Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter 16

 

 

 

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

More Machinations

 

 

 

Sky Mother looked at her companions and then at the human.  She felt the weight of her decision heavy on her soul, but she knew there was only one answer she could give.   “I vote for clemency.  As my husband has said, there is much of the Tane-rapanui that has touched the spirit of this human.  In his destiny, I see the destiny of many of our brothers and sisters.  And it is a good destiny, one where anger can be laid aside and where the past and the future meet.  And I also feel that Buck Rogers would never betray our people.”

Sky Warrior sighed in defeat, then he nodded.  “I will not dispute the decision of the majority.”  He looked meaningfully at Buck.  “But be aware, human, that I will kill you if you do anything to harm any of my people.”

Buck smiled softly.  “Fair enough, Sky Warrior.”  He held out his hand, but the birdman simply looked at it without making a move.  “I only ask that you have patience with me.   I only know about your people and your customs from interaction with one individual.”

“That, too, is a fair request,” Sky Mother said.  She turned to a bird-woman standing nearby.  “Leera, please extend to Captain Rogers the full hospitality of our people.”  She turned back to Buck.  “I want to speak with you later, when you have rested.” 

Buck nodded.  “I would be honored.”

The bird-woman touched his sleeve gingerly and led him away from the leaders.  The crowd opened up enough to allow him passage, but continued to stare at him, mostly in curiosity, but also Buck saw some fear and uncertainty.  As they left the sunlit cavern, Leera lit a taper and held it above her as the led the way down a corridor.  She showed him into a cave that was somewhat smaller than his cabin on the Searcher, lit several lamps, and bade him sit down. As he did so, Buck was struck with how much she looked like Koori.  Of course, he wasn’t used to seeing so many bird people and had not gotten used to the individual differences amongst those of Hawk’s race.  But just seeing Leera, the way she walked, moved her hands brought back memories of that horrendous time when Hawk lost his beloved.  

Leera caught him staring at her and she stiffened.  “Is there anything wrong with me, hu . . . Captain Rogers?” she asked, her voice cool.  

Buck felt his cheeks grow red with embarrassment.  “I’m sorry, Leera.  You just remind me of my friend’s wife.  She was very beautiful and dignified.” 

“This was Hawk’s wife?  The one who died?”  Even as she talked, Leera continued to prepare the evening meal. 

“Yes,” Buck said softly, looking at the ground. 

“Her death was sad.  Usually it is also a time of rejoicing because the deceased is released from earthly bonds and can soar freely as our people were meant to do.” 

Buck looked up, feeling the veracity of Leera’s words.  “That’s beautiful.  Hawk has mentioned feeling Koori with him, especially when he has gone gliding in his quasi-wings.” 

“You believe that this can be so?”

“That the dead can soar or that they can be with you?”

Leera smiled softly.  She was mixing meal and water in a bowl now, but stopped to gaze at him.  “You are different from what I was told humans were like,” she said, continuing with her mixing. “I was mainly thinking of the dead being with you, but I suppose I would be curious to hear what you thought of both beliefs.” 

Buck thought of the visit with his parents.  “Yes, I certainly do believe that the dead can be with you, and help you.”  

“You speak as one who has experienced it,” Leera said, almost shyly.  “But if it is something too personal….”

“Some of it is, but it’s not a secret.  My parents.  I saw them.  Spoke with them.”  Buck replayed in his mind that special time, and his voice trailed off as he remembered.  It was silent for a few minutes and then he recalled where he was.  Leera was watching him intently.  Buck cleared his throat and continued.  “And I believe that the soul of a dead person experiences some freedom.  I can imagine that for a Tane-rapanui that would mean soaring.”  

“Have you used the quasi-wings?” she asked.  “I have often wondered what that would feel like.” 

“It took him a long time, but Hawk finally managed to talk me into soaring with him.  I felt incredible freedom.”  Then Buck paused.  “You mean you haven’t?” he asked, incredulous. 

“No, since the coming of humans, it has been forbidden.  No one wanted to take the chance we would be seen.  And now . . . and now, with Erik Kormand….” 

“I am sorry, Leera.  It is truly an incredible experience,” Buck said. 

“Please, Captain Rogers, tell me what it feels like,” she pleaded, her eyes wistful and her bread forgotten.

“Just call me Buck, if that’s permitted.” 

“I will think on such familiarity with a human, even one afforded the privilege of tribal membership,” she replied with a slight smile, taking up the kneading of her bread again.  “But the quasi-wings….” 

Buck frowned.  “I promise that I will do all in my power to get rid of Erik Kormand and his hatemongering friends, then you can feel what I am going to tell you, Leera.”

She saw the intensity of his words and believed him.  “Thank you, Buck Rogers.”

He told her of banking and soaring, diving and rising with the thermals, of shoulder muscles creaking with the force of the wind and the same wind trying to snatch the goggles off.  He told her of the incredible freedom one had high in the air like that.  Her bread rose unattended.  Finally, he stopped and said, “I am a poor houseguest, Leera.  Is there anything I can do to help you?”

