Fiction – “We Shall Overcome” by Nicole Givens Kurtz

Chapter 1

The whirling clicks, coos, and melodies meant almost nothing to Private Tiwana Jackson, but those sounds coming from the Tren’hornian Council Member Khalil Uga soothed something deep inside her. The rich timbre of CM Uga’s voice conjured memories of deacons from her grandmother’s church back on Earth Prime and stirred a longing for home so strong that these monthly council meetings often left her damp-eyed and aching for recognizable landscape—one not so alien.

“The high council Uga has proclaimed his retirement effective in two human weeks,” translated chief communications officer Harold Chee, a mixture of disbelief and surprise streaking through his voice. The color drained from his face as his dark brown eyes darted around the oval, metallic meeting room table.

The same expressions were mirrored on the faces of all of the Intergalactic Union’s high-ranking officials and the governors. Although Governor Norris oversaw the I.U.’s presence on Numbia’sha, it was Tiwana’s captain that really ran the day to day transactions and worked closely with CM Uga. So it didn’t surprise her
when he spoke first.

“Well, ahem, yes, well, that is,” Captain Oliver stammered over the steaming mug of coffee in his hand. He set it down gingerly and released a strangled sigh. “That is good news. I mean, that you’re at a point in retiring from politics.”

Tiwana straightened her stance at the door’s entranceway. She swept a side glance at Antonio who occupied the opposite post on the other side of the arch. He smirked. Captain Straight-as-an-arrow never showed any signs of weakness, so seeing him knocked off kilter made her smile too.

“Whom will be replacing you?” Captain Oliver asked, forcing the bold beacon of confidence into his words. Face hardened into stern and serious, his right hand balled into a fist as he leaned forward in his bucket chair—waiting.

Chee translated the captain’s words into the series of melodies and reverberations that comprised the Tren’hornian language; however Chee lacked the musical inclination to get it just right. Tiwana had to bite her cheek to stop from laughing at the pinched and pained look on CM Uga’s face at Chee’s rough and out of tune translation.

“We are in the process of selecting my replacement,” CM Uga said as translated by Chee.

Captain Oliver nodded with a scowl and then gazed down the row of fellow I.U. personnel. They all turned to look back at him with blank stares and in the case of Commander Susan Rogua, fear. Tiwana sighed. Change still managed to frighten people. CM Uga had served as the initial emissary between the I.U. and his people since the I.U.’s arrival some twenty years ago. His absence might rip the already taut and thin ties between the two fractions and that could be mean war.

Yeah, I get it. Tiwana thought and tried to keep her face free of emotions. She wasn’t here as a member of the council or the I.U.’s leadership team. Nope. Just a plain old guard and if Captain Oliver saw her behaving in any manner more than decorative muscle, he would have her washing out the Tren’hornians’ prisons—with her bare hands and a toothbrush.

Shudders shot down her spine.

The heavy-cloaked Tren’hornians with their dark, nearly ink-black skin and grayed-over eyes had an otherworldly appearance. Large ears with lobes that stretched down to their sloping shoulders took some adjusting to as well, but the Tren’hornians were very smart and extremely creative. Not to mention their wonderful singing voices.

Shuffles, murmurs, and the screech of metal scraping against the floor announced the meeting’s end.

Tiwana stood at attention as the Tren’honians left, single-filed, from the room,, a vibrant chorus of hushed clicks and bits of song drifting from one to the other. Tiwana couldn’t halt the smile spreading across her face. Warmth seeped through her as she recalled how packed her grandmama’s church would get on Sunday afternoon and how Deacon Williams would began testimony service with that baritone bowling over every noise, squeak, and baby cry. He’d launch into “Amazing Grace” and everyone—even upset babies—took notice.

CM Uga had that same quality voice and it raised goose flesh over Tiwana’s exposed arms.

At last the doors slid shut and the music ceased at once. So did her smile. Stone-faced and back on point, Tiwana’s head shot up and her eyes landed on her captain.

