Here is a brand new chapter from Dragon’s Fall, Book Three of my sci-fi series. Give it a read and let me know what you think. Point out errors, suggest changes, and tell me if my story is on the right track. I can’t wait to read your feedback!
If you haven’t read the first three chapters yet, click HERE, then scroll down to the bottom for chapters 1 and 2 and work your way up to chapter 7.
Terkeshi bolted upright with a gasp. His heart hammered in his chest as he labored to get a grip on his surroundings.
The light of his small, neat room brightened. Terk absorbed the familiar sensation of his fleecy blanket. The sight of his desk against the wall with everything in its proper place tempered the pang of his awakening jolt. The whispering whir of a cleaning bot disinfecting the bathroom eased the resounding chaos in his skull.
His breath reduced to a deep pant as his dream flittered away, leaving a ghostly feeling.
Not all of it was a dream. The memory of Jori’s death infiltrated his sleep nearly every night. Even though he hadn’t witnessed it with his eyes, he’d felt it. The pain of death was like no other sensation. The more familiar he was with the dying person’s life force, the more it crippled and blinded him.
His nightmares filled in the gaps of what had happened. His father’s maddening fury as he caught Jori helping the prisoners was easy to recreate. Jori’s brave trepidation was another. His seeming fearlessness in the face of danger had been one of his many admirable traits. Sometimes he could be brave to the point of being foolish.
Terk pictured him standing up to their father with his teeth bared. He imagined him trying to fight to defend himself. Though Jori was highly skilled, probably even better than Terk, he’d only been ten years old.
He never had a chance.
The one part of the nightmare that he’d seen for real was Jori’s lifeless body and his father’s knife sticking through his heart. Though Terk never saw the act of the stabbing, he knew it jabbed into Jori’s heart because he’d felt it. It was as though the knife had pierced his own heart.
His brother’s life force had been snuffed out just like that. Gone forever.
Terk clenched his blanket and tried to hold the shock wave of his emotions at bay. A sob escaped his chest. Tears forced their way out of his eyes.
He punched himself in the leg, hoping to distract himself with a more bearable type of pain. It didn’t work. He punched harder and faster, screaming as he did so.
With a roar, he discharged the expansiveness of his sorrow.
He heaved through clenched teeth. His sadness abated as an internal heat took over. This had been Jori’s own fault. He was too weak. He’d let his sentiment override his reason when he helped those prisoners. If only he’d listened to Terk and Sensei Jeruko when they said to let them die. So what if one of them had saved Terk’s life when they’d found themselves on a Cooperative vessel? That only made them fools, and everyone knew fools didn’t deserve to live. Jori had owed them nothing.
Terk threw off his blankets and stood. Another bot exited its cubby hole. Damn. That meant it was still the middle of Terk’s sleep cycle. He didn’t feel tired, though.
The twenty-centimeter-high device edged along the wall, picking up any debris that might have fallen there since the night before. It had a simple cylindrical shape, yet it immediately reminded Terk of the cyborgs. The thought of all its electronic innards made him grimace. He booted it back. “Cancel.”
After the device returned to its compartment, Terk dressed in single-minded determination. He was the last of the Mizukians. It was up to him now to be the best warrior he could be. It would take a lot of practice, but one way or the other he would be better than Jori. And he would succeed not just because he’d be a better fighter, but because he didn’t have his brother’s foolish sentiment.
Terk exited his room. Tokagei, his least favorite personal guard, jerked from a slouch. His larger bottom lip stuck out and he made a sucking noise. “You’re up early, my Lord. What’s the occasion?”
Terk marched passed him, down the corridor. “Your job is to keep guard, not talk. If I want you to know my business, I’ll tell you.”
If Tokagei was offended, he had the sense to keep it to himself as he trailed behind.
Terk missed Washi and Michio. They never questioned him, whispered about his personal habits to others, or told Father whenever he made a mistake. Tokagei, the snitch, couldn’t be trusted with much of anything, probably not even his life.
A sourness filled Terk’s mouth. Ever since Jori’s betrayal and Washi and Michio’s exile, his personal guards had been sticking their noses into everything he did. His only respite was in Sensei Jeruko’s dojo for training. Even then, surveillance cameras kept watch.
Terk came upon the entrance to the auxiliary bay and hesitated. The distinct muted essences of the cyborgs turned his stomach. How could implanting a few electronics dampen their life force? Did it make them only half alive?
He gritted his teeth and entered. The scene halted him in his tracks. Instead of just finding the few cyborgs he’d sensed, there was a swarm of them. His jaw fell as he tried to focus on individuals only to find many of them were entirely void of emotion. Not even the basic essence found even in animals lurked.
Terk gulped as the sense of their lifelessness reminded him of his dead brother.
Tokagei cocked his head. “What is it, my Lord? Are they up to something?”
Goosebumps prickled Terk’s arms as he noted the silent laborers. One who might have been a woman took measured steps, halted, turned ninety degrees, then advanced to her destination. “Most of them aren’t even human. They’re pure machines.”
“They look human to me.”
Terk frowned. No wonder Father and the others seemed alright with enhancing a few senshi. They didn’t feel what he felt.
“You better hope so,” Terkeshi replied. “You’ll be turned into one of them in a few hours.” Thank goodness it was Tokagei and not him.
Tokagei shrugged. Terk curled his lip. Idiot.
The longer he watched the cyborgs at work, the more disturbingly rote their actions appeared, and the more his stomach roiled.
The lead cyborg he recognized as Ambrose paused, then faced him with a detached smile.
A shiver ran down Terk’s spine. He left before the churning of his gut hurled something up.