Alternate Scene from

 

Time of the Hawk

 

 

Part Two

 

 

“Tell me about this . . . soaring place,” Buck asked.  The sky seemed to shimmer and waver in front of his eyes.  It lightened and darkened and then decided to stay still for a while.

Hawk said nothing for a moment, only studying the human.   Why did he want to know all this?  Was there a communicator?   Were the humans going to desecrate the ancient place of his people?  “Did you bring a communicator?” he asked.  He had not searched all of the human’s pockets.  Hawk berated himself for that, too.   He just wasn’t thinking straight. 

“No.  In my starfighter.”  Buck saw the dubious look and heard the question but for a few minutes he couldn’t figure out why Hawk seemed so reticent.  Then it finally came together.  “I just want to know . . . that’s all.”  

Hawk nodded. 

“Check pockets,” Buck urged when he saw the suspicious look on the birdman’s face. 

Hawk only did a visual search and didn’t see anything that would resemble a weapon or communicator.  If the human tried to get something from his pockets, he would know it.   He noticed that Rogers head wound was not bleeding anymore.  “The Soaring Place is a mountain height that has always been special to our people here on Throm.  My grandparents used to go there several times a year; my parents went there as well.”

“You hang glide . . . or something?”

“Hang glide?”

Buck tried to gesture with his hands.  “Harness and material.   Allows a person to soar . . . on the wind.”

Hawk was incredulous.  “Humans soar?” 

“Not now, I think.”  He paused and blinked.  All he wanted to do was sleep.  “Long time ago.”

“You have done this?”

“Yes.”

Again, Hawk was amazed.  “What did you think about it?”

“Scary as hell,” Buck said with a slight smile.  He would much rather have a little something between himself and two thousand feet, even if it was just reinforced plastic.   “But my partner knew wh . . . what she was doing.” 

“The Soaring Place was where we could don the quasi-wings and fly the heights.  At first Koori would fly with me in the tandem wings, but the last time, she flew alone in her own wings.”  Hawk paused and remembered.  It was a sweet remembrance.   Her laughter as she leaped off the cliff, his joining hers as he followed.  They almost touched wing-tips.  They danced in the air, catching the thermals to increase the lift.  They banked together and dove together.  They saw the gilded rock eagles and followed them until the birds grew annoyed and dove away from them.  The wind whistled through his feathers and he laughed again.  Koori flew close beside him and smiled at his happiness.  She had said later that it had matched hers.   

That night in the cave, they had made love just beyond the fire, the warmth of their passion far exceeding that which wood could produce.   And the heat of the love in his heart far exceeded both.  They felt this time there would be success.  They had tried for so long.

“What was it like to fly that way?”

The human’s voice was soft, hesitant, almost as though he had not wanted to interrupt Hawk’s reverie.   He described the experience and his heart soared in the remembering.   After he had spoken, it appeared that the human had lapsed into unconsciousness.   Hawk leaned closer and saw that Rogers was still breathing, so he sat back against one of the hard rocks and relaxed.   Yawning, Hawk realized just how tired he was.  There had been little sleep the past several nights and it, along with the stress, was taking its toll.  The sun’s heat made him somnolent as well.  His head finally lolled forward and he fell asleep.   He awoke suddenly, a short while later to the human saying a strange kind of chant.

“…to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which is stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all….”

Hawk studied Rogers.  Beside pain, there was fear in the hazel eyes.

“What is that you were saying?” Hawk asked. 

Rogers took a shuddering breath, but when he focused on Hawk, he seemed almost relieved.  “Something I learned long ago.”

“Where is there a place with ‘liberty and justice for all’?” Hawk asked bitterly. 

“In the heart,” Rogers said quietly. 

Hawk was taken aback and didn’t say anything for a few minutes.  “Why were you saying this thing?”

“Trying to stay awake,” Buck answered, remembering a long ago scene, a small jet careening off a runway and the man he had pulled from the minimally damaged aircraft, dying in his arms.  Bill, his buddy, barely a scratch on him, only the head injury. 

“Why?”