“What the hell are we gonna do now?” Captain Oliver spat, all traces of professionalism melted beneath his fiery ire. He shot out of his chair and began pacing behind the vacated Tren’hornian seats. “CM Uga was the most liberal of them all. Peace and cooperation was his mantra, but the rest of his kind is all about tossing off the reins of occupation.”

“This isn’t an occupation, captain,” said Governor Norris, double chins rippling as he spoke. Butter pecan skin marked by gin blossoms caught the overhead lights and his tiny eyes poked out from the meaty folds of his face. “We’re helping them. They were a mess of corrupt politicians, rabid religious zealots and a hodgepodge stew of government. We’ve given them something stable.”

“That stability is now threatened,” Captain Oliver barked, eyebrows crouched down in a furry V.

“I can’t understand these Trenhens,” Deputy Governor J. Alex Moore said. Chee winced at the slur. “I mean, hell, the council representative and emissary is a lousy position. Doesn’t count for nuthin’ in the long run of things.”

Private Tiwana Jackson fingered the end of her braids and sighed. Here we go again.

Some sniggers rose and fell in the wake following those comments.

“Nevertheless, we must do something,” said Captain Oliver. His tented hands opened into a question. Eyebrow raised—waiting. “Suggestions, governor?”

Governor Norris patted his swollen belly and drummed out the minutes ticking by.

J. Alex Moore leaned forward and said, “As much as it bothers the heck out of me, freakin’ monkeys got us in a spot. We can’t do nuthin’ but wait for them to pick someone.”

“True,” Captain Oliver said, dropping his face into his palms and briskly rubbing.

“On that note, we should go get some dinner and await the results of their silly little picking party,” Governor Norris said, struggling to push his girth back from the table. “Moore said it best. Whomever they select has little power as emissary anyway.”

J. Alex Moore rose out of his neighboring chair with the fluid grace his mouth seemed unable to conjure in speech. He tugged at the governor’s chair and it inched out enough to allow Norris room to flop to his feet.

Tiwana smirked at Antonio and they both swallowed their laughter as the honorable governor and other important personnel walked out of the room.

Captain Oliver remained standing alone at the massive table.

With the quiet close of the door, he released a low growl of anguish.

“Damn, I’m going to miss Khalil,” he whispered to the polished metal table. “Private Jackson!”

“Sir!” Tiwana shouted.

“You’re dismissed, Private Gomez,” he growled at the other soldier posted across from Tiwana.

Antonio shot her a puzzled look before disappearing through the doors.

As they clicked closed once more, Tiwana tried to slow her beating heart. Captain Oliver hadn’t said four words to her since she set out on his ship for Numbia’sha. The I.U. poured more and more soldiers in every day in attempts to stem the growing tide of renegade resistance and violent eruptions of protests. To him, she was only a warm body with a weapon.

“Captain sir?” Tiwana asked, stepping further into the room, not sure if she should abandon the post or not.

“Sit down, private.”

Tiwana adjusted the laser gun on her shoulder, walked over to the meeting table, and timidly sat down in one of the plush purple chairs vacated by the Tren’hornians.

Her stomach burned, but she kept her face blank, though she was certain the captain saw the sheen of sweat making her dark skin look glossy and wet—and nervous. Despite the load of questions filling her mouth, she remained silent.

“I watched you throughout the meeting,” Captain Oliver began, leaning on the back of one of the chairs. “You like the Tren’horns.”


“Section 15 is your sector, isn’t it?”

Tiwana nodded, found that he wasn’t looking at her and then gave a verbal answer. “Yes, sir.”

Captain Oliver now stood at the large plasma screen and he touched the rippling gray until it illuminated into flashes of colorful burps and spheres. Numbers erupted across those rainbow circles. He pressed the fat, bold 15.

