Book three chapter 6 was originally chapter 4. I have made a few changes, so please check out this draft and provide feedback in the comments. If you haven’t read the first 5 chapters yet, you can find the updated chapters 1 & 2 HERE, chapter 3 HERE, the new chapter 4 HERE, and the new chapter 5 HERE. I want to make this novel the best it can be. Share your overall opinion or point out specific parts that don’t work for you. I greatly appreciate your help!
A colossal spaceship dominated the bridge’s front viewscreen. Kenji Mizuki leaned back in the central chair. He tried to appear at ease, but his bearing remained rigid. Although he’d invited the cyborgs here, getting a close-up look of their bizarre ship with its unfamiliar tech set his teeth on edge.
The insectile head of the vessel pocked with sensor arrays resembling mites. Thrusters attached to the midsection jutted out like wings while the ship’s abdomen comprised a stunted arc drive. How had the cyborgs traveled here so quickly with such a small engine? And where was the gravity wheel?
“I don’t suppose they’d share their aeronautic tech with us,” Nezumi said from the chair on Mizuki’s left.
Jeruko, to his right, shifted in his seat. “Perhaps, but at what cost?”
“You worry too much,” Nezumi replied. “An alliance doesn’t seem too much to ask.”
“It does if they plan on going against the entire galaxy.”
Nezumi harumphed. “We’re warriors. It’s our destiny.”
“We must be careful.” Mizuki flicked his hand at the screen. “They won’t give their tech away for free. If we rely on them too much, where will that leave us?”
“I don’t think they want to rule the galaxy, Sire,” Nezumi replied. “They just want to spread their ideals.”
Jeruko’s eyes widened. “Which is to turn everyone into machines!”
A sour taste rose in Mizuki’s mouth. The cyborgs were like religious fanatics, spouting their evolutionary beliefs with zeal—and sometimes force.
Although the cyborgs were human, just like all intelligent life in the known galaxy, they considered themselves superior. Biology enhanced with machinery and genetic manipulation brought them closer to being godlike, they’d said. Mizuki’s insides curled at the thought of his brain and body being augmented with computer chips, metal, and wires.
Much of humanity, including his own culture, had long ago outlawed mechanical enhancements and genetic alterations. Being legally bred to be the best warrior had been the pride of his family for generations. An alliance with the cyborgs could make people question his legitimate supremacy.
Nezumi’s mouth curled. “Would that really be so bad? Imagine how much more powerful we’d be if we didn’t have to use mech suits in battle.”
Mizuki frowned. “I’d rather defeat my enemies as a man than a machine.”
Nezumi dipped his head. “Of course, Sire. And you can. These people offer so much more than just mechanical augmentation, though. There’s germline engineering. And what if they could fix your genetic damage? After all, it’s not your fault someone poisoned you. They could put things back the way they’re supposed to be, and you can sire more sons.”
Jeruko sucked in a breath. Mizuki ignored him and considered the prospect of having an heir worthy of being the next Dragon Emperor.
“People won’t allow the laws to be so easily broken,” Jeruko replied. His expression remained neutral but Mizuki noted his skin had paled. Was it because he didn’t like the idea of Terkeshi being replaced or that he wanted the laws against mechanical or genetic enhancements upheld?
Nezumi grunted dismissively. “The people don’t have a say. He is emperor.” He thumbed toward Mizuki, his expression hardening with every word. “He makes the laws. Let them cry and whine all they want. In the end, our emperor reigns supreme.”
Jeruko’s brows furrowed as though troubled while Nezumi’s words resonated in Mizuki’s skull. What would it be like to rule without anyone to answer to? He could regain the glory of his grandfather and more—powerful lords like Enomoto be damned.
Caution remained necessary. It was important that he get what he wanted from the cyborgs without allowing himself to be subject to their rule.
Major Niashi turned from the operations console. “They’re in position, your Eminence.”
Mizuki acknowledged with a sharp nod. “Proceed with docking.”
He quelled his impatience. Connecting the skywalk added another hour to this long process. It’d be faster to use the transport to beam back and forth, but that took energy he couldn’t spare. Shuttles could work as well, but they’d be a hassle with all the back and forth likely to occur over the next several days.
He rose and faced his advisors with a commanding mien. “Notify me when it’s nearly complete, then meet me at the platform. Bring Terkeshi.”
After the men dipped their heads at the appropriate angle, he promptly retired to his office. His son’s report left much to be desired, which meant it was up to himself to figure out how to fix the Fire Breather without depending too much on the cyborgs.
Why couldn’t it have been Terkeshi to betray me instead of Jori? It still would have been a betrayal, but not as much of a loss.
The floor tremored slightly as the skywalk tube attached. A short hiss followed, indicating the pressure had equalized.
