This is a continuation of author Theresa Chaze’s novella “Seize of Honor,” the first part published January 2, 2021.
Based on the short story of the same name, “Seize of Honor” is a sci-fi thriller in which Kelly O’Dell works for a highly advanced but strictly structured intergalactic organization with little tolerance for failure. When a newly discovered planet releases a plague throughout her people, Kelly is assigned to learn the cure from the indigenous people. However, when her first contact accidentally murders several of their children, she must find a way to appease them before her superiors learn of her failure.
This part of the story picks up with an overlap of the concluding paragraphs of the first installment.
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 his head’s right side, 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?”
“I-I couldn’t sleep. I thought I’d get some work done.”
“Get you dead more likely!”
“I thought it was light enough to be safe.”Marsella unloaded the crossbow and leaned it against the wall. “More likely you trying to get yourself dead the quick way. Instead of the slow you been doing.”
Kelly swallowed the rising bile. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“You quiet even before. No laugh. Not much talk. Only work. Twisting dials. All the time. I sawyou look at your men. But never touch. I thought that strange. But that your way.”
“I have a job to do.”
“I see you. The light-haired one, who died, aroused you. Even though he thought of my sister. I sawyou watching.”
“David’s dead. It doesn’t matter.”
“So my sister. She mattered! Her children matter! We let any more of you dies, we not paid. How wecare for our children?”
Kelly felt her stomach bunch. She swallowed and turned away. She hadn’t considered the now motherless children. More damage she was responsible for–accidentally or on purpose, it was all the same; damage is damage. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I’ll be more careful.”
Spinning around Marsella looked down at her and snapped Kelly’s chin up so their eyes met. Angerswirled in the violet. “What you hiding?”
Kelly shivered and pulled away.
The guide grabbed her and pulled her closer, forcing her to meet her gaze
“Nothing!” Kelly snapped.
“Blessed Ones never harm before. We honor them with food and respect. They heal us.”
“I didn’t do anything!” The panic rose. She fought to hide the truth that seemed to flash from her soul–Murderer! Murderer! She screamed and fought to free herself.”
“You lie!” Marsella hissed, tightening her grip and lifting the smaller woman off the floor until theireyes met. “You cause! What you do to make Dithy’ramb kill?”
Kelly kneed her in the stomach; Marsella released her and dropped to her knees, gasping for air. Kellylanded on her feet and ran across the room, instinctively snatching up the empty crossbow and holdingit before her.
“Stay away from me!”
“Or you do what?” Running her hand up the arm to the top of the chair, Marsella used it for support as she stood.
Realizing the emptiness of the threat, Kelly leaped for the quiver. Marsella half jumped, half fell on top of it. Kelly stumbled. Quickly regaining her balance, Kelly raised the crossbow as a club, bringing it downward, only to arc it across the room smashing the alarm clock against the wall. Slowly Kelly shook her head. Stepping over the prone woman, she walked to the bed and sat down. “I can’t do it. Not deliberately.”
The other woman stared.
“I killed the Dithy’ramb. I didn’t mean to.” The confession tumbled out of her. “It shouldn’t have happened.”
“How? You never leave shelter.” The shock in Marsella’s voice turned to disbelief. “You just sit and turn dials. All night we have fun.”
“I made the blips go away. I didn’t think twice about them. Four blips–four Dithy’ramb. I suspected when they kept singling me out. Then the med-tech said its brains had been imploded. Then I knew. It’s a life for a life. The Dithy’ramb. David and your sister. The others. All the colonists that the epidemic will kill. How do I atone for all that?”
Marsella sat up. One of the arrows had punctured the quiver and scratched her arm. The blood ran down into her palm and dripped on the floor. She didn’t seem to notice. Instead, she stared at Kelly.
“Say something,” Kelly whispered, unable to stand the silence. “Call me a murderer.”
