The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 22 – Revised
(This chapter is a completely new part of my science fiction story in that it isn’t included in the unrevised version. I know my story has no single hardcore antagonist. This new part won’t add to an existing one, but it does go along the same lines as previous antagonists. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you probably haven’t read the previous 21 chapters. You can read from the beginning by checking under the categories for Sci-Fi Part 1 – Revised.)
“We’re in range of the ship, Sir,” Brenson said.
Robert stood. “Hail them, Lieutenant. Let’s find out what’s going on.” And see if this is just another attempt to get at our Tredon guests.
The small cargo vessel looked new—just like the identification code embedded in the distress signal had indicated. Not a single dent or flash-burn stain could be seen on its shiny grey mantle.
His face tightened. No sign of battle, so how is it that a new ship is already in need of repairs?
He jerked the hem of his jacket to smooth the front. Coming here to assist this ship added an extra day to their trip—an extra day for the rear admiral, or worse, the emperor, to find out the Tredon princes were here. This had better be legitimate.
He cleared his throat. “This is Captain Robert Arden of the Prontaean Alliance, the Odyssey.”
A man’s face popped up on the screen. “Captain Derovichi here, of the Needletail. I can’t tell you how glad we are to see you, Sir.”
The man’s smile was kind. His appearance was rather neat as compared to most merchants out here in this part of space. The man was bald and completely clean-shaven. His prominent cheekbones made him look gaunt, which indicated he was probably of the Chekrosian race.
“I’m glad we were nearby to help,” Robert replied. “I understand your ship is in need of repairs.”
“Yes, Sir. Our perantium diodes were damaged. We can’t move any faster than solar speed.”
“We have plenty of excess parts we’d be happy to give you, but I’m not familiar with the make of your ship, Captain. What’s its counterpart?”
“It has none, Sir.”
“Really?” he replied with a tone of interest. The Needletail was indeed of a design he’d never seen before. But most ships were generally improvements on other models. “I’m sure our fabricor can still make you a new diode.”
“I’m not sure your fabricor is capable of constructing one out of perantium, Captain. Fortunately, we know where we can get one. Unfortunately, at the rate we’re moving, we’ll run out of food and water before we can even get a tenth of the way there.”
Perantium? Where have I heard this word before? “Your ship is new, I take it.”
“Yes, Sir. We’ve barely had her a year.”
“Rather unfortunate to have her break down already.”
“Yes. Well, we ran her hard recently. Got chased by pirates.”
“I see. It’s fortunate you got away.” Hmm. Chased but not fired upon apparently.
The man smiled pleasantly. “We’ve had quite a few unfortunate incidents end fortunately, Sir. Luck is with us today as well, if you can take us to the Chevert Outpost.”
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled. “It just so happens we’re headed that way.”
“Thank the stars, Captain.” Derovichi looked up, as though praising a deity. “You’re a life saver.”
“We’re just doing our job, Captain Derovichi. Please forward the identification documents of you and all your crew members. As soon as they’re authenticated, we’ll send you the docking instructions.”
“Expect a full search when you arrive, both of your crew and your ship.”
“Is that really necessary, Sir? If our documents are in order, there’s no reason you shouldn’t trust us.”
So everyone says. “I’m afraid it’s the price of our service, Captain. Prontaean Alliance regulations require it.”
Derovichi made an exasperating throat sound. “No disrespect, Sir. But I can’t allow it. Our ship is a prototype. Its technology is highly classified.”
“Our Prontaean Alliance regulations also protect your secrecy, Captain. We will merely make sure your ship presents no danger and that you and your crew are unarmed.”
Derovichi pursed his lips. “Very well. It’s not like we have much choice.”
No, you don’t. “I look forward to meeting you, Captain Derovichi.”
“You as well, Captain Arden. You will have your documents shortly.”
Robert nodded. “Odyssey Out.”
The viewscreen flicked back to the view of the Needletail. He could see why it had no counterpart. The two propulsion units appeared to take up the entire length of the ship, rather than just the rear. In a way, it resembled a pair of binoculars.
