.
“Jori,” the captain said in politely. “We just need to know for security reasons and for our own peace of minds. Murder is a serious crime and I think we have a right to know if their claims are valid.”
“I told you, we’ve committed no crime. Not on Depnaugh and not with the Alliance.”
“I believe you. I really do,” Captain Arden said.
“And so do I,” J.D. added. He meant it, too. However hostile Jori was being right now, his reaction didn’t fit someone who was guilty. He seemed truly appalled by the accusation.
“But there’s something going on here, and it has me concerned,” the captain continued. “I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s going on.”
“If you knew, you wouldn’t help us.”
J.D.’s stomach did a flip. There was something to this, then. Maybe not murder, but something.
“I promise you, even if you or your brother did commit a crime as heinous—“
“We didn’t commit a crime,” the boy said loudly.
Captain Arden put up his hand. “If you did, if, it wouldn’t change what we’re doing to help your bother. And we aren’t going to harm you.”
“We did not kill anyone,” the boy said through gritted teeth. His tone was low and unnaturally calm. “We did not harm anyone. And we did not commit any crimes.”
The look on Captain Arden’s face didn’t change. He kept his eyes locked on the boy, perhaps in contemplation or maybe he was waiting to see if Jori would say more.
Jori stared back at him. He jutted his chin out with a determined stubbornness. His eyes still burned.
J.D.’s heart hammered in his chest. This boy is not making me look good.
Captain Arden broke the silence by taking a deep breath. “Very well,” he said. “Although I know there’s more to this than you want to admit, I do believe you. I won’t press you for now, but I will be looking into this.”
J.D thought he saw the boy flinch. The look on his face didn’t change, though. “And I suppose you don’t mean to let us go home, then. We are your prisoners.”
The captain’s eyebrows went up. “We have every intention of finding a way to get you home.”
“Every intention, which means there’s a chance you won’t.” The boy narrowed his eyes.
“I can’t give you a one-hundred percent guarantee if I don’t know what’s going on.”
“I see.” Jori pursed his lips. “So I’m stuck here until I tell you.”
The captain frowned slightly, but otherwise looked unperturbed. “That’s not what I meant. If you did murder someone, if,” he added, putting up his hand again, “and depending on the circumstances, you would have to answer for your crimes.”
“Unless they lie and make up evidence, you won’t find me or my brother guilty of any crimes.”
The captain made a slight nod. “So long this is the case, I will see that you get home safely. We don’t hold people against their will.”
The boy’s eyes seemed to weigh the captain’s words. His scowl faded.
“So far, though,” the captain added, “you haven’t told us how we can contact your parents.”
“All you have to do is get us to the Chevert Outpost,” the boy said. His tone was less hostile, but still assertive. I believe you’re headed in that general direction anyway.”
“I can’t leave you two to fend for yourselves,” the captain said. “Not with this warrant out there.”
“There’s a man there named Jax. He will protect us and get us home.”
“I’d prefer to get you directly to your parents.”
“Trust me, Captain. You don’t want to meet my father.”
A chill shivered down his back.
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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