The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 31 – Revised
(This is a completely new chapter in my science fiction story. I think I only mentioned this scene briefly in the final scene of the unrevised version. As I’m writing this, I realize I need a lot more tension. But I’m not quite sure how to do it. Please read this, and then feel free to offer some tips.)
Terk slammed the digiview down, making J.D. jump in his seat.
He’s more childish than his little brother. He opened his mouth for a rebuke, but thought better of it and pressed his lips together instead. It wouldn’t do any good anyway.
“I gotta get out of this damned bed!” Terk threw the covers off and swung his bare feet to the floor.
“The doctor said you should rest one more day,” Jori said, seemingly unfazed by his brother’s outburst.
“I don’t give a shit what he said. If I lay here for a minute longer, I’m going to implode with boredom.”
J.D. winced. The elder prince’s annoyance was almost palatable. Please, no more temper tantrums.
Terk’s outburst yesterday had nearly caused an incident. In a bout of frustration, the elder prince had sent his tray crashing into the wall. His face was red, most likely from embarrassment at not having much strength. When security had rushed in with their stun guns ready, Terk’s face had turned redder, probably from outrage. Thankfully, the paligenesis treatment was still in progress and the prince was incapable of reacting with anything other than curses.
It had taken some convincing to get the officers to stand down… and even more to get Terk to cool down. Perhaps Bracht had been right about keeping the princes in the brig. Well, Terk anyway.
“At least take it slow,” Jori said.
Terk didn’t listen. He stood abruptly from the bed and took a step forward. The move made him stumble like a drunken Bodenkan mercenary.
J.D. suppressed a smirk, not bothering to help the grouchy prince. It would serve him right if he fell on his butt.
Jori rushed to Terk’s side only to stop short as his brother stabilized. The elder prince managed to remain upright. He took a few deep breaths and then walked over to get the clothes Hanna had brought.
Terk pulled off his gown to change. Despite the atrophy, his arms and legs were corded with muscle. He was lean as compared to J.D.’s own build, but looked as fit as any of the Alliance security officers who guarded him. I only hope they will be able to handle him if things really get out of control… which is where things seem to be heading.
J.D. stepped out to give the boy some privacy. Jori hung back a few moments, probably to make sure his brother wouldn’t lose his balance, then met J.D. on the opposite side of the privacy curtain.
It had only been two days since Terk had awoken, but he was fully awake and growing more irritable by every passing hour. And the more irritable the elder prince became, the more difficult it was for J.D. to keep his calm composure. Jori probably sensed this but didn’t comment on it.
Terk didn’t seem to have the same level of intellect as his younger brother. Jori spent as much time studying as he did practicing in the gym, but the elder prince only used his digiview to find instructional or entertaining martial vids. When Jori had mentioned the exciting things he’d learned when reading about Pershornian warfare, Terk waved him off. And when J.D. had suggested a game of schemster, the young man twisted his mouth as though he’d eaten something sour.
The privacy curtain slid open. “Let’s go,” Terk said.
To his surprise, Terk walked steadily, pausing only long enough to give the security officers a dirty look as he headed out.
Dr. Jerom looked up from the digiview he was reviewing. He opened his mouth to say something, but was too far away to be heard. J.D. shrugged his shoulders, giving the man an apologetic look. Dr. Jerom snapped his mouth shut and shook his head. Terk wasn’t the first patient to ignore his advice.
J.D. glanced at the two Kavakian princes as the three of them headed down the corridor towards the gym. Terk’s upper lip perspired, but his jaw was set in apparent determination. The young man’s eyes were dark yet bright at the same time, as though he were trying to decide whether he was angry at himself for feeling so weak or excited about finally getting out of bed and doing something other than browsing a digiview.
Terk seemed very much like Jori in a few ways. He often had the same placid look, though somehow colder looking. He was just as terse and mistrustful. And he seemed to have Jori’s same ardor for physical activity. Earlier when Jori told him about all the activities available here, the elder prince had seemed riveted.
Even now, Jori was talking about it. J.D. had never heard so many words come out of the boy’s mouth at one time. Nor had he seen the boy express so much emotion. Jori’s eyes were bright and there was almost a smile on his face. It was obvious he was enamored with his brother and exceedingly glad to have him back.
