She opened her eyes. She didn’t want to be awake. Her whole body ached from overwork, stress, and good, old fashioned drinking too much. Outside, the wind still blew, pretending to be a storm. A storm without rain, just wind to stir the dust; it wasn’t natural. The electronic red of the alarm read four-o-eight. Almost two hours before it was due to go off. She turned over. The windowpanes rattled.
She joined the service to find adventure and romance–join LASKAPE to see the universe. At least, unlike her predecessors, she didn’t end up swabbing decks. But she had been on seventeen different planets in half as many years. Kelly O’Dell, communications expert extraordinary, requested by friend and foe to set up communications between opposing parties. She had a natural talent of being able to find the right frequency that brought about true translations between species. The Diplomatic Division had tried to recruit her after Sanada VI but being around them made her head throb. They never said what they meant or meant what they said. That’s why she liked the so-called sub-species. They were honest and uncomplicated.
The Empire called the planet Quasney 3, after its discoverer James Quasney. It must have been a rude surprise for the inhabitants to learn they had been lost for centuries. James claimed it for LASKAPE Empire–every resource, animal, vegetable, and person, including unfortunately a virus that the med-techs hadn’t been able to cure. Three hundred colonists had already died. Which is why she was brought here. The natives spoke of a feline species in the hills, which cured all their sickness. They called themselves Dithy’ramb, meaning “Blessed People” in the local tongue. She was to breach the communication barrier so the med-techs could discover the cure.
Only she blew it. It was all her fault. She shifted again, trying to find a comfortable position. The wind blew. The window rattled. Frustrated, she sat up, cupping her chin in her palms and resting her elbows on her knees. She hated this. She wasn’t normal for her not being able to sleep. Then again she had never killed before.
She crawled from between the sheets and walked to the window. Peeking around the blinds, she looked at the other shelters. The interiors were dark, but the metal structures gleamed in the fading moonlight. The two remaining guides had reluctantly slept inside one, but only after the first raid, which killed six of their party and most of the horses. The raids continued nightly; however, the clear didymium windows in conjunction with the titanium shells were impenetrable to their primitive arrows and spears. They were safe inside, but the felines were still out there, waiting for a mistake.
She released the blind and sat on the corner of the bed. The blind swayed, tapping against the wall. The interior was impersonal, emotionally cold. When one travels frequently, one travels light. She had her clothes, mostly uniforms. A family group photo, taken just before her older brother was killed. Behind it, she stashed her just-in-case emergency credit disks. She didn’t know what the “just in case” would be, but there was a small fortune hidden between the picture and the backing. Her computer was used primarily to write reports, with only an occasional letter to her family. She thought of writing to her mother. There was time. And say what? “Dear Mom. Hi, from the outer reaches of the universe. Accidentally killed several of the species I need to communicate with to stop an epidemic. Because of me hundred, maybe thousands more will die. Oops!”
It had been an accident. Nothing like it had ever happened before. It shouldn’t have happened. Kelly didn’t understand why it did.
The first night they had finished setting up camp. The others were around the campfire, talking and laughing. She had envied their casual manner. She was going to join them after she finished identifying and blocking out their brain wave impulses to prevent them from showing up on the morning scans. There found several strange blips while she had been adjusting the frequencies, but those were quickly eliminated.
For a few moments, she eavesdropped on David’s lusty thoughts about one of the female guides. His creative ideas of sex made her decide to take another look in his direction. She had been sitting in the communication building, watching the shadows the fire cast, when the animals began to fuss. One of the guides had gotten up to check them. She only ran a few steps before the arrow struck her in the chest.
All Kelly remembered of the next few hours was the screaming, the war cries, and the blood oozing out of her companions. Frustrated the felines beat on the outside of the shelters until the sun peeked over the horizon, forcing them back into the forest. David had died in her arms, as another med-tech tried to stop the bleeding. She’d never know if he’d been actually able to perform those sexual feats or if it had just been a fantasy. The next morning, they realized the transmitter no longer functioned. They couldn’t find a reason for it not to work. Dennalla, one of the three remaining guides, rode the last horse down the mountain.
