Kavok by Ava York

KAVOK

Raxor stalked over to the bar and slammed his mug down on it. The sight of a seven-foot-tall, orange Vaznik warrior apparently demanding more booze was too much for the white-furred, Hothian barkeep. The barkeep squealed, hurrying to refill Raxor’s mug. Raxor’s horned head didn’t even turn toward the Hothian before the fellow Vaznik warrior returned to our table.

Raxor wasn’t even angry at the barkeep. He was angry at me.

“All that I’m saying is, there were dozens of Humans and Kimisusian on that research center on Yimïk III.” He settled into his seat and fixed me with a steely gaze. “Something happened to them.”

“Yes, maybe a solar flare took out their comms relay.” I still nursed my first mug of ale as I returned his glare, spark for spark. “Or there was a gamma-ray burst, or some other explanation.”

“Or maybe it was pirates. Or Suhlik.”

I gave him a long, searching look.

“Raxor, do you really think they’re going to dispatch the Honor's Blade to a forsaken swamp all the way at the edge of the Xiltri Sector?”

“Don’t you want a chance to earn yourself some honor?”

I tapped my blue fingers on the table and sighed. “You really think there’s honor to be had in a swamp—”

Our comms flashed, and a general communique came through.

“All hands of the Honor’s Blade, Nova, and Sunder are to report to their ships immediately. This is not a drill. And before any of you pansies whine about it, yes, I’m canceling your shore leave. Now MOVE.”

“Sounds like the Admiral’s mate made him sleep on the sofa again.”

I gave him a look as we rose from our seats and jogged into the streets of the space port.

“On the sofa?”

“It’s a human thing.”

I laughed as we rounded a corner and startled a pair of Akle. They trumpeted at us in annoyance as we jogged past.

“You ever think what it might be like if your match comes up in the lottery, Raxor?”

“Absolutely not,” he said. “It’s statistically unlikely to occur, so I don’t bother even considering it.”

Captain Soanzo greeted me as I stepped into the cargo bay, often used for crew muster because of its convenient size.

Soanzo was an older Vaznik, the red of his skin fading to a dull pink. Don’t tell him that, though, unless you want his pink knuckles in your mouth. He stood nearly as tall as Raxor and I, but had a bit of a stoop to his back due to his age.

“Kavok,” he rasped in his growling, take-no-shit voice. “Have you been keeping up with the situation on Yimïk III?”

“I heard the Hep Tháblois Bouhek Research Center ceased all communications with Mahdfel HQ a few days ago.”

“He heard that from me, actually, Captain,” Raxor said. I shot him a dirty look, but Captain Soanzo was in no mood for any of it.

“I want you to assemble an away team and investigate when we reach the planet.”

“Yes, Captain.”

He stood there, staring at me for a moment.

“I meant now, Kavok,” he snapped.

“Yes, Captain.” I turned to Raxor. “Here’s your chance for glory if you want it.”

“I’m in. I knew this was going to be a thing.”

“Yeah, don’t break your hand patting yourself on the back.”

He gave me a look, then twisted about and tried to touch his own, massive back.

“What does that even mean?”

“It’s a human saying. It means don’t expend too much energy congratulating yourself or you might be injured.”

“The humans are so barbaric. ‘Eye for an Eye.’ ‘Break a leg.’ ‘Break a heart.’ There is no end to their cruel metaphors.”

“I’m not sure the first one was a metaphor. I think humans actually did that in the distant past.” I considered him for a moment. “Also, you might want to tone down your anti-human talk, seeing as they’re the newest species to be part of the mating treaty.”

“Yeah, yeah, I feel you. So who are we bringing?”

“I’m thinking of Sakor, Vrako, and Jakar.”

“Sakor? But his breath smells like Toyolian cheese.”

“He’s a hell of a shot with a plasma rifle, and he never complains. Unlike someone I could mention.”

“Yeah, you’re a laugh riot. You should try being one of the human’s stand-up Canadians.”

“Canadian?” I shook my head. “It’s stand-up Kardashians.”

“Whatever. Let’s go collect the team so we’re ready to go when we arrive at Yimïk III.”

I felt the engines throbbing through the deck plating. We were powering up the faster-than-light drive. It wouldn’t be long before we arrived at Yimïk III, along with our twin, Cruiser-class escorts.

Despite what I’d said to Raxor earlier, I was quite eager to distinguish myself with excellent service. Most likely it would turn out to be a false alarm.

But if it was not, then I would show the galaxy what Kavok the Vaznik warrior was capable of—

“Kavok.” My comm buzzed. “Change of plans. Report to Administration immediately.”

“Admin?” I blurted.

“That’s an order.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Raxor and I exchanged glances. Whatever they wanted with me at Admin, it was likely to be trouble.

I just hoped it wouldn’t interfere with my honor and glory, whatever it turned out to be.