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.
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
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.
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
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
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.”
“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
“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,”
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,
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.”
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.
|Buck Rogers Contents|