Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter 38

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty-eight

 

Revelations

 

 

 

Wilma followed Sky Mother into another, smaller cave where empty shelves lined the rock walls.  Getting on her hands and knees, the old bird-woman reached under a shelf and tugged at something, struggling to get it out.  Wilma got down beside her and helped Sky Mother pull out a smallish chest.   She kneeled sided by side with the older woman with mixed emotions.  On the one hand, Wilma was awed by Sky Mother’s presence, but on the other hand couldn’t help but resent the bird-woman’s role in Buck’s present amnesiac condition.  She was positive that the aleshizaren came from Sky Mother’s hand.  “You gave Buck the aleshizaren,” Wilma blurted out, unable to hold back. 

“Yes.” 

“Why did you want to kill him?”  Wilma’s voice was tinged with raw anger, even though she tried to hide it.  

Sky Mother gazed thoughtfully at Wilma Deering.  The human partly reminded her somewhat of Sky Warrior.  But there was more to her than that.  This human was much more complex.  And Sky Mother saw that Wilma Deering had been through much, suffered much recently.  Erik Kormand had made more than non-humans suffer.  “You care deeply for Captain Rogers.”  It was more statement than question. 

“Yes.”  Wilma started to say more, to elaborate, but stopped herself.  I don’t even know this woman! 

“Colonel Deering, understand something.  I did not want to kill Buck, but we, Buck Rogers included, understood what would happen if he fell into Erik Kormand’s hands with the knowledge he carried inside his head.” 

“Why couldn’t he have hidden here with you until the danger passed?” 

“Because Kormand knew Buck was here.” 

Wilma started, taken aback by that revelation.  “He did?” 

“Yes, Kormand’s surveillance picked up the presence of a human at the same time the message was sent to your ship.” 

“Oh.” 

“My child, I did the only thing I could to preserve Buck’s life.  And even that little bit might not have been enough,” Sky Mother said, her voice tinged with sadness. 

“The amnesia?” 

“Yes, Wilma Deering.”  Sky Mother gazed deeply into the human woman’s gray-blue eyes and saw a bond there, something that tied this earth woman strongly with Buck Rogers and the remnants of the Tane-rapanui.  Wilma Deering cared for Buck Rogers even as she cared for her own life mate.  “Something seemed to guide me in preparing the dosage of the aleshizaren even though Buck is human.  And it guided me when I gave it to Buck as well, because I think he knew what the aleshizaren really was for.  As it turned out, he trusted me enough to follow my instructions.” 

“Yes, because Buck is not someone who would go along with taking something potentially suicidal,” Wilma replied.

“I know.” 

“But is it permanent?” Wilma asked.  “I mean there is so much of Buck there, but he’s so unhappy, feeling more lost than when he awakened five hundred years out of his time.” 

Sky Mother pondered.  The aleshizaren was very powerful, its effects lasting for a great length of time.  What if its effects lasted beyond the physical influence of the drug?  But somehow, Sky Mother felt something filling her heart with hope and she was content with that.  “I do not know, although I hope it is not.  Make-Make has not made that known to me.”   During their conversation, Sky Mother had been pulling medical supplies from her chest, occasionally handing some to Wilma.  “But right now, if we do not treat him, the amnesia will be the least of his worries.  I noticed that the wound is still bleeding and I think Buck has already bled more than is safe.”  She gathered up the last of her supplies. 

Wilma followed her back to her dwelling cave where Buck and Hawk were waiting.  Sky Mother knelt down beside Buck.  “How are you feeling?” 

“Tired.  Leg hurts like hell, but otherwise I’m fine.”  He smiled.  “Kormand’s been caught.  That makes it all okay.”  

“Yes, but we do want you to live to enjoy your victory.” 

Lethargic as he felt, Buck chuckled at her joke.  “Don’t worry.  I will, and I guarantee you, I’ll be dancing at the end of his trial.” 

Smiling, the old woman said, “I am sure you will, Buck.”  She laid her medical supplies out and then gazed deeply into his eyes.  “Now I want you to concentrate on my words and my face, not on my hands.” 

He nodded.  Even though he didn’t remember the old bird-woman, he felt an instant trust in her.  She began speaking softly of Make-Make, of the sky, of the wind on dark nights and those creatures that inhabited that time. He felt the power of her words, even as he felt the strength of her hands on his leg.  His mind began to fill with visions of flight and wonder that left little room for pain or discomfort. 

Wilma knelt nearby, handing things to Sky Mother as she pointed to them.   Amazingly, she saw Buck become almost trance-like, not totally asleep, but clearly not aware of what the bird-woman was doing.  

With sure deftness, Sky Mother cut away the material of his pants, examined and cleaned what she could of the wound and then began to dress and bind it.  When she was finished, she let her breath out in a soft sigh and sat back.  “If he was not going to facilities better suited for human care, I would do more right now,” she said.  “But this will get him back to your ship, Sky Warrior Hawk, with little further damage.”  Reaching down, she touched Buck on his good leg, murmuring something in her own language.

Buck came out of his reverie and found himself gazing into Sky Mother’s eyes.  She smiled and said, “You still need the medical aide that your ship affords, but I think that what I have done has stopped the bleeding.”

