The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 15 – Revised
(Begin reading “The Kavakian Empire” science fiction story by following the link under categories in the right hand column. Be sure to read Part 1 – Revised, which began January 26, 2016. The unrevised version isn’t as good and has changed.)
Jori turned to the other side, pulling his covers with him. It was almost time to get up and he hadn’t even slept yet. The face of Lord Mottrick Panske kept popping into his head.
Motty was his informal name and he and Terk called him Motty the Haughty. To say that Motty was a spoiled rotten brat was a vast understatement. He had never seen anyone throw a fit until the day Motty’s father told him he couldn’t visit the airfield that day. The boy actually wailed while stomping his feet. If he or Terk had ever considered doing something like that, their father would have knocked them senseless. But Motty’s father actually gave in.
He punched his pillow, trying to puff it up, then turned over to his other side. To think this stupid commander had compared him to that snotty stuck-up shit-head.
He was nothing like that boy. He replayed the dinner scene in his head. If he had been like Motty, he would have spit the food out and demanded some rare delicacy or another. He would have made fun of the captain’s beard or Bracht’s stupid curved mustache.
No, he wasn’t anything like Motty. He had a right to be upset. And he couldn’t let them figure out his secret. What he knew of the scientists wasn’t such a big thing, but if they’d discovered why he needed the information, it would change everything.
Terk was still in critical condition. Nothing had changed in these past few of days—not a single thing. Every day he visited him, it was like sitting next to an empty shell-casing.
He could tell the doctors were doing what they could. And he sensed that the captain and commander had meant what they said about helping him. But he was no fool. If they found out the truth, Terk would die for sure.
So his behavior was warranted. He had to keep them from asking questions. That he had been rude to them was their own fault.
He rolled onto his back and looked at the ceiling. It was, wasn’t it?
His cheeks felt suddenly hot. He growled and turned over onto his stomach, pulling the pillow over his head.
Stupid baka. Fool. The commander was wrong. And what the hell was up with that apology? He wasn’t afraid. What a ridiculous notion. One couldn’t have a father like his and be afraid of a man like J.D. He was too damned nice. He’s a stupid baka. I could kill him.
His stomach rolled in nausea. Maybe he was being a brat. So what? How else was he going to keep them from asking so many damned questions?
What would Master Jetser do? He certainly wouldn’t act like Motty. He’d jut out his square jaw and refuse to say anything. But would he be polite? Maybe he might, to put them off their guard—maybe.
He plopped his head back onto the pillow. Fine then. He’d stop being a brat. If they asked him questions again he’d either give them as little information as possible or not answer at all. Perhaps he’d even try to be a bit more polite about it. Not too much though. Not enough to let give J.D. the idea that he’d been right.
Sleep never really came. His head ached from lack of sleep, but he was too alert to lay there any longer. He threw the covers off just as the commander came out of his room.
“Morning,” J.D. said to the two men guarding inside the room with a smile. “Good morning, Jori,” he said a little more formally.
Despite the cooler tone, he didn’t sense any anger or frustration from the man. Odd. He didn’t sense much of any emotion at all.
His stomach squirmed. He wanted so badly to be angry at J.D. for talking down to him and calling him a childish brat. He wanted to, but his temper had cooled. And maybe the commander wasn’t so bad.
“Sleep well?” J.D.’s tone was polite, but Jori could feel he was forcing it.
“Well enough,” he said. If the commander didn’t really care whether or not he slept well, then why should he tell him the truth? What was the truth anyway? That I felt bad for my behavior last night? Hell no.
Honestly, he could really care less whether the man was angry with him or not. It didn’t matter either way, so long as they didn’t find out the truth.
Jori ate his bland breakfast in uneasy silence. J.D. didn’t try to start a conversation, nor did he try to convince him to eat something with more flavor, like he had done the day before and the day before that.
The man’s mood didn’t alter a single bit from the cool neutrality, but the churning of Jori’s stomach increased so much that he couldn’t finish his meal.
J.D. glanced at the half-eaten food. Not a hint of concern emanated from him. “You should get dressed now. The captain wishes to speak to you.”
Jori swallowed the lump in his throat and got dressed mechanically. Maybe I should say something. But what dammit? There was nothing to say. And no reason to say anything. It wasn’t like they had to be friends or anything.
His cheeks grew hot. He clenched his teeth as the burning sensation moved through his sinuses and to his eyes. Don’t cry you stupid baka.
He sucked in a breath, then another. The sensation abated and he blinked away the water that had built up in his eyes.
He tried to think of something to say, something to break this chilling sensation, as they headed towards the captain’s ready room. But nothing came to mind. He swallowed the lump in his throat again and jutted his chin out as they walked. To hell with him.
