The second draft of chapter 3 from Book Three, Dragon’s Fall, has been completed. It’s told from the same character as chapter 1. Even though the setting is different, I’m a little worried that it rehashes much of the same issues. In asking myself whether this chapter has a purpose, my answer is yes. Even though it’s similar to the first, it shows how the MC’s failings are making him react in negative ways. It reinforces the stakes, and even raises them a little by revealing why he has no hope of pleasing his father and what the possible consequences of his failures are.
If you haven’t already read the updated rewrites of chapters 1 and 2, check them out HERE. Then give this chapter a read and compare. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Terkeshi glanced past the scaffolding, through the gaping maw gouged out of the unfinished spaceship, and out to the starry universe beyond. Pinpricks of light gave the illusion of infinite possibilities, but all he noticed was the oppressive emptiness between.
He sighed, creating a whisper that broke the extreme silence surrounding him. His helmet visor adjusted as he brought his attention back to the ship’s illuminated inner corridor. A line of the outer hull had been removed, leaving a long crevice segmented by light and dark intervals.
The idea was to lower the emitter here once the foundation and sides had been reinforced, then replace the hull. The work was slow-going, though. There was too much to do and most of the work had been halted because no one knew what to do next.
Terk reviewed the incomplete tasks on his tablet and his shoulders dropped. There was no way he could manage all this. The construction workers claimed not to have the right equipment, the electricians couldn’t figure out how to generate enough power, and the number of patches implemented by the programmers created a convoluted mess of redundancies.
A hollowness pushed against his insides. His desire to please his father was smothered by his inability to do anything more than show what couldn’t be done.
“My Lord,” a shokukin worker said through the mic as he bowed awkwardly in his spacesuit.
Terk suppressed a groan. “What is it, Malkai?”
“We tried putting in the reinforcements, but when—”
Terk put up his hand. “Don’t tell me. It didn’t work.” Chusho!
Malkai cleared his throat. “The brackets buckled, and the upper platform collapsed.”
Terk would have slapped his forehead if not for his helmet and threw up his hands instead. Malkai flinched.
“Show me.” Terk lumbered down the corridor, his magnetic boots keeping him from stomping out the rage building inside him.
Why did this keep happening? Weren’t the shokukin capable of even the simplest tasks?
An inkling about his own incompetence nagged at him, but he shoved it away.
Malkai led him to the broken-down section. Beams bent at awkward angles, resembling the arms of a mangled cybernetic monster. Terk gritted his teeth. A burning lurked behind his eyes and he scrunched them closed to force it back.
What the goddamned hell! Couldn’t anything go right? If this project didn’t get done soon, Father would turn him into the cybernetic monster.
No, he wouldn’t do that. Mechanical enhancements and genetic alterations were illegal. Emperor or not, the vassals wouldn’t stand for it. They’d revolt.
As Malkai went over all the problems this catastrophe created, Terk half-listened while reflecting on the cyborgs he’d met several months back. Those machine-men had come offering an alliance. As a token of goodwill, they’d given Terk and Jori an infusion of undetectable nanites. It was a good thing, too, because when he and his brother had been captured by the Cooperative, Jori had been able to use the nanites to escape.
Those nanites had long since dissolved, but if Father called on the cyborgs for help, they might offer permanent technical enhancements.
What if they also corrected Father’s inability to sire more children? Germline engineering was easier, but also illegal. However, if the cyborgs helped fix the emitter, Father could do whatever he wanted.
Goosebumps ran from Terk’s arms up to the back of his neck. His inadequacies would either get him turned into a machine or get him killed when a more competent son was produced.
Heat flared in his chest. It wasn’t fair. He shouldn’t have to deal with this shit. Nothing seemed to work in his favor, and it was all Jori’s fault.
Hot tears hovered at the edge of his eyelids. No, it wasn’t his brother’s fault. If Terk hadn’t crash landed on a Cooperative planet several months back, Jori never would have gotten to know the enemy well enough to want to save them.
Then again, Terk never would have gone into Cooperative territory if the cyborgs hadn’t told Father about the perantium emitter. Those machine-men were trouble. If only he could do his job well enough to keep Father from needing their help.
“Sir?” Malkai said. “What do we do?”
The heat of Terk’s shame erupted. “How in the hell am I supposed to know? I’m not an engineer, damn it. You are.”
Malkai hung his head. “My apologies, my Lord. I’m at a complete loss. We’ve never done anything like this before.”
Terk huffed. Malkai was right, of course, but Father certainly wouldn’t want to hear this excuse. “None of us have, but I expect you to do some research and figure it out.”
“I’m trying, my Lord. I truly am,” Malkai responded in a higher pitched tone. “But there’s a huge gap in our knowledge. We’d have to spend years studying to—”
Terk raised a fist. “Just do it, damn it! I’m tired of all these excuses.”
Malkai shrank back. Terk kept his arm raised, considering. Father would have struck the man. Why didn’t he?
Because he was a coward.
He yanked Malkai by the arm instead, pulling him close enough for their helmets to bonk. “If you can’t fix this,” he said in a low and menacing tone, “then you’re no good to me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, my Lord.” Malkai’s distress filtered into Terk’s senses.
Good. He’s afraid. Terk should make an example of this man—show everyone what would happen if they didn’t do what they were told and get this place ready for the emitter. After all, something worse was in store for Terk if he turned in this report full of excuses.
His gut fluttered as though something gnawed at his insides. How pathetic am I that I can only make those from the lower casts kowtow to me? Besides, no number of beatings or whippings would miraculously instill knowledge.
He released Malkai and stalked away. Two doses of regret filled him—one for not having the courage to inflict punishment and one for considering it.
Damn it. This was all so hopeless. If only he wasn’t so worthless.