I’ve been working on chapter 2 of my sci-fi novel, Dragon’s Fall: Book 3, for nearly a week now. It just doesn’t seem to be working. Although I feel it’s greatly improved, it’s missing something and I can’t quite tell what it is. I need your help. Please give this a read and share your feedback:
Kenji Mizuki popped his knuckles as he deliberated over his options. There must be a way to get what he needed. If he didn’t do something soon, his empire would fall apart. His ancestors had ruled for nearly five hundred years already, and he’d be damned if he’d be responsible for its final decline.
He planted his elbows on his desk and glanced at the case of artifacts standing in the corner of his office. Both a hatred and a yearning clutched his chest. His father had once ruled from this same chair, and that drunken chima was the reason Mizuki was in this predicament now.
Most items in the case, though, belonged to his grandfather. If the stories were to be believed, Emperor Ryu Mizuki had been the greatest Toradon ruler of the past century.
Mizuki’s heart swelled as he gazed upon the man’s sword resting on the top of the case. According to Sensei Aki, his grandfather had last used this sword in the Battle of Abira. He claimed that when the enemy had used new defuser technology to make phaser rifles and other energy weapons ineffective, his grandfather pulled out this sword and turned the tide.
The sword’s handle, made from the skin of some reptile, had degraded since then. It might have once been dyed red, but now it was browned with age. If not for the succeeding failures of Mizuki’s father, the sword could have been used as a symbol to reclaim his grandfather’s greatness.
Mizuki’s fingers tingled. His hands had been in fists for so long that they’d fallen asleep. He flexed them to get the blood flowing again and tapped his deskview. A mostly green planet expanded to take up a quarter of the screen. “What about Pulcrate?”
“I believe it’s pronounced pool-cray-tee, Sire,” one of the men standing before him said. Mizuki made a face, but Jeruko continued in the same gravelly tone that only got rougher with age. “Their planetary defenses aren’t that sophisticated, which indicates they won’t have what we need.”
“Doesn’t the Cooperative help them out with experts and technology?”
Jeruko bowed. “Yes, Sire, but I believe the people there are still very much in the agricultural stage. Any specialists the Cooperative has sent them will likely be in geoscience and biology.”
“I agree, your Eminence,” Nezumi said. His upper lip rose slightly, as though he had a distaste for agreeing with Jeruko. “If they have engineers, they are likely more skilled in building and maintaining industrial machines.”
Mizuki pinched his lip. They needed physicists and aerospace engineers. The perantium emitter he’d taken from Thendi a few months back remained in pieces in his auxiliary docking bay. He’d arrived at the other spaceship he planned on housing the giant device in, but he couldn’t move forward without the right labor force.
When he’d confiscated the emitter, he’d also taken captives. His plan had been to take scientists and engineers, but he ended up with Cooperative officers instead. Jori had claimed they possessed the skills needed to fix it, but the boy had likely lied.
Heat flared in his chest. That damned little traitor.
“Sire,” Samuru said, “if a Cooperative ship is there, we can attack them and take their people.”
“We can’t plan an attack based on what might be.” We don’t have the resources.
Mizuki eyed the giant man. Samuru was the fiercest warrior he’d ever met, but not always the brightest. The long scar running down the man’s cheek hinted at the number of times over the years he’d been struck in the head.
Jeruko was better at evaluating plans of action, but Mizuki wasn’t sure how much he could trust his old friend. The silver streaks through the man’s temples suggested his wisdom and his dark eyes reflected his honesty. Mizuki had known him since his teenage years, yet Jori’s recent betrayal made him suspicious. Jeruko, after all, had been the boy’s mentor.
“We can always lay low outside the solar system,” Jeruko said. “A Cooperative ship is bound to show up.”
“I can’t leave here. The Fire Breather is too vulnerable right now,” Mizuki replied regarding the ship they were reconstructing to house the emitter.
He tapped his lip as he considered other ways the man’s idea could be implemented. It had promise. Maybe Jeruko wasn’t to blame for his youngest son’s betrayal after all. It could have been the boy’s mother.
He glanced at Nezumi who frowned and shook his head. When it came to planning attacks, Mizuki had been relying more on this man. Nezumi’s narrow face combined with his thin eyes and pinched mouth made him look like a rat, but also reflected his cunning. Rats were considered deceitful, too, but Mizuki trusted him more than Jeruko right now.
