The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 14 – Revised
(Read the previous revised chapters under the “The Kavakian Empire” link under categories in the right hand column. Be sure to select the “sci-fi part 1 – revised” option. This science fiction story has changed a little and could be confusing or act as a spoiler alert if you try to read ahead.)
Dinner is going to be an interesting event. J.D. dragged his steps as he and Jori headed to the common area where the captain had arranged a special dinner. He was sure it was meant as a gesture of goodwill, but no doubt Jori would see it as an attempt at bribery. Yep. This is going to be interesting.
Jori’s previous formality and distance was nothing compared to now. He wasn’t just being overly formal, he was cold and curt… That is, if he even bothered to answer at all.
What did the boy expect anyway? It wasn’t like they were trying to force the information out of him. Things could be much worse. Still. It had to be hard for him.
He realized his jaw was clenched and tried to relax. For a brief moment, they’d had a real conversation. He couldn’t give up—not yet. “I believe the captain has requested Genevian dishes for dinner. Have you ever had Genevian?”
“It hardly matters, does it?” Jori replied.
His teeth clenched again. Brat. “Probably not,” he said instead with as much kindness as he could muster. “But I’m only asking out of curiosity. There’s no harm in asking, is there?”
“Ask your questions then. But do not think you can trick me by being nice to me, and then asking.”
“No one is trying to trick you, Jori.”
Jori made a grunting noise but said nothing.
He sighed heavily. Patience, J.D. Patience. Keep in mind what he’s going through.
The common area was busy. It was funny how many people happened to decide to visit the common room at the same time the captain scheduled a dinner. But at least with the captain present, everyone would be on their best behavior.
Well, maybe not everyone. The boy’s face was as emotionless as usual, but it could change at any moment.
The captain stood at the front of the table located in the corner. The man was actually smiling, which wasn’t something he’d seen very often. “Welcome, Jori.” Jori acknowledged him with a gesture but did not smile in return. “I’d like to introduce you to a few other members of my crew. You remember Lt. Commander Bracht, Lt. Jenna Stein, and Dr. Beck Jerom?”
“Yes,” Jori replied.
“This is Lt. Chandly, one of our operations officers.” The captain gestured to the young-looking man. “Lt. Sara Fisher from engineering, Lt. Rik Gresher from security, and Lt. Triss Stever, one of our helmsmen.”
Jori greeted each one with a nod, but didn’t offer any pleasantries. That in itself wasn’t necessarily rude, thank goodness. Some cultures had no such customs.
The captain motioned his hand to one of the chairs at the table. “Please, have a seat.”
Jori pulled the chair out, but didn’t move to sit. J.D. frowned. Great. Here we go.
The captain sat one chair down from Jori. J.D. took the chair between him and the boy. Bracht sat on the captain’s other side and the wide grinning Gresher took the chair on Jori’s other side.
J.D.’s shoulders relaxed a little when Jori finally sat down. Was he waiting for the captain to sit? That’s oddly polite.
“So Jori,” the captain said. “Have you ever had Genevian food?”
More tension fell away. Thank goodness his reply wasn’t as caustic as the one he’d given him earlier.
“I hope you like it.” The captain smiled again. “If not, we can order something else for you.”
J.D. glanced at the strangeness of the boy next to him. Is this the calm before the storm?
“So, how do you like our ship so far, Jori?” Lt. Gresher asked.
“It is surprisingly well maintained.”
“You should see our cells,” Bracht grumbled almost inaudibly.
“Bracht,” the captain said harshly.
“What’s the matter, koshinuke?” Jori retorted, using the Tredon word for coward. “Are you afraid a child will be able to overwhelm your crew?”
J.D. cringed inwardly. The storm has arrived.
Bracht growled in reply.
“Bracht!” the captain yelled. “You will apologize at once.”
The Rabnoshk warrior turned so dark red, he was sure the man was going to explode.
“There’s no need, Captain,” Jori replied. “A forced apology is no apology at all.”
Thank goodness. It looked like hail for moment there. He tapped his foot nervously. But the clouds are still dark.
The captain glared at Bracht but did not push for the apology. The room fell into an uncomfortable silence.
The captain broke the silence by clearing his throat. “Well, Jori, I will be contacting Jax soon to make arrangements to get you home. If you’d like to speak to him as well, I’d be happy to make arrangements.”
Jori made a motion with his head but didn’t say anything.
“We can see about contacting your family as well,” the captain added.
“That will not be necessary. Jax will do it.”
“Are you sure? Surely you want them to know you’re all right.”
“I’m sure,” Jori said a little more firmly.
The conversation lagged for a bit, but the captain tried to get it started again. At first he asked casual questions, which Jori answered in his usual brevity. J.D.’s body tensed tighter and tighter as each probing question solicited terser replies.
Jori banged his fork onto the table. “I assure you, Captain, that if you try to torture the information out of me, you will still find out nothing.”
The storm brewed and threatened to turn into a hurricane. His jaw hurt from being clenched so tightly.
The captain sat back abruptly. “Torture? We’re not going to torture you. We’re simply trying to get to know you. That’s perfectly reasonable isn’t it?”
“I suppose you have a right to interrogate your prisoners.” Jori replied contemptuously. “Shall I sit in a dark room while your Rabnoshk warrior goads me?”
“Jori, that’s enough.” J.D. slammed his hand down on the table hard enough to make the silverware bounce with a metallic ting. “You seem far too mature to be acting like such a child.”
Jori gave him a dark look and he returned it in kind. The silence crackled.
The boy eventually looked away, but the rest of the evening was spent in sullen silence.
After dinner, he and Jori returned to his quarters for sleep. The boy’s continued silence unnerved him. His own storm was threatening now. He had to say something before it spun out of control.
“You were very rude at dinner, Jori,” he said harshly. “You know, we are trying hard to be polite and make you feel comfortable. And we are doing everything we can to help you and your brother. I don’t expect you to spill your secrets, but I it’s not unreasonable to expect you to be courteous… and perhaps show a little gratitude.”
“We are not friends.”
“We don’t have to be friends to get along.” His voice was loud, but not quite yelling.
“Is that your rule? I must be courteous and show gratitude or my brother dies?”
“How many times do I have to say that we’re not going to hold your brother’s life over your head? All I’d like to see is a little civility. Is that so much to ask?”
“It’s not the only thing you’ve asked for.”
“What do you expect? Of course we’d like to know things. But no one is going to torture the information out of you and no one is trying to trick you.”
“I’m not stupid, Commander. I know you don’t want me here. Half your crew would rather see us dead than help us.”
“That’s not true.”
“It is true.” His tone was hard. “I can feel it. Your Rabnoshk warrior did nothing but give me murderous looks and your captain can’t wait to be rid of me.”
“Maybe if you’d quit acting like a childish brat.”
Jori scowled darkly but didn’t say anything more. He hadn’t meant to say it, but his frustration had finally gotten the best of him. His jaw throbbed painfully and his head felt ready to explode.
Jori finally looked away. J.D. took a deep breath. A cramping pain went up both his arms and he realized his hands were in fists. A sudden wave of coldness swept over him. What have I done? The boy had probably thought he was going to hit him.
His anger fell away. He ran his hand down over his face. “I’m sorry, Jori. I’m upset at you but I’m not going to hurt you.”
Jori’s face twisted and his eyes darkened again. “I’m not afraid of you.”
He sighed heavily. “Nor should you be.”
The boy’s glare disappeared. And even though Jori’s face went back to the emotionless mask, he thought he saw a look of contemplation there. I hope he’s not thinking about killing me in my sleep.
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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