He’d been so focused on what J.D. was—or wasn’t—feeling that he didn’t notice the captain’s emotions until the ready room door opened. Captain Arden greeted him with a pleasant smile, but his emotions were hard and humorless.
“Welcome, Jori.” The captain’s smile faded quickly. He sat with his elbows on his desk and his hands folded together, not bothering to try to get Jori to have a seat as he had done before. “After last night’s dinner, I feel the need to speak with you more formally and come to an understanding.”
Jori suppressed the urge to swallow. Chikusho. Shit. His heart skipped a beat. Something bad. Something bad is about to happen. Terk? Is Terk okay? No, he could still feel him. It was something else. Maybe they know.
A million scenarios ran through his mind but he managed to keep his rising panic from showing on his face. Think, dammit. Think.
There was a man he had never seen before standing behind the captain’s chair. He had an eerie smile on his leathery face.
There was no emotion in the man. None. He frowned. This was worse than the emotionlessness from J.D. He should at least be able to sense the man’s life force. But there was nothing. It was like he wasn’t even there.
“This is Lt. Junior Grade Liam Garner.” Captain Arden said. “He’s here to help me today.”
There was something off about the man. He immediately put up a mental shield, as his mother had taught him to do. All his internal turmoil was put aside. He nodded to the man with a polite grimness and steeled himself for whatever was about to come.
“Now Jori,” the captain went on, “I’ve made it clear that you are a guest here and we will not mistreat you. I will keep this promise. But you must understand, I still have a job to do. I not only have a crew to protect, but I have a responsibility to my superiors and to the Alliance as a whole. This means Commander Hapker and I will question you from time to time.”
“I understand, Sir,” Jori replied. A feeling of guilt crept up and he mentally forced it back down before it could escape. Liam’s eyes bored into him and his concentration almost faltered.
“To be fair,” the captain continued, “from now on we will only ask you questions in a more formal setting such as this. This way, you do not need to worry about anyone manipulating you.”
Jori nodded in reply, glancing again at Liam. The man was still smiling. There was nothing behind that smile. He shivered inwardly but held his concentration.
“Good,” Captain Arden said. “Then I need to ask you more about your mission. We’ve been able to verify everything you’ve told us so far. But we also know there is more to it. We have reports that you and your brother were seen speaking to Shekaka. He’s a very disreputable man, you know. He’s a known spy who deals with the trading of sensitive information. I must ask you what information has he passed on to you two, what it has to do with scientists, and what the bounty is for.”
He barely heard what the captain had said. A slight tingling sensation buzzed in his head. What the hell?
His concentration almost slipped away again. No, not slipping. He met Liam’s deep set eyes. He’s trying to pull it away. His pulse raced. “What is he doing?” he asked in alarm.
“What is who doing?” J.D. asked.
“Him!” He pointed at Liam. “Get out of my head!” he told the man.
“He’s a reader, Jori,” the captain replied calmly. “He’s not going to hurt you.”
“Tell him to stop!” His heart raced fearfully. Men like this were dangerous. They delved into a man’s innermost thoughts and there were many things, personal things, private feelings he didn’t want exposed. “This man is trespassing and I do not like it. I want him out!”
“Liam, stop,” the captain said calmly as he gestured to the man behind him.
As the buzzing in Jori’s head abated, Jori’s panic swirled into anger. His face flushed and his nostrils flared as he breathed heavily trying to calm his racing heart.
When he was certain that Liam was out of his head, he turned a dark scowl towards the captain. A slew of curses came to mind, but he wasn’t about to make the same childish mistake as last night. He held his anger in check and kept his tone neutral. “It wouldn’t have worked, Captain,” he said through gritted teeth. “I know how to defend myself against a reader.”
Captain Arden’s mouth was turned down. “You understand I had to try.”
The man actually looked sorry, but his own emotions were in turmoil. A deep settling angst boiled into fury, then spiraled back into fear. His heart raced at how close they could have come to finding out the truth. He was good at blocking readers, but still, a breach wasn’t impossible.
His body began to shake as the adrenaline wore off. His racing heart slowed. “You act like my friend. You pretend to care with your promises of helping my brother. You treat me as a guest. But this… this!” His voice trembled slightly. “There can be no trust between us, can there?”
The captain steepled his fingers under his chin. “I want to trust you, Jori.” His voice was annoyingly calm. “But how can I do that if you won’t tell me anything?”
“I’ve already told you I’m no murderer. There is nothing else you need to know.” He stomped his foot and turned abruptly. He didn’t care if it was childish. He’d had enough.
Neither J.D. nor the captain attempted to stop him as he stormed out.
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(This sci-fi saga is protected by copyright) Copyright March, 2016 by Dawn Ross
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