“Miru,” Sky Mother called to her. “Wait, please.”
Miru stopped and turned to study the birdwoman who
presumed to be an elder. Somehow,
even though logic told her otherwise, Miru couldn’t believe that Sky
Mother was a pawn of anyone.
“My child, stay for a short while. Listen to us, listen to your heart and then if you feel that
we have truly come to hurt or destroy your people, then you do what you
feel you must to protect your people,” pleaded Sky Mother. She motioned for the human male to join her.
Miru stayed near the entrance, but didn’t move away when Buck
Rogers stood next to Sky Mother. He pulled off his rebreather and nodded to her, but didn’t
say anything. Sky Mother
continued, “Buck is an adopted member of our clan of the people because
he risked his own life to save our people from our enemies.”
Miru gazed at the tall human, pondering.
“Miru,” Buck said, his voice mellow.
“Not all humans are monsters.”
She gaped. His
inflections and pronunciations were even closer to her own people’s than
Sky Mother’s. “How do you
speak our language so well?” she demanded.
He smiled. “A
very long and complicated story and one that is better told to your
She said nothing.
“I have been through a great deal of fighting
and hatred. I am ready to see
an end to it. Are you?”
Miru continued to think on what she had seen and
heard. All she had been told,
all she had been taught was how horrible humans were and how necessary it
was to annihilate them. The
scientists were even redoubling their efforts to find the means to
accomplish this, taking up the aborted efforts of the hero scientist
Garo-tura. She gazed at the two people before her and was confused.
Miru didn’t feel any evil that she was told all humans possessed.
Could they be hiding it?
“All humans are evil,” she insisted.
To her surprise, the human named Buck Rogers laughed. It was not derisive though. “Every human adult that has ever lived has a potential for evil, Miru. That is part of what makes us sentient creatures, I suppose.” He paused. “Even among the Tane-rapanui there is that potential.”
Miru bristled. “You are wrong!” she cried out, backing away.
“What about the iniru-mata?” he asked sobering
quickly. “It is called
garox by humans. After the
one who developed it as a scourge to humans.”
He smiled sadly. “Lucky
for your people, most humans don’t even know where it originated.”
How did he know?
And did he know what was happening now?
“Do you blame my people for wanting to rid the galaxy of humans?
After what they did to us?”
“When does the revenge end?
And does one evil justify another?” Buck asked pointedly.
He put his rebreather back on and pointed toward the back of the
cave. “I don’t mind
talking some more, but can we do it where it is a bit less cold?”
Miru gazed at him warily and then nodded.
She thought about his last words as the group retreated further
away from the reach of the biting winds.
The human male sat down with his back against the
wall. “Miru, I know a great
deal of the history of your people and while I condone none of the
behavior of my ancestors, I believe it is time to try and heal the wounds
of the past. The revenge and killing has to stop somewhere and
sometime.” He took a deep
breath. “You said your
people have no evil in their hearts?
I have seen first hand what the iniru-mata can do to a man.
What was good for your people was turned into something horrible
and devastating. It is time
to do away with that evil. It
is time to do away with all the other evils that dwell in human and
Tane-rapanui hearts.” He gazed wearily at her.
“Think on it tonight. Please.
And maybe we can talk more in the morning.”
He turned to Sky Mother, who was standing close by.
“I am sorry to cut this short, but Wilma and I are totally
exhausted. I hope you will
both excuse us.”
Sky Mother nodded.
“May your dreams be meaningful and happy.”
“And yours as well,” he returned.
Miru watched as the human couple snuggled together in a back corner of the cave in a sleeping blanket that accommodated both of them. Apparently they were as tired as they had claimed. It was only a few minutes before they appeared to be sleeping soundly. Still, she felt uncomfortable speaking in the humans’ presence, just in case she was wrong and they were listening. As though understanding her continued reticence and suspicion, Sky Mother motioned her back toward the front of the cave. Uninterested in further conversation, Tigerman curled up in another back corner of the cave and went to sleep as well. The Tane-rapanui huddled around a thermal heat unit while they talked. Someone handed Miru something warm to drink. She accepted it gratefully.
“Miru, understand that my life-long dream has
been to know of others of our people for years, but we were hidden in our
caves on Mendalis, fearing against discovery.”
“What changed that?” Miru asked.
“Make-Make working through a human named Buck
Rogers,” replied Sky Mother.
“Him?” Miru asked, pointing to the back of the
Sky Mother nodded.
“He encountered a group of our scouts on a world that had become
increasingly hostile to us.”
“But even before that, Buck Rogers and I had met
and become friends,” Hawk interjected, then telling briefly his recent
Sky Mother continued when Hawk left off, only
omitting references to Buck’s direct link to Miru’s people. “So you see, Captain Rogers and his companion are
intrinsically linked to the Tane-rapanui.”
“But how did you know about us and where to find
us?” Miru asked, now more curious than suspicious.
“Even the Draconians think the valley is just a haunted place to
stay away from.”
“That is linked to what Buck said was better
told first to your elders,” Sky Father told her.
Miru pondered, then shook her head in confusion.
“There is so much to try and understand,” she said.
“Sleep on it,” Hawk said gently. “I think we are all tired.”
She was tired. With
a quick glance toward the sleeping humans, she walked to a