Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve

   

 

Sky Mother felt the movement of the stars in her dreams.  They dipped and swooped like frenzied birds, then they calmed to wheel in a majestic waltz.   She watched, mesmerized and then she gasped in surprise as a bright, swollen moon rose above a jagged horizon of mountain peaks.  It continued to rise and with it rose some of the ancestors, their wings spread as though catching the bright rays of the rising moon.  The ancestors flitted and cavorted, sometimes alone and other times synchronized in small groups like aerial dancers.  It was beautiful and it almost made her cry with joy.  

The moon continued to rise, its brightness muted as it broke from the grasp of the mountains.  After it had traveled through the sky, the mountains began to become more distinct and then gold touched their tips.  A bright yellow sun emerged from its hiding in the east.   The night flyers retreated, replaced by other flyers- these female.  They flew in a spiral dance of joy, greeting the sun.  As she seemed to get closer and closer, Sky Mother saw their faces lit with joy, glowing with more than the early morning sun and she ached with longing.  Suddenly she realized that she was flying among them, the wings on her back beating a powerful cadence, matching that of other flyers. 

Sky Mother caught a thermal and was lifted above her companions.  This was more vivid than any dream she had ever had, but she was not going to argue.  This was what the ancestors experienced and now she was sharing that experience.  She flew high and then she folded her wings toward her back and dived.  When Sky Mother was within a hundred feet of the entrance to a large cavern, she banked.  The opening greatly resembled the one of her home and that heartened her.  A few of the males returned to the sky, a few of them in their clothing of rank, Sky Warriors watching and making sure nothing happened to their females.  That, too, heartened her.  That so many of the ancient customs had remained was a comfort to her.  

Sky Mother gazed around her at the splendid waterfall, looked below at the blue ribbon of water that was a river far below.  The mountains were rugged, but tenacious, deep green vegetation clung to the sides of the mountains, watered by the mists of the waterfall.  Some of the mist rose to meet her and she enjoyed the feel of it against her skin.  Steam from a semi-reposed volcano nearby, each crag and peak, the deep blue sky—Sky Mother felt she would never forget these sights.  Her heart ached with a fierce desire to actually be one with these people. 

She banked again and flew toward the cavern opening.  It did not seem to lead into caves such as she was used to, but it seemed to simply be a place of gathering, a place of joy.  Sky Mother landed easily and shared greetings with those who were already there.  Her joy was short lived, however, when several Sky Warriors flew in, their faces somber, almost to despair.  “It comes!” they cried. 

“What?” several of the women, including her, asked.  

They pointed and when Sky Mother turned with the rest, the sun hit her full in the face, awakening her.  Looking around, the birdwoman saw the sides of the dormant volcano rise around her, the silent moai standing sentinel.   She sat up and looked around her.  Seabirds called to each other in the heights above her, down by the lake, Buck was fixing something for them to eat on a portable stove.  He looked up and waved.  She returned his greeting.  Her beloved sat next to her, his dark eyes showing love and concern at the same time. 

“You have dreamed?” he asked. 

“Yes, and it was beautiful,” she replied, describing her dream. 

“Yes, I saw something similar, but apparently not as vividly as you did, my love.” 

The group spent the day exploring the ancient sites where once the Tane-rapanui had lived, worshipped and built a civilization dedicated to escape into space. 

Late in the day a small shuttle from the Searcher landed near their camp.  To the surprise of both Buck and Wilma, who were relaxing near the edge of the lake, the admiral stepped out and walked toward them.  

“I wonder if he’s still irritated over my resignation,” Buck pondered aloud, languidly getting up and brushing off the sand.   He remembered that he had only received a get-well message from Asimov since his submission of his resignation papers.  

“I doubt he did more than stick it in his drawer,” Wilma said, her voice low as he approached.  

“I am beginning to think that I am going to have to run my ship alone,” Asimov boomed as he approached the pair.  He waved to Hawk, who was with Sky Mother and Sky Father examining petroglyphs in the heights.  He turned his gaze back to Buck.  “You do realize that you are still on Directorate payroll, don’t you?” 

“Am I?” Buck asked. 

Asimov looked at Wilma.  “You didn’t tell him?” 

Sheepishly, Wilma answered, “Well, I have to admit when things calmed down, that wasn’t on my mind.”  

The admiral looked incredulous.  “Buck, of course you are still part of the Directorate and my crew.  You don’t think I took that resignation request seriously, did you?” 

“At the time, I would have hoped you would, Admiral,” Buck replied.  “I was in no way able to command or to even function on board the Searcher.” 

“Perhaps not in a purely command capacity, Buck, but the idea that you couldn’t function on my ship in a useful capacity is a bunch of bull and you know it,” the admiral declared passionately.  “Hell, you planned an escape and planned and executed an insurrection almost totally alone.  If that’s under the influence then perhaps we need to look at that stuff a ….” 

“Don’t even joke about that, Admiral,” Buck said tersely.  

Asimov saw the intense emotion on his exo’s face and regretted his flippant remark.  “I’m sorry, Buck.  Uh, that was not meant to diminish or to demean your experience.  I was trying to show how incredibly resourceful and capable you are.  I think you give yourself a great deal less credit than everyone else does.” 