Terk’s eyes suddenly lit up at the pretty young woman headed down the corridor towards them. The elder prince’s mouth curled up and he looked the woman up and down with obvious interest.
J.D. cringed. If he’d ever looked at a woman like that, he’d likely get his face slapped. But the woman either didn’t notice the leering look or was ignoring it.
Terk turned his head to watch her behind as she passed. A heat rose in J.D.’s chest. It wasn’t the first woman Terk had given that leering look to. One of the security officers returned his look with a hard stare, to which Terk had responded by rolling his eyes. And one of the medics pointedly ignored him as she checked his diagnostics, and then rushed away never to return again.
“Don’t look at people like that,” he snapped. “She’s a human being, not prey.”
Terk stopped dead in his tracks. His face darkened and he gave J.D. a penetrating glare. “What? You think I’m some sort of animal?”
He bristled, but getting angry wouldn’t help the situation. “Look. I don’t know how you treat women in Tredon,” he said, trying to keep his tone neutral. “But here, we treat everyone with respect.”
“And just how was I being disrespectful?”
“Leering is not appropriate. Women here find it highly offensive.”
Terk cocked his head ever so slightly.
The confused expression threw him off. He really doesn’t understand, does he? “Do women look at you the way you looked at her?” he asked, hoping to explain it from a different perspective.
“Yes,” Terk replied with a look on his face that seemed to add the words, ‘of course’.
Well, he is the prince. “What if they don’t give you that look? What if you look at them like that and they don’t return it?”
Terk shrugged. “I move on to someone else.”
“You do?” J.D. didn’t mean to say it out loud. He tried not to box people into a stereotype, but it was difficult in this case since Tredons were notorious for committing rape. The files he’d read described Tredons like the barbarian hordes of old where women were taken as spoils of war.
Terk’s face darkened again. “I’m not an animal.”
J.D. put up his hands. “That’s not what I meant. I’m sorry.”
Terk’s face softened somewhat. “If she’s not interested, she’s not interested.”
“She’s a little old for you, isn’t she?”
“I prefer older.” Terk’s eyes brightened and a small smile spread across his face.
J.D.’s stomach soured. “Well here, you are considered a child and any sexual activities with children are highly illegal.”
Terk smirked. “I’m not a virgin.”
He got the feeling Terk was telling the truth. “That’s not the point.”
The elder prince scowled. “So what is?”
J.D. sighed. Where was I going with this again? No, not the stereotype. “The point is, even if you were an adult, people here don’t like to be leered at. It’s disrespectful. You’re more apt to make that woman feel uncomfortable than anything.”
Terk made a dismissive noise and shook his head. He turned away and they went on to the gym in silence.
The elder prince made a low whistle the moment they entered. J.D. had forgotten how large the recreational areas on Prontaean Alliance ships could be and tried to imagine how grand it looked through Terk’s eyes. Most ships couldn’t accommodate the space, but the Prontaean Alliance felt they could keep crews in space longer if they offered such amenities.
Jori and Terk took the lead with Jori pointing out all the various activities. The expanse to the right was nothing but weight equipment. Cardio machines were further up. Several large sectioned-off rooms for playing sports were further on. Then as they came around the gym’s jogging track, Jori pointed out the gymnastic equipment and several open areas for stretching, martial practice, or for playing other sports. The tour ended at a section where Lt. Gresher sparred with Lt. Addams.
“So, Commander,” Terk said with a sly look on his face. “What do you say you and I have a little sparring competition?”
J.D. suppressed the urge to wince. If the younger prince was at level nine, there was no telling what level the elder prince was at. Even in his weakened state, Terk was probably a lot more skillful than him. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”
“Why? Are you scared?”
“No. Just practical.”
Terk made a small laugh. “Yeah? How’s that?”
“If you beat me, especially despite you’re condition, I will look bad in front of my crew.” Terk smirked at that. “If I beat you,” he said and Terk huffed, “I’m afraid it will sour our relationship. We only have a few days left together. I’d like to make the best of it.”
Terk turned to the closest group of security officers. “How about any of you?”