“Sensei,” Mizuki said to the old man standing off to the side. “Any thoughts?”
Sensei Aki regarded him, but his rheumy eyes still seemed lost. “Nothing, Sire.”
Mizuki shifted his gaze to a bulky helmet on the inner shelf of the case. He reflected on another story Sensei Aki had told him regarding his grandfather. The dragon-styled helmet had been part of a new, higher-tech space suit. A line of spikes beginning from the forehead ran to the back of the skull. Two sharp-tipped horns erupted from the sides. Its mouthguard bared a mouthful of carnivorous teeth.
Despite how menacing it appeared, Sensei Aki had said it possessed a fatal flaw—one that nearly killed its wearer. When Mizuki’s grandfather had worn it during the battle of Minashi, its computer chip malfunctioned. Instead of being a protectant, the helmet became a deathtrap. The faceplate blacked out and Mizuki’s grandfather couldn’t see his attackers. Yet the man fought on blindly, his determination inspiring his senshi warriors until they’d won the day.
Mizuki relished the thought of winning a losing battle with his greatest warriors at his back—only many of those warriors seemed to want to stab him in the back instead.
The helmet now sat as useless as Sensei Aki stood. Space dust had flattened its golden sheen and dulled its sharp edges. Pock marks flawed its smoothness. When Mizuki had been young, the helmet inspired his ambition. Now it served only to symbolize the decay of the Mizukian empire.
“We can send General Sakon,” Samuru said, snapping Mizuki out of his brooding.
“He’s out hunting,” Nezumi replied.
Despite the man having the tact to not say the outlaw Fujishin’s name, Mizuki’s jaw tightened.
Samuru’s brows furrowed. “General Brevak, then?”
“He’s looking for the Cooperative ship,” Jeruko said.
A pang ran up from Mizuki’s jaw and stabbed into his temples. The Cooperative ship that had somehow convinced his young traitorous son to help them rescue their people was probably long gone, but he wasn’t about to give up and let those chima get away with it. “If Brevak finds that ship, we won’t have to worry about going to Pulcrate. I can’t wait on that possibility, though. I need experts today.”
“I’m sorry, your Eminence,” Jeruko said. “I’ve run out of ideas.”
The others remained silent. Mizuki expelled an exasperated breath and slammed his fists onto his desk. “Doesn’t anyone have any viable suggestions? This device must become operational.”
“It’s too bad your grandfather isn’t still around,” Sensei Aki said. “That man was as devious as he was ruthless. Did I ever tell you about the time—”
Mizuki shot the man a glare. “I have no time for your stories, old man.”
Although Aki had motivated Mizuki’s ambition since his youth, those tales alone wouldn’t win him back the Pentam System, put Lord Enomoto in his place, or get revenge for all the recent betrayals.
If he could just get that perantium emitter working.
He suppressed a sigh. “I must contact the Cyborgs, then.”
Jeruko’s dark eyes widened. “Are you certain that’s a good idea, Sire?”
Mizuki clenched his fists. “No, I’m not certain, damn it! But what other choices are there?”
Jeruko didn’t flinch at his anger. “I’m just worried about the cost, Sire? And not just monetary costs. Surely they will want more.”
Mizuki ignored his concerns, knowing them full well. Those creatures were like religious fanatics, spouting their evolutionary beliefs with zeal—and sometimes force.
Although the cyborgs were human, just like the rest of the known galaxy, they considered themselves superior. Biology enhanced with machinery 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 Mizuki’s own culture, had long ago outlawed mechanical enhancements and genetic alterations. Being legally bred to be the best warrior and masterful tactician had been the pride of his family for generations.
One drawback to the laws, though, kept him from being able to sire more children. Since the luck of genetics left him with one remaining son—and an incompetent one at that—the temptation of enhancements wormed its way through his thoughts.
Perhaps the cyborgs, who lived on the fringes of the known universe, had the right of it. If he could gain supremacy, he could do whatever he wanted—powerful lords like Enomoto be damned. He could extend his life or create a son worthy of the Dragon Empire.
Mizuki wasn’t ready to go that far yet, though. For now, all he wanted was for the cyborgs to help him reconfigure the emitter. His glory would be greater if he could conquer his enemies as a man rather than a machine.
He tapped the terminal on his desk, opening the communications section.