“Head injury.   To sleep is . . . death,” Buck replied, his voice almost a whisper.

“You are afraid to die?”

Buck thought a moment.  “Yeah . . . guess so.”  The sun was incessant in its ferocity.   His head still pounded.   “I’m . . . I’m just getting used . . . to this century.” 

Hawk couldn’t quite figure out this human.  He didn’t know if Rogers was trying to make a human joke or if he was serious.  Regardless….  “I am not.” Indeed, Hawk wished he was dead and soaring, wings entwined with Koori’s in the vault of Make-Make’s heavens. 

Buck sighed.  He imagined that Hawk would very much welcome death.  “I know.”

Sudden anger flared in Hawk’s heart.  “How could you know, human?   How could you even imagine?   You sit and moan about dying, like some coward, and you have lost nothing except your ability to capture me and to kill and maim and destroy that which is precious to other people.”

Buck let the echo of Hawk’s pain and anger die against the rock walls before he tried to answer.  He felt more lucid than he had at anytime since his fall and he was going to take advantage of it.  “Hawk, I know about losing someone dear.”  He paused a moment, considering his relationship to Jennifer.  He felt the pangs of that loss even now.  “Maybe I am a coward to fear death . . . but it’s that fear that has kept me alive for a long time.”   He shifted involuntarily and then bit his lip as the pain from his leg shot through his body.   “I am not afraid . . . to do what I must do.  I don’t think it’s . . . my time yet.”  He began to laugh softly.  “Here I am . . . almost dead . . . and saying it’s not my time.”  The laugh ended in a moan. 

Hawk limped to the other side of the human, trying to escape the worst of the sun’s rays in his eyes. 

“You’re hurt?” Buck asked.

“You fight well.  You caught my knee just before you fell.”

“Sorry.”

“Stop saying you are sorry,” Hawk retorted, not wanting Rogers to show anything contrary to what he had believed all his life about humans.  Then he relented, seeing the grimace of pain crossing the human’s features.  “You were only doing what you felt was your duty.  Just as I was.”

“Wish I had brought . . . med kit.  You could have wrapped your knee.”

“It will heal.”  Hawk shifted and his body blocked the worst of the sun from the human’s body.

“Did you ever look for the humans that killed your people?” Buck asked.

Hawk laughed bitterly.  “Neutralis is just that, neutral.  Anyone could go there and not be questioned.”  He reached down and ran his finger across the dusty ground.  “So who would I ask?  Your precious Galactic Council?  No, Captain, I did not inquire.  I simply made a vow of revenge.”

“You made war on an entire race,” Buck mused. 

“Yes, I did.  Until you came along.”

“Hawk, there is another way.  You could talk to them now.”

Hawk shook his head.  “The Galactic Council?  I will not deal with human courts.”  His voice, like his eyes, were hard and angry.

“Hawk, if they knew,” Buck began and then paused to collect his thoughts.

“No!  I will not talk to a human court!” he cried, then he said more softly.  “Humans have ever turned a deaf ear to my people.  Or worse, they have hunted and hounded and caused us to hide and fear for millennia.  Humans caused my people to become less than they are!”

Buck said nothing.  He wondered if the Searcher was looking for him yet.  Of course they had to be, but they just wouldn’t know where to look.  “Hawk, if you won’t talk to humans . . . won’t tell them what happened to . . . your people, I will.”

“You have to live first and be rescued,” Hawk said derisively. 

“Good point.”  He gazed up at the birdman, who seemed almost wreathed in soft, golden light.  “Hawk?”

When the human said no more, Hawk prodded him, “Yes?”

“Thanks.”

“What for?” the birdman asked in a puzzled tone.

“Sun.  Blocking.”

The human seemed to waver between being almost totally lucid and only partly aware, but Hawk decided to humor him and continue to talk to him.  And there was something that wouldn’t allow him to simply walk away. 

“Uh, you don’t need to be here….”

Hawk waited.  He knew there was more. 

“If you won’t talk . . . to the Council….”

“I will not.”

“My friends . . . will find me . . . soon.  You need to be gone.”

