Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter 15

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

   

Tane-rapanui

 

 

 

Erik Kormand was restless.   It was late afternoon and he had been lying on his bed most of the day, dizzy and sick.  A concussion, the doctor had told him and then at his orders had scurried away to get something that would help him tolerate it.  The orthopedic stimulator would not help, the doctor had told him.  Get something that will! he had yelled and then regretted it, feeling the pounding in his head that matched his own heartbeat.  That had been hours ago.  Now he couldn’t stand this bed, couldn’t stand this apartment.  He wanted to go out and find her, find Wilma Deering and make her pay for doing this to him.  At the very least, he wanted to go to the portable communications center that had been set up and find out what was going on.  Surely, Deering had been captured.   

With a growl, he got up, then had to sit quietly, his head in his hands until the dizziness left him.  Damn that woman!  He felt the lump at the back of his head, the one on the side of his head.  The dead woman was long gone, disposed of, but his anger was still white hot against Colonel Deering.  How dare she escape from me!  How dare that slut lay hands on me, beat me senseless and actually escape from me! he fumed.  One of his lieutenants heard him and walked into the room.  

“Can I help you, sir?” 

“Yes!  Help me into the next room and then get me something for this headache,” he ordered.  The man, wise enough to refrain from telling him what he should really do, simply did as he was told and soon Kormand was sitting in a chair next to the communication’s operator, a man named Brax.  “What is the status of the search?” he asked, feeling a bit better now, not so dizzy. 

“Same, General.  There have been no sightings, sir.” 

Kormand frowned, but didn’t say anything.   “You know she’s going to try for her starfighter, or if not that then some kind of flight off planet.”

“Yes, sir.  All terminals in a twenty-five kilometer radius are being closely watched.”

“I will personally skin anyone who let’s her slip through their cordon,” Kormand growled.  He sat quietly, monitoring all the communications along with the young man next to him.    “Report on the whereabouts of Rogers,” he finally barked. 

There was a short pause.  “We found his fighter, sir, but Rogers’ last known position was near the Asher spaceport last night.” 

Kormand remembered the cryptic message that had been intercepted earlier in the day.  Clint Eastwood?  Birthday boy?  What in the world did all that mean?  Of course, it was quite obvious that Rogers had found out that he knew of the council’s pitiful attempts at subterfuge.  He must have been referring to him when Rogers talked about birthday boy.   His people had only been able to kill or capture two of the operatives, but Deering and Rogers were still on planet.  And these were the two he most wanted.   “Any unusual activity at the spaceport?” he asked. 

“Yessir, an alien raid.” 

“And the results?” 

“Their trail was lost when the aliens set the forest on fire.” 

“What?” 

The man on the other end began to repeat his message.  “Never mind,” Kormand said, cutting him off.  “In which direction were they heading when all this happened?”

“The plateau, sir.” 

“Get surveillance over the plateau.”  Kormand didn’t like it. That plateau was within site of his compound.  

“Yessir, first thing in the morning, Asher time.” 

“No, do it now, and make absolutely sure that it’s thorough,” Kormand growled. 

“Sir, it’s dangerous to do such surveillance at night.” 

“Very well, first light.”  He sat back and pondered while he awaited word on his shuttle.  Now where could Wilma Deering go?  He had immediately put surveillance on her shuttle, but he had figured that she wouldn’t go there.  He had put all public transport on alert, watching for the ‘dangerous criminal’ but again there had been nothing.  So what could she do?  The nearest spaceport.  She would be determined to return to the Searcher.  And the nearest spaceport was on the outskirts of Brix.  Well, well, they are watching there, too, Kormand thought with a smile.  

Finally, near evening, he decided to go back to his compound. “Brax, send some dinner up.  And get the shuttle prepared.  I’m going home.  I can get reports of incompetence there as well as here.”

Kormand ate his meal, but although it was the finest the planet could provide, he took no real pleasure in it.  What would give him real pleasure would be to have Wilma Deering in his hands, as well as that bothersome Buck Rogers.   He smiled evilly at the thought.

And he was still smiling when he boarded the short-range shuttlecraft and flew to the spaceport.  He was still thinking his thoughts of revenge when he arrived at the hanger where his fighter was berthed.  His headache was slight now and his dizziness had all but passed. 

“Uh, sir,” a clearly nervous flight crewman began.

“Well, what is it?” Kormand demanded. 

“Uh, Mr. Kormand, your personal fighter was stolen less than a half an hour ago by one of the spaceport personnel.”

“What!!?” he shouted.  Then they showed him the surveillance disk and he screamed out a stream of curses.  The so-called airport employee was none other than Wilma Deering.  “I want her!  I want her alive.  I want to kill her myself.” 

“But sir, she is now onboard the Searcher.”  The crewman fidgeted, looking ready to run at a moment’s notice.  

