The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera by Dawn Ross
Part One – Starfire Dragons (provisional title)
Chapter 33 – Revised
(Here is another brand new chapter. I hinted at some of it in the unrevised version of my science fiction story, so maybe you know what’s coming… maybe.)
Jori sprung forward, landed on his hands, flipped back onto his feet, and repeated three times, adding an extra twist on the last one, and landed facing the direction he had just come. Terk furrowed his brow in determination and then did his own moves down the mat, landing next to Jori with a full flip.
The two went back and forth at increasing levels of difficulty, not really competing yet still trying to outdo one another. Neither of them spoke. They hadn’t spoken since yesterday’s incident at the gym. Jori was irked with Terk’s constant confrontational attitude and Terk was probably upset at him for calling him out on it.
What does he expect? Sure, the Alliance as a whole was their enemy. But Captain Arden’s words kept popping back in his head. Why? Why are we enemies? He still didn’t know the answer. But he knew J.D. wasn’t his enemy. The man had played a large part in saving their lives. And he’d been protecting him while Terk was in a coma. If only Terk would listen and understand.
J.D. walked by, dabbing his forehead with a towel. The wetness of his shirt indicated he was probably done for the day since the man rarely spent more than an hour at the gym.
Jori caught J.D.’s eye. The man gave a nod and small wave, verifying his assumption. Jori dipped his head in return while Terk simply glowered. His brother continued glaring at the man’s back as he headed towards the exit. Jori clenched his teeth and bit back the name he wanted to call his brother. Terk caught the look and the tension between them grew.
“I’m done here,” Terk said abruptly.
“Fine,” Jori replied.
Terk moved to leave. “Well, come on,” he said irritably. “We have to do what the Alliance says and stay together,” he added sarcastically.
Jori growled, but followed. No need to give the guards a reason to act. They were already watching with the intensity of a caged blackbeast, ready to attack as soon as the cage door flew open.
Jori walked the track with his brother sullen silence. He masked his emotions, knowing Terk would unintentionally feed off them. He also kept his mouth closed as they paused at different workout stations knowing if he showed any interest or disinterest, his brother would claim the opposite just out of spite.
A prickling sensation tickled his mind. He stopped.
“Come on already, dammit.”
Terk’s annoyance touched his senses, but the other sensation was too strong to be overcome. “Do you feel that?”
Jori looked back to where he thought the sensation might be coming from. There were several people doing various workouts, but their emotions seemed to be a simple mixture of determination and satisfaction.
“Menace.” A shiver ran down his spine. Where is it coming from?
“Menace?” Terk crossed his arms.
“You can’t feel it?” Terk’s ability was not as sensitive as his own. But the feeling was so starkly different from anyone else’s that he should notice. Maybe his own attitude is getting in the way.
Terk stepped beside him and looked around.
The sensation dissipated, as though whoever it was had left.
“Hey,” a man called out from behind.
Jori turned around. His concern was replaced by a spike of annoyance. Calloway.
“If you two are looking for something to do, how about a game of hoop ball?” Calloway wore a kind smile, but Jori could tell there was no sincerity in it.
What’s he up to?
“That’s not such a good idea,” one of his guards, Lt. Sharkey, said before he or Terk could reply.
It was odd seeing a female in charge of security. Odder still was seeing and sensing how much the other guards deferred to her without any hint of disdain—everyone except Calloway, anyway.
“Why not, Lieutenant?” Calloway cocked head in mock confusion. “It’s just a friendly game.”
Lt. Sharkey opened her mouth.
“Certainly,” Terk said. “I don’t mind a friendly game.” Terk also wore a smile, one just as duplicitous as Calloway’s.
Shit. Now they’re both up to something. He scrutinized the surrounding guards. As much as he’d love to humiliate Calloway, no good could come of this.
He glanced at Lt. Sharkey. He got the sense that she didn’t trust Calloway either, but she considered it anyway.
“Yeah, it’s just a game, Lieutenant,” one of Calloway’s team members said.
The other Alliance crew members apparently part of the hoop ball game looked less confident. Lt. Sharkey met the eyes of each. One man shrugged his shoulders. Two gave Terk and Jori a dark glare but masked the look from her. Jori sensed nervousness from some of the others, but none of them spoke up against the idea.
“Very well,” Lt. Sharkey said. “But make sure it stays friendly. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Sir,” Calloway replied.
Calloway’s smile curled up slightly and Jori sensed his smugness. Unfortunately, Terk also felt smug.
