Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

 

   

Chapter Nineteen

   

 

As there was the night before, there was no fire this evening.  Only a bit of warmth emanated from the small cook stove and from the mugs that carried their own heat source.  Wilma held hers close to her face trying to eek out the last little bit of heat that she could.  She was still cold.  Frowning, she sipped at the warm liquid, even as she watched Buck checking out her sleeping bag.  Without thinking, she reached up and rubbed under the mostly unobtrusive rebreather that covered her nose, but not her mouth.  

Buck apparently felt her gaze because he looked up at her.  “You, my dear, would not make a good Eskimo.” 

“Eskimo?” she asked, then remembered the reference.  Inuit. Ancient race of North Americans.   Nodding, she added, “You’re right, I wouldn’t.  Any hope for my sleeping bag or is it totally dead?” 

“Well, if the temperature was going to be above zero, it would be fine, but since it’s not, then for all practical purposes, the thermal unit is dead.”  

“Great,” Wilma said dourly.  A gust of wind found its way to the back of the cave and her teeth started chattering.  She clamped her jaws together to keep them quiet.  “So now what?” 

“Share,” suggested Buck.  

Wilma looked around.  Sky Mother was sharing with her husband, Leera with Creel.  She gazed at Buck, who was laying out his sleeping bag.  “With whom?” 

Buck looked up at her with that endearing grin of his.  “Who did you think?” he asked teasingly. 

Who indeed, she thought.  She smiled back.  “I think Duke said something once about you only wanting to get me in bed.” 

Buck colored slightly, frowned and then he began to laugh.  “Hell, Wilma, I may be a bit old fashioned about marriage, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about that a time or two.”   Giving the sleeping bag one last pat, he added, “These things adjust so there will be plenty of room.”  

At least he was honest, she thought, walking over and checking out their sleeping quarters.  

“He actually said that?” Buck asked. 

Wilma chuckled softly.  “Yes and so did a couple of my other former boyfriends.  Even Dr. Huer told me to be careful, although he always felt you were basically an honorable man.” 

“Dr. Huer?” Buck asked, taken aback.  He picked up his own mug, letting the steam hit his face.  

Wilma laughed at his discomfiture.  “Actually, it was shortly after your arrival into our century and he was warning me not to take advantage of your vulnerability.” 

Buck almost choked on his coffee, then he laughed, too.  “Yeah, you were kind of coming on to me, weren’t you?” 

Now it was Wilma’s turn to blush, but she said nothing.  She gazed into her mug and then yawned and rubbed her eyes.  Another virtue of extreme heights, she thought.  So tired.

She looked up and saw Buck gazing at her.  His eyes spoke of the same kind of tired.  A slight commotion near the entrance took their attention away from their own problems.  

“What’s up?” Buck asked Leera who was closest to them.  He gulped down the last of his drink and moved closer to the Tane-rapanui woman.  It was then he noticed that several of their number were missing—Hawk, Creel and Tigerman.  

“Hawk went scouting.  Creel joined him,” Leera said, her voice filled with worry.  “Tigerman is looking for both.” 

“Damn!” exclaimed Buck, mentally berating himself for his lack of attentiveness.  “Let me get my lenses.”  He turned, but Leera laid a hand on his arm. 

“No,” she said.  “Tigerman gave strict orders.  No more.”  She paused.  “He said he would find Hawk and Creel.” 

Buck sat back down, Wilma joining him, understanding the felinoid’s orders, but not liking them.  Sky Warrior stood tensely by the entrance, his body taut with nervous anxiety.  Sky Mother and Sky Father and Keresh also watched, but the two older Tane-rapanui seemed less anxious and Buck wondered what they knew.

 

 

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Miru watched as the shadowy figure approached her position in front of a small cave.  She had found the shelter when the darkness had become almost absolute and when she realized she would not be able to go back to the valley until morning light.  Assured that the intruders were settled for the night, she had set about doing the same, until she had felt the slight stirring of wandering thoughts; a feeling of something imminent. 

Leaving the safety of her little shelter, Miru peered into the thick and snowy darkness.  She didn’t dare use her light stick and her night lenses gave her scant help in this thick cloud cover.  Then she saw movement, a stealthy figure approaching.  The figure slipped from rock to rock, but ever approached her position as though he knew she was there.  He? she asked herself.  Yes, this individual was male.  

