Book One of The Kavakian Empire
A Space Opera Saga by Dawn Ross
The gentle heat of the healing bed eased the tension in Jori’s body. His pains ebbed away slowly as his body mended. It was a relief, being healed. But at the same time, an invisible weight pressed down on him. This can’t be happening. It just can’t.
His senses were still focused on his brother. Terk’s life force was weak—so weak, it might just disappear altogether. The weight threatened to crush him.
He redirected his ability once again on those surrounding his brother. A sensation of concentration and persistence emanated from them. Their lack of malice hopefully meant they were truly trying to save Terk’s life.
Suddenly, their determination pulled away. Jori’s chest tightened. Are they just going to let him die?
His heart raced. He moved to get up, but couldn’t. The healing bed’s operations couldn’t be interrupted.
If he let his heart rate increase enough, a doctor might come and stop the machine. But he breathed heavily and steadily, trying to calm his racing thoughts instead.
The sensations from Terk hadn’t changed. Yet the doctors and medics felt reluctant and defeated. But why? If only he could actually read thoughts or pull out information and not just sense emotions.
He reflected on what their emotions could mean and a memory popped into his head. Master Jetser had been hurt so badly once that he was in a coma for three days. The doctor had said he was in critical condition, which meant there was nothing else to be done except wait. Perhaps it was the same situation here. It’s all up to you now, Terk. Come on, you can fight this.
Damn those koshinuke-tachi/cowards. This was the Grapnes’ fault. They were the reason his brother lay at the edge of death. And those damned bastards were the reason for the deaths of the other men on his ship.
An ache in his chest swelled. His men were all dead. No one had to tell him. The memory of Bok’s impaled body and Veda’s crushed skull flashed into his mind. It wasn’t just what he’d seen, though. He’d felt the voids of their missing life force. They died protecting him, protecting Terk mostly. But still. They were all gone. All of them. It was just him… and maybe Terk.
The pain in his chest spiked. His eyes watered. Without them, and without his brother, he was left to face the enemy alone. His heart fluttered, but he pushed his panic down. I’m a warrior, dammit. I won’t be afraid. He’d fight these Alliance weaklings if he had to. Even if they did outnumber him. Even if they were much stronger than him.
There was nothing to be done now, though, but wait. He shut out all his thoughts and let his body relax. After some time, a shallow beep indicated the healing bed was done.
The lid slowly opened. Medic Shera smiled down at him with her sparkling yellow eyes. He barely glanced at her and flicked his gaze at the Alliance officer standing behind her instead. It was the same man as on the planet, a commander by the insignia on his brownish-grey uniform.
The man stood alert, in a readiness similar to that of a soldier’s but perhaps a little more at ease. His hair was the color of the Vandoran sand dunes. He was tall and fairly well-built as compared to the other Alliance men he’d seen, but not as muscular as a Tredon warrior.
And the man had a smirk on his face. Jori clenched his jaw and scowled. Baka/Fool. The man thinks he’s triumphed over me?
He sat up quickly. The insult on his tongue died away as the room spun. He gripped the edge of the bed waiting for the whirling in his head to subside.
“You alright?” the man said.
His vision came back into focus. The man was standing right beside him now. Jori clenched his jaw. The man was close, close enough for him to send a strike straight up into his nose. He was strong enough to draw blood. But no. Hitting a man just because he was irritating was Terk’s way, not his.
The insult came back into his head, but so did a sense of the man’s emotions. The commander didn’t feel cocky. He felt concerned. Jori focused on the sensation. Not a hint of arrogance.
So it wasn’t a smirk after all. He could see it now. One side of the commander’s mouth was naturally turned up more than the other.
Medic Shera put her hand on Jori’s shoulder. “How are you feeling?”
He turned back to her. “Well.”
“Good.” She smiled, but he could sense her unease as she did a brief medical inspection. He ignored her again. She wasn’t his concern. This place was. They were helping to heal him, but they could have something else planned. He needed a way out for just in case.
He glanced subtly around the room and mapped out all of his surroundings, the way Master Jetser had taught him. Two armed guards stood just inside the divider that sectioned off the area he was in. He could sense two more on other side of the opening. He delved with his senses further. Two others who felt like guards were near the main exit.
Then there was the commander himself. At least five medical personnel were also nearby. In Tredon, doctors were also warriors. He doubted it was so here, especially since half of them were women, but it was best not to make assumptions. Besides, they were probably all stronger than him. Maybe not as fast, though. Maybe.
There was nothing nearby he could use as a weapon. Not even any medical tools. The security must have had them cleared away. Smart. It’s what he would have done. Well, except his prisoners would be in a cell. Or if they were injured he might let them be healed but they’d be strapped down. These Alliance people were a little more trusting, but perhaps not so foolish.