The game was rather easy and not at all as intense as wall ball. All Jori had to do was pass the ball to other team members or throw the ball in the hoop. Being the shortest player gave him the advantage of being able to dart around the opposing players. And both he and Terk quickly got a feel for aiming the throw of the ball through the hoop.
The four players they had been teamed with had not been happy in the very beginning of the game. But they warmed up to them as their team’s score progressed. As Calloway’s team fell behind, Jori sensed the man’s anger rise.
Jori made a move in one direction, then pivoted in the other. He darted past another opponent attempting to block him only to find Calloway in his way. He feigned again. Calloway didn’t fall for it. Again, back and forth, until Calloway overreached in the opposite direction.
Just as Jori slipped by, Calloway slid his foot in the way. Jori skipped over it, nearly losing his balance in the process. He regained quickly and aimed the ball.
The ball sailed through the air and fell through the hoop. His team cheered. One member actually clapped him on the back.
“Great shot,” the man said.
The other team had the ball now. Jori had a knack for getting the ball away from them when they bounced it, but this time his opponent tossed the ball overhand. He jumped at it, but didn’t even came close.
Jori ran down the court, following the other team to their hoop. Calloway ran up beside him, then purposefully placed his foot in front of him. Jori hopped over it.
The game moved too quickly for him to respond, so he played on. Calloway tried twice more, and failed twice more.
The ball was his once more. He rushed down the court, bouncing the ball as he went. Calloway jumped in front of him. The man held his arms out wide. His stance was also wide, and so was the stupid grin he had on his face. Jori glanced around. All of his team members, including Terk, were blocked by their opponents. His only chance was to shoot the ball. It was a distance shot, but he could probably make it.
Jori held the ball up and took aim. He jumped up and flicked his wrist. The ball sailed out over Calloway’s head.
He didn’t have a chance to see the ball go into the hoop. The palm of Calloway’s hand jabbed him in the sternum, immediately taking the breath out of him. He flew backward. Master Jetser had taught him how to recover from a fall, but he couldn’t think quickly enough and landed with a hard thud.
Calloway barked a laugh. Jori’s face flushed. He quickly regained his feet and balled his fists at his sides. He opened his mouth with an insult ready on his tongue but Terk suddenly stepped between facing Calloway.
His elder brother’s elbow drew back and then a loud pop echoed. “Don’t you dare touch my brother, you fucking ass!”
Calloway landed hard with a grunt.
The guards rushed forward, surrounding him and his brother. He and Terk automatically went into a battle crouch and stood together back-to-back, ready to fight them off.
His brother’s command in their Tredon tongue spurred him to duck. The air crackled above him as the stun fire shot past.
“Stop!” a female voice yelled. “Stop, dammit! That’s an order!”
His heart pounded wildly while at the same time the heat of his brother standing behind him gave him comfort.
The guards stopped short. But each of them held their stun guns out, ready to fire. If they thought this would stop them, they were mistaken. Jori and his brother had practiced just such a scenario hundreds of times. They’d each duck and roll to one of their opponents and disarm them. Then they’d take each opponent down, two at a time, whether by turning their firepower against them or by physical force.
“Stand down!” a male voice said.
“I said, stand down!”
He and Terk remained in their battle stance. One-by-one, the guards tucked their weapons away and stepped back.
When they were all obviously no longer a threat, Jori stood erect. Terk did so as well, albeit much more slowly. His brother’s face was bright red and his knuckles were white from clenching his fists so tightly.
“What the heck happened?” J.D. said to no one in particular.
“He broke by dose,” Calloway said. The man was still on the ground holding his nose. Blood gushed from between his fingers. No one moved to help him.
J.D. turned his eyes to Terk. The look wasn’t accusatory. Jori could sense the man’s disappointment, though.
“He hit Jori and made him fall!” Terk pronounced each word like he was punching them out. His nostrils flared and his chest heaved.
J.D. looked at Jori. Jori replied with a nod of his head, but said nothing.
“It wad an acthident,” Calloway replied.
“Fucking liar!” Terk turned to go after the man again.
J.D. put out his hand. “Stop!”
Terk stopped and turned slowly to face J.D. A growl rumbled in his throat and Jori could sense his anger boiling over.
“I believe you,” J.D. said to Terk in a much calmer voice.
Terk’s growl died. A hint of confusion stabbed through his anger. Jori sensed the commander’s truthfulness so Terk probably did too.