Kenji Mizuki waited. While his insides teemed, he projected a forbearing stance with his feet planted at shoulder width and his hands clutched behind his back. Terkeshi, Nezumi, and Jeruko stoically matched his posture.
“Sire?” Nezumi said. “Are you certain we can trust them not to smuggle spy tech aboard? We have scanners. They may not detect every possibility, but it will lessen our risk.”
Mizuki grit his teeth. If it had been Terkeshi questioning his decision, he would have backhanded him. “We’ve discussed this already.” To the point where we talked in circles. The cyborgs’ biometrics would set off the scanners, making it difficult to distinguish them from spy tech. It wasn’t like he’d allow his guests to traipse about his ship unescorted anyway.
Nezumi tended to reignite topics that didn’t go his way in the final decision, but at least his disagreement was obvious. Mizuki glanced at Jeruko’s relentless unreadable expression and narrowed his eyes.
After several minutes, the skywalk hatch opened. A pair of cyborgs emerged, one Mizuki recognized as the same man who had once offered his sons temporary nanites. It was hard to forget the large mechanical eye, harder still to ignore the plastic-like veneer of his skin.
The cyborg Ambrose dipped his head. “Emperor Mizuki,” he said in with an unsettling monotone voice. “It is an honorable pleasure to see you again.”
Mizuki replied with a perfunctory nod.
“This is my assistant, Brian.” Ambrose waved his hand at the chubby balding man beside him. “He’s an aerospace engineer.”
Although this skillset was exactly what Mizuki needed, he gave the man an even lesser acknowledgement. This cyborg wasn’t as ugly as Ambrose, but the tilt of his nose and the bored look on his face indicated he was just as arrogant.
Mizuki introduced Terkeshi and his advisors, then led them on a wordless trek to the auxiliary docking bay.
The bays door slid open to reveal a span of five lofty docking platforms. The lifeless carcass of the perantium emitter pieces spread throughout its breadth. Four shokukin worked with desolate slowness, but otherwise the place was as still as a deprivation chamber.
Mizuki stepped inside and took a humorless stance. “This device you’ve recommended to me has been more trouble than it’s worth. As you can see, it lies here still unfinished.”
Ambrose’s brow folded up and he nodded mechanically. “You want us to fix this powerful weapon for you.”
“And help us set it up on the Fire Breather.”
“You should know that the ship incurred damage from our enemies. Those enemies may return, but it’s nothing we can’t handle,” Mizuki said with more confidence than he felt.
Mizuki waited for the man to say more, but the drawn-out silence spurred his impatience. “Shall we discuss terms?”
Ambrose turned to him with a flat smile. “Of course. Our price remains the same—an alliance.”
“It depends on what this alliance entails.”
“Approximately one standard year from now, we require a half dozen of your warships and ten thousand of your ground troops to assist with our endeavor to impress enlightenment. This assistance will be needed periodically for an additional five years with an option to renew.”
Mizuki quelled his uneasiness at the man’s seemingly rehearsed reply. It was a lot to give, especially since transport ships would also be needed. However, he could spare both the men and the ships if he got the emitter working. “You will convert the perantium emitter into a weapon and you will help maintain it. It will be for my personal use only.”
Ambrose bowed. “Of course.”
“And you will be responsible for repairing our warships if they’re damaged in battle.”
Ambrose dipped his head again.
Jeruko cleared his throat. Mizuki nodded curtly and the man faced the cyborg with a staid bearing. “Will we be required to enhance our senshi for your use?”
“No. My boss understands your reluctance to go against your injunction. It is his hope that our ways eventually influence you in a peaceful way.”
“And who is your boss?” Mizuki asked.
“Why the MEGA-Man, of course.”
Mizuki’s spine tingled. “The who?”
Ambrose smiled again. “MEGA, as in mechanically enhanced and genetically altered.”
“Doesn’t he have a real name?”
“He has evolved beyond the need for a simple human moniker. He is the ultimate being in every way imaginable.” Ambrose’s human eye lit up.
Chills spread over Mizuki’s back and arms. “If he’s so remarkable, why do you need us?”
“We have the tech but don’t yet have the population.” Ambrose held his stupid smile. If he thought it made him look friendly, he was mistaken.
“Aligning myself with you goes against everything the Toradons stand for,” Mizuki replied. “Our leaders are bred. Our abilities are natural. To ally with you could cause a rebellion.”
Ambrose’s brows rose mechanically. “Ah, but you will have a powerful weapon to subdue them.”
Mizuki agreed, but it would be easier if he didn’t have to put down a rebellion at all.
“Father, don’t,” Terkeshi whispered. “They’re up to something.”