“Then I want efforts to capture Buck Rogers redoubled!” Kormand shouted.  He grabbed the terrified crewman by the shirt.  “Do you hear me?  If I can’t get Deering, I want Rogers!  I want that surveillance done now, not later, but now!!  And I want you to use the new surveillance.  The one that Leegrand claims will pick up anything.”

The man gulped, and then nodded and Kormand released him.  “Yessir.  Right away.  We’ll begin right now.” 

“Do that.”

   

                                    =========================

   

 

The old matriarch continued to gaze intently at Buck, holding her hand up for silence.  He stood quietly as well, returning her gaze.  Only a slight sighing of air coming from the crack in the ceiling of the cave broke the stillness of the cavern.  Even breath seemed muted, and what few children Buck had seen were silent as well, testament to the incredible power that these three, and particularly this woman, must have.   “Buck Rogers,” she finally said, her voice barely more than a whisper.  

Shocked, Buck could only nod.  How did she know my name?  Creel told her.  That’s it, he reassured himself.   Creel used his communicator.  Buck noticed that the cavern was packed with bird people now.  Standing room only.   Just the space around him and the three leaders remained clear. 

“Sky Mother,” Creel began, his voice fully reflecting the awe that Buck was feeling at the moment.  “We brought Captain Rogers here for you and Sky Father and Sky Warrior to determine if our judgment to save him was a right one.   I beg forgiveness for not giving you forewarning, but….” 

“It was not necessary.  I felt the eddies of many spirit voices, including those which have brought this human among us,” Sky Mother said, her eyes still locked on Buck’s.  “And he is here.”

Buck swallowed, realizing that his summation had been totally wrong and he now wondered what he had gotten himself into.  Light danced off the motes of dust floating in the air about them and still there was silence.  

“What is there to judge?” the one that Buck figured to be Sky Warrior asked angrily.  “He knows where we live.  He holds our lives in his hands and in his mind.  We have lived here for hundreds of years, protected, unknown to our enemies.  But now this one, this human knows.  There should only be death for that.”  There were many murmurs of agreement among the gathered people.  Then came the war leader’s final pronouncement.  “He is human.” 

Buck felt the intensity of the birdman’s resentment and anger and it kindled some anger of his own.  “You are judging me on something for which there is no defense, Sky Warrior.  I am human.  My mother and father were human.  I was born this way.  And I am proud of who I am.” 

“Proud of annihilation of races of sentient beings?  Proud of cruelty, avarice, greed and arrogance?”  Sky Warrior balled his fists by his side, testament of the great anger that the leader was feeling.  “He is a human!” the leader repeated to the crowd gathered around them.  “He is one of the race that spawned Erik Kormand, and his followers on Throm, and here and on so many other worlds where the vermin have spread!” 

Buck knew the litany, he knew that some of it was true, but it was true of every race.  He took a deep breath to calm his anger.  “Sky Warrior, have all of your people attained sainthood yet?  If so, please let me in on your secret.”  He was irritated that he was being put in the same category as the Erik Kormand.  There were some gasps at the apparent audacity of the human prisoner to question the war leader in such a way. 

Sky Warrior began to say something else, but Sky Father held up his hand.  The old leader’s face was inscrutable.  All became silent again.  “Stop, my friend,” the old man said to his warrior companion.   “As much as I would like to agree with you, the human speaks rightly.  Who can forget Weilan or the traitor, Sirilar?” 

Again there was a time of silence.  Sky Mother stepped closer to Buck, again gazing intently into his eyes and once more Buck felt as though she could see into his soul.  “Buck Rogers, yours is a strange and wonderful journey,” Sky Mother finally said, her voice loud enough for all in the cavern to hear, but still soft and gentle, like the caress of a summer breeze.  She looked at her cloaked companion and smiled softly.  “My beloved, do you not feel the intertwining of fates at work here?  The road of several destinies coming together?” 

Buck saw questioning in the eyes of the old birdman, while the other one, Sky Warrior remained cold-visaged and stern.  The terran continued to wonder what power was at work here, and decided it was the same power that had miraculously preserved him for five hundred years.  And he didn’t question it, only wondered what this power wanted of him. 

“Tell us what you have already told Creel, and then my people will not wonder why you were brought here among us.   Tell us about your world, and a time that not even my grandmother would have knowledge of,” Sky Mother gently requested, her finger lightly touching his hand. 

Somehow, Buck felt as though he could not have refused even if he had wanted to.  “I am from Earth,” he began.  “From an Earth that had all but forgotten the legends of those ancients who had once lived there with humans.  I lived in a time of desperate paranoia, unquenchable hope, and horrible destructive power.  I was born before Earth’s great holocaust.”  Buck expected Sky Warrior to protest, but both he and Sky Father continued to gaze at him, as though studying the veracity of his statements through body language or something even subtler.  He wondered if they were telepathic, but right now that didn’t matter.  However, if the three leaders were not surprised, the rest of the bird people certainly were.  There were muted whisperings and soft intakes of breath in surprise.   He continued, telling of his mission in space that ended in an instant, to begin again five hundred years later.  Even though he didn’t want to, Buck told of his feelings of alone-ness, of displacement and then slow acceptance, of the adventures that bonded him gradually to this time and to the people who had accepted him and welcomed him. 