Two officers darkened and the third’s eyes went wide.
“No,” J.D. said loudly. “If you wish to spar, use the holo-program.”
“Over here,” Jori said, gesturing towards the far wall.
“Fine.” Terk strutted by the guards with a smug look on his face, making the two officers turn even darker.
J.D. sighed inwardly.
J.D. fell heavily in the chair without meaning to. Captain Arden didn’t show any reaction, so J.D. assumed the casual motion was acceptable since it was just the two of them here in his ready room.
“I take it things are not going so well with the elder prince?” Captain Arden said.
He sighed heavily. His shoulders ached from holding so much tension. “I’ve never had such a need to practice meditation.”
“Nothing violent, at least not yet. He’s very…” Rude? Confrontational? Moody? All of the above? “Surly.”
“The younger one was the same way. But you two seem to have made friends.”
I wish I were as confident as he sounds. “I hope so. Because right now I feel like tossing him in the brig.”
“So I take it it would be a bad idea to ask him about his mission.”
“Yes, Sir, it would. As curious as I am to find out what they meant regarding the scientists, I very much doubt he would reveal anything and I fear trying would cause even more trouble than it did with Jori.”
The captain frowned. “Let’s hope it’s nothing.”
“Short of keeping them prisoner, I don’t think we have a choice but to let it go.”
The captain cleared his throat and somehow managed to sit up straighter than he already was. “Speaking of prisoners,” he said in an ominous tone. “Zimmer has ordered we take the children to him.”
He froze as if he’d suddenly stepped onto the ice planet, Sardeer. “What? You can’t!”
The captain lifted his eyebrow at J.D.’s tone.
“You promised them,” he continued, trying to control his rising panic. “If you go back on that promise, there’s no telling what they’ll do. And I’m willing to bet they’re quite capable.”
“Then we’ll have to make sure we’re ready to handle them when they find out.”
“Sir, you can’t! You know it’s wrong. They’re not criminals. I admit the elder prince is a handful, but what happened to trying to handle this diplomatically? What happened to making a good impression on them in hopes of gaining their trust for future peace?”
The captain put up his hand. J.D. ignored him.
“What happened to trying to avoid a war? If Admiral Zimmer takes them into custody—“
He snapped his mouth closed, cutting off the dozens of other arguments that spun around in his head. He breathed heavily while gripping the armrests of his chair.
“I know the consequences,” Captain Arden said in a moderate tone.
How can he be so calm? He gripped the chair so hard that a pain surged up his arm. It’s the Kimpke incident all over again. He’d wondered earlier whether the captain would choose duty over morality, and it seemed his question was now being answered.
“It’s not something I want to do,” the captain continued.
“Then don’t do it!”
The captain put up his hand again. “And it’s not something I’m going to do if I can help it. I’m speaking to you privately now because I need you to help me think of a way out of it.”
“A way that won’t get us both a dishonorable discharge.”
He sat back in his chair heavily and loosened his grip on the armrests. The pounding of his heart throbbed in his ears.
“Getting the information we know they have won’t help. It will only wet the admiral’s appetite,” J.D. said bitterly. “We can help them escape somehow.”
“Only if we can find a way to do it without anyone getting hurt or anyone being put under investigation.”
“I’ll take the blame,” he replied. It would mean the end of his career. His gut churned at the thought, but he’d rather sleep at night than let Zimmer instigate a war.
“That’s very noble of you. But I’m not ready to lose another commander. We’ll think of something between now and when we get to the Chevert Outpost.”
J.D. straightened. “We’re still going to the Chevert Outpost?”
“We still have our other guests to drop off. And I convinced Admiral Zimmer this location would be more convenient.”
He sighed and some of the tension in his shoulders loosened. “May I suggest, Sir, that we say nothing to Jori and Terk about this until we know for certain what we’re going to do?”
“Anything else, Sir?”
“No. I think that’s quite enough. Don’t you?”
J.D. stood and made a tight smile. “Yes, Sir. I do.”
“Good. But I do have one more thing to say before you go?”
“This conversation is strictly between you and I. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Captain. If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer not to get anyone else involved.”
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 July, 2016 by Dawn Ross
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