The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 19 – Revised
(Part One of this science fiction story is coming along. If you’ve missed the previous revised chapters, scroll down to find Categories in the right hand column. Then click under “The Kavakian Empire” link where it says “Sci-Fi Part 1 – Revised”.)
“Well, that was an interesting conversation,” Robert said after the prince had left.
Lt. Stein and Commander Hapker nodded. Bracht said nothing. The warrior kept glancing at the door as though he wanted to follow the boy out so he could keep an eye on him personally. Robert couldn’t blame him. Bracht had been head of security for some time. But the position wasn’t so easy for him at first. The man had a difficult time with delegating tasks because he wanted to do everything himself. Perhaps this time he should be.
“So you not contacted Tredons yet?” Lt. Stein asked.
Robert shook his head. “I wanted to get this murder charge sorted out first.”
Hapker folded his hands in front of him. “Now that we’re fairly certain he’s innocent—“
“He’s not innocent!” Bracht barked.
Robert looked pointedly at the Rabnoshk warrior. “In regards to this matter, I believe he is.” He turned to the commander. “So I will be contacting the Tredons soon.”
“I agree contacting the emperor himself be a bad idea,” Stein said.
Robert nodded. The boy was right. It was highly unlikely the emperor would believe he had not harmed his children. And there was a chance he’d use their presence here as an excuse to escalate conflict. “I will contact this Jax at the Chevert outpost as the child suggested.”
Lt. Stein cocked her head. “Has the admiral been notified?”
An uneasy feeling swirled in his stomach. Despite having nearly complete autonomy out here along the border, he still had to report to a superior. This was no longer a mere border issue. “Not as of yet. Not to worry, he will be notified soon.” But not too soon.
“Your talk with Jori went well?” Robert asked Hapker just as Stein opened her mouth to speak.
“Not great, but better than expected.”
“Has your opinion of him changed?”
“No. But I do think I’m making a good impression on him. He’s put up a lot of walls, but I think I’m finally getting through. I think he’s beginning to trust us.”
“Don’t be fooled, Commander,” Bracht said. Then he turned to Robert. “Sir, I must alert security about this increased risk.”
Hapker stiffened noticeably. “Sir, it’s bad enough most of the crew has heard these boys are Tredons. If they get word they are also the Kavakian Princes, it could generate more trouble.”
Robert dipped his head in agreement. “I meant it when I told the child his identity should be between us. I understand the crew has strong feelings about having Tredons on board. I don’t want those feelings to be intensified to the point where they do something irrational.”
Bracht squared up his shoulders. “My lieutenants can be trusted, Sir. They must know who they are dealing with.”
Robert brought his folded hands up to his chin and rest his index fingers on his lips. Telling more people increased the risk of the information getting out. Goodness knows many of my crew members have serious grudges against the Tredons. And who better to take it out on than this young Dragon Prince himself. But he had a good crew. Bracht was right. They were trustworthy. And it was important to their safety that they understand the increased risks—as well as the increased sensitivity—of the situation. “You may share the information with the full lieutenant officers only. Make it clear they are to keep this secret.”
“Yes, Sir,” Lt. Commander Bracht replied.
“I know feelings against the Tredons run deep, but I will not have you or anyone else instigating conflict. As security, your job is primarily to protect our crew, but it’s also to protect the child from anyone who wishes to take their grudges out on him. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Sir,” Bracht said in a more subdued tone.
“That is all.” The captain inclined his head to the three of them.
Bracht and Jenna stood to leave.
“Sir, a private moment?” J.D. said to the captain.
The captain tilted his head again. Bracht and Jenna left.
“Yes, Commander?” Captain Arden said.
J.D. thought carefully about what he wanted to say. It had become apparent that the captain and the Rabnoshk warrior were close and he didn’t want to offend. “I’m wondering about Bracht, Sir. It’s obvious he doesn’t like the boy and I’m worried his prejudice may be rubbing off on the others.”
“I’ve known Bracht a long time,” the captain replied casually. “He may be outspoken in this room, but I assure you he is not one to instigate trouble.”
“It seemed he was trying to instigate trouble here,” he replied, careful to keep his tone from sounding accusatory.
“I understand your concern, Commander.” The captain sounded genuine. “I’ve spent a lot of time around warriors like Bracht and of other races. The manners you just saw them display is a form of posturing and I believe these two needed to do it in order to establish one another’s boundaries. You’d be surprised at how well two men who hate each other can get along once their posturing is done.”