“They are mated at birth. For life. Each pair has two children. A male and a female. It is their way. They have no other. Can do no other.” Marsella noticed her injury. She wrapped it in a scarf that had held back her hair and returned her gaze to Kelly. “All that burned were male. The one left here is Chieftain’s son, Mothra. The others I did not know.”
“And I suppose once one dies, so does the mate.” Kelly hadn’t intended to be sarcastic, but the words came out biting the air between them.
“At least that’s something. The females can find new mates.”
Her voice was calm, but it had an edge to it as if she was speaking to a small child, who refused to understand. “There can be no others. They mate at birth. Their energies will only come together to make children with their mate. Why? I do not know. It is their way.
“Our med-techs could help them change. They would know-how.” Hope sprung up within her. She jumped from the bed and started toward the door. “I’ll apologize and tell them how we can help. Everything will be all right.”
Marsella grabbed her ankle, tripping her to the floor. Getting to her knees, Marsella pushed down on Kelly’s ankle, twisting her entire leg against its axis. Kelly screamed.
“You do hurt. Good. I not sure.”
Kelly didn’t understand. She was going to make up for her mistake. It was logical. She accidentally took the lives of the felines’ children, but the med-techs could help them make more. It was a fair trade. The feline population would grow and prosper. All because of her mistake. They’ll gladly help the colonists just out of gratitude. She could get a medal and an increase in her credit account. Kelly tried to stand. Marsella held her down.
“What are you doing? I have to get back to work.”
“I should let you go. Should let them kill you. But my children do not starve for you. I make sure you go back and explain to your leaders why your people still die.” Her lips curled into an evil smirk. “My mate was one of your people. They took him into the sky and drop him. They kill him for being our children’s father. I enjoy what they do to you.”
A cold shiver ran through her. She was right; sometimes her own people were beyond cruel. She’d be better off dying quickly at the hands of the felines–No! This can still be fixed, her mind screamed in denial. “Marsella, please I need to make up for my mistake.”
“Your pretty words mean nothing. They do not bring back children.”
“Children not toys. You break. Here another to replace. We love our children. The Dithy’ramb love theirs. Just like your people love yours.
“I wouldn’t know.” Kelly massaged her aching hip and thigh, carefully edging her leg from Marsella’sgrasp. “I don’t have children. Never wanted them.”
“Everyone needs to have children. That why we born. To give life. Why else live?”
Mother would love you, Kelly thought, procreate without regards to environmental balance, economics or if the person is stable enough to be a good parent–just pump out those offspring. “Even if I was physically capable of having them, it would stupid of me to do so.”
Marsella looked as if she had been suddenly slapped. “You hate children?”
“No. I respect my limitations.”
“How can you honor those who came before…the ones who gave you life…to let their blood die..” Hervoice trailed off.
“My parents,” Kelly leaned forward, moving her leg out of Marsella’s reach, “had five children. They loved us all dearly. Except when we came between them and their work. Yes, it’s true. My family is dysfunctional. A cliché in the modern universe. One brother, my sister, and I are workaholics. She has children, who she ignores just as our parents ignored us. One brother pretends we don’t exist. The last, the eldest and brightest–son above sons, died a hero for the Empire. Leaving us all to live palely in his after image. Some bloodline!”
“They gave you life!” Marsella snapped.
“And I save lives. Stopped wars, made peace between peoples that saved millions. I’ve negotiated between worlds that brought medicine and food.”
“Why you so empty inside?”
“Empty?” Kelly stood and leaned over, placing her hands on her knees. “I’ve filled my life with knowledge and experience from around the universe. Not dirty diapers and vomit.”
“Children more than that.” Standing Marsella pointed around the room. “Look. Empty. Cold. Myhome overflows with love. My children make it so. Their laughter. Their tears. Everything about them made risks worth it. They dragged him away. Our children cried. I cried. He only screamed how much he loved us!” The tears welled up.
“I wondered about that. All of us were sterilized. How did you change that?”
Marsella wiped away the tear, which had slipped down her cheek. “The Dithy’ramb thought it unlawful. It was very painful for him. Took much time. When Shan’ta born, we both wept with joy. He brought our peoples together. Our love will always be alive in our children and our children’s children. Long past the time when we are no more.”