Kelly had bathed in the lake, the water turning pink with David’s and others’ blood. She watched it float on the surface until the currents diluted it, leaving only the blue sky reflecting on the water. She wanted to cry. A little voice inside said it was her fault. But her rational mind said, “no.” She dove beneath the surface to drown the dialogue, surfacing only when her body begged for air. On top of her clothes lied the lifeless body of one of the felines. She screamed and ran naked back to the camp. When she returned with the guides, the body had disappeared. They treated her as if she was crazy until the body was left on her doorstep the next morning. The med-tech said the brains looked like they had been imploded. She remembered the blips and how she carelessly eliminated them. She said nothing.
The guides were confused. They didn’t understand why the Dithy’ramb attacked. They had always been a very peaceful, honorable people. Kelly kept silent as the discussions continued throughout the nday, not quite listening but unable to avoid the endless theories. Many times throughout the day, she quietly slipped into her shelter to swallow the amber liquid; it deadened the guilt pains. That night, the felines set up wooden altars in the middle of the camp and burned their dead.
Kelly had spent the night with her equipment, trying to find a frequency to reach them. For a moment, she thought she had succeeded. One walked to the communication building and stared at her through the window. His dark eyes reflected the colors of the flames as he turned and pointed toward the pyres.She heard the voice in her head again, accusing her of murder. The machine shorted out. He walked away. It had taken the rest of the night to fix it.
The alarm went off, startling her back to the present. She turned the switch off. Six AM. Time to get up. Another frustrating day of waiting for help. Already tempers were getting short. If they knew,Kelly thought; what would they do to me? Once LASKAPE learns of her failure, her career would be over–heroine to villain with one mistake.
Dennalla had been due back two days before. She was more of a symbolic rescue than the real one. The Empire would send a team to investigate their silence and they would all be airlifted out. But what if the disease had spread and they were all dead. There would be no rescue. Stop it! She thought. They had enough food and water. The shelters kept them safe. Even if the rumor was right and the felines had killed Dennalla, a rescue party would still be sent. Their mission was too important. Nothing to worry about, except the truth. She killed the Empire’s best possible chance of saving the colonists and the body in cold storage was proof. Her career, maybe her life, was over. But if she could make the felines understand that she had made a mistake. A terrible, terrible mistake. She quickly dressed and opened the door.
The sun was only just contemplating rising for the day. The arrow hit inches above her left shoulder. Angrily, she slammed the door. Running to the window, she snapped up the blinds. He was standing just outside the forest line, bow in one hand; the other pointed at her accusingly. The wind ruffled his fur. His mouth was moving, but the low growling they made did not travel the distance between them. The door of the guides’ shelter opened enough for Marsella’s crossbow. The arrow creased the fur on the right side of his head and the feline disappeared into the bush. With her bow reloaded, she slowly opened the door further and quickly crossed to Kelly’s shelter. Kelly met her at the door, unlocking and opening the door as Marsella reached it. The guide pushed passes and slammed the door. “What be you thinking?”
—END, Part 1—
About Theresa Chaze
After graduating from Michigan State University with Bachelor Degrees in English and Communications (Her minors included: Business, Theater, and History), Theresa Chaze began her career in the mid-1980s at a small independent TV station in Grand Rapids Michigan, Chaze worked in the technical aspects of the station’s Master Control. Additionally, she edited and work at various crew positions. A year later, she took a job at the ABC affiliate in Traverse City, where she started in Master Control, but quickly expanded her experience into writing, producing, directing, and editing. Additionally, during this time, she was hired to ghostwrite two feature films and two shorts. In the mid-1990s, after working as a producer on two independent films, she walked away from the industry after other members of the production team proved to have ethnics issues. Until the late 2000s, she focused on writing fiction and articles that were published nationally and internationally. She worked in other industries as a researcher and PR specialist. For a couple of years, she published an ezine called Messages From the Universe. Her journey back into the entertainment industry began through a series of coincidences Chaze found that the industry had changed. But those in the industry quickly learned that she had changed as well. She kept the experience from both in and out of the industry but was able to release the negativity that was connected to it. In doing so, she turned “impossible” into “I’m possible.”
Watch for this to become a feature film. From Theresa Chaze.