Cat's Cradle

by

Sue Kite

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

Several days later, with no one able or willing to give her information about Atu-ai Buck, Miru simply left her cabin one morning and marched to the medical bay.  She hesitated only a moment at the door, but then she pressed the button and entered.  No one was in the immediate vicinity so she walked into the next room.  There she found Buck on a medical bed with Dr. Goodfellow nearby looking at something she couldn’t see.  Softly she reached over and touched Buck on the arm.  

“Oh, my child, you startled me,” the old human said, dropping the instrument in his hand.  In the next room, Miru saw Dr. Devlin working with laboratory equipment. 

“I’m sorry, Doctor,” she said.  “But I could not find out anything and I was worried.”

“Hawk hasn’t said anything to you?”

She shook her head.  “No, in fact he has not been around for me to ask.  I suppose that he has been on patrol a great deal lately, finishing the surveys on the planet.”

Dr. Goodfellow nodded.   “Yes, I think he is discouraged that Captain Rogers didn’t immediately wake up.”

Miru understood that.  She was disappointed and she hadn’t known the human as long as her guardian, Hawk had.   Colonel Deering had also been inaccessible.  Miru could only imagine the sadness that the human woman was feeling.  “Have you been able to tell if the transmutation was successful?”

“I am almost certain of it.  The brain scans are normal for Buck now,” Goodfellow said. 

“Then why can he not awaken?” she asked, even though she guessed at the reason.  She had seen enough of the unsuccessful seeings on her home world to understand the depths where a person’s inner essence could hide from something that was horrible or too hard to bear.  Again, she touched Atu-ai’s arm, then took his hand in hers.  At first, she felt nothing and then a deep and unrelenting darkness.  She glanced at Dr. Goodfellow, but he only gazed curiously at her and then nodded.  Closing her eyes, Miru tried to reach deeper into Buck’s mind.  Suddenly, she felt something coming at her, reaching for her, something desperate, and she cried out sharply. 

 

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Buck felt as though he was trapped in a cold vat of molasses.  He tried to open his eyes but his eyelids seemed glued together.  He couldn’t hear anything, couldn’t move, couldn’t say anything.  Someone had once used a kind of paralysis ray on him.  When was that?  He couldn’t think.  This seemed even more complete than that fleeting memory of something that might or might not have been similar.  Buck felt himself drifting but it wasn’t the comfortable floating of lethargic relaxation.  It was more like the aimless, despair-filled drifting of a damned soul.  He had to get out of whatever this place was or he would be stuck forever.   How did he know that?   Just knew!  Buck didn’t know why, only that it was so.  He couldn’t do anything though.  Panic seemed to blend with the despair and Buck wanted to scream aloud. 

Then he felt a touch; something vibrant, soft and gentle and he tried to focus on it.   By now, Buck realized this was some kind of mental struggle, but still he used a form of reality imaging, reaching with a mental “hand” to grasp the psychic lifeline.  He felt like a drowning sailor grasping a hold of a life preserver.  Reaching, reaching, reach!!  The touch, the contact, seemed to fade and he tried to take a firmer hold of that tenuous lifeline. 

Buck felt touched, grasped.  The contact seemed to be pulling back, jerking away.  NO!  Buck felt as though he was traveling through a tunnel, a vortex with a bright doorway at the end.   Almost there . . . almost!  The tunnel seemed to be narrowing.  NO! he cried out again in his mind.  Then he was sitting up on a med bed, gasping, watching the room dance crazily from one side to the other.  He felt the sweat slick his face, trickle down his chest.   Hands grasped his shoulders and held him steady.  He slowly looked up and saw Dr. Goodfellow scrutinizing him.  Miru stood next to him.  

“Buck, dear boy, it is really you, isn’t it?” Dr. Goodfellow said earnestly.  “Is it you?”

Ridiculous question, Buck thought.  Then memory rushed in and he remembered the brixtel.  He started to nod, but dizziness prevented that.  “Yes,” he choked out, his voice feeling hoarse, as though rusty from disuse.

“Lay back down, Captain,” Dr. Goodfellow said seriously, although his grinning face looked anything but serious. 

Buck complied.  The room was still spinning crazily.  He looked at Miru.  She was smiling happily.  “It was you,” he said softly.  “You had touched me.  You were the one I was trying to reach.”

She nodded and at that moment, the door slid open and Hawk rushed in.  “Buck!” he cried out.  

“Good timing,” Buck murmured. 

“No, I felt something and was approaching the ship, so I came straight here when I had docked,” Hawk replied.  He gazed meaningfully at Miru.   “I always felt you had more of the old powers than your elders gave you credit for,” he added to the young birdwoman. 

“Amazing, simply amazing,” Dr. Goodfellow added, gazing at all of them.   “Miru, can I prevail upon you to go and fetch Col. Deering.  I believe she might want to be here now that Captain Rogers is awake.”

Miru nodded, still obviously basking in this small accomplishment.   Although she looked as though she wanted to stay, she quickly turned and left. 

“Miru,” Buck called out.  She stopped.  “Thanks,” he told her with a smile.  Returning his smile, the girl continued out of the medical bay. 

“I am so glad you came out of this,” Dr. Goodfellow said, fussing over Buck, checking his vital signs that the monitors were very capable of imparting on their own.  “I was very worried about you.”

“Doc, do you have something for this dizziness?” Buck interrupted. 

“Oh, yes, yes,” Dr. Goodfellow said, turning to get something from the far side of the room.  

“I was worried about you, too, my friend,” Hawk said, a slight smile on his lips.

“Me, too,” Buck said, in a slightly puzzled voice.  Then it occurred to him.  He was talking.  No tapping, no keyboard.  Didn’t need Twiki to translate for him.  He was talking.  Then he remembered the cave.  Twiki.   Dr. Goodfellow was bringing over a syringe filled with an amber colored liquid.  “Where’s Twiki?” he asked.  

“Oh, dear.  Twiki was almost completely destroyed by the power of that crystal,” Dr. Goodfellow said as he administered the drug. 

Buck felt the medicine working almost immediately.  “Can’t you fix him?” he asked anxiously.  Losing Twiki was like losing a close friend. 

“Fix him?” Goodfellow repeated.  “No.  We might be able to replace his positronic parts so that he can function.”

Buck gazed at the ceiling.  “With his former personality?  His memories?”

“We have a great number of things on record,” the doctor replied.  “We could certainly try, if you would like us to.”

“Please,” Buck said softly, still gazing at the ceiling.  Just then the door slid open and Wilma burst in.  She flung herself on him. 

Buck was suddenly covered with kisses, delivered too fast for his stiff and sore body to return.  She said nothing, but nothing needed to be said.  He held her close. 

“Welcome back,” Hawk said quietly, almost to himself, from next to the old doctor. 

When Wilma drew back for air, Buck grinned.  It was certainly good to be back.  So very good.  He pulled Wilma’s lips back toward his and initiated his own kiss.  

 

 

 

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