J.D. turned to Jori. “Are you okay?”
“Let’s get you to sick bay and have a look anyway, alright?”
“Why?” Terk barked. “So you can verify we’re telling the truth? You think we’re lying about this?”
“I just told you, I believe you,” J.D. said firmly. “This is just protocol.”
His brother’s jaw rippled, as though he were grinding his teeth.
“I thought you left,” Jori said to J.D., hoping to divert his brother.
“Lt. Sharkey called me back. She suspected Lt. Calloway might try something and thought my presence would deter him.”
“Well it didn’t,” Terk said vehemently. “Why in the hell did that ass pick on my brother anyway?” Terk spit on the floor and glared hatefully at Calloway’s back as the man staggered toward the exit.
Jori glowered at the man’s back as well. Interesting how no one is bothering to help him. “He hates us. But since he can’t do anything about it, he resorts to pettiness.”
Terk frowned at his brother, but the look wasn’t hateful. “Why you?”
He shook his head. He and Terk had been taught to take out the strongest opponent first, so Calloway’s actions made little sense.
J.D. put his arm on Jori’s shoulder and looked at Terk. “He’s a bully. Bullies only pick on people they know they can overcome.
Terk huffed. “Jori can easily reduce that baka to a pile of bloody goo.”
J.D. winced. “Let me rephrase that. Bullies only pick on people they think they can overcome.”
Jori’s cheeks burned. J.D.’s words troubled him, though he didn’t know why. Perhaps it was the man’s corresponding feeling of disgust. Why did he touch my shoulder when he said that? Why did he wince at what Terk said? Does he think we are bullies too? Some Tredons were. His father certainly could be. I’m not though, am I?
Terk clenched and unclenched his fists against the tingling sensation in his fingers as the adrenaline coursed through him. “He’s a coward for trying to hurt my little brother. You shouldn’t have stopped me,” he said to the commander.
“While I agree Lt. Calloway was way out of line,” the commander replied with an annoyingly calm look on his face, “and he will get punished for it—your reaction made it look like you were the instigator rather than the other way around.”
He grunted. Master Jetser had said something similar on more than one occasion, but why in the hell should he care what others think?
The commander shrugged his shoulders. “It’s over now, at least. Let’s just go on to sick bay, alright?”
Terk heated again. “He said he’s okay. He doesn’t need to go to your stupid sick bay.”
The commander stiffened at his tone. He could sense a touch of uneasiness in the man and it almost made him smile.
“Well, I’m going anyway.” Jori briskly stepped away.
Terk opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again and growled instead. He caught up to his brother, giving both him and the commander a dark look.
“He deserves to die,” he said to Jori in their secret language as they headed toward sick bay.
His brother sucked in his breath. “J.D. has done nothing!”
He sensed the commander didn’t know what they were saying, but the man’s head cocked slightly at hearing his untranslated name.
Terk frowned. “I meant Calloway. But the commander too. All of them. They are our enemies.”
Jori’s eyebrows went up slightly. “They saved us.”
He let out an exasperated sigh as a new heat flushed over him. “Not this damned argument again.”
His brother’s brows turned back down. “You wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for them.”
He stopped short and turned to his little brother, leaning in close to his face. His teeth clenched so hard that a pang ran from his jaw and down his neck. “I don’t understand why you like him so much. He’s a pussy.”
“He’s not.” Jori steadily held eye contact.
He clenched his fists as a strong urge to knock some sense into his little brother came over him.
“Is everything alright?”
The commander’s voice grated his nerves but he ignored him. He could sense the man’s apprehension, but the feeling was overpowered by the determination he sensed from his little brother.
Terk straightened. As much as Jori frustrated him sometimes, he wouldn’t hit him. It wasn’t because Jori would hit him back. It was because he wouldn’t. Somehow, this bothered him more than anything. Besides, it wouldn’t do any good anyway. Stubborn brat.
Terk held his annoyance in check but refused to let the argument go, especially since he was right about this. “He is a coward. I can practically feel him shaking in his boots when he’s around us.”
“He’s just being cautious.”
“He’s afraid.” Terk spoke through his teeth.
“And yet he still doesn’t cower. Master Jetser says bravery is when you stand tall despite your fear.”
“I don’t give a damn what Master Jetser says. I still say he’s a coward.”
“Calloway’s the coward.”
“Which only brings me back to my original argument.”