“Lt. Chandly, run a deeper scan on the ship. And let me know if you find anything suspicious in their documents.
“Bracht, send a security team to the docking bay.”
“On it, Sir.”
“Lt. Simmonds,” he said into his comm.
“Here, Sir,” Lt. Sam Simmonds replied back through the comm system.
“What can you tell me about perantium?”
“It’s an unusual substance found only on the planet Wendar in the Xenar system, Sir.”
“Well, Sir, when it’s in its solid state, it’s very dense. But it can be manipulated with electric currents to make it more malleable, like rubber even. And it can even be rendered into a gas state that retains its shape.”
Ah. I remember now. The substance could do all sorts of miraculous things on the planet it was derived from. But off the planet, it automatically converted into its gas state and dissipated like a fog. Scientists had been trying for decades to harness its unusual properties off the planet. They must have finally succeeded.
“Thank you, Lieutenant. I’ll need a full report on this as soon as possible. I’m particularly interested in any progress made on its applications.”
The comm clicked out.
“Sir,” Lt. Chandly said. “Their documents appear legit. There are five crew members all together, all with clean records, not even a misdemeanor.”
“How far back do those records go?”
“Uh, the captain himself, not far. His ID was issued only a half a year before this ship was registered. But the other crew members go back at least three years. One goes back as far as ten years.”
Hmm. New captain, new ship. Either Derovichi only just entered the realm of space travel or his documents have been applied for under false pretense. Most captains, even captains of small cargo ships, generally had longer records. Something about this is too tidy. I hope it’s just my imagination.
“Run a facial scan and make sure he doesn’t match anyone else in our system.”
“Bracht, when we meet the crew, make sure we get a scan of them as well.”
“Jensin, send docking instructions to our new guests.”
“Bracht, Stein, you’re with me.”
Robert went into the bridge tran-car with Lt. Commander Bracht and Lt. Stein. The door slid closed.
“What do you think about this new development?” he asked Lt. Stein.
“I do not believe in coincidences, Sir.”
“Anything about the Chekrosian culture I should be aware of?”
“They not typically be merchants, Sir. They do like to travel, though. And I should point out they be from the Xenar system.”
“Are they?” Robert replied. “I missed that connection. I suppose it explains this ship and its inexperienced captain. But it doesn’t explain why they are all the way out here testing a prototype.”
The tran-car door slid open onto the docking bay.
“Bracht,” he said before stepping out. “As always, make sure our guests are not told anything of our other guests. And Jenna, be sure to find them rooms as far from Commander Hapker’s quarters as possible… and far from sick bay as well.”
“Yes, Sir,” Lt. Stein replied as she began tapping the buttons on her digiview.
“If you can manage it, Bracht,” he said to the Rabnoshk warrior, “I’d like a security detail held on these people as well. Make sure your teams communicate closely with one another so our two guests don’t meet.”
“It will be done, Sir,” Bracht replied.
They waited in the observation room while the unusual-looking ship docked. The propulsion systems were much larger than they had appeared on the viewscreen. The living area located in between the two scope-like structures was barely large enough for half-a-dozen people. Their tech, whatever it was, took up a bulk of the vessel.
This was typical for any new sorts of technology. Earlier model space ships he had seen in museums were so cramped and crowded, it was no wonder half the crew members ended up with space sickness. His own ship held hundreds of people. But it was large enough for them to have plenty of room for leisure space, including a vast botanical garden with a holographic ceiling displaying a realistic sky that alternated daily to resemble the skies of various worlds. Ah, I wish I was there now.
Focus. There is a lot at stake here.
“Lt. Stein,” he said. “Do the Chekrosians and Tredons have any ties?”
“It’s possible they be trading partners.”
“Do Tredon merchants venture to their part of space?”
“Not likely, Captain. I believe the Chekrosians hire a third party for such transactions.”
“Do the two of them have any current grievances?”
“Not that I be aware of, Sir.”
“When you get a chance, check for any recent events.”
