The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 27 – Revised
(This is also a rewrite from the unrevised version. It also hasn’t changed much. But even if you’ve already read the unrevised version, you really should still read this revised one. And if you haven’t read either version, you should probably start out by reading chapter 1 of the revised version, which was posted in January 2016.)
Jori’s eyes burned angrily.
“Jori, I’m really sorry about what just happened,” J.D. said with sincerity. “You know I’m telling the truth.”
“If I hadn’t been here, that man might have killed my brother,” Jori said heatedly through clenched teeth.
“I know. I’m sorry, I really am,” he replied. “I know some of us don’t like the Tredons, but I didn’t expect anyone to take things so far.”
“How can I trust you now? How can I trust anyone? Who will try to kill my brother next? Will it be you?”
“That’s not fair, Jori,”J.D. replied with a hint of rebuke. “I think you know I don’t condone this. But you’re right. I messed up. I completely underestimated my crew.” He sighed and rubbed his brow, then ran his hand down to his chin. “I guess the hate of some runs deeper than I imagined,” he said out loud but more to himself.
Jori looked away. “Why don’t you hate me?” he said in a softer tone.
“What?” The boy’s abrupt change in tone threw him off. “Why would I hate you?”
The sound of Lt. Addams coughing diverted his attention. The lieutenant had already left the little room, along with the other officers. And if those other officers were taking Laren to the brig, then it meant Addams was the only guard still here.
“Hold on,” he said to Jori, and then left the room.
Addams was sitting on an exam table while a medic did a body scan.
“Lieutenant,” he said to the man. “Are you alright?”
“He’s going to be fine, Sir,” the medic replied.
“Has someone alerted the captain?” he asked Addams.
“Yes, Sir.” The man’s voice croaked from the pain he was obviously feeling. “He’s on his way here now
“Good. Thank you.”
Dr. Jerom approached.
The medic explained Addams’s symptoms and the medication he planned on giving. Dr. Jerom nodded his approval.
“Doctor,” J.D. said before the man could leave. “I need you to analyze this.” He handed the hypospray over. “I was told it contained hippoceretine, but I don’t think it’s what’s in it. I think it might be something that caused the boy to go into convulsions the other day.”
Dr. Jerom’s eyes widened. “Why? Who in the universe would do that?”
He swallowed down the lump in his throat. “I think Laren has a very serious grudge against the Tredons. They killed his wife and child after all.”
Dr. Jerom’s arched brows drew together and light brown eyes darkened. “I knew about this, which was why I wasn’t letting him tend to the patient.”
“Was security made aware that he wasn’t allowed?”
The doctor’s face paled. “I didn’t think to tell them, Commander. I’m sorry. I had no idea he’d do something like this. None at all.”
J.D. nodded in understanding. Dr. Jerom was no security officer. He had no reason to think like one. But if only it had occurred to him. Then they wouldn’t be in this mess right now.
He shook his head to himself and went back into the room with Jori and his brother.
Jori no longer looked angry. But instead of having the usual blank look, the boy’s face had a haunted appearance to it. He was looking down at nothing on the floor and his normally stiff posture was slumped.
“This wasn’t your fault, you know,” J.D. said, assuming the boy was feeling guilty for what nearly happened to his brother. It was only natural to take blame, even when it was obvious others were at fault.
“Yes it was,” Jori replied quietly.
J.D. cocked his head. “You were there? You were there at Gereva?” he guessed.
Jori hesitated. He looked down at his brother, then back to the floor again. He fidgeted with his hands for a few moments before finally meeting J.D.’s eyes. “I killed them. I killed that man’s family.” The boy swallowed hard and looked away guiltily again.
His chest tightened. “What? How?”
Jori, still casting his eyes down, spoke in a low voice. “It was three years ago. My father directed an aerial battle over a small space station called Gereva. He allowed my brother and I watch. At some point he asked us if we’d like to help by firing torpedoes. He’d never allowed us to participate in a real battle before so we eagerly agreed. We . . .”
