Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

 

When the Tane-rapanui went back into the room, Buck was laying quietly on his bed.  This time the noise level was greatly reduced, most of the machines having been unhooked and moved out of the room.  Wilma saw them and nodded.  She kissed Buck lightly on the cheek and left the room.   Buck gazed at the trio for a few minutes without saying anything.  Finally, “I’m sorry,” he murmured.  

“I am sorry, too,” Sky Mother said, laying her hand upon his arm.  “I am sorry that hate forged so long ago has resulted in so much pain.” 

“He was going to mutate the garox,” Buck said.  “I couldn’t let him do that.”  He paused and shook his head.  “It was confusing, realizing I was back in time, wondering what I could do and not do to change the future—our present.” 

“I know,” Sky Mother said.  “You only did what you felt you had to do.” 

“I am not sure but I think that the time Garo-tura lived was about the time I lived back in the twentieth century.  I can’t imagine anyone wanting to develop something like this garox for people that had just almost completely blown themselves up.  But then it was probably just before the holocaust.”  Buck shook his head. 

“I cannot help but wonder where these people are now,” Sky Mother said.  

“They would still be there,” Hawk said definitively.   “But where would that be?” 

“I agree, Hawk and I think the clues to their whereabouts are up here somewhere, but I just can’t think straight right now,” Buck said pointing to his head. 

“It would be good to find these brothers of ours,” Sky Father said.  

“If you do, let me be at the end of the welcome wagon, not up front.  If they still feel the same way, they wouldn’t be terribly happy to see me,” Buck replied with a wry smile.   

“Yes, I believe you have a new understanding of how hard it is to heal old wounds,” Sky Mother said. 

“Yeah, but not like you,” Buck said quietly.  “Humans simply forgot, your people have had to live with the past.  You have been refugees.  You have not been allowed to forget.”  Having felt Garo-tura’s thoughts and emotions, Buck was even more keenly aware of how much Hawk had had to change his mind-set in order to live on the Searcher.  His admiration for his friend, as well as the other Tane-rapanui in the room grew by leaps and bounds. 

Hawk stood silently for a while and then smiled ironically.  “But even though humans do not remember, there is apparently some ingrained racial feeling of prejudice and hatred.” 

“Hawk, some people hate anything or anyone they don’t understand.  I’m not sure that’s a racial memory more than upbringing,” Buck pointed out.  

“Perhaps,” Hawk replied, not totally convinced.  

Buck turned his attention to Sky Mother.  “You can never know how grateful I am that you came to help me.  Especially here.” 

Sky Mother smiled softly, but said nothing.  Sky Father held her close as he spoke.  “It was difficult to come and if it had been just my decision, I would not have made the journey.   I am not as brave as my beloved.”  He paused a beat.  “But you are part of us now.  Sky Mother’s dreams did not show us your death, they have continued to show visions of reunification and life for my people.”  

Buck nodded.  “Thanks,” he murmured.  “But I wonder if you’re placing too much hope on me.”  He took a deep breath.  “I mean….” 

“I do not question what I see in my capacity as Sky Mother,” the old bird woman said.  “And we do not pin hopes on just you.  Life and history are the blending of events and people.  You and Star Warrior are the main players in what I am seeing, but so much weaves together to form the total tapestry of destiny.”  She gazed at him meaningfully.  “My dreams tell of hope and promise.  They do not tell how that will happen, only that you,” she pointed to Buck.  “And you,” she pointed to Hawk, “are part of that future.”

“That’s still a lot to put on a person’s shoulders,” Buck said, shaking his head.  He couldn’t help feeling some of her optimism, though.   

Wilma came back into the room.  “Is there something you three would like me to have sent up here for you to eat or drink?”   They shook their heads.   She stood next to Buck, taking his hand in hers.  

Laughing softly, Sky Mother asked Buck, “Someone who has come from so far doubts his role in these things?” 

Buck laughed with her, but stopped when Dr. Carlock walked in the room.  He looked expectantly at the doctor.  

“You have given us some very hopeful data, Captain Rogers.  I think we might have what we need to break this, but it will take a while.” 

“A while?” 

“A few days,” Carlock answered.  “Are you willing to stick with us for that long?” 

Buck pondered, then nodded.  “I suppose I can hang on for a few days.”  He looked penitent as he gazed at Sky Mother.  “You came all the way here.  I . . . uh, if I hadn’t been so….” 