Once the Needletail was settled and the docking bay doors closed, Robert and the others went down to the platform to meet their guests. Bracht and Lt. Stein stood on either side of him while Lt. Hanna Sharkey and the other security team members spread out in a half-circle behind.
Captain Derovichi was the first to disembark. The man was tall and lanky, supporting his guess that Derovichi was of Chekrosian descent. Three of the other crew members also appeared to be of Chekrosian descent. But to his surprise, the fifth crew member did not. His race was unidentifiable. This man wasn’t quite as clean-cut as the others, but neither did he have the rough look of a bandit. A guide perhaps?
“Captain Robert Arden,” Derovichi said. The man bowed stiffly.
Robert returned the gesture. “Greetings, Captain Derovichi. Welcome aboard the Odyssey.”
Robert introduced his crew members and Derovichi introduced his. The non-Chekrosian man was indeed a guide, so Derovichi claimed. The man then reiterated their situation, all of which seemed a little too plausible to appease his suspicions.
Once all pleasantries were exchanged, Robert signaled some of his security officers forward.
“We have rooms ready for you, Captain, but first we must run a quick scan.”
Lt. Sharkey and another officer waved their scanning wands over the visitors. The wand made an alerting noise when waved over Derovichi’s right side. Derovichi pulled out a rectangular device of some kind.
“It’s just a portable database with a modulator.”
“I’m sorry, Captain,” Robert said. “You’ll have to leave your tech with your ship.”
Derovichi shrugged his shoulders. “It’s nothing dangerous, I assure you.”
“Unless you want us to analyze it to verify it says what you say it does, I suggest you leave it with your ship.”
“I don’t have a problem with you analyzing the tech, but this device contains top secret information. I can’t risk anyone else getting their hands on it.”
“Then, please, leave it with your ship,” Robert replied. “We will gladly provide a digiview for each of you to use during your visit.”
Derovichi made an exasperating noise. “That hardly helps me analyze our data.”
Robert stood firm. “I’m sorry, Captain. You will have to do so at another time.”
“Very well.” Derovichi smacked the device into the waiting hand of one of his other crew members. “Take this back inside.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Robert said. He swept his hand towards the cargo exit. “Now Lt. Stein will escort you to your quarters. A liaison has been assigned to you and will meet with you shortly. He will see to all your needs.”
Derovichi nodded. When the other crew member returned, they followed Lt. Stein out.
Robert sighed quietly. That wasn’t so bad. Most visitors in this situation acted more offended about being searched and argue profusely about the rules. Generally, those who protested the most usually had the most to lose. Derovichi had given in comparatively easily, though. Either the man had nothing to hide or he was much smarter than the typical bandit. But if his story or his intentions were false, there was no indication. The Chekrosian captain seemed to have a valid explanation for everything.
Robert went back to the bridge while Bracht went off to take care of security matters.
“Sir,” Lt. Chandly said as soon as Robert stepped onto the bridge. “There was an odd reading in the internal sensors, a disruption of sorts.”
Robert went over to Lt. Chandly’s station. “What sort of disruption?”
“I don’t know, Sir. Everything just went wonko.”
Wonko? Lt. Chandly was a good officer, but his use of slang could be frustrating. “Can you be more specific, Lieutenant?”
“Sorry, Sir. It was a random and rapid fluctuation in the bio readers. It started shortly after their ship landed and ended just before you got back here.”
Coincidence? “Were you able to trace it?”
“No, Sir. It disappeared before I had a chance.”
“What do you think it was?”
“I’m not sure, Sir. A glitch maybe? It’s something I’ve never seen before.”
Robert sighed and went back to his captain’s chair. “Do a full analysis and let me know if it happens again.” He tapped his comm and called the lieutenant on duty in the hangar bay. “Triple-check that ship and look for any unusual signals it might be emitting.”
His chair wasn’t as comfortable as usual. Too many coincidences, but nothing overt. This could all end well, or it could end in a complete disaster. The sooner he could get to the Chevert Outpost, the better.
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 May, 2016 by Dawn Ross
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