Looking down, Buck saw a new bandage wrapping his leg. It had not seemed that she had been talking that long, but apparently she had.  He looked back up at her in wonder.  “How did you do that?” 

“That is part of being a Sky Mother, Buck,” she replied softly with a smile.  “Maleo-pinou, tes-oni?”

“Te-mano,” Buck answered and then blinked in surprise.  

Hawk gazed curiously at his friend, knowing that he had taught Buck the word in his language for ‘yes’ but not the formal, honorific form. 

“Where did that come from?” Buck asked, still incredulous about the past few minutes. 

“From the same place where everything that is you resides,” Sky Mother replied, touching Buck’s forehead.  “It is all there.  Only the key to unlocking it remains.” 

“What is that key, Sky Mother?” Buck asked, his voice filled with longing and hope at the same time.  It was like an ache in his heart.  

“That I do not know.  But your friends will help you.” 

“Thank you,” he murmured, hope overcoming the longing ache. 

Sky Mother smiled.  The light flickered off her white head feathers, making them appear to be stirred by a warm summer breeze.  Buck thought of the contrast between now and his time at Kormand’s compound and wondered how he had ever thought to belong there.  And Sreena.  Even though she was related to Kormand, she, too, did not belong there.  “Sreena!” he said aloud, suddenly wondering where she was, what had happened to her.   “Grishom didn’t say a thing about finding a woman.”  He gazed at the three who were looking at him expectantly.  “Sreena Kormand was supposed to be here, too.”  Alarm filled his mind and he fully realized a truth that had only niggled at him while he was residing in the compound.  She was afraid of her own brother.  Could he have killed her? 

“A human woman was found unconscious and badly beaten in a little used side corridor yesterday.  I did what I could with her, but she, like you, needs more medical attention than I can give her.” 

“Beaten?” Buck asked, feeling the flames of hot anger growing in his heart.  That Kormand would beat and leave for dead, his own sister…. 

“Now that the other humans are leaving, the woman is being carried to the outer chamber.  We knew you three would make sure she was taken to your ship.” 

“Thank you,” Buck said.

“It is time for you to go now.  I suspect that there are other humans in these corridors, a few of Erik Kormand’s men who were not captured.  We will watch for these and do what we can with them, but in your condition, it would not be well if you were found by any of them,” Sky Mother admonished.  “And we are still wary of others knowing of our presence.” 

She got up and Buck followed suit, although much more slowly, being helped by Wilma and Hawk.  “Wait here,” the old woman said.  She was only gone for a moment, but when she returned it was with a pair of wooden crutches.  “You should not put any weight on that leg, or you will open up what I have bound.” 

Buck tried them, finding them to be almost the right height for him.  “Thanks, Sky Mother.  I really appreciate this.”

“Even my people get careless or have accidents on occasion,” she said with a smile.  She paused and gazed at each of them.  “Do not forget me and I want all of you to come back and visit.  You will always be welcome in our home.”

Hawk bowed low to her as well as to the shadowed warrior lurking in the darkness of a far corridor.  “Honor to your eyrie and your clan from the Tiratoloa clan,” he said formally.  “And my thanks for giving me hope.” 

“And honor to you, Sky Warrior Hawk.”  Sky Mother’s fingers lightly touched his chest.  “Return soon,” she added and then turned and disappeared into the dark corridor. 

Hawk felt a desire to follow, to meet more of his people, but he squelched it, knowing where his duty was at the present.  “Come, let us go before the Admiral sends a search party for us,” Hawk suggested.  He watched as Buck concentrated on walking with the crutches.   “It is apparent that you are not used to these.  I will stay close in case you lose your balance.” 

Laughing, Buck answered, “Well, if I have ever had to use them before, I sure can’t remember it now.  But I’ll get the hang of them.”

“Who is she, Hawk?” Wilma asked, her voice filled with awe.  She was still staring in the direction the bird-woman had taken. 

Buck paused, feeling the same awe as Wilma.

“The heart of each clan, Wilma.  The healer and co-spiritual leader with Sky Father,” Hawk explained.  “But as good a healer as Sky Mother is, Buck, this will be a long journey that is not getting any shorter.” 

“Yeah, I know,” Buck replied wryly.  They began the long trip back to the outer cavern.  Occasionally Hawk reconnoitered, checking for any of Kormand’s men who might have been missed in the round up.  They saw no one and they made decent time, although to Buck it seemed agonizingly slow.  He found his balance rather quickly, and only had to watch for the unevenness of the cave floor, but as they progressed, his leg, which had not bothered him at the beginning of the journey, began to throb.  Mainly, though, he was worried about Sreena, hoping she was not too badly hurt.  She had been the only person with whom he had felt totally comfortable the entire time of his stay in Kormand’s compound.  And he felt that in her own way, she had truly tried to help him.  

As they got closer to the outer chamber, he felt the pain returning and weakness setting in.  Wilma and Hawk noticed and walked slower.   When the trio arrived at their destination, they found the cavern bathed in full daylight.  And they found Sreena lying on a makeshift stretcher near the entrance to the cavern.  