Buck’s expression softened.  “Thanks, Admiral.  I appreciate your sentiments, but I really couldn’t have come back then.  Not even in a limited capacity.” 

The admiral nodded, sitting down on a large rock.  “Regardless, I’m glad I didn’t act on your request.”  He pulled out a paper and handed it to the younger man.  “Can I assume that you would like the honors of tearing this up?”  He laughed softly.  “Because at this point, I would refuse the request anyway.” 

Buck smiled ruefully as he looked at the paper he had sent to the admiral seemingly so long ago.   When he had done what he had been asked to do, he said, “Admiral, I know you didn’t come here just to say ‘hi.’  What’s on your mind?”

“The hearing.”  Asimov studied both of his exo’s carefully.  “Erik Kormand’s hearing has been postponed as much as it can be and only the fact that his organization has kept the two principal witnesses from participating has allowed this much delay.”  

Wilma sighed and Buck laid his hand on hers.  “We need to put this character away,” he said.  “And then someone needs to find LeeGrand and put him away, too.” 

“Yes, but first things first.  I would like you, Wilma and Dr. Theopolis to go to Cronis and testify against Kormand.  I would ask Hawk to go, too, but that would be awkward with two of his people here.  He can record a deposition or testify via communicator, as I will.”  

Wilma wanted to ask to do the same thing, but she knew that this was a case where being in person was much more effective than a communicator.  She simply nodded. 

“When?” Buck asked.

“Hearing begins tomorrow,” Asimov said apologetically.  “You two haven’t checked in for the past few days and someone has been leaving the communicator off,” he added, gazing at Buck accusingly.  

The younger man just shrugged and grinned.  “It’s been a nice respite and I figured that even if I wasn’t Government Issue, Wilma was and she needed the rest, too.”

Asimov just shook his head and sighed.  

“Hey, my mind has been elsewhere,” Buck added, giving a sideways glance at Wilma. 

Now the admiral grinned and turned to Wilma.  “He asked yet?” 

Clearly embarrassed, Buck protested.  “Now wait a minute, Admiral!  That’s not fair.  You’ll know when….” 

“No, Admiral,” Wilma answered matter-of-factly.  “But in this case, I have to agree with Buck.  Everyone will know when it happens.”  She smiled.   “Ron still running the betting pool?” 

“Yes, he’s had to modify the specifications though.  It was a bit awkward when Buck and Hawk were kidnapped and then later when Buck didn’t show up.”  He looked meaningfully at Buck.   “By the way, a great many people know why you didn’t come back after we arrived at Bosk, and before you get upset, it was one of the communications techs that got curious and then got on friendly terms with one of the communications techs on Bosk.

“Great,” Buck muttered.

“Actually, it’s made you more of a hero to the junior officers.  That was quite an accomplishment, helping to find something to break the garox.  While it’s not the same problem that pirolex spice or antor is, garox has been a real headache for doctors over the years.”

“Why?  What’s the draw that would cause someone to take something like that willingly?” Buck asked, incredulous.  “I mean, it does let the body heal quicker and gives a little more energy boost, but I don’t understand why anyone would voluntarily take the stuff, knowing how addictive it is.”

“I agree with you, but it seems that it’s tossed out as a cure-all every time a new disease crops up on some remote planet,” Asimov explained.  

“But evidently not under its generic name,” Buck said dourly. 

“Or else its reputation hasn’t spread to some of these outlaying planets,” Wilma added.  

“Still wish there was a way to totally eradicate it,” Buck said and since there was nothing anyone could add to that sentiment, they all sat quietly watching the waves roll in to shore.

 

 

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Sky Mother’s memories of her dreams directed her to the last mainland stronghold of her people.  The mountains were more barren now, only the most tenacious vegetation clinging to the sides of the mountains.  The smoking volcano was quiet and snow touched the highest peaks.  The cavern was choked with fallen rock and debris, but there was still room for them to enter and explore.   “We will spend the night in here,” she declared, feeling that there were important dreams awaiting her in this place.  She looked around, lamenting silently at the destruction she saw around her. 

Hawk set about clearing a campsite, glad that the three of them were here exploring alone.  While he was coming to terms with his feelings about Buck’s revelation, there had been so much painful revelation, and he wondered if it was a good thing to ask for more.  Hawk quickly built a small campfire, watching to make sure the smoke drifted out of the cavern before adding more fuel.  Then he helped Sky Father construct the sleeping areas, brushing away debris and rocks and spreading out the sleeping mats.  Within a short time the area was livable, almost homey, Hawk thought, and he gazed out toward the sky.  “I believe I’ll take the quasi-wings and scout around,” he told the two older Tane-rapanui. 

At their nod, he gathered his wings and slipped his arms through the straps.  He felt a presence at his side and turned to see Sky Father helping him settle the device snugly on his back.  Hawk smiled his thanks and was soon on the edge of the cavern feeling the winds tug and push him.  Snapping the two main strut pieces in their place, the birdman launched himself from the edge and was almost immediately lofted up above the level of the cavern.   He looked back and was astonished to see that he had already traveled several hundred feet above and beyond the cavern.  The wind currents continued to carry him aloft and he gazed at the panorama below and around him in wonder.   The narrow mountain valleys with their attendant rivers spread out like a brown blanket threaded by blue ribbons. 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
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