The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 29 – Revised
(This chapter is a rewrite of chapter 20 from the unrevised version. I have enhanced it and also hopefully explained some parts better. If you haven’t read the unrevised version, don’t. This revised version of my science fiction story is much better. It is more fully developed and hopefully gives more insight into the characters through deep PoV.)
Jori awoke with a gasp and found himself surrounded by a swirl of darkness. His body stiffened. He held his breath and listened. Nothing. Nothing but the sound of his pounding heart.
He blinked rapidly at the shadows. Light slowly filtered in. The blackness turned to greys. Shapes became more defined. That’s right… I’m in J.D.’s quarters. The tension in his shoulders fell away. The commander had convinced him to sleep here tonight while Lt. Gresher stayed with Terk.
Jori didn’t know Lt. Gresher well. Even after questioning the man and sensing his sincerity, it wasn’t until J.D. assured him he was trustworthy when he finally decided Terk would be safe.
So what woke me up? His mind churned, trying to recall. No fleeting images teased his memory. If he’d been having another nightmare about Gereva, surely he’d still have a lingering glimpse. There was nothing, though, nothing but a feeling he was missing something important.
He closed his eyes and spread out his senses. His mind’s eye pictured the sun shining through the broad leaves of the hardimen tree, bringing in the feeling of warmth and strength he’d come to associate with J.D. A peacefulness drifted in as well. J.D. was sound asleep. Whatever had woken Jori up hadn’t had any effect on the commander.
Jori fanned out his senses. The four guards standing outside radiated boredom. One of them also had a stench of sorts, making Jori think of the smelly cage of a blackbeast. Calloway. He wrinkled is nose and tightened his jaw.
It had been some time since Calloway had been close enough for him to feel. The man hadn’t been either his guard or Terk’s for some time. For whatever reason, though, Calloway was standing guard now. Maybe he’s the reason I woke up. But no. Calloway’s foulness was fairly mild right now.
He stretched out his senses a little further. A few other Alliance officers walked by now and then, but none of them felt threatening. He lay back down with a sigh, too tired to think on it further.
The heaviness of sleep slowly began to fall. Then a sensation similar to a brush of wind suddenly tickled him. He sat up abruptly and froze in place, listening to the delicate sensation.
“Terk!” I can feel Terk!
The covers flew off in one wild swoop. He leapt out of bed and zoomed to the door. The door panels slid open too slowly for his pace, forcing him to twist his body sideways through the opening at the last moment.
The slick floor of the corridor met his bare feet causing him to falter. But he recovered quickly and sprung forward eagerly.
“Hey!” Calloway grabbed him by the arm, jerking him to a halt. “Where are you going?”
A low growl escaped his throat. “To see my brother.” He jerked his arm but Calloway had him tight.
A swelling heat ignited in his cheeks. He gritted his teeth with determination and then twisted his arm swiftly and jerked at an angle out of the hold, just like Master Jetser had taught.
His fists balled at his sides and he gave the man a hateful glare.
Calloway returned the look. “No you don’t. You’re staying right here.”
Jori kept his fists at his sides, but stepped into a defensive fighting stance with most of his weight balanced on his back leg. “I dare you to try and stop me.”
As much as he wanted to rush to his brother’s side, a part of him had been looking forward to a confrontation with this man. He was perfectly poised to make a quick front kick into the man’s groin. Calloway would double over and he’d give him another kick right under the jaw. When the other guards came after him, he’d leap over Calloway and use the man as a shield so that all three of them couldn’t rush him at once.
Calloway put his hands on his hips. “Oh, please. Give me a reason. I’d love to throw your little royal ass in the brig.”
His face grew hotter. “Not only do you lack the skill, you insignificant minion, you also lack the authority.”
“You don’t know anything, you little shit.” Calloway’s face twisted sourly. “I’m in charge here now and if you try to leave I’ll kick your little ass. Then I’ll tell the commander I had no choice because you attacked me.”
His fingernails dug into his palms as a surge of adrenaline infused his body. “Besides the fact that you’ll be laid out before you can so much as raise your hand to me, there’s another problem with your plan.”
“And what’s that? You think—”
“These other officers here don’t like you well enough to lie for you,” he interrupted. The emotions from the other guards told him he was right. His mouth twitched upward into what he hoped was a mocking smile.