“This transition between the current emissary and the new one will be challenging. Uncertainty breeds chaos. Over a hundred soldiers have been killed or injured the resistance fighting,” Captain Oliver said, his back to her, hands locked behind him as if restraining himself. “Do you understand?”

“Yes, uh, no,” Tiwana said, aware that she sounded like an idiot. “What does this have to do with me, sir?”

Captain Oliver turned his ice blue eyes to her, pinning her to the spot.

“Section 15 is a hot bed of resistance. This is also the area from which CM Uga will select his replacement, I’m sure. It’s his home and the former capital. I need intelligence on whom they plan to select. Information is power. We need to make sure that power remains with us.”

Tiwana swallowed the rock-hard lump in her throat down into the rumbling boil of raw nerves in her belly.

“Spy, sir?”

“Yes,” he confirmed with a nod. “You speak some Tren’horninan, do you not?”

“Very little, sir.”

“Use your allies and snitches in the area to discover whatever you can about the next council emissary and report directly to me. Do you get me, private?”

“I get you, sir!”

“Good. You’re dismissed.”

Chapter 2

Watery lemon sunlight washed over the dulled gray, browns, and blanche Numbia’sha landscape and the Section 15 valley. The Tren’hornian planet lacked any verdant vegetation or colors common to other M-class planets. According to the I.U. academy textbooks, the Tren’hornians’ evolution lacked a real emphasis on eyesight. Their grayed-out eyes made them seem sinister, but Tiwana knew better.

A series of coos and a fast tempo burst of song snagged Tiwana’s attention and she gazed down from the overlook tower. Below the patrol tower’s protruding platform shouts and sighs, yells and yakking from the sector’s marketplace all melded into a bustling din that brushed the upper level where Tiwana stood guard.

But this last had soared above the street-clogged symphonies.

“Hello, J’ai,” she sang down to him, using the greeting he’d taught her. “How is your day?”

Click, click, coo, caw, coo, J’ai called upward, cupping his lips to amplify his sounds above the competing others.

Tiwana had to concentrate. He’d either asked her to dinner or had asked for her head.

Click, coo, coo, she replied, feeling the warmth stir at the base of her abdomen. Yes, she’d go to dinner with him tonight—again. They’d eaten dinner twice before and she couldn’t believe the burst of flavor the Tren’hornian meal contained. Almost too powerful for her taste buds, she could still experience the seared meat and potato-like vegetable days later.

She smiled as J’ai gave her a short series of clucks, and a head nod to convey he’d heard her before disappearing into the crowd of washed-out colored clothing, cloaks, and coats.

J’ai had been slowly befriending her since she began her post in Section 15. He enjoyed touching her face, especially her lips. His moist fingers—all eight of them—would take small sweeps across her full lips and over her high cheekbones, marveling at her bone structure. Each time he touched her, her stomach would clutch and swirl in anticipation of the next one.

He said via a translator that he found her beautiful.

The people packed together tightly in the tiny pathways of Section 15’s marketplace. They crawled about as the Tren’hornians peddled, haggled, and hurried about their duties.

Tiwana never would understand why a people she was supposed to be helping, needed to be watched like a group of criminals in a prison yard.

“Private Jackson,” came a call from the rear of the platform.

Tiwana jumped. As she whirled, her hands clutched the laser gun.

“Oh, Captain Oliver,” she breathed, laughing a bit. “I almost shot you.”

He gave her a tight grin that seemed too taut for sure. His closely-cropped salt and pepper hair highlighted his cocoa-toned skin. Almond eyes narrowed at her as if he wasn’t sure if she was truly kidding or not.

Tense seconds crept by before Captain Oliver relaxed.

“How goes the zoo keeping?” Oliver asked casually, but Tiwana could feel his eyes on her, watching. He joined her on the platform, and cast a look downward.

“Sir?” she asked, stomach clutching hard. Surely, he couldn’t expect her to have any intel this soon.