Jori squared his shoulders. “Calloway got what he deserved. You humiliated him. You broke his nose and didn’t even get in trouble for it. I’d say that’s punishment enough.”
He huffed at Jori’s naivety. Men like Calloway needed to be put in their proper place—at the bottom. “You’re weak. You know that? You stayed too long with mother.”
Jori set his jaw firmly, but Terk could sense the comment stung. He averted his gaze from Jori’s hard stare. The comment was unfair and he knew it. Jori could outdo him in almost every physical activity. The only things holding him back was his current lack of strength.
Despite his guilt, Terk wasn’t about to apologize for the comment. “Fine. Maybe we’ll just hurt him a bit when we make our escape.”
He turned away and the two of them began walking again. The commander kept pace, radiating a sense of unease along the way.
“We don’t have to escape.” Jori said. “They’re letting us go.”
Terk growled in frustration. “We can’t just walk away from here without doing something to make up for our failure.”
Father was going to be so pissed. He was Daiichi Prince and it was his duty become the fiercest of warriors. It was bad enough those damned Grapnes had caused a fiasco. Grapnes of all people! He had no intention of continuing to play nice with these Alliance cowards.
Jori scowled. “Father doesn’t have to know we were ever here.”
“Dammit, Jori. Don’t you get it? We failed. I failed.” He leaned in slightly as they walked and pointed emphatically at his chest. “I can’t go home empty handed.”
“Why not? Why should we try so hard to please someone who doesn’t really care about us?”
Terk growled. “Because we have to be strong.”
“I am strong. I don’t have to be hateful like father in order to be strong. Master Jetser says there is strength in standing up for what is right.”
“Fuck Master Jetser!”
“Hey!” The commander put out his hand to stop them.
Terk stopped but gave the man a dark and hateful look.
“I don’t know what you two are arguing about, but—“
“It’s none of your business,” Terk said through clenched teeth.
A sense of anxiety spiked from the commander, but the man squared up his shoulders. Terk glared at him, daring him to interfere.
Jori stepped between them with is back to Terk. “It’s nothing, J.D. Just an argument between brothers.”
The commander didn’t move. Terk kept his eyes locked to the man. He wasn’t about to be the first to turn away.
Jori stepped back into him, forcing him to step back. He looked down at his brother in reflex, breaking the lock.
His face tightened along with another wave of heat that swept through him. “Dammit, Jori.”
Jori’s face was dark red and his eyes like daggers. “Stop this, Terk. He is not our enemy.”
The torrent of fury his little brother radiated gave him pause. Not because he was afraid, but because he knew this level of determination. If he made a move against the commander, he had no doubt Jori would try to stop him and he’d have no choice but to fight with his brother too.
His stomach roiled at the thought but he pushed it down. He held his brother’s glare for a moment longer, then turned away abruptly. “Fuck this. I’m going back to the gym. You and your friend can go on to sick bay if you want.”
He marched back the way they had come, not caring if anyone followed. The guards did, of course. All six of them.
Derovichi scrolled through the information on his tablet. The captain had told him to leave it on his ship in their docking bay, but he needed to get this work done. Fortunately, getting the tablet right out from under their noses had been as easy as breathing, just as easy as it had been in getting the other perantium suits.
Someone tapped Derovichi’s shoulder. He looked up from the tablet and saw no one.
He stood, not the least bit afraid. “No games. Show yourself.”
A shimmer wavered in the air before him and coalesced into a man. Except for the silver suit the man wore, it was like looking in a mirror. Many outsiders couldn’t tell one Chekrosian from another, but in this case making the distinction was actually a challenge. Derovichi recognized the same jutting chin, the long but not too long face, the narrow lips and sunken eyes.
“It worked.” His twin brother grinned widely.
“So the security officer’s information was valid.”
“I have a plan.” Conovichi’s grin widened further.
Derovichi returned the smile. “I’ll notify the others. The six of us should be able to pull this off.”
THIS IS THE LAST CHAPTER I WILL PUBLISH ON THE BLOG
To find out the end, you will need to wait until my book is published. This could take time depending on whether I can find some beta readers to give me feedback, whether the feedback requires a lot of rewriting, how long it takes for the book to be edited, and how long it takes for me to format it for both an e-book and a paperback.
I apologize for getting you hooked and not letting you read the end. But if any of you are artists (whether it be with music, fine art, dance, or writing) then you understand how much work goes into what we do and how important it is for us to be compensated.
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 August, 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.