Wilma’s starfighter sat serenely near the outer edge of the cavern and Twiki was just popping the canopy.  “I was getting a little worried about you,” he said.  Then he saw Buck with his bandaged leg.  “What happened?” 

“I’ll tell you later,” Buck said.  He leaned the crutches against the wall and began to slowly kneel down near Sreena, who was still unconscious.  

“No, Buck, that’s too much strain on your leg.  Let me check her over.”  Wilma kneeled down to check the injured woman and had to agree with Sky Mother.  Sreena had been battered unmercifully, her eyes swollen shut, her nose broken.  Her breathing was ragged and her pulse weak.  Sreena needed specialized medical attention and soon.  She looked up, a worried expression on her face.

“How bad is she?” Buck asked tersely, his indignation undisguised and red-hot.

“She’s pretty badly hurt, just as Sky Mother said.” 

“Something else Kormand needs to pay for,” Buck said grimly as he leaned on his crutches. 

“Who is she, Buck?” Wilma asked.  “You said her name was Sreena Kormand, but what is her relationship to Erik Kormand?” 

“His sister.  I think she was deathly afraid of him and wanted to get away from him, but there was something Kormand held over her that prevented her from leaving,” Buck explained.  “She was the only person who seemed to genuinely care for me.” 

“I will get the woman aboard your fighter, Wilma,” Hawk said.  

As much as she hated to leave Buck, Wilma had to agree.  In fact, she wasn’t even sure Sreena would make it back to the Searcher, but they had to try.  “Will you be all right, Buck?” 

“Yeah, just get Sreena to Dr. Goodfellow and Dr. Golden,” he said softly, gazing at the battered woman.  “She didn’t deserve this.”  He looked back at Wilma.  “I’ll be fine until Hawk gets his ship.” 

Gently, Hawk picked up the injured woman, seeing, in his mind, a similar occurrence of the previous year, an occurrence that brought stabs of pain to his heart.  He sincerely hoped that this time the ending would be different.   With Wilma’s help, he settled Sreena Kormand gently in the back seat of the fighter and strapped her in.   

“Be careful, Buck,” Wilma said as she settled into her seat.  

“I’ll take care of him, Wilma,” Twiki said with a beep for emphasis. 

“As will I,” Theo added.  

Wilma nodded, not trusting herself to say anything.  Hawk pulled the canopy down for her and then jumped down and stepped away from the ship.  Wilma powered up the craft and eased it out of the cavern.  

“I will be back shortly with my ship, Buck,” Hawk said as Wilma’s ship shot into the bright sunlight.  “You rest.” 

“Plan on it,” Buck replied, gingerly sitting down and leaning against the wall.  

“Are you all right, Buck?  You have been wounded,” Theo said, his voice modulations evincing his concern.  

“Right now I’m just tired, Theo,” Buck replied.  “I feel as though I have been through several lifetimes in only, what, about a ten day span?” 

“Yes, it has been about that if we reckoned the events on the OEI correctly.” 

“Was it like this before?” 

“Sometimes it was, Buck, and at times it was more sedate.  I cannot attest to your time on the Searcher.  I have not been on board that long.” 

“I can,” Twiki interjected.  “The Searcher is a hopping place.”  

Buck smiled briefly and gazed toward some distant point over Twiki’s shoulder, but he said nothing, only finally closing his eyes.  

Theo could only surmise what was on Buck’s mind, with the probability that he was right almost one hundred percent.  “Buck, there is so much of ‘you’ showing through, even in your present amnesiac state.  I have noticed a great change in you even in the short time you have been on board the Searcher, among your friends.”  Theo paused.  “I believe your memory will eventually return.”  

Buck opened his eyes and scrutinized the quad hanging around Twiki’s neck.  “How did you know?” 

“There is not much else you have been thinking about, Buck.”

“Um, yes.  Thanks, Theo.”

“You will have to be patient.”  

“I’m tired of being patient,” Buck said testily.  “But I guess I don’t have much choice.” 

The quads were silent and Buck dozed, feeling the warm breeze blow in from the forest below.  It was not long before he heard the hum of starfighter engines, and opening his eyes, saw Hawk’s fighter easing into the open cavern.  

Jumping down, Hawk smiled enigmatically.  “This is not the time for loafing,” he said, reaching out a hand to help Buck up.

“Ha ha,” Buck replied in mock sarcasm, leaning against the wall to get his equilibrium back.  The slight dizziness passed quickly and he hobbled to the starfighter.  

“I heard transmissions that indicated that the Titan is sending a team to dismantle and remove the death machine.  It will arrive as soon as we leave,” Hawk said as Buck slowly climbed aboard the fighter.   Hawk lifted Twiki after him and then followed.  The robots squeezed in beside Buck and Hawk closed the canopy.  Soon they were speeding toward the Searcher.   “I told the Titan that the rest of the cave system was secure,” Hawk said as the bright blue darkened and became the deep velvet darkness of space.  “They have no need to explore the rest.” 

“Good,” Buck said.  “That should make Sky Mother happy.”

 

 

 

 

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