Pausing for breath, Buck saw the dancing motes still flickering in the narrow beam of sunlight, light that came from a reddish-gold orb shining directly overhead.  That long?  Someone pushed a cup of golden liquid into his hand and he swallowed it gratefully.  His throat felt rough, but the liquid, whatever it was, soothed and refreshed.  

“Tell us of the People from Throm,” Sky Mother requested.  Again there was a murmuring of surprise. 

Buck wondered wryly if this bird-woman was trying to get him killed after all, but he consoled himself with his feelings of innate trust in her and her abilities.  Taking another swallow of the drink, he began again.  “By the time I got to Throm, there were only two of your people left.  The rest had been massacred by drunken humans, and Hawk, who was a sky warrior among his people there, had declared war on humans.  I was sent to take him into custody.”   Again the murmurs of the listeners, this time they were angry and sullen.  

Sky Warrior’s visage got stormier, if that was possible.  “They just sent one human to take two of the People?” he asked sarcastically.  There was muted laughter among those gathered in the cavern.

Buck was feeling the warring tug of emotions, the anger of Sky Warrior, along side the calm tranquility of Sky Mother, and it grated on his nerves. He felt off balance; unable to deal with the unknown forces he was experiencing.    “Yes, Sky Warrior, they sent me.  They sent me and I came away a much different person than I had been at the outset of my assignment.”  He paused, remembering that time in the past, a time that was painful for both he and Hawk.   When he began again, his voice was softer.  “I was an instrument in the death of his beloved Koori, we both were in our ignorant battle, but even so, Hawk stood at my back when a group of men threatened me.  I helped him carry his dying wife to the healer, and then felt some of the anguish of his soul when she died.  I saw his life nearly end there, Sky Warrior, not physically, but inside.  He was alone!  I understood that, but what I understood even more was that here was a noble and valiant individual who was hurting deeply.  Here was the last of his people, of his race, I thought at the time.  Here was someone I had learned to respect, to care for like a brother.  I could not let someone like that die, at least not without a fight.”

“You ask me to believe too much,” Sky Warrior interjected hotly.  “That a human would care for any of the people.”

“Then don’t believe it, Sky Warrior,” Buck replied tersely.  “Don’t believe that this sky warrior risked his life on a strange planet to save my worthless human hide from convicts, that he faced a group of Saurians with me when everyone else thought I was insane, that he fought off a starfighter to allow me to escape to prove my innocence against a charge of treason.  You don’t have to believe it, Sky Warrior.”  Buck turned to gaze once more at Sky Mother and Sky Father.  “But it’s true,” he added softly.   He saw some of the same understanding in the old birdman’s eyes that he had seen from the beginning in Sky Mother’s eyes.  

“Buck Rogers, how is it that this new brother of yours, this Sky Warrior Hawk, is free,” Sky Father finally asked.  “By your own words, you said that he waged war on humans.  I cannot believe that the humans would allow him to live after he had killed humans.” 

Buck repeated what he had said to Creel the night before.  Sky Father smiled softly.   “But it was your resolve to save this sky warrior that determined the humans’ decision.”  It was a statement and Buck neither denied nor acknowledged Sky Father’s statement.

 Sky Mother nodded for him to continue. 

“I have seen much in the two years since my awakening in this century, but the most unforgettable memory is what happened on the Searcher during that time, when a hate-filled Tane-rapanui and understanding humans decided to forge a new bond, a bond built of trust, friendship, cooperation and most importantly, respect.  Hawk is a sky warrior and, yet, he has learned to see another side of his former enemies.”

“There is no other side.  This Hawk is soft to live among humans,” Sky Warrior retorted, unwilling to let go of his hatred and mistrust. 

“Soft?  Hawk is anything but soft.  He is braver than any of us here,” Buck responded, his only anger directed against the obtuseness of this one individual.  “Why?  Because despite the fact that he has lost his beloved wife, that he is living alone, he has chosen to live honorably in a hostile world, to seek for others of his kind. To not give up.”  Buck stared intently into Sky Warrior’s eyes.  “Do not insult my friend any further or you will deal with me,” he said, his voice controlled and steady.   His eyes did not waver from the dark eyes of Sky Warrior.  And Buck could see that the birdman clearly understood his meaning. 

Sky Father cleared his throat.  “I feel a weaving of Make-Make’s spirit in this human.  He has been touched by the essence of the Tane-rapanui, and therefore is welcome among us.” 

Buck saw the shock of this pronouncement in Sky Warrior’s eyes and heard the sting of betrayal in his voice.  “And I vote that this human be slain to protect the people of our eyrie.”

 

 

 

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