The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 28 – Revised
(This is a new chapter, one that’s not in the unrevised part one version of my science fiction story. The first part was added to give more insight to how Jori feels about his brother nearly being murdered. The second part was added to connect Calloway with the visiting strangers. Let me know what you think in the comments below.)
The comforting warmth of Terk’s hand in his was countered by its lifelessness. Please, Terk. You can pull through this. Jori clenched his jaw to keep the rising tide of tears at bay. The burning sensation in his sinuses came in an occasional wave, threatening to overwhelm him if he dwelled too long on the state of his brother. He breathed steadily, like Master Rivochi had taught him, and the sensation receded again.
He squeezed his brother’s limp hand, hoping against hope the gesture would be returned. But it wasn’t going to happen. Not now. Not while Terk was still in a coma.
He could only sense a vague feeling of his brother’s life force. He might have woken up already if it wasn’t for that damned medic. But there was no change—not positive change anyway. Terk had lost weight from laying there so long. He looked thinner now and his skin was a sickly grey. Come on, Terk. Please wake up. I need you.
J.D.’s kindness was a comfort, even now as the commander sat awkwardly in the chair breathing softly as he slept. This man had stayed with him here in Terk’s room all night and for most of the day, and was the only one he could truly trust in this cage of blackbeasts.
A dull ache from sitting had set in from his behind and up his back to his shoulders. He dared not leave here and entrust his brother’s safety to any of these people again. Only Dr. Jerom and Dr. Gregson were allowed to tend to him now. And only J.D. and two security officers J.D. said he trusted were allowed inside Terk’s room. He’d sent two of the outside guards away earlier because their hatred was so strong they were influencing his own emotions.
He hadn’t sensed that person he’d felt the other day again, the one who’d made him feel like he was being hunted. Whoever it was, it wasn’t the same one as the medic who tried to kill Terk. They were probably still around somewhere, waiting to attack, waiting until he and his brother were more vulnerable.
A fiery heat swelled in his chest. If Terk died, he’d make these people pay. One way or another, he would. Why in the hell have I been so compliant all this time? He’d been behaving himself. He hadn’t made any trouble. And yet, here Terk was, still in a coma after ten days, all because of this Alliance man.
The bastard couldn’t take on his brother awake, so he had to do it while he was helpless. Koshinuke. Coward. How can anyone murder someone so defenseless?
The fire in his chest suddenly turned cold. Gereva. I killed those people. The image of a young girl popped into his head. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected when he stepped onto that space station. Dead warriors, perhaps. But not the old man with his head taken nearly clean off by a shard of flying metal. Not the woman with the bottom half of her torso missing. Not the woman clutching the infant that had been crushed to death when the blast threw them against a wall. And not the little girl with dead eyes—the little girl who was about the same age as he.
Nausea rolled in his stomach. His mouth watered. He clenched his jaw and breathed deeply through his nostrils to keep from heaving. He squinted his eyes, hoping the image of the little girl would go away. But it didn’t. That little girl could have been the medic’s daughter for all he knew.
We didn’t mean to, dammit. Terk doesn’t deserve to die.
The wave of burning tears threatened again. He clenched his fists. Breathe.
The sensation slowly faded. He hadn’t been able to hold it in back then, though. His father had beaten him for it, but the physical pain was nothing compared to the mental torment he relived nearly every night for a month afterward. The nightmares still plagued him on occasion. Those little girl’s eyes still haunted him.
He tried asking why those people had to die. But asking his father had been a mistake. The man felt no sympathy for any of them. Terk had tried to mimics their father’s lack of concern, but he could tell his brother felt guilty for killing those people too.
The privacy curtain slid open. J.D. jerked awake as Doctor Jerom stepped in. The doctor smiled but the gesture didn’t touch his bloodshot eyes. The man walked with a slumped posture and there was a brief sensation of guilt mixed in with the doctor’s fatigue—probably due to his failed promise to help Terk get better.
“I have some good news,” the doctor said with a tiny spike of optimism emanating from him.
Jori straightened. “He’s going to be okay?”
Dr. Jerom patted his hand downward. “Now, now. I don’t know that yet. I’m sorry.”
A feeling of heaviness fell over him but he remained sitting up straight. “What’s the good news, then?”
“The good news is the drug our medic gave your brother had no lasting effects. It’s out of his system now.”
“What was it?” J.D. asked.