“Now, Jackson, don’t look at me like that,” Oliver said, shooting a quick glance at her, before returning his contemptuous glaze back to the crowded pathways along the section’s seedier community. “It ain’t like they people.”

“What are they, sir?” Tiwana asked, unable to keep the strip of irritation from flaring through the words. “I mean, they’re Tren’hornians, humanoid, bipedal beings.”

Oliver reared back on his heels and swayed his lean frame forward as if her words rocked through him.

She hoped so.

With a rueful smirk, he said, “Yeah, but that ain’t sayin’ much, is it?”

Tiwana bit the inside of her cheek to stop the impulse to argue from shooting out of her mouth. Captain Oliver often recited idiotic statements such as these, and she’d learned over her two year assignment on Numbia’sha to resist the urge to debate, well, to educate him. Each attempt ended up like seeds on barren ground.

Instead she did what they taught her at academy—recalled sections of the charter.

“Sir, according to Founder Oregan Martino and the Intergalactic Union charter code E092-001, the Tren’horn culture is a civilized one and the indigenous people of M-class planet, M0005 known to them as Numbia’sha, shall be henceforth treated with dignity and respect.”

“Yeah and they can teach monkeys to pilot a spaceship, but that doesn’t mean make them human.

Tiwana coughed out a growl.

“Surely the Tren’hornians are more evolved than monkeys,” she said, adjusting her shoulder harness and the gun stuffed within it, mostly to give her hands something to do. “Sir, the Tren’hornians are an evolved people with a vast knowledge of this planet—their planet. Without them our occupation wouldn’t have lasted more than a few Earth months. The first arrivals would’ve died from starvation and ignorance, including Founder Martino.”

“Enough!” Oliver roared, eyes bucked in anger. “You don’t lecture me, pup! This isn’t an occupation. You heard Governor Norris. This pathetic little shit planet has benefited from our technology, our medicine and our logic. Before our arrival this planet was an instable mess of tribal wars and other bullshit ran amuck. Women didn’t have a voice at all and children were considered property. You think that’s civilized, Jackson?”

Tiwana swallowed her retort back down into the boiling pot her belly had become.

“Well?” he barked, blowing a hot breath into her face.

“It isn’t my place, sir, to determine what is civilized.” Tiwana held her breath for the coming reprimand, but her voice wouldn’t be silenced.

“Lucky for you, it is mine. You’d best remember that you wear that uniform. And try to remember what side you’re on,” he said, voice a dangerous rumble. “The upcoming weeks will be challenging, to put it mildly. You wouldn’t want to be hurt, or worst abandoned on this husk of a planet.”

“The I.U.’s pulling out?” she whispered. The idea both frightened and relieved her.

Oliver shrugged. “It is on a list of options. If we cannot get what we need in the next emissary.”

A puppet.

Tiwana’s heartbeat sped fast. The I.U. had come in and tore up the traditional culture, rubberstamping its own foreign beliefs and structures onto the native ones. So why leave them to try to salvage the rest on their own?

It didn’t make any sense.

“So, I suggest you get me what I want and soon,” Oliver said with a grin as wide as a shark. He leaned down, his breath a series of hisses against her ear lobe. “Get it done, private!”

He grunted each acidic syllable and punctuated it with a jab of his finger into the soft spot between her shoulder and her upper arm. Aching, she waited until he left the tower to rub her shoulder and to allow the wince to show on her face. With her neck burning, she shook off the annoyance blanketing her body and returned to her task.

As the bustle began to dissipate beneath her overlook platform, Tiwana’s anger continued to smolder, a steady flame of irritation that J’ai would most certainly pick up in her voice tonight. Intuitive, the Tren’hornians would somehow make her feel better. And Oliver expected her to betray them.

The sick guilt stuck like a knife in her emotional center.