“No, you lay down there and rest,” she said, pointing to a fur covered pallet in one dim corner of the room.  “You look fatigued.”

He was tired, but more than that he was worried.  It had been a day since he checked in.  “No, I’m not really that tired.”

Leera gazed intently at him. “Then something is bothering you.”

“Well, yeah.  I’m worried about my shipmates who are also down here on Mendalis.  My last transmission yesterday was a warning that Erik Kormand knew all about us—who we are, where we are and what we were doing.” 

“And they must be worried about you,” Leera suggested.

“Yes, I guess they are.” 

“I wish I could help you,” Leera said.  “I truly do.”  

“Thanks, Leera.  I appreciate that.”  He yawned. 

“Rest, Buck Rogers.  Whether you say you are tired or not, you need to rest.”

Buck nodded and lay down.  He had not slept well the night before he had come down to Mendalis, so he didn’t argue with Leera this time.   And soon he was asleep, oblivious to everything around him, dreaming of quasi-wings and soaring.  

Creel came in and took Leera in his arms.  “How is Captain Rogers?” he asked softly. 

“Sleeping.  Despite his protests, he was very tired.” 

“What are your feelings about having a human living with us?” 

“I was a bit resentful of your mother for asking me to take him to our cave, but he is not what I expected in a human,” Leera said.  

Brish rushed into the cave and grabbed Leera around the waist, giving her a tight hug.   At her gesture toward their sleeping guest, he became more subdued, but still he did not let go.  “I am glad Buck is staying with us, Mother,” he whispered.  “He saved me, you know.” 

Leera looked at Creel in shock.  He simply nodded.  “I did not have time to tell you,” Creel said.  “But I could not summarily kill the human that saved our son.” 

“No,” Leera murmured as she gazed at the sleeping Buck Rogers in a new light.  “You could not.”

 

 

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

 

 

 After sending the necessary information to introduce him to this Mic Froligen, Hawk waited near the edge of a small lake for the councilman to arrive.  He continually wondered just how they could be sure who was an honest, legitimate Galactic Council member and who was one of Erik Kormand’s people.  And there was the fact that here he was, dealing with individuals who had lent such a deaf ear to the plight of his own people.  

Twiki stood quietly beside him, Theo hanging from a chain around his neck.  “Hawk, I realize that I am very much imperfect in this, but I will be listening for those things that will indicate if the one we are talking to is one of Erik Kormand’s men or not.”

“Thank you, Dr. Theopolis.”  Hawk sat on the rocks near the edge of the lake and watched the birds flying overhead.  As he always did, he felt the soft pangs of jealousy at their freedom. 

“Are you Hawk, from the Searcher?” a deep voice asked. 

Hawk turned to the speaker.  “Yes, I am.”  He studied the human, seeing someone slightly shorter than he was, a man almost bald, a fringe of gray hair around his head.  The gray eyes gazed intently at him.

“I am Councilman Mic Froligen.  It is my understanding that you have some important information from Admiral Asimov?” he asked.  

“Yes, Councilman, I do, and it is imperative that you act with discretion in this.” 

“Of course,” Froligen replied. 

As they walked the perimeter of the lake, Hawk briefly outlined what they had found out and what they had conjectured about Erik Kormand.  Froligen listened in solemn silence, only interrupting Hawk to ask a few questions.  When he had finished, Hawk asked, “Will you find this person?   Several of my crewmates are in danger because of whoever is here helping Erik Kormand.” 

“Of course, Hawk.  Tell Admiral Asimov that I will find out who this informant is and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” Froligen assured him. 

“Thank you, Councilman,” Hawk said, handing him a disk.  “The admiral will send more information as it becomes available.”

“I appreciate that,” Froligen said, shaking Hawk’s hand.  “Have a safe trip back.”

Hawk watched as the galactic councilman walked away.  “What do you think, Dr. Theopolis?”

“He sounded genuine, Hawk.”  Theo’s lights blinked.  “But I sense that you are troubled.” 

“But you are not positive.” 

Theo blinked for a few seconds.  “The probability, as far as my logic circuits are concerned, is ninety percent certainty that he is honest.” 

Hawk sighed.  “It is the ten percent that worries me,” he murmured.  “Which is why Mic Froligen received a disk with less information.” 

“What?” Theo protested.  “But there is so little chance of his duplicity.”

“If he turns out to be legitimate, then the other information will be sent,” Hawk replied.  He gazed up at the sky.  “There is one more place I want to go and then we will return to the Searcher.   After a search of the archives, Hawk found himself outside the building that housed the offices of the Galactic Judiciary members.

“But why, Hawk,” Theo asked. 

“Trust me,” was all Hawk would say. 

Theo was not at all surprised that Hawk was using the same words that Buck often used. 

Hawk entered the building and approached the secretary who sat inside.  The young man’s hands were busy, the fingers flying across several keyboards as though in a race with each other.  “Excuse me,” Hawk began, suddenly nervous to be seeking out the man who had almost condemned him to death. 

The young man looked up and immediately asked, “Which of the councilmen do you wish to see?”