“We think it was a form of ciculata, a poisonous plant variety. How Laren got a hold of it, I don’t know. We have none here on the ship. Fortunately for your brother, it was given in small doses so it wouldn’t be picked up by our monitoring system. If the doses had continued, though, the poison would’ve caused severe and irreversible consequences and eventually death.”
A prickling sensation ran up Jori’s arms and down his back. “So its effects have been reversed, but he could still die?”
Dr. Jerom sucked in a huge breath. “Yes, the effects have been completely reversed, but your brother has suffered a severe trauma from the crash. I’d like to say he’s improving. Much of his external and internal wounds have healed. But there’s still a risk that some of them won’t heal at all. Some wounds … like brain damage … can’t be repaired, no matter how good the immune system is.”
Jori swallowed hard. His eyes watered. Terk could still wake up, but he might be brain damaged?
The heaviness nearly crushed him. If Terk awoke but had brain damage, father would kill him. Then he would start a war with the Alliance and kill more people, probably starting with innocent people like that little girl on the space station.
J.D. put a hand on Jori’s shoulder. “He’ll pull through. If he’s even half as strong as you, he’ll make it out fine.”
The tears threatened again. I’m not strong. I’m weak. Still, J.D.’s words gave him hope.
“There’s still a chance he’ll make it,” Dr. Jerom added. “I agree, your brother’s pretty strong. His immune system is one of the most efficient I’ve ever seen.”
Jori could sense the doctor’s honesty as well as his compassion. It was confusing. The hate from the medic, from Calloway, and from others on the ship was intense, but somehow the concern from Dr. Jerom and J.D. was even stronger. These two were not so bad. Captain Arden didn’t seem to be either. Perhaps it was like Master Jetser had once said, There’s good and bad in all races so judge each man individually.
Fine. So not everyone here deserved payback if Terk died.
“You look stressed,” Mik Calloway said to his security partner for today’s shift.
Jack sighed. “Yeah. I just got roped by Lt. Commander Bracht.”
Oh hell. Mik suppressed the urge to swallow. Did your skinny-ass tell on me? Roped was Jack’s way of saying questioned, probably regarding the same thing the Rabnoshk warrior had grilled him on. “So what’d you say?”
“Nothing. I can’t afford to get written up.”
He suppressed a sigh of relief. That no one wanted to get in trouble for antagonizing the Tredon prince was all that kept him from getting in trouble again. Besides, the little shit deserved it and everyone knows it. Jack had been one of the security officers on duty at the time and if anyone would’ve snitched on him, it would’ve been him.
Jack’s real name was Jacques Harmel and everyone called him Jack or Jack Hammer. It was funny because this man was nothing like the huge industrial machines used in demolitions. His frame was so small, he wondered how in the heck the man had made the cut as a security officer to being with. Jack’s personality was weak, too. He was a well-known pushover. What a wonder that Bracht hadn’t caused him to spill his guts all over the warrior’s shiny black combat boots.
“Same here,” Mik replied. “I wonder how he even heard about it to begin with.”
“The little Tredon?”
“Naw. If he had said anything, he would’ve pointed us out to the commander.” His new best friend, apparently.
No, it probably wasn’t the little warmonger. It could be Felissa, since she’d interrupted all their fun. But that would’ve been stupid since her boyfriend Siven was there too. Whoever the hell it was fortunately didn’t give any names.
Mik shifted his stance. His calves ached from standing so long. At least he’d been taken off the menial work, though. Not that it was any more exciting to watch over their Chekrosian guests.
“How about that lecture he gave,” Mik said, referring to the rant from the Rabnoshk warrior about how important it was to keep the peace. As if the Tredons had any interest in peace.
Jack shook his head. “Yeah, that was a ringer.”
Mik had no idea what he meant by that word. By the context, he’d guess Jack didn’t mean laughable. Lt. Commander Bracht was such a hypocrite. The man hated Tredons as much as anyone else, but he was such an ass-kisser to the captain.
Captain Robert Arden, man of peace. What a joke. If I wasn’t for Arden, they wouldn’t be putting up with the barbaric Rabnoshk warrior to begin with—or the fucking little Tredon monsters.
He dared not say this to Jack, though. Nor to anyone else for that matter. Most of his fellow officers were oddly loyal to Bracht and the captain. Loyal to a bully and his wuss of a captain. This new commander was turning out to be a wuss as well. How in the hell did I come to serve on a ship like this to begin with? Captain Richforth would’ve tossed the spoiled little prince in a cell with nothing more than a bone to chew on.