“I do not understand your word. But I know your meaning. You laugh at what you do not understand.You not know what it is to love–to sacrifice.”
“Sacrifice?” Kelly felt the anger rising within her. “There are all kinds of it. You said how cold my home was. The laugh is I don’t have a home or hearth or a permanent place to hang up my undies. I’m here. I’m there. All at a moment’s notice. War breaks out. Send in Kelly. She’ll fix it. It doesn’t matter if she’s on R & R. The first since she joined. I hammer out a compromise and prepare to go back to sand, surf, and casual sex–and another conflict, another battle, another misunderstanding. I fix it like always. Lives saved. Damage undone. Peace rules until next time.”
“If you hate it so. Quit. You not the only one who stops wars.”
“No. But I’m the best. Or I was.” Kelly hesitated for a moment. She collected her thoughts, not only for the other woman but also for herself. Never before had she tried to explain how she felt about her job, to tell another just how big a part of her it really was. Kelly turned and looked upward. “I love what I do. It fills me. Just like your children do you. It is the way I love. To say I have millions of children is not an exaggeration. I wasn’t at the conceptions or the births, but the parents wouldn’t have been there either if it weren’t for me. I’ve risked my life many times. It’s what I do. And until here-now, I’ve never failed an assignment.”
“You never made a mistake?” Marsella’s doubt was intertwined with the sarcasm of her tone.
“Not like this. Not in my work. My personal life has been a disaster. I always find the one jerk in a crowd of a thousand. You were lucky enough to find someone who loves you. That’s no small feat.”
Marsella shifted her weight onto her back most foot and folded her arms across her chest. “Neither is stopping war.”
“You’re not convinced. I don’t blame you. You don’t know me. Just what I represent. The death of your husband, your security, and your way of life.” Kelly spoke slowly, as she walked around the room toward the door. “There is not a reason to trust me. You would like to kill me. But you love your children more than you hate me.”
Marsella pivoted on her toes, keeping Kelly in full view at all times. Her arms dropped from her chest into a casual, yet ready stance. “My children are the most important part of my life. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them.”
“I’m sure.” Slowly the corners of Kelly’s lips lifted into a smile as she straightened her posture. Lifting her chin into a higher, prouder stance, she knew what she had to do. “As is my career to me. But even so, I always keep financial insurance. Just in case. LASKAPE is fickle. You’ll never know when you’ll need extra credit disks. No one else knows I have them. I keep them in the last place anyone would look. Behind my family picture. I never told anyone else. If something happened tome, they would be thrown in the trash with the rest of my things.” Kelly watched the confusion grow in Marsella. It was just a matter of time before the curiosity took hold and she would make her move. It would be over one way or the other.
Marsella glanced at the picture. Kelly shoved the chair into her, knocking her off balance, and twisted the doorknob. She wasn’t prepared for how fast Marsella regained her balance. Marsella leaped at the door. Kelly slammed it into her. She heard the hard metal squish into her flesh, but she didn’t care. Not anymore. She was going to fix what she broke or die trying. The first arrow whizzed by her ear. She ran faster toward the Communication Shelter. The second one hit her left shoulder, knocking her off her stride. The third hit dead center in her chest, stunning her to a stop. She looked at the hill. He stood at the crest, bow in hand. She dropped to her knees. For a moment, she stared at the shaft, thinking there should be more blood. It was increasingly harder to breathe. She looked up and pointed at him for as long as she had the strength to do so. He looked at the empty bow and smashed it into the tall grass at his feet. An arrow flew from behind her, forcing him to dodge back into the forest.
Marsella crouched beside her, lowering her on her back. She called to someone.
Kelly heard doors open and voices. They seemed so far away. She felt cold and tired. She hopedMarsella understood about the picture. There was enough there to feed her and her sister’s children fora very long time. It was the last debt she had to pay
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.”