“They won’t stand up for a spoiled Tredon prince either.”
“I don’t need them to stand up for me. But they will report the truth of this incident.” At least I hope they will. “And the truth is I have every right to go see my brother whenever I wish.”
Calloway’s face darkened. He could tell by the man’s clenched jaw and tightened fists that he was thinking about following through with his threat.
Jori glared at him intently, keeping his balance ready for a front kick. The guards, seen clearly from the corner of his eye, stayed back. Their emotions were a mixture of contempt and anger, but oddly, not all of it was directed at him.
Calloway must have realized this. He eventually stepped back. “Fine, you friggin brat.”
“That’s what I thought,” he replied disdainfully.
After using his senses to make sure none were going to attack him, he relaxed his stance. His body prickled as the adrenaline made its way out.
He took a deep calming breath, subtle so no one could hear it, and then promptly turned about and headed towards sick bay.
The guards followed, but they made no move to stop him. Calloway whispered some negative comments just loud enough for him to hear, but he ignored them. He would deal with this man some other time. Terk was much more important.
J.D. ambled sleepily from his bedroom. His eyes fell to where Jori’s cot was set. He blinked the gumminess from his eyes in confusion. The rumpled lump of blankets didn’t contain a boy. The bed was empty.
“Jori?” He turned to the bathroom. The door was open and the lights were off. A quick glance around the rest of the small room showed no sign of the boy. Well, that’s strange. Jori had left early before. But he’d usually folded his blankets up first.
He poked his head outside his quarters. “Jori?”
The security officers were gone too.
He must’ve gone to see his brother.
He came back in and sat at his desk. The small viewscreen blinked to life with a touch of his finger. He tapped a few keys and entered the security log.
“What?” For some reason, it showed Jori and the officers were still here.
“Security. Report,” he said into his comm.
“Lt. Sharkey here,” the comm came back.
“Lieutenant. Can you verify whether Jori and security are in sick bay?”
J.D. rest his chin on his palm as he waited for Hanna to reply.
“Sir?” she replied a few moments later. “The log says team epsilon has the boy at your quarters while team kappa reports he’s with them. I take it the boy is not with you?”
“That’s correct. He’s not here and neither is team epsilon.”
“I’ll run a quick bioscan for you, Sir. Then I’ll contact them to verify their whereabouts.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant.”
He tapped his chin and waited a few moments.
“Sir, bioscan confirms both teams are in sick bay,” Hanna said. “I contacted team epsilon. They claim they updated the log and there must have been a glitch.”
J.D. frowned. “Who is in charge of team epsilon?”
“Lt. Mik Calloway, Sir.”
Glitch? He shook his head. “A glitch seems highly unlikely, doesn’t it, Lieutenant? Like once in a trillion unlikely?”
“Yes, Sir. It does.” Hanna’s tone indicated she knew what he was hinting at—that Calloway was lying.
“I trust you’ll handle this further?”
“You bet, Sir.”
He didn’t need to tell her how to handle it. Hanna didn’t like Calloway any more than anyone else did. There’d been some reluctance to promote the man to begin with, but Lt. Gresher thought he should be given a chance. J.D. had agreed … to a point, anyway. Everyone deserved a chance, and sometimes even a second or third chance. But he had a bad feeling about Calloway. The man reminded him of the poisonous skins of the salamanders he’d see on fishing trips with his dad back home.
“Thank you, Lieutenant. I’ll see you later. Hapker out.”
Eight guards stiffened in attention from their previous state of varying boredom. J.D. nodded at Lt. Gresher, then locked eyes with Lt. Jr. Grade Mik Calloway. He pursed his lips and gave the man a penetrating look. Calloway’s face paled in reply.
“As you were,” he said to all the officers, and then stepped into the prince’s room.
He stopped short. Something was different.
Jori was asleep by his brother’s side. Nothing unusual there. But his brother, Terk, had his arm around Jori’s shoulder.
Is he awake? He glanced up at the monitor. It was all alien to him. The ups and downs of the various monitoring systems could have been recording subspace signals for all he knew. He couldn’t even tell which of them was for the heartbeat.
He glanced back down at the boys and his heart jumped. Terk was looking right at him.
“You’re awake,” he said in a higher-pitched tone.
Terk made a slight nod. “You must be Commander J.D. Hapker.”
J.D. forced himself to smile. “And you must be Prince Kavak.”