She retreated into her shelter, aware that when he came into closer view, she would have the greater advantage.  Her stun pistol was out and ready.  Miru tried to blanket her thoughts.  Then she felt slight tendrils of alarm.  Was the intruder telepathic?  Somehow, she didn’t think so, but the idea that she could detect his presence gave her a slight thrill of exhilaration.  It had been said that the ancestors had had such abilities.  Why, even some present day couples had empathic links of varying degrees of strength.  She had been told often that as miru-moruku, she would not, but apparently with the right entities, she did.  

But she had to get back to the task at hand—self-preservation.  A slight movement and the intruder was in front of her.  Miru didn’t hesitate; she fired her stun pistol and watched as the intruder fell to the snow covered ground, unconscious.  With only slight hesitation, she reached out and dragged the inert form toward her.  She had dreamed of Tane-rapanui and humans.  Was this a human, or one of those who appeared human—a Draconian?  There was only one way to find out.  Turning him over, Miru looked into his face.  That didn’t help.  She pulled off his night lenses, noting that they seemed somewhat more efficient than her own.  Then she pulled back the hood of his parka and felt the head feathers.  A thrill shot up and down her spine.  Tane-rapanui.  There were others like her.  Were all the others in the intruding group of her race as well?  If so, the leader elders would welcome this news.  There were others!  They were not alone! 

A sudden noise broke her from her silent reverie and she spun around to see someone else.  This one had a weapon in his hand pointed directly at her head.  “Do not move,” he said with conviction.  He reached over and took the stun gun that she had been groping for when he first appeared.   Miru realized that the newcomer had been speaking her language, although there were slight differences in some of the pronunciations.  She had assumed that he was Tane-rapanui, too.  She could only stare for a few moments and then she looked down at the still unconscious birdman at her feet.  “I only stunned him.  He is all right,” she reassured the young birdman.  

He nodded and stuck her stun gun in his parka.  Then he bent down to check on his companion.  

“I am Miru,” she said.  “I . . . uh, I cannot believe that after all these years….”  She stopped, suddenly feeling self-conscious.  

“I am Creel and this is Hawk,” he said.  “How long will he be unconscious?” 

“He should be waking up soon.  It is dangerous to be stunned too long in this weather so I had the stun setting on low,” she replied. 

Creel replaced Hawk’s hood and sat him up against the rock wall.  “Hawk,” he said once and then again, louder.  

Miru felt the touch of Creel’s concern and she reached over and took Hawk’s hand, first removing his gauntlet and her mitten.  His flesh was slightly cool to the touch, but still she felt a thrill course through her.  Creel continued to call to Hawk and Miru added her voice as well, trusting that the Tane-rapanui knew what he was doing.  

Hawk began stirring and suddenly his eyes opened, gazing in an instant into hers.  He continued to stare and she felt the weight of great sorrow, tempered with hope and friendship.  Then he gazed down at her hand and the ‘communication’ was cut off.  When he looked at her again, it did not resume, but Miru could see surprise in his features.

“You are of this world’s Tane-rapanui?” he asked. 

His voice was deep and mellow and despite her treatment of him, kindly disposed.  Miru nodded.  “I am Miru.”  She noticed that his inflections and pronunciations were even more pronounced than his companion’s; almost as though he normally spoke a different language.  

“I am Hawk,” he said gently, pulling his hand from hers.  “I am of the bird people of Throm.” 

She nodded.  “I am of the free people of Rrilling.”  

Hawk smiled.  

“I am of the people of Mendalis,” Creel added.  

Miru glanced at him and then back at Hawk.  “Are you all right?” 

“Yes,” he said.  “Although a bit cold.” 

“We should go back to our shelter.  It will be warmer there,” suggested Creel. 

Hawk nodded, but Miru felt touches of panic.  What if the others of the people disdained her?  What if there were others—Draconians, even humans?  She had noted that two wore rebreathers on their trek.  “No!  I must stay here!”  

“You are meeting someone?” Hawk asked.  “If so, they are welcome, too.” 

Miru shook her head, not sure what to say. 

“I am sure you are most capable of surviving here on your own,” Hawk said soothingly.  “But it will be much warmer in the cave we found.” 

“And our leaders, Sky Mother and Sky Father will be very eager to talk with you.” 