His shock turned into dread. He put a comforting hand on Jori’s shoulder and knelt down so he could look into the boy’s watering eyes. “It wasn’t your fault,” he said.
“It was,” Jori replied. Tears began to fall down his reddening cheeks. “We had fun doing it, too. We even had a competition to see who could make the biggest explosion.”
He swallowed down the hard lump in his throat. “Oh, Jori,” he said sadly. “You didn’t know what you were doing.”
Jori shook his head as if to agree. “We learned, though. After our soldiers secured the space station, our father took us inside. There were so many people, women, chi—” Jori suppressed a sob.
J.D. moved to comfort him, but Jori put up his hand to hold him back. “I could feel the ones who were still alive,” the boy continued. “But they didn’t get to live for long.”
Saliva welled up in his mouth. He swallowed it down, along with the urge to vomit. “You didn’t know, Jori.” That bastard! What kind of sick monster teaches his children to murder innocent people and then takes them down to look at the gored bodies? “Your father did this, not you.”
“I’m a criminal.” A look of earnestness and guilt filled the boy’s eyes. “You should take me into custody and let me answer for my crime.”
“You’re not a criminal,” he replied as he rubbed Jori’s arm consolingly. “You couldn’t have understood what you were doing. I know you’re really mature for your age, but you are still naive in many ways.”
He remembered how he was when he was about Jori’s age. The only thought he may have given to consequences was on how his mother and father would lecture him if he got caught. Jori couldn’t have been more than seven years old at the time. He couldn’t have fully comprehended what destroying that space station meant. Even Rear Admiral Zimmer with all his experience had seemed blind to the real consequences of firing on what appeared to be nothing more than a hunk of metal.
“I understood when we walked through the station,” Jori replied. He looked back down to the floor.
“But you didn’t understand before.”
“No. But I should have. I should have known.” The boy glanced up with pleading eyes.
“I don’t think you could have known. Not really. But you know now, don’t you?”
Jori nodded and looked back downward.
“You came to understand the consequences of such actions and you won’t want to do it again, right?”
“No. I won’t want to. But my father will want me to. I may not have a choice.” The boy’s face looked pained.
He swallowed hard. “Someday you will. And then you can make better choices.”
Jori nodded again.
He put his arm around Jori’s shoulder and pulled him into a hug. The boy didn’t resist.
“It’s all right,” he whispered close to the boy’s ear. “Everything will be all right.”
A wave of heat washed over him. The emperor had manipulated this innocent boy. Looking down at him now, it was obvious Jori knew he’d done something terribly wrong. And it was obvious he regretted it. But would he carry what he learned from the experience to adulthood or would he harden himself against it and follow his father’s footsteps?
Jori was wiping his eyes when Doctor Jerom approached the doorway and motioned for J.D. to come talk to him.
He gave Jori a comforting pat on the shoulder, and then followed the man out to where Captain Arden stood waiting on the other side of the room.
“How’s the child taking this?” the captain asked.
“He was angry, but I think he’s calmed down now,” he replied.
“That’s good,” he said. “What happened?”
He explained what had occurred with Laren, including Laren’s reluctance to hand over the hypospray and the series of following actions. Dr. Jerom added that Laren wasn’t even allowed to tend to the boy to begin with.
“How did Jori know?” the captain asked.
“He can sense emotions.”
“He’s a reader?” Captain Arden’s eyes widened.
“Not like Liam,” he said almost defensively. He thought he had included this information in one of his reports, but must have forgotten. “Jori says he can only sense the emotions others project. His ability isn’t strong enough to classify him as an actual reader.”
One of the captain’s eyebrows went up. “I see,” the man replied in a tone suggesting they would discuss this later. “So he sensed Laren was up to something?”
“Yes,” he replied. “Was he? Was Laren up to something?” he asked, turning to the doctor.
“I’m not sure what’s in the hypospray yet,” Doctor Jerom said. “But whatever it is, it certainly isn’t hippoceretine.”