“Daiichi Prince Kavak,” Terk corrected.
A shiver went down his spine. Terk spoke with the same bluntness as Jori, but his tone was much deeper, more ominous. “Yes, of course. My apologies.”
Terk made another nod, hopefully indicating the slight was forgiven.
“How are you feeling?” He resisted the urge to shift his feet. Don’t be stupid. Prince or not, he’s still just a person. Prince Kavak, or Daiichi Prince Kavak, wasn’t the first dignitary he’d ever spoken to, nor the highest ranking. But maybe the deadliest.
“Tired, but glad to be alive,” Terk replied. “And well. I understand I have you to thank for it.”
He made a slight smile. “You really have Captain Arden to thank.”
“Yes. I suppose so. But it’s you Jori has spoken so well of.”
J.D.’s heart swelled. “I feel the same for him. I hope you and I can be friends as well.”
Terk raised his eyebrow. His face was otherwise blank.
J.D. felt another shiver run thought him. “If not friends, at least not enemies,” he added.
“We shall see. But for now, leave us be,” Terk said tersely. “My brother is asleep and I am tired.”
J.D. flushed at the dismissal. He dipped his head and left the room.
Here we go again.
Terk kept his eyes open long enough to see the commander close the privacy curtain. His lids fell heavily, but more in a state of relaxation than for sleep.
I don’t get it. What’s Jori see in him? The commander was weak. It was obvious the man wanted to play nice. He couldn’t blame him. No one wanted a Kavak as an enemy. But it wasn’t just the commander’s mannerisms. He could sense the man’s good will as well. Friends? What a baka. Fool.
At least most of the guards outside had enough sense to hate him. Their hostility wafted over his senses. But they were weak too. One moment, their hate would be at a boil. Then like a marishi adding ingredients to her potion, a dash of fear and a pinch of reluctance sent their hate away in a flit of smoke.
Weak fools, all for the taking. And he needed take quite a bit. Father was going to be so pissed when he found out he’d lost all his men, his ship, and the cargo. He’d failed completely. But I can make up for it so easily. What’s the loss of a few men when compared to an entire Alliance patrol vessel carrying hundreds of Alliance officers?
“We can’t,” Jori mumbled.
Terk flinched. “What?”
“We can’t. They’re not all bad.” Jori said the last part in their secret language. They dared not speak in the Tredon language for fear that the guards had a translator device.
Terk fumed. He hated how well Jori could read him. They both had the same ability, but Jori’s was more sensitive. He said he couldn’t read minds like a reader, but it sure in the hell seemed like it sometimes. “You don’t even know what I’m thinking.”
“I can feel it. You hate them. And I can tell you’re also thinking of father.”
“Hell yeah, I’m thinking of father. I’ll consider myself lucky if I don’t find myself in another coma.”
“These people saved you. They saved both of us. We’d be either dead or under torture right now if it wasn’t for them.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You explained this to me already.” Terk flicked his wrist. “Just because they saved us doesn’t mean we owe them anything.”
“Don’t we?” Jori’s annoyance was evident in both his tone and his emotions. “I, for one, am glad they saved you. Why shouldn’t I be grateful?”
Are all little brothers this annoying? “The fact that they saved us makes them weak and stupid.”
“They are far from weak or stupid. I’ve been watching them,” Jori argued in the same secret language. “I know we don’t have to owe them anything. I just don’t want to hurt them. They helped us when they didn’t have to. And if we’re going to harm anyone, I’d rather do it to people who deserve it.”
“They are our enemies,” he replied firmly.
“Why? Because our father says so? Everyone is father’s enemy. It doesn’t mean we have to be.”
Terk clenched his jaw. “If we don’t come back with something, father will punish us.”
“Father is going to punish us no matter what. We lost our entire crew. He’s not going to overlook that. Besides, I don’t care if we get into trouble.”
He sighed irritably. Stubborn brat. He wasn’t afraid of father either, but he didn’t want to have to lay bed ridden again either. His punishment would be severe. And there’d be no healing bed, no pain meds, nothing until his father was satisfied he’d suffered enough. Considering how terribly he failed, that could be a very long time.
He knew what Jori’s reply would be, so he said nothing. He was too tired to argue anyway. His strength would come back soon enough. And when it did, he’d do what he wanted whatever Jori thought.
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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