“Hmm,” he conceded.
“Granted, Bracht can come awfully close to crossing the line sometimes,” the captain said. “But I believe he is a good deterrent for anything the prince might be considering. I’ve given this child our trust, but Bracht has helped established that our trust will not be taken advantage of.”
J.D. sat back in his chair. “I never thought if it that way.” He quickly replayed the scene in his head and saw Bracht differently this time around. The Rabnoshk warrior was harsh, but only at first. And same with the boy. Towards the end of their encounter, both appeared mollified.
“There’s something I’d like to ask you about, Commander,” the captain said.
“What is it, Sir?”
“What do you think of Rear Admiral Zimmer?”
He tensed at the name but hoped the captain hadn’t noticed. “Uh… well.” The room seemed to suddenly shrink.
“It’s all right, Commander,” the captain replied. “I realize the Kimpke incident left you with some unpleasant feelings, but putting that event aside, what is your honest opinion of the man? This is strictly between you and I and I swear I will not use the information against you in any way.”
The captain’s earnest manner put him at ease. “I think he’s an arrogant ass,” he replied bluntly. Captain Arden raised an eyebrow. I probably should have been more tactful. It was difficult, though. Every time he heard the name Zimmer, he felt a spark of anger. “I felt this way about him from the moment I met him, so my feelings are not entirely based on the fact that he nearly ended my career.”
“Your own actions nearly ended your career, Commander,” the captain replied.
He made an effort to hide the spike of anxiety. Not once since the captain appointed him as his commander a few months ago had the man brought up the Kimpke incident. “I realize this, Sir, and I’m not trying to shift blame,” he replied more calmly than he felt. “I meant to say his method of command compelled me to the actions that nearly led to my dismissal from the Alliance fleet.”
“And what do you mean by his method of command?”
The captain’s curious and non-accusatory tone inspired him to be forthcoming. “He refuses to listen to the advice of his officers, even when presented with compelling evidence. And while many believe he makes decisions based on his intelligence and years of experience, I believe his decisions are severely limited by his ego and by his many prejudices. He never admits when he’s wrong and when things don’t turn out the way he expects them, he somehow manages to make others look and feel responsible.” His heart raced, but it felt good to finally be able to speak out about Zimmer. It occurred to him he may have gone too far with his new captain, but Captain Arden did not look angry or disappointed. If anything, he looked thoughtful.
“And you came to this opinion before you got into trouble?”
“Yes, Sir. I could site you several examples if you’d like.”
The captain swept his hand. “No, that’s quite all right. I am familiar with the admiral’s method of command. Do you know why I requested you as my commanding officer—despite your actions with Kimpke?”
“I’ve always wondered, Sir.” He leaned forward expectantly.
“As subordinates, we are expected to do as we are told even if we disagree. Your actions with Kimpke imply that you will disobey the chain of command whenever you don’t want to do something.”
He opened his mouth to protest but the captain held up a hand.
“I don’t, however, believe this one incident sets a precedent. You no doubt felt strongly about what was happening and you were faced with a moral dilemma.”
“Yes, Sir.” Maybe someone finally understands.
“Although I believe it is important we strictly follow our chain of command,” the captain said, “I don’t believe we should always do so blindly. I actually find what you did to be noble. You were backed in a corner and faced with either doing something against your conscience or disobeying and risking a court martial.”
“I don’t make a habit of disobeying orders, Captain,” he said. “But I honestly don’t think I could have lived with myself if I had done what the admiral ordered.”
“That’s what I hoped for when I took you on, Commander. Out here, we are often faced with moral dilemmas. There will be times when we will have to do things we don’t agree with. But at the same time, it is our responsibility to speak up when we are ordered to do something we feel will cause great harm. I am currently faced with such a dilemma.”
“I’m not sure I understand, Sir.” A brief moment of panic struck him. Is this another Kimpke-like situation?
“Knowing the admiral,” the captain said carefully, “what do you think he would do if he found out we have the Kavakian Princes on board our ship?”
He hadn’t given it much thought, but suddenly understood what the captain was getting at. Sure enough. It’s Kimpke all over again. “He’d order us to bring in the princes for questioning.”