“I have nowhere to go,” Hawk said, his voice hollow. 

“At least bury Koori,” Buck insisted.  Then a thought occurred to him.  “Do you bury your dead?”

“Yes, most of the time.”  He wondered why the human would even care and he asked.

“Important part of . . . farewell.”  There was a pause and then he continued, but his voice was sad and distant. “I never got that chance.” 

“Your mate?” Hawk asked, despite himself.  

“No . . . whole family.  Father, mother, brother, sister, fiancé, friends.”

Hawk was stunned.  If true, then this human truly did understand.  The birdman’s whole groundwork of hate was shaking and threatening to fall. Taking a deep breath, he still couldn’t say anything.  He couldn’t admit anything—not to himself and not to this human.

“Hawk, go take care of Koori,” Buck said softly, almost plaintively.  “Don’t . . . let someone else do it.  I’m not going . . . anywhere.”

Hawk pondered.  No, he didn’t want the Llamajuna or anyone else to take care of Koori.  That was his job.  He gazed down at the human.  

“I’ll be all right,” Buck told him with a reassuring smile.  At least he thought it was a reassuring smile. There was nothing reassuring about the way he felt right now.

Hawk nodded. “I will not be long.”

“My respects go with you and her,” Buck murmured.  He closed his eyes against the sun, which would soon be directly overhead. 

As he slowly arose, Hawk managed to say, “Thank you.”  Aided by the staff, the birdman hobbled from the clearing, strangely reluctant to leave this human even while eager to do his duty for his beloved mate.  He had only walked part way to the healer’s cave, when he met the Llamajuna.  In front of him was an altar, the makings of a funeral pyre. Stones formed the base and small and large sticks were criss-crossed across the top.  And laid out on top of it all was Koori. Beneath her was a silken spread of glimmering amber. 

Hawk gazed into the face of the mystic in open surprise. “Why?” was all he could say at first. Then he dashed-limped over to his mate, pulling off his gauntlets and tossing them aside.  “Koori,” he crooned, his fingers traveling down the side of her face, running through her head feathers.  

“Did your people once perform rituals that would send the dead to the hereafter this way?” the Llamajuna asked gently.

“Cremation?”  Hawk nodded, even while his eyes continued to devour her features.  “Yes, we did, but we stopped because it also attracted the attention of those we didn’t wish to find us.” Finally he looked up and gazed into the Llamajuna’s eyes. “And the past century or two it was only reserved for those of importance.”

“And Koori is not important?”

Hawk continued to caress the cold flesh of his beloved mate.  He moaned. “Yes, she is so very important. She is the only light in my life, the only hope, the only passion, the only strength.”

“No, she is a part of your heart, but you still have the hope, the passion and you are stronger than you can imagine, Hawk,” the Llamajuna crooned. 

Hawk looked up, the mystic seeming to shimmer through the tears that threatened to spill down his cheeks. “No, it has all died.”

“Her spirit is soaring, let her body go with your blessing, hama kiru naiakorisu,” the old man said softly. 

Hawk looked at him in surprise. “You know the old language?” Even he didn’t know it well. Another one of those things sacrificed in the effort to assimilate into an increasingly human galaxy. 

“Of course, why would I not know the language of a proud and honorable people?”

Hawk turned back to Koori.  Again, he touched her.  He saw the shadows of her lashes on her cheeks and remembered how she used to tickle him on the cheek with those lashes.  And then laugh when he did.  Oh, her laugh was so beautiful, musical in a way that made even their cousins in the trees pale.  And her voice, soft and sweet, sultry and lilting.  The room lit up when she came in singing after a day gathering in the mountain heights. 

“Sing her body to the starry path, Hawk. Sing her soul into the eternal round, so that it will be with you forever. Sing.” The Llamajuna stepped away as Hawk began to sing the songs of his people’s deep antiquity, the songs of release; the songs that celebrated the life of those who had died.  Never in his wildest dreams did Hawk think he would ever be singing release for his beloved mate and his voice paused, choked and quavered at first, but then the notes began to come sure and strong and his voice echoed in the valley. 

 

 

Part Three
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