“Stubborn?” Wilma ventured.

“Well, yeah, maybe.”  He looked around for understanding.  “But I couldn’t deal with it anymore.  That hasn’t changed.  I would rather die than live with this.”  He looked meaningfully at Sky Mother and Sky Father.  “But if I had been well enough, I could have flown to Mendalis, or you could have flown to Bosk.”

“Perhaps,” was all Sky Mother would say, although her eyes held understanding.  

Sky Father looked at her in concern and saw how tired she was.  The healing had taken a great deal out of her.  

Wilma saw it, too.  “I have an apartment here in New Chicago you two are welcome to stay in,” she offered.  

“Or I can fly you home,” Hawk offered.  

“You are tired, too, Star Warrior,” Sky Father said.  

“And perhaps you three would like to see your ancestral home,” Buck suggested.  “If it isn’t too painful, that is.”  He gazed meaningfully at Hawk.  

“Rapanui?” Sky Father asked in surprise.  “Humans know the place of our first exile?” 

Buck looked a bit puzzled, then comprehension dawned.  “That is where you gathered before your exodus, isn’t it?  Dr. Goodfellow deduced it was Easter Island based on what is still there, what he found on Throm and all the research he has done.” 

“After you are well, I think it would be good to visit our ancient home,” Sky Mother said before turning to Wilma.  “I thank you for your offer.  I would like to rest now.”  She gazed at the two birdmen.  “You need to rest as well.”  

“There’s room in my apartment for all of you to sleep comfortably,” Wilma said.  With a last squeeze to Buck’s hand, she led the three Tane-rapanui out of the room and to her apartment.

 

 

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A week later, the group of two humans and three Tane-rapanui stood on the shores of a land that felt older than antiquity.  The slopes were guarded by stone-faced visages that had stared out to sea for centuries.  Their features were weathered, but still stark in their simplicity.   Some of the statues stared at the sky, having fallen from their upright position, but still they held a dignity that was ageless.  Bird people and humans alike stood and stared without saying anything.  Finally, Hawk began climbing up the slope, followed by Sky Mother and her beloved mate.  

Buck continued to lean against the shuttle, Wilma by his side.  He still felt somewhat shaky and weak from his ordeal of the past few days.  The doctors had been able to develop an enzymatic solution that broke the hold of the garox, but the drug had not relinquished its hold easily.  Now Buck just gazed around, fascinated, wishing he had more strength to explore.  

“Amazing,” Wilma breathed.  

Buck nodded, then pushed away from the shuttle, slowly walking after his friends.  He caught up with them partway up the slope, where they stood next to a statue that towered above them. 

“Do you not feel the soul cries of thousands who once called this home?” Sky Mother asked as her fingers lightly caressed the stone visage next to her.  Her companion nodded.  She felt the brief and fleeting visions of the ancestors, some still winged, and others, who had gone the path of assimilation, and like herself, were wingless.  She felt their presence, felt their pain and hope.  

Sky Mother saw the visitors, those beings from the stars, winged like some of her ancestors, their stick-like, dark features, round sky-blue eyes expressive in sympathy.  They helped the first star warriors build the ships.  She watched the ships flash skyward and disappear into the dark void.  She watched until there was nothing left except the stone watchers, Make-Make’s silent sentinels.  

Buck simply stood quietly; taking in deep breaths of salty air and slowly letting them back out.  Wilma, as before, stood beside him, one arm entwined in his, her eyes clouded with worry.  He gazed at her and smiled softly.  Leaning over, he kissed her lightly in reassurance and then reached forward to touch the stone visage.  He jerked his hand back when he felt what seemed to be an almost electric-like jolt, then slowly, Buck reached back out and lightly touched the statue again.  It felt cool and yet warm.  He looked up and met Sky Father and Sky Mother’s eyes.  Hawk had continued walking up the slope.  

“There were few and yet so many,” Sky Mother murmured.  “There are more of us out there.  If only we could find each other.”  

Buck continued to let his fingers stroke the pitted visage.  He marveled at the ingenuity of Hawk’s ancestors, that they could build such statues so very long ago.  Then he remembered his time in Garo-tura’s mind and the reference to the Draconians and others on his planet.  Buck remembered a passing reference that Tigerman had made about bird people and suddenly he knew where Garo-tura’s descendants lived.  He pulled his hand away from the statue but continued to see the images from his recent ordeal.  

