Book One of The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera Saga by Dawn Ross
J.D. caught himself twiddling his thumbs and stopped. The silence of the conference room set his nerves on edge.
Captain Arden sat at the head of the rectangular table. His brows hooded his eyes as he scanned the reports on his deskview. Lt. Jenna Stein frowned as she browsed her digiview. Both Lt. Commander Bracht and Lt. Hanna Sharkey sat erect and looked at nothing in particular. Bracht held a sour look while Lt. Sharkey’s face was placid.
The captain looked up and sat back. His eyes locked with J.D.’s. J.D. braced himself for a torrent of disapproval for saving the lives of their enemies.
But the captain met the faces of each of the officers with the same stoic look. “It seems we have a potential security risk on our ship. Suggestions?”
J.D. let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. There was no hint of criticism in the man’s voice. Perhaps he was off the hook.
“He must be kept in the brig.” Lt. Commander Bracht’s deep voice reverberated through the small conference room.
J.D. winced at the chief of security’s direct and overly bold tone. It sounded as though he was making a demand, but neither Captain Arden nor Lt. Stein or Lt. Sharkey appeared to be bothered by it.
Lt. Hanna Sharkey tilted her head. “The brig? For a single child of no more than ten cycles, Sir?”
Thank you, Lt. Sharkey. She was an impressive security officer. And it wasn’t just because she was undaunted by Bracht’s overbearing attitude. She had a good head on her shoulders when it came to all things security related. Suggesting she be a part of the captain’s advisory team in this unusual security situation was a good call.
“He killed four Grapnes!” the Rabnoshk warrior said a little too harshly. Captain Arden’s eyebrow raised ever so slightly. “Single handedly,” Bracht said more calmly. “Besides, he’s a Tredon. Our enemy. He can’t be trusted.”
J.D. clenched his teeth at the man’s bullish attitude. Yes, the boy was a Tredon warrior. And yes, his phaser had been a kill-weapon. But his actions seemed to have been done out of desperation.
He opened his mouth to say as much but Captain Arden spoke first. “Enemies or not, we are not currently at war with the Tredons. Nor do we wish to be. This situation must be handled carefully. I won’t treat the child as a criminal without just cause.”
The tension in J.D.’s shoulders lightened slightly. The captain’s view was more than he’d hoped for.
Bracht’s nostrils flared. “Killing four men isn’t just cause?”
“It was self-defense,” J.D. snapped.
“We don’t know that,” Bracht shot back. “The Grapnes said the Tredons attacked them and stole their cargo.”
J.D.’s muscles twitched at Bracht’s singlemindedness. “There is no evidence of stolen cargo.” Bracht harrumphed. “Besides,” he continued, “I don’t think he should be held responsible for it if they did. He’s just a boy.”
Bracht’s bushy brows folded inward. “You saw what that so-called boy did with your own eyes. He’s dangerous.”
“But he didn’t shoot at us.” The rising heat in J.D.’s body manifested itself in his tone. Men like Bracht gave all military men a bad name. Whether he called himself a warrior, soldier, or security officer, his job should be to defend people, not treat everyone like an enemy and stomp on them with those gigantic boots of his.
One would think mankind should have evolved by now. But no. Men today were very much like the men of Earthen history. Some enlightened. Some innovative. Some ambitious. And some who still used force as their primary means to an end.
The Rabnoshk and the Tredons had a lot in common. Perhaps this was why Bracht was so against the boy.
“He threatened you,” the warrior insisted.
“He was just trying to determine if we were a threat.” The black look in the boy’s eyes popped back into his head. No child should have such a hard look.
Bracht’s lips curled into a sneer. “Obviously you were no threat at all since I heard you surrendered to him.”
J.D. bristled. “That is enough, Lieutenant Commander.” He eyed Bracht sternly. He wanted to say more, to defend his decision, but he had already given a full report of his actions. There was no reason to defend them against this man. He was from a generation of Protectors, not a generation of barbarians.
Bracht clamped his mouth shut. His frown deepened, but he didn’t argue further.