That question took Hawk a bit by surprise.  This visit was totally unplanned, only thought of while he had been talking with Councilman Froligen.  He didn’t even know the name of the human who had been the head judiciary at his trial.   “I wish to see the judiciary who was in charge of my trial,” he said simply.  “It was held on the research and exploration vessel Searcher one year ago,” he added. 

“You don’t know his name?”  The young man looked at him with something akin to incredulous amazement.

“Excuse me,” Theo interjected.  “I am Doctor Theopolis of the Earth Directorate’s Computer Council, temporarily assigned to the aforementioned Searcher.   I would appreciate it if you would check your files for the trial of one, Hawk, and find the name of the judiciary as has been requested.” 

Hawk refrained from even looking at the quad, but was quite gratified with the authoritarian demeanor which Dr. Theopolis was exhibiting.  Apparently it was effective because the young human simply nodded and began a search on his keyboard.  After a few minutes he looked up.  “Councilman Rilling is the individual you are seeking.” 

“Then I would like to see him,” Hawk said definitively. 

“I assume that you do not have an appointment with him,” the young man said.  “I can set one up for you.” 

Hawk felt keen disappointment, knowing what the term ‘appointment’ would entail.  “I am on Cronis for a short time only.  Please let the councilman know that I am here.  And that it is quite important that I see him.” 

The secretary gazed thoughtfully at Hawk, saw in his regal demeanor, the intensity of the birdman’s need, and nodded.  Again, the hands flew over the keyboard.   With a surprised look, the young man looked up after only a few minutes.  “The councilman conveyed his desire to see you now, sir.” 

“Thank you,” Hawk said simply and followed the human’s directions to the indicated office.  The door slid open at his approach and Hawk walked in, followed by Twiki and Theopolis.  Before him stood the man whom he remembered gazing dispassionately at him at his trial, the man, who, without Buck’s intervention would have surely sentenced him to death.  Hawk again felt the slight stirrings of doubt in making this visit.  The man was gazing at him this time, too, but there was a friendliness that extended beyond his smile, unlike what Hawk felt with Froligen.   And there was curiosity and interest as well.

“I will be honest with you, Hawk, I never expected to see you here, face to face,” Councilman Rilling said, approaching with outstretched hand.   Hawk shook hands and then sat down at the councilman’s invitation.  “And yet you sought me out.  Why?” 

Heartened by the human judge’s friendly demeanor, Hawk got right to the point.  “I assume you remember the man who spoke in my defense.”

“Captain Rogers?  Yes, how can I forget?  He was very impassioned and eloquent and made me rethink some of my positions on council policies,” Rilling replied with a slight smile.

Hawk nodded, seeing again, briefly that time, that scene.  “He helped me, he has continued to help me.  Now he is in need of help.”   And Hawk felt that deeply, felt, for some reason, that Buck’s very life might be dependant on outside forces as his own had been during that pivotal time in his past.

“In what way?” Rilling asked. 

“Let me go back a short time to give you background, and Dr. Theopolis, of Earth’s Computer Council will give you any information I miss.”  As they talked, Hawk felt the totality of Rilling’s sincerity.  He felt there was no front here, using the term that Buck had used once, as there had been with Froligen.  Hawk knew that many politicians kept a public demeanor separate from a private one, but with this human, he felt he was seeing the totality of the man, not just what Rilling wanted to show him.  

When he had finished, the judge gazed at him thoughtfully.  “If you have already consulted with Councilman Froligen why did you seek me out?”

Hawk pondered how best to put his feelings into words and opted for bluntness.  “I still have a slight distrust of humans in general, but I knew that my death sentence would not have been commuted by any who harbored anti-alien sentiments.  I felt you would be open to me and my request.”

“Then why did you go to Froligen in the first place?”

“Because Admiral Asimov recommended him.  But my confidence did not increase with the interview.  I did not feel the same confidence with him that I do now with you,” Hawk said solicitously.  The more he considered Froligen, the less he trusted him.

“Sad to say, I have heard rumors of those who feel as this Erik Kormand does.  I have to regretfully admit that the passivity of the rest of us who do not proscribe to such doctrine has allowed this racism and bigotry to flourish.” 

Hawk felt increasing nervousness.  Despite his relative inactivity during the Searcher’s most recent assignment, he felt he was needed back at the ship.  He felt he had achieved what he had come for and it was time to leave this world of human government and politics.  “Councilman, I am not here to discuss history, but solutions,” he said frankly, but without hostility.

Rilling said nothing for a moment, simply studying the birdman.  But his eyes showed his understanding when he spoke.  “You said you have information about Erik Kormand?”

“Yes.”  Hawk handed a disk to Rilling. 

“If you could study this and discreetly try to help us, we would very much appreciate it,” Theo said.

“And I believe it will not be too long before we will need back-up at Mendalis,” Hawk added.  “The Searcher is not a military ship and has few armaments.”

“I will do all I can, as discreetly as I can,” Rilling said.  “And I will make periodic contact on a secure line.”

Hawk nodded.  He was satisfied.  “Thank you, Councilman.”  Soon they were heading back toward the Searcher.

 

 

 

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