Chapter 3

Khalil Uga glided along the marketplace gently bumping into his fellow Tren’hornians with simple exchanges of sweet apologetic tunes. Shadows, what the soldiers called them, swam across his pupils. He saw more with his hearing than he ever did with his eyes—a fact for all Tren’hornians. His ears, they delivered a delightful array of songs and music that caused his six-chambered heart to beat wildly in encouragement.

Whenever it grew quiet, then he became troubled.

But the robust rustlings of life meant his people had yet to be silenced.

“The Unionist are scurrying,” Kree said from beside him. A sullen quality stained his trembling timbre. “Captain Oliver cannot be trusted, nor the governor.”

“Agreed,” Khalil sang more than aware of the finality in his tenor. Oliver had been a friend, but had been changed over the years by politics, prejudice, and pain. “I have negotiated all I can. There must be representation of our kind on the council, or else the illusion they’ve created would fail.”

“The illusion?” Kree beeped and clucked.

Khalil laughed. “Click, click, coo. Without representatives for our people, the soldiers’ presence is like an occupation. That goes against their prime directive and charter.”

Kree rumbling laugh spoke of his understanding.

“The seat must go to one who is strong enough to secure it,” Kree sang in a higher octave than usual.

Click, click, coo,” Khalil agreed, a bit bothered by Kree’s anxiousness. A tremble wavered through all songs in the marketplace, a queer quiver that disturbed the melodies. He heard it clear and crisp. The uncertainty had to be stabilized or violence would spill as the living liquid in their veins. “Hon has begun to show promise.”

“Our numbers are still weak, the lake shallow,” Kree hummed. Ripples of frustration turned his voice into choppy waves of caws.

Khalil remained quiet-thinking. They’d proceeded beyond the market’s noise and into the supple soft sound of the residential side of Hon’ba. The Unionist had designated the area Section 15, but the title robbed the area of its true beauty. Hon’ba reeked with harmony between the land and its inhabitants, as had all of Numbia’sha prior to the Unionists’ arrival of the guests. Simplistic nature’s concerts made it a relaxing and inviting place. Captain Oliver had called the area plain and unsavory, but he’d used his eyes, not his ears.

Khalil would never understand how a people who saw so well were so blind.

Then he heard it. A deep, but soothing voice, so majestic and soaring, he paused. Kree fell silent too listening to the rising soprano reach a note many of his people hadn’t reached in what the humans called years.

He and Kree grew quiet.

Kree whispered a fast excited series of clicks, lips pushing the words as fast as possible.

Click, click, coo,” Khalil agreed in return. “We have found our next emissary.”

Khalil hastened his steps, eager to learn which Tren’hornian had mastered such a talent as this. And why had he not heard it before?

The crunch of Kree’s pads on the surface announced his own eagerness.

Click, click, caw?” Khalil asked excitedly as he rounded the curve. Who are you, songbird?

“Oh! Forgive me!” the Union Soldier cried in sharp surprise.

Khalil caught every third word of the soldier’s rough speech, but although he didn’t quite understand what she was saying, one thing was certain.

She was not Tren’hornian.

Chapter 4

Tiwana’s hot face burned and she mentally thanked the gods CM Uga couldn’t see her embarrassment emblazed across her cheeks. On the other hand, being Tren’hornian he probably heard it in her speech.

The bewildered Tren’hornians’ faces bridged her deficiency in communicating with them. The two beings shot a fast song between them and then turned to her, mouths gaping and forked tongues slipping out as if tasting her scent in the air.

She gave her name, rank and superior as she’d been taught when faced with Tren’hornians, especially one that ranked as high as CM Uga. J’ai had taught her a few bits and pieces of Tren’hornian languages and melodies, but she had nothing approaching fluency.

Tiwana remained frozen to the spot, as did the Tren’hornians. Unsure of her next course of action, she waited them out. In what in reality was two minutes or less, but felt like two years, they moved on, a frenzy of melodies skipping between them…amazing really. Once one’s crescendo ended, the other would begin. They cast furious fast bits of it in her direction, as if she could comprehend.