His gut churned. “So Laren was trying to harm the boy.” Darn it. He didn’t want to believe Laren would do such a thing. Now, he had no choice but to believe it.
“It appears so,” the captain said. His mouth turned downward.
“I think,” Doctor Jerom said, “Laren has tried this before.”
“When the boy nearly died the other day,” he said.
Doctor Jerom nodded. “If you don’t mind, Captain, I’d like to run a few more tests.”
“Certainly, Doctor,” the captain replied. “Commander, I’d like to apologize to the child.”
“Yes, Sir,” he said and led the captain back to the room where the next shift of guards now stood.
He pulled the curtain open. Jori stood from his brother’s bedside. The boy took on his usual formal posture with his hands clasped behind him and his shoulders pulled back. He quickly masked his face so it reflected no emotion, but his eyes were still a little red around the rims from crying.
“Jori,” the captain greeted. “I’m so very sorry about what just happened. I assure you I will do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
“I’m sure you know it isn’t naivety that makes me believe you, Captain,” Jori said formally.
“Commander Hapker told me of your ability,” the captain replied.
“Good,” Jori said tersely. His dark eyes were on fire. “Because if I didn’t know you were telling the truth about this incident, if I didn’t believe you truly meant to protect my brother, this conversation would be going very differently.” The boy cocked an eyebrow.
J.D.’s mouth fell open. Things had been going so well between the two of them, he’d forgotten how blunt the boy could be.
The captain didn’t seem the least bit ruffled by Jori’s tone or the threatening look. “I understand, Swent Prince. I’m glad you know I am telling the truth. And I hope you can tell how much I truly mean it when I say I want your brother to fully recover.”
Jori’s dark expression seemed to soften. He made a sharp nod.
An awkward silence hung for a moment before the captain finally excused himself and left.
J.D. crossed his arms and gave the boy what he hoped was a reproving look. “You could have been a little more polite to him, you know. It wasn’t his fault.”
“He’s the captain, isn’t he?” Jori said, not really asking. “His fault or not, this is his responsibility.”
“And he is taking responsibility,” he replied with a hint of sternness.
“I know.” Jori frowned. The anger was gone from his eyes. “Look, J.D. I know you and I have come to a better understanding of one another. But I still need to keep my guard up. I can’t afford to keep exposing my weaknesses.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.” The boy’s frown deepened.
His crying? “Being upset about your brother is not a weakness.”
Jori pushed back his shoulders and his face went back to his typical emotionless look. “Such sentiment is weakness. Emotion is weakness.”
“Is this what your father tells you?”
“Yes. And Master Jetser too.”
“They probably mean you should control your emotions, not eliminate them. I can see how hiding your emotions can be important in some situations. But having emotions is not a weakness unless you lose control of them or let them control you.”
“Maybe. But you know how I feel about my brother. If you wanted to, you could use my sentiment against me.”
“There are people in this world who would do such a thing. But it doesn’t make you weak. Having compassion for others is a good thing. If you don’t, if you don’t care, then you’re just a bully.”
“I’m supposed to be a bully. It’s what being a Kavak is all about,” he said with a hint of sarcasm in his tone.
“If this is what your father tells you, I think he’s wrong. There are better ways to lead than to bully people.”
“Maybe,” Jori replied. “But if you weren’t the man you are, if I were on another ship, perhaps, my emotions would have made me vulnerable.”
“Unfortunately, that’s quite possible. But think about this. Your sentiment for your brother just saved his life. And I’d be willing to bet your brother would do the same for you. Together, you and your brother are stronger because of your emotions.”
Jori cocked his head. “Maybe.”
He clapped Jori’s shoulder and smiled. “You know I’m telling the truth.”
The boy frowned. “Just because you believe it’s true doesn’t’ mean it is.”
He broadened his smile. “Of course it does.”
Jori gave him a dubious look but didn’t argue.
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
You may share this sci-fi novella so long as you link back to this website and mention, The Kavakian Empire by Dawn Ross.