“Exactly what I was thinking,” the captain replied. “And what do you think would happen if we did such a thing?”
“I think if Emperor Kavak found out, he’d have a valid argument for getting a number of other dignitaries to side with him against us. We’d have war.”
“And how do you feel about a war with the Tredons, Commander?”
“Despite how disagreeable I think the Tredons are, I think going to war with them would be a terrible mistake.”
“Are you telling me this because you think it’s what I want to hear, or because it is how you truly feel? You are a strategist, after all, and strategy is a war tactic.”
“True. But I didn’t choose to be a strategist so I could fight in a war.”
“Tell me more.” The captain’s face showed nothing, though eyes made him seem genuinely interested.
“I assume you know I was a Peacekeeper on Pholis for a short time.”
“Yes. You received a medal during that time, if I remember correctly.”
J.D. smiled shyly. “Well, my father was one too. As was my grandfather and great-grandfather.”
The captain’s eyebrows went up. “A family of Peacekeepers. That’s quite a legacy. How do they feel about you being a strategist for the Alliance?”
He let out a soft sigh. Peacekeepers were very different from the militaries of other cultures. They were entirely true to their name. At first, his father had been disappointed with his decision to join the Alliance. But Pholis was a part of the Alliance and the man finally conceded J.D.’s great leadership qualities and his Pholan ways could be a good influence. “He’s proud of me.” His cheeks burned. “He hopes I never have to fight in a war, but he understands it’s sometimes necessary in order to protect the innocent.”
“But you don’t think war necessary now?”
“No. Not at all, Sir. My father taught me strategy isn’t just about fighting. It’s about protecting people while losing as few casualties as possible. If we go to war with the Tredons, many will die. And not just the fighters, but innocent people too. The Tredons will probably use our value of human lives against us. They will strike at military bases as well as homesteads. So the best strategy in this case is to avoid going to war with them.”
Captain Arden nodded. “I’m glad we’re on the same page in all this. So what will you do if the admiral orders us to bring the children to him?”
The notion struck him with dread. “Do we have to tell him?”
“We do. Although I’m given a lot of leeway to make my own decisions without involving our superiors, I believe I am obligated to tell them about the princes. I must report this to the rear admiral.”
He swallowed a lump in his throat. “What about your promise to Jori?”
The captain sighed and his brows drew down. “I’m hoping for the best, Commander. I’m hoping the man will be smart about this. I can’t tell you at this point what I will do if I’m given the order to break my promise to the child. But I can tell you I will be in much the same situation as you were with Kimpke.”
The lump in his throat grew harder. His face flushed with heat and his skin prickled as air from the vent whispered over the sweat on his neck. “I’m with you, whatever happens.”
“Even if the order is given and I decide to obey?”
He resisted the urge to wipe the sweat from his brow. “To be honest, Sir. I’d disobey the admiral if he gave me the order directly. But you’re not like him. Not at all. I’m with you.”
The captain stared into his eyes as though weighing the truth of his words. “We haven’t known one another for long, so I greatly appreciate your loyalty.”
“My father says the best kind of loyalty is the one that’s earned.”
“Your father is a wise man. I hope to meet him some day.”
He smiled at the thought. The two would get along, for certain. But his father’s gregarious nature would probably overwhelm the stolid captain.
“Can I ask when you’re going to tell the rear admiral?” he said.
Captain Arden frowned. “My current plan is to notify him somewhere in the midst of the written monthly report rather than by contacting him directly.”
“You can do that?”
“It’s a fine line. But I may be able to make an argument in my favor.”
He smiled inwardly as relief washed over him. I like this man more and more. “If we get to the Chevert Outpost as soon as we can, there might be a chance the admiral won’t see the information in the report until it’s too late.”
“This is my hope as well. But we’re still several days out.”
“Perhaps contact this man Jax right away. This way you can tell the admiral you’ve already notified the Tredons that you’re returning the princes, and any deviation from this plan might spark a war.”
The captain stroked his beard. His eyes appeared thoughtful at first. But then they clouded. “Somehow, I doubt it will deter the admiral.”
J.D. sighed despairingly and sat back in his chair. I’ll just have to wait on Brinar’s Bluff until then, his mother’s favorite phrase chimed in his head. “I guess all we can do is wait and see what happens.”
“And have faith in the system,” the captain added.
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 April, 2016 by Dawn Ross
You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.