Although their cadence indicated pleasure, Tiwana couldn’t shake the feeling she’d done something very, very wrong.

Chapter 5

Chee stood erect, completely ignoring Captain Oliver’s puce face. Veins bulged across the map of his visage. Tiwana took a cautious step backward. He could burst at any moment and she wanted to be clear of the carnage.

“You—you…” Captain Oliver stammered, lips moving but not in concert with his vocal chords. “They—they want you! You! Private A. Jackson!” He spewed spittle across the high gloss metallic table in the command room where only two days before Tiwana had stood guard at the entrance. “Damn it, you…”

Chee coughed, drowning the captain’s heated words. Those coughs gave clear indication to Tiwana this was going to get ugly. He’d keep up the fake hacks until Captain Oliver exploded and then he’d excuse himself to get water for his dry throat, thus avoiding the captain’s rain of fury.

“Who wants me, uh, sir?” Tiwana squeaked. “And for what?”

A strangled and gargled sound escaped from her captain.

“Earlier, CM Uga called an emergency meeting of the round,” Chee explained, eyes locked on his captain to ensure he hadn’t misspoken.

“So?” Tiwana said as the squirming in her belly commenced.

“So, he named you as the next emissary,” Chee said in a hush.

“Huh? That’s…that’s crazy. I’m not Tren’hornian!”

“No shit,” Captain Oliver spat, his hands embedded into the chair’s back cushion.

“Why me?” Tiwana asked, her own tone simmering with irritation. She hadn’t asked for this, heck she hadn’t even known about it. Captain Oliver behaved as is she has encouraged this somehow or worse, was a part of it.

“That’s what he wants to know,” Chee said, nodding at the still furious Captain Oliver.

No longer purple, Captain Oliver had cooled down to a hot scarlet.

“Tell me why they want you.”

“I dunno! Ask them!–Sir.”

Chee fidgeted before giving into another fit of coughing.

“Uh, captain. The CM said her voice—her song captured the Tren’hornians and their plight. His people aren’t happy either with her appointment. But the Cm said her being the emissary was harmony.”

“I know that,” Captain Oliver bellowed, slamming his fist onto the chair. “It’s a bunch of Tren’hornian crap!”

Better the furniture than my head, Tiwana thought.

“What were you singing?” Captain Oliver demanded. The question boomed through her.

Tiwana licked her lips and wiped her damp hands on her uniform slacks.

She could easily see where this was going. How best to derail the steaming locomotive her captain had become?


“Private, I asked you a question!”

“Well, I, I was, uh, ahem, I was singing a song my grandmamma used to sing.”

“And what was that, private?”

“’We Shall Overcome,’” she whispered, and threw back her shoulders in defiance.

Captain Oliver peered at her, hardened eyes narrowed to slits. He swore and visibly began to shake, mutterings mixed with grunts surrounded him. “What?”

“It’s an old song from home,” she said.

“It defies reason! What are their plans! What a major screw up this is thanks to you—you…”

The lump of horror lodged in her throat.

“Let’s go,” Chee coaxed, concerned eyes on the captain.

Tiwana hesitated but for a brief moment before following the senior officer to the outer corridor. She expected to hear the captain’s raspy, raged-filled voice call her back, but nothing seeped from behind the metallic doors.

“He’s going to kill me,” Tiwana declared, her heart raced as if in a contest with her stomach to see which would escape her body first.

“Nah, but it isn’t good,” Chee replied. “No, death is the least of your problems, young private.”

Tiwana grimaced. “So what now?”

Chee shrugged, his bushy eyebrows raised in question. “Dunno exactly. It’s never happened on Numbia’sha. Norris is useless and Moore opposes your selection as emissary.”

“Is there anything in the charter?” Tiwana hated the tremble in her voice, but the entire affair unsettled her confidence.