“There are only the people in your shelter?” she asked shyly. 

Hawk and Creel looked at one another, then back at her.  Suddenly Tigerman appeared from behind the boulder sheltering the three Tane-rapanui.  He saw the pistol in Creel’s belt and the other by his side.  He saw the young birdwoman and Hawk who was still sitting against the wall and he growled a greeting to the former.  Gazing more closely at Hawk, he asked in terra lingua, “Hurt?”  

Miru just looked puzzled, not understanding what Tigerman had just said to Hawk.  She gave a signed greeting to the felinoid.

“Come,” Tigerman said with a gesture.  

Still Miru balked.  They had hesitated when she had asked about others.  And two of them were not Tane-rapanui, not with rebreathers.  Were they human or Draconians?  “Who are the two who came with you?” she asked.  

There was slight hesitation.  “One is as a brother to me,” Hawk said.  “The other is his . . . beloved.” 

“They are members of our clan by adoption,” Creel added.  

Miru gazed from one to the other.  

“They are human,” Hawk finally said.  

Miru gasped, “And you consider one of them like a brother?”

Hawk got up, pulling on his gauntlet.  Even that short time in the cold had stiffened his fingers.  He smiled.  “Yes, I do . . . now.  But it was not always so.”  He looked deeply into the young eyes—eyes that reminded him so much of Koori’s.  “Will you take a chance on changing your perceptions?  You are a scout for your people, are you not?” he asked.  “Therefore, you should have all the information available to make a full report.”

Hawk’s argument made a kind of sense that Miru could not argue against.  Or maybe it was the feeling that she could trust him and Creel.   Anyway, though she still felt fear, she also could not deny the curiosity that compelled her to check out these ancient enemies of her people.  With a nod, she followed the little group into the swirling snow.  

It did not take long for them to get to the larger shelter cave and then Miru hung back, again suddenly shy.  A female, obviously his beloved, greeted Creel with a hug.  An older Tane-rapanui female stepped forward and took her hands, gazing in rapt concentration into Miru’s eyes.  

“Welcome, my child,” she said, smiling.  

Miru could say nothing for a moment.  She felt an electric thrill run through her body and an inner warmth she had never felt before.  Finally, she nodded and said, “I am Miru.” 

“And I am Sky Mother, a leader of the Mendalis clan of the people.”  Still holding one of Miru’s hands, Sky Mother turned to an older male.  “This is Sky Father.”  Then she introduced everyone else, Leera, the beloved of Creel, Sky Warrior, Keresh.  Then the last two, the humans.  “This is Buck Rogers, who has risked his life to save the people and his beloved to be, Wilma Deering.” 

Miru stared.  She couldn’t help it, but she couldn’t take her eyes off of the pair.   The human male smiled warmly.  The human female approached, took her breather and gloves off and touched her lightly on the back of her hand.  

“We are not here to hurt your people,” Wilma Deering said softly. 

Miru noted that she spoke very deliberate Tane-rapanui speech as though she had recently learned it.  She looked down at the human’s hand and saw that it was very much like her own, only somewhat more delicate.  She looked back up into the human female’s eyes and pulled her hand away.  She had been told that even the touch of humans was deadly, but Miru didn’t feel any different.  She had been told that all humans were wicked, evil creatures, only interesting in killing and torturing the people, but this one had compassion in her eyes, just like some of the humans in her dreams.  Then she mentally shook herself.  It had to be a trick.  These humans were using some of the Tane-rapanui to find her own people.  To conquer them and make them slaves, no doubt.  “No, it cannot be.  This is a trick.  I will not let you get into the valley of my people.” 

Sky Mother gently touched Miru on the shoulder.  “These two are the only humans we have allowed into our home sanctuary.  They, like many humans, care greatly for those they share the galaxy with.” 

“No!  All humans are monsters.  They have bewitched you!” 

“Oh, no.  We are a free people.  We freely allowed these to share our homes and we freely came here to seek our own,” Sky Mother insisted.  

Miru pulled away and backed toward the entrance of the cave.  What about everything she had been told?  Why would the teachers lie?  What about the ancient past?  Didn’t the people leave because of humans?   She asked the same questions aloud and then turned to leave.  In the morning she would return to the valley and give her report.  The warrior guards would come and drive the intruders away. 

 

 

Chapter Twenty
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