The medic handed him some clothes. He unfolded the jumpsuit. It was black in color and long sleeved like his uniform. But there the similarity ended. The material was not the same, nor was it the same style. It didn’t even have built-in armor to protect him. He frowned but said nothing. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice. At least it was black.
Despite feeling nervous, medic Shera met his eyes. “I bet you’re hungry. Would you like something to eat?”
The hollowness of his stomach became apparent. “Yes.”
She smiled. “Anything in particular? I believe our processor has some Tredon recipes.”
His mouth watered at the thought of an almost rare guniku steak seasoned with yakume. But his body needed replenishing. Instead of food, He gave her a list of nutritional requirements. For some people, food was a vice. He might not be physically strong yet, but he was mentally strong enough not to be weakened by temptation. “I do not care what form it comes in or how it tastes.”
Both the medic and the commander raised an eyebrow, but neither commented. Of course the Alliance was wrought with temptations. Why else would they keep so many women about?
“Very well.” She inclined her head.
As soon as she turned her back to leave, Jori stepped down off the healing bed and faced the commander. He chastised himself for automatically going into a militaristic at-ease stance. This was the same way he faced his instructors and his father as a sign of respect. He defiantly unclasped his hands.
“Hello.” When the commander smiled, the crookedness of his mouth was even more pronounced. “I’m J.D.” He held out his hand in greeting.
Jori glanced at his hand with a frown. A trick? No. Oddly, the commander felt genuine.
He considered not taking it. After all, this man was the enemy. But then he remembered Terk.
He tentatively put out his own hand and performed the customary hand shake of the Alliance. “Jori.” It was his informal name and the safest one to give. He wasn’t well-known. Terk, on the other hand—they couldn’t find out who he was. Or what he’d been up to. Whatever niceness these people were presenting wouldn’t last if they knew.
J.D. widened his smile. Shaking hands had to be a good sign. “Nice to meet you, Jori.”
His smile faltered when the boy did not smile back. Jori’s eyes were naturally narrow, but not in a way that conveyed suspiciousness or slyness. They were hard and piercing. And they were fixed on him like a predator on the hunt, making his neck prickle.
The rounded look of youth was almost unnoticeable with the way Jori carried himself. His posture was rigid, but at the same time he looked ready to spring into action. It wasn’t a nervous wariness, but an alert guardedness of a soldier.
A strained silence settled.
J.D. cleared his throat. “I know our people aren’t on the best terms, but you don’t need to be concerned. We’re going to help you.”
The boy’s nostrils flared and his jaw twitched. “And what of my brother? Are you helping him as well?”
Brother? He was only a little surprised. Even though the faces of both boys had been battered from the crash, there was a strong resemblance between them. “Yes. Our doctors are doing everything they can. He’s stable at the moment, but he’s in really bad shape. He’s in a status we call critical cond—.”
“I’m familiar with the term,” Jori said.
“So you understand it’s not as simple as putting him in a healing bed.”
The boy scowled. “I just said I understood.”
J.D. resisted the urge to clear his throat again. “Good,” he said, ignoring the boy’s attitude. “I promise we’ll do whatever we can to help him pull through, though.”
The boy’s frown disappeared. Without thinking, J.D. put his hand on his shoulder to assure him. The boy glanced at the hand with an unreadable expression and J.D. pulled it away awkwardly.
The severity of the boy’s demeanor returned quickly. “And what of me? I’m assuming I am to be held as your prisoner.”
“Actually, you will be staying with me.”
The boy’s brow furrowed, hooding his dark narrow eyes. “Are you to be my interrogator?”
J.D.’s stomach soured. Even ancient Earthen barbarians couldn’t match the brutality and horrors of what he’d heard about Tredon interrogators. “No! Goodness no. We will certainly ask you questions, but we do not torture people.” My God. What sort of world does this boy live in?
“You say you will do everything you can for my brother. Is this contingent upon my cooperation?”
J.D. raised his eyebrows. Big words for a boy. “No, of course not,” he replied as assuredly as he could. “We’d be grateful for your cooperation, though. And it would certainly help if we knew what was going on, what happened between you and the Grapnes. But we’re not going to hold you or your brother’s life over your head in order to get that information.”
“You swear it?”
“Yes, I swear it.” At least he had no intention of doing such a thing. Hopefully, Captain Arden wouldn’t either.
Jori bored into him with a studious stare. “Good.” His expression was stone-faced.
J.D. sighed inwardly. No boy should be this hard. He certainly had some rough terrain ahead of him with this one.
There will only be one more rewrite after this, so please give me as much feedback on this sci-fi novel as you can!
(This science fiction novella is protected by copyright) Copyright December, 2016 by Dawn Ross
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