“No. Captain said he’d get to the bottom of it, hence the solo meeting,” Chee continued, chewing on his bottom lip. “The Tren’hornians have stirred the pot immensely and thrown us a perfect curve ball.”

“I was honest. I didn’t know anything about this.”

Chee shook his head. “Honesty won’t keep the treason charges at bay.”

“Treason? You said there wasn’t anything against it in the charter.”

He started down the illuminated hallway, completely expecting her to follow.

“There’s not, but this incident in the hands of Moore can become anything he wants it to be,” Chee whispered low enough to where only she could hear. “There’s a reason his codename is the puppetmaster.”

Just as they rounded the corner, heading toward the exit, Moore appeared, blocking their path.

“There you are!” Moore roared, eyes wide. The surrounding crew members turned in stunned silence. “Private Jackson, I am hereby placing you under arrest for treason against the Intergalactic Union.”

Tiwana’s heart stopped its frenzied rise up her throat. Stuck like a rock, her mouth dried, she couldn’t form anything close to a reply.

Then, as the exit doors parted, a sweet chorus, familiar and heartfelt, swept into the cargo area as scores of Tren’hornians poured in—a mass of gospel rose in a untied chorus of rejoice. At once Tiwana’s lips unlocked and the song serenaded her fluttering heart. It began to settle down into its normal cadence.

She opened her mouth and pulling from the depths of her soul, sang the lyrics the Tren’hornians didn’t know. The pain, the desire, and the ache that came from being underfoot, that they knew well.

As did Tiwana’s ancestors.

We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all be free some day
We shall overcome.

Moore’s face buckled down into a furious scowl as he glared. CM Uga reached him first and the other Tren’hornians filled the hallway, with the occasional I.U. soldier sticking out.

As the CM Uga sang to Moore, Chee cleared his throat and translated.

“Khalil wants to convey that the Tren’hornian council has agreed to name Tiwana Jackson as the Tren’hornian emissary. If she accepts, that is.”

CM Uga opened his arms and said to Tiwana, “Click, click, caw, caw, ooooo.

The song ceased as everyone listened to the great Uga.

Tiwana didn’t know what he meant, but her heart swelled to the point of breaking.

“Please,” Chee translated, eyes burrowing into hers. They glistened with unshed tears. “You are the one who can bridge the turbulence and lead us to a new era of peace and harmony.”

“What is this?” groaned Governor Norris as he waddled into the fray. “Answer me, Moore!”

“I, I have this under control,” Moore snapped.

“Private?” Governor Norris asked, uncertainty wrenching his voice up an octave higher.

How strange and satisfying to find kinship amongst aliens, she thought as she gazed around at the tight circle of Tren’hornians. They’d come to support her selection. Something her fellow humans had never done.

“I accept,” Tiwana said, no longer able to stomach the overbearing man and his sidekick.

“You accept what?” Norris barked indignantly shoving his belly forward, bowling over neighboring Tren’hornians.

Chee grinned. “Your next Tren’hornian Emissary is Tiwana Jackson. Welcome, CM Jackson.”

Without waiting, Chee launched into a series of songs that communicated the news to the swarm of anxious Tren’hornians. At once a swarm of melodies and music, caws and clicks rose into the air, drowning out Moore and Norris’s demands for order.

Tiwana thought back to her days surrounded in the comforting embrace of gospel music and hope. With emotions and tears flowing freely, she promised in the soft melody of “We Shall Overcome”: “I will be your voice from this day on until you are truly free.

Chee started to translate, but stopped as roars filled the closed in corridor.

Tiwana looked around and saw the governor and his assistant trying desperately to vacate the immediate area. She knew this minor victory was a small one on the long road she and the Tren’hornians would walk together.

She smiled. Regardless, she would do her best to make sure she and the Tren’hornians would be in perfect harmony.

Nicole Givens Kurtz is a writer, a teacher, and a comic book fan. Join her next adventure by visiting her website.

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