“This is no trick,” Ambrose said, likely having heard the boy with his cybernetic hearing. “We want you as an ally. That is all. It would be an arrangement beneficial to us both. We get the aid of the most feared warriors in the galaxy and you get a powerful weapon.”
“Is he telling the truth?” Mizuki asked his son. The boy’s sensing ability was his only skill with promise since Mizuki himself didn’t have it.
Terkeshi hesitated. “I think so, Sir.”
Mizuki huffed. Useless boy. “How soon can you fix it?” he asked the cyborgs.
“We will need to do an assessment.”
“It must be done quickly. Our enemies are mounting.”
Mizuki inhaled deeply. The terms were enticing, but the risk still great. He’d be helping them conquer worlds, thereby increasing their ranks and helping them expand their influence. He looked to is advisors, inviting their input.
Terkeshi’s brows tilted inward. “Our men will be dying for their cause.”
“He’s right, Sire,” Jeruko added.
Mizuki’s upper lip curled. Why did Jeruko keep taking the boy’s side over his own? Were they up to something?
“I am authorized to offer an incentive,” Ambrose cut in. “I can provide enhancements to five of your soldiers.”
Mizuki frowned. “How is that an incentive?”
“Your concern is that we will become so powerful, you will not be able to stand against us.”
Mizuki suppressed a shiver. Had Ambrose read his mind? Cybernetics couldn’t do that, could it?
“However,” Ambrose continued, “that won’t be true if you remain the dominant force in the galaxy with your super soldiers. Let us do this for you, and you will see how much the MEGA Injunction is holding you back.”
“And what will this incentive cost me?”
“Nothing,” Ambrose said. “I only wish to alleviate your fears.”
My fears? Mizuki’s gut soured. He wasn’t afraid. This was his prudence and suspicion making him reluctant.
Jeruko’s throat bobbed. “Your Eminence, using cybernetic soldiers will bring dishonor.”
Mizuki narrowed his eyes at the man’s audacity to accuse him of such a thing. He opened his mouth to say as much but Nezumi beat him to it. “You speak too harshly. There’s no dishonor in testing this on five senshi.”
Jeruko shook his head. “If the lords got word of it, more will side with Fuji—with that traitor.”
“And who would tell the lords, I wonder?” Nezumi replied.
Jeruko’s placid composure slipped into a stormy expression.
Mizuki studied him. Was his indignation at the unspoken accusation a result of his innocence? He hoped so.
“I see no harm in this experiment, so long as no one leaks the information.” Mizuki’s decision made his stomach tumble, but the prospect of seeing what an already deadly senshi could do with implanted tech intrigued him.
Jeruko dipped his head lower than usual. “Your eminence, there is an ancient saying—Beware of strangers bearing gifts.”
Mizuki ground his teeth. “You think I haven’t considered this? My enemies grow by the day. They must be stopped.”
Jeruko bowed. “Yes, Sire. Perhaps forego the enhancement of our people, for now. We can always reconsider later.”
Mizuki weighed the pros and cons. The only potential obstacle was the combined protests of the lords. With the emitter fixed, it wouldn’t matter what they thought. Plus, getting a preview of cybernetic abilities could prepare him for a future with the cyborgs.
“We will accept this gift,” Mizuki finally said.
If Jeruko was disappointed in his decision, he hid it well.
Ambrose turned a fake smile to Terkeshi. “If this works out, perhaps your son can be—”
“No,” Mizuki said sharply. “Not my son. I can get away with enhancing a few of my warriors, but not my blood.” Despite his threat the other day, he wouldn’t give the lords an excuse to join forces against him. Terkeshi might not be as good as Jori, but he still had potential.
Terkeshi exhaled noisily. Mizuki gritted his teeth at the boy’s unprofessionalism. Fortunately, the cyborg seemed not to notice.
“As you wish,” Ambrose said with a bow. “Five soldiers, and your emitter in exchange for a formal alliance.”
Mizuki gave it a little more thought. He didn’t like being in debt, especially not to someone who had the potential to be a powerful enemy. But they could be powerful enemies anyway. Perhaps it was best to align with these people, lest they join forces with Fujishin or another one of his enemies.
“Allies, then,” he said, “but my army will remain under my ultimate command, even while you use them for your purposes.”
Jeruko paled. Nezumi jutted his chin. Terkeshi’s shoulders fell, but he quickly pulled them back when he noticed Mizuki eyeing him.
Ambrose bowed. “Of course. We wouldn’t want it any other way. I will have my people draw up a contract.”
Mizuki almost smirked at the idea of a contract. Keeping one’s word was a point of honor. If this deal with the cyborgs didn’t work to his advantage, though, he’d break the contract, and his word, in a heartbeat. Nothing would stop him from being the greatest Dragon Emperor in Toradon history.