“Buck, are you all right?” Wilma asked, her voice filled with worry.  

Bringing his focus back to those standing near him, Buck found that Sky Mother and Sky Father were studying him as well.  “I’m okay.  I was just remembering.” 

“What were you remembering?” Sky Father prompted. 

“I think I know where you can find more of the Tane-rapanui.  Garo-tura’s people.”   Even as he spoke, Buck was seeing Ava-iki’s puzzled and troubled look as her husband kissed her good-bye for the last time.  

Sky Mother nodded, but said nothing.  

“It was something Garo-tura said.”  The sea breeze blew up the slope while sparse clouds floated slowly across the horizon.   “There was something Tigerman said, too.”  Buck looked upward watching the wisps overhead.  “I believe we need to contact Ardala and Tigerman,” he said.  Gazing meaningfully at Sky Mother, he added, “Tanui-me dono ali maka ii.” 

She nodded, knowing that it would be difficult.  Continuing in her own language, she replied, “They will still harbor hate.”  

“And still have wings,” Buck responded, guessing at Hawk’s feelings about his time in Garo-tura’s mind.  

Wilma looked from one individual to another, not having the slightest idea of what was being said, but knowing it was of some import.  

Sky Mother looked at the human woman, then reached out and took her hand.  “We were talking about how difficult contact with these people would be.” 

Wilma smiled.  “What is one more difficulty?”  She gazed back at Buck.  “You seem to have picked up the language rather well.  Before we go some place where they don’t know terra lingua, I would like some language lessons.  I assume that you were planning on contacting these people, too?” 

“Yes,” Buck said simply. 

Sky Mother nodded and then asked Wilma.  “And you wish to be part of this?  It could be very dangerous.” 

Her left hand was entwined in Buck’s fingers.  “Wherever Buck goes, I’m going.  These forced separations have been horrible.”  

“I haven’t liked ‘em much, either,” Buck said with a wry smile, then he sobered quickly.  “But it will be dangerous,” he said.  

Wilma snorted in mock derision.  “So what else is new?” 

Buck felt a strange fear wrap itself around his heart.  He began to protest. 

“No, Buck, not this time.  We do it together or neither of us goes,” she said decisively.  “And personally, what you’ve been through, I think you’re deserving of a nice long vacation.” 

Buck sighed.  There was a part of him that only wanted to find a warm beach somewhere and hibernate there for a season or two or three.  “I have to finish this, Wilma.  When I was part of Garo-tura’s mind, I was part of something that I’m not proud of and I want to try and rectify it if I can.” 

Wilma touched his face with one finger.  “Buck, you prevented a horrible future.” 

“How do we really know that?” he asked.  “Nothing changed.” 

“It was there on the OEI,” Wilma argued.  “He was trying to develop a contagious, self-replicating virus,” Wilma argued. 

“But we don’t know that it could have been,” Buck countered.  “And Ava-iki lost her beloved.” 

Sky Mother stopped them with a gesture.  “It is of no use now to discuss what could or might have been.”  The tangy, salt air ruffled her head feathers and caused her cloak to flutter lightly.  She had seen enough in her dreams to want to tell him the same thing that the human woman had said.  However, there was reason for Buck Rogers’ continued role in all of this.  The dreams didn’t tell her exactly what it was, but she saw him with the Tane-rapanui. 

“I want to learn the language,” Wilma stated decisively.  

Sky Mother heard the finality of her human counterpart’s answer and smiled.  “Your fiancé had the fortune to have been in the mind of one of our people.  That obviously made picking up the language easier for him.”  

Wilma nodded and gazed up at Hawk’s retreating form.  She had noticed a sort of moodiness in her friend of late and wondered what was bothering him.  She also noticed Buck’s worried look as he stared in the same direction.  That it had to do with Buck’s garox-induced trip was a given, but it was something he and Hawk had to work out on their own so she said nothing on that subject.  Instead, she chose to be more general in her comments, feeling the rightness of what she was saying, but still somewhat fearing the future all the same.  “It will be all right, Buck.  We’ve been in pretty tight situations before and come through all right.” 

Buck nodded, but didn’t look very convinced.  “But I wish you’d consider staying behind for this.” 

Her look was one that didn’t need any accompanying words. 

 

 

Chapter Eleven
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
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