The captain glanced back and forth between the two of them. His demeanor gave no indication of what he thought of this outburst. J.D. resisted the urge to fidget. Captain Arden’s apparent indifference always made him feel like a fish in a bowl.
The captain set his elbows on the conference table and intertwined his fingers. “Lieutenant Stein?” he said, addressing Jenna, the ship’s chief anthropologist.
Lt. Stein squared up her shoulders. Her high cheekbones and thin arched eyebrows gave her a snobbish look. She certainly had pride in her job, but her mannerisms never came across as arrogant. “I would not underestimate these Tredon fighters at any age.” Her native language of the desert world Kochuru was rhythmic and flowing, but her accent in this universal language was harsh and halting. “There be no telling when this boy began training…or what sort of training he had.”
“So you’re recommending the brig as well?” Captain Arden said.
Lt. Stein’s black wavy hair swished as she shook her head. “I’m not sure that be called for, Sir. We all be officers here. No civilians for him to be a threat to. Besides, though the Tredons do be our enemies, we can never make peace if we treat even their children as criminals. I recommend a full armed security detail, no less.”
J.D. frowned. “Armed? If this boy has training, we risk him being able to disarm someone.”
Bracht grunted. “Which is why he should be in the brig.”
J.D,’s jaw tightened again. “That’s not what I meant. I say unarmed. And if he causes trouble, then we can restrain him. Whatever fighting skills he has, he’s not that strong yet.” And certainly your security team can handle a small child.
“And what of the other one?” Bracht asked of the older and probably much stronger Tredon boy.
He suppressed a sigh. “We’re not even sure he’ll live.”
The captain rest his chin on his steepled fingers. His face was unreadable. After a moment of silence, he lay his hands flat on the table. “I’m not going to put a child in the brig unless he gives us a reason. That is my final decision. We’ll worry about the other one if he makes it. I will, however, proscribe stun weapons only and a four-man detail of security on each of them at all times.”
J.D. almost slumped from the deflation of tension. The expected rebuke for bringing the enemy onto the ship never came. And that the captain seemed to side with him on this other issue was almost enough to set him completely at ease. Almost. If the boy turned out to be nothing but trouble, all the blame would lie with him.
“I have six in sickbay now, Sir,” Bracht replied. “Should I call two of them off?” Bracht’s tone sounded almost insubordinate—almost.
“No,” the captain replied. Only a small lift of his eyebrow indicated he heard the tone as well. But he didn’t acknowledge it in any other way. “Let’s keep the security on him until we have had a chance to speak to him. Commander,” he said to J.D., “I want you to go down and talk to him.”
J.D. nodded. “Yes, Sir.”
The captain turned to Bracht. “Lieutenant Commander, organize a security detail shift of six to stay on him for now and add security to engineering and other off-limit areas of the ship.”
Bracht seemed somewhat mollified by the captain’s acknowledgement that the boy could be a security risk. “Yes, Sir.”
Lt. Sharkey’s brow furrowed. “If the boy isn’t going to be in a cell, where is he going to stay?”
The captain looked at J.D. “Commander?”
He was about to suggest an officer, but something about the look the captain was giving him told him he was asking something else. “Me?”
The captain’s stoic features didn’t change. “He’s of a warrior class, which means he’s used to a ranking hierarchy. I need someone of high rank and with martial skills to instill authority. Besides, I hear you’re good with children.”
“That’s no mere child,” Bracht muttered.
J.D.’s mouth fell open and he snapped it shut again. His martial ability was decent enough, but his specialty was in strategic warfare not hand-to-hand combat.
This was another test… or perhaps a punishment for bringing the boys onto the ship in the first place. But then again, he couldn’t argue with the captain’s logic. Although he wanted to give the boy the benefit of the doubt regarding security, now that he was faced with being directly responsible for him he wondered if he’d taken the wrong stance.
What have I gotten myself into?
There will only be one more rewrite after this, so please give me as much feedback on this sci-fi novel as you can!
(This science fiction novella is protected by copyright) Copyright December, 2016 by Dawn Ross
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