The 2nd draft of chapter 12 of Dragon’s Fall: Book Three is ready for your feedback. Help me make this sci-fi story better by pointing out any story issues, slow parts, confusing parts, and/or sentences that could be worded better. I greatly appreciate you!
Ten flinty-eyed senshi stood in an impenetrable line. Their sinister black armor accented with metallic barbs matched their ominous expressions. They clasped their RR-5 phaser rifles in port arms position across their broad chests. Pitch hilts of katana swords protruded from a sheath at their back while scabbards strapped to their thighs held wicked daggers.
Terkeshi faced them with a taut stance, hoping his forbidding mien matched theirs. His black battle armor bore gold trim and useless barbed spikes, but it marked him as their leader.
His heart drummed in his chest as he put on an air of readiness for his first real battle. The emotion was fruitless at this point since the confrontation was days away. This ceremonious departing, though, was necessary to solidify his role.
After pointing out that Samuru had even been able to defeat his oldest deceased brother, Dokuri, in a mock battle, Father had given him yet another chance to prove himself. Two squads instead of one were ready to deploy now because another wanted ship had shown up at the space station dubbed New Nishiki Market. Terkeshi would take ten senshi, including two enhanced, to the market while General Samuru would take a larger squad to Kortsu.
Orders were clear. Root out any traitors and make an example of them.
“Present, arms!” Terk commanded.
The warriors simultaneously held their rifles out and shifted them to a vertical position, then stomped their right foot. The solid strike of their boots to the floor boomed throughout the staging area. The spotlight above Terk and his squad brightened at the same time, casting the surrounding senshi spectators into deeper shadows.
The spectators beat out a slow tempo with their own stationary march as Terk made a show of inspecting his team. Two stomps were spent at each man. Stomp one, Terk glanced at the rifle’s settings on the upper and lower receiver. Stomp two, he nodded sharply to the soldier, who replied by returning to port arms position.
Terk struggled to keep from making a face when he reached Yujio. The cables of the man’s cybernetic forearm twisted like a clew of worms. The central bone of its power core glowed a dull blue, indicating it wasn’t currently being used at full power.
More disturbing than the forearm, though, was the skeletal titanium fingers holding the rifle in an iron grip.
After stomp two, Terk moved to the next enhanced soldier and suppressed a grimace. Tokagei wore a smug expression, as though he thought he was special. Didn’t he know Father chose him to be a cyborg because of his merely average martial skills? It didn’t make sense to enhance an already great warrior.
Terk completed the sham inspection and planted his feet in front of them. He gripped his hands behind his back and puffed out his chest. “Our assignment is to secure the Bantam Class ship, Flying Fish, docked at the New Nishiki Market. Are you ready?”
“Yes, Sir!” they all boomed at once.
The senshi pivoted ninety degrees and stomped in unison.
Cheers broke out among the spectators as the warriors tromped from the staging area. Men whooped and clapped with a resounding ferocity.
“You can do it, Prince Mizuki!” one voice called.
Terk soured. Of course he could do it. This would be an easy mission. A Bantam Class had less than a dozen crew members and their systems were easy to hack. Plus, there was likely to be any real confrontation since the captain was unlikely to refuse Terk and his team to board.
Terk had another role besides leading. Asking the crew if any of them passed on sensitive information was at least something he could do better than the newly enhanced soldiers. He was the only one who could sense emotions, and therefore sense whether anyone lied.
The march continued through a wide corridor, then onto a docking platform where a Serpent Class ship awaited. Terk’s chest hardened at the sight of the sleek black vessel. This was the same type of ship he’d crashed in enemy territory some months back. He had Jori had been rescued from the StarFire’s wreckage and brought onto a Cooperative Expedition Class vessel. Instead of being held prisoners, though, they’d been treated as guests. It was no wonder Jori had wanted to save the Cooperative prisoners Father had captured a month or so later.
Terk shoved the memory away. He couldn’t afford for sentiment to get in the way of this mission. He’d failed too many times since Dokuri, then Jori’s death.
He grabbed a dose of determination and forced it to the forefront of his thoughts.
I am a Mizuki. I will succeed at any cost.
Jin Jeruko’s heart swelled as the young prince marched out with his team. During the ceremony, Terkeshi’s controlled expression had held just the right amount of hardness expected of a leader. He maintained a robust carriage throughout, one that easily matched the senshi he’d led.
“Your son has grown strong, Sire.”
Emperor Mizuki grunted.
Jeruko regarded the austere man beside him. Was that an agreement or dissent? Probably the latter. Mizuki’s mood didn’t leave much room for optimism.
Nezumi’s nose twitched. “He should do well with the enhanced senshi by his side.”
“If he uses them this time,” the emperor replied with a twist of his mouth.
Jeruko bit down to keep from getting defensive. Yes, a leader should figure out how to best use each soldier’s individual skills. However, depending on cybernetically enhanced warriors could set a dangerous precedent.
After Samuru marched away with his team, the ceremony ended. The room emptied with strict formality as row after row of soldiers exited the staging area. Jeruko waited with the emperor while Nezumi bowed and excused himself.
The tension in Jeruko’s shoulders relaxed. “May I speak to you as your friend, Sire?” he asked, hoping to see a spark of his old friend now that Nezumi wasn’t here to create dissent.
Mizuki replied with sharp dip of his head.
Jeruko hesitated, uncertain if the emperor’s mood would be open to this discussion. “You remember what it was like when you were his age, how hard it was to listen to your father’s criticisms.”
Mizuki’s eyes sparked. “My father was a weak fool.”
Jeruko bowed. “True, Sire. Your father certainly didn’t have your strength or intellect, but that didn’t stop his biting words from affecting you.”
Mizuki stiffened. “Why are you bringing this up?” he snapped. “I don’t need to be reminded of that chima.”
Jeruko chewed on his words. “Terkeshi is trying sire. Despite some setbacks, I believe he’s doing very well for his age. He could use some encouraging words.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. My father may have been an ass, but his words made me work harder.”
“Of course, Sire.” Jeruko deflated. He wanted to say more, but the set of the emperor’s jaw hinted at an anger boiling beneath the surface.
How can he not see it? The constant criticism Mizuki had received when he was young had made him heartless and perpetually angry. The young man who had gone out of his way to help an insignificant son of a lord was gone.
To see Terkeshi toeing that same line made Jeruko’s heart heavy. He glanced hopefully at the exit Terkeshi had gone and wished the young man a successful mission.