“I don’t get it. Those two should be locked up, not pandered to,” Mik said.
“Maybe,” Jack replied. “They are just kids.”
Not you too! “Murderous little cutthroats, you mean,” he said venomously. “You saw that child take out four Grapnes. He murdered four adults in less than ten seconds.”
Jack shrugged. “Yeah. I guess you’re right.”
I know I’m right. Fucking pushover. Jack Harmel never disagreed with anyone. He was a jack hammer made of rubber.
Mik straightened up importantly as one of the Chekrosian guests came out of their room. Another came out of her room. Then another. And even the non-Chekrosian one. They all went into their captain’s quarters, the man called Derovichi. From what he’d heard, they did this every day. They all slept in their own quarters, but they mostly hung out in their leader’s room. I hope they’re plotting the deaths of those little shit-heads.
I wish there was a way I could help. He knew exactly where both of the Tredon princes were. Part of his duty, after all, was to make sure these guests here didn’t cross paths with the little Tredon monster.
He thought about slipping a word to one of the Chekrosians, but there was always another officer with him. He’d been lucky no one told on him the last time. After Bracht’s harangue, he doubted he could get away with it this time.
All it would take is one word, though. Sick bay. That’s it. The little freak had been spending a lot of time in the gym, but he was probably too afraid to now. Lately, he’d been spending most of his time in sick bay with his monstrous brother. So much so that he caught Laren trying to kill him yesterday.
The details of that incident alluded him. A dozen different stories circulated already, but not a single one of them were first-hand accounts. The only two verified facts were that Siven received a good kick in the balls and Laren was in the brig. Where the fucking little princes should be.
As far as he was concerned, Laren deserved a medal. Well, he would’ve if he’d actually succeeded.
An odd chill went through him. He rubbed his arms.
Jack shivered visibly. “The circulators must be off.”
Whatever. They stood in silence for a while. He had no interest in having a conversation with this man, especially if he was going to agree with him only to turn around and take sides with someone else later.
He stiffened again as the people from Derovichi’s room came out. He tilted his head. Funny, I don’t remember seeing this man go into the room earlier. Perhaps the man had slept in Derovichi’s room. Perhaps the two men were a couple. Gag.
Derovichi greeted them with a friendly smile, and led them all to the common area lounge.
The guests took up a table perfectly situated near the place where Mik and Jack stood guard. It was perfect because he was close enough to hear them talking. If they were up to something, he’d be the first to know. He wouldn’t tell on them, of course, unless Jack decided to. He’d hope it would open a door so he could help them.
If only I could sit and have a drink with them. But that wouldn’t be at all wise. If these men were up to something and he’d been seen socializing with them, he’d be blamed in no time.
Their conversation was dull at first. But then he heard someone mention the word, Tredon. He stiffened and turned his head slightly so he could listen in better.
“It was a bad idea coming this close to Tredon territory. It’s a good thing this Alliance ship came to our rescue,” one of the Chekrosian’s said.
Subtle. Very subtle. He suppressed a smile. He found it difficult to believe these people didn’t know their own comrades had been taken by Tredons and sold into slavery just a short time back.
The talking went on. Finally, Derovichi turned to Mik and Jack. “You two work in this part of space. Are the stories we’ve heard about the Tredons true?”
Mik told them about his personal experience from a few years back. Jack actually told them about the Tredon child shooting and killing four men in cold blood. He didn’t tell them the child was now on board this ship, though, of course. Slick. Mik followed Jack’s lead and also told them about Laren’s family without actually mentioning Laren’s name or that he nearly succeeded in killing the elder Tredon prince while he lay in sick bay in a coma. If only I could give them that little piece of information.
The strangers invited Mik and Jack to drink. He wanted to say yes, but had to decline.
“It’s not allowed,” Jack said.
“After you’re off-duty, then,” Derovichi replied.
Mik looked at Jack and Jack looked back. It was obvious the hammer wanted to. I so wish I could! But I can’t risk the implications it could cause.
“I’d really love to,” Jack said. “But I’m afraid it would be a conflict of interest.”
Smart way of putting it.
Derovichi tilted his head. “A conflict of interest?”
“Sorry. I’m afraid I can’t explain,” Jack replied.
Mik gave Derovichi a look he hoped held some hidden meaning. “Lt. Harmel right. It’s a shame, though, because I bet we have a lot in common.”
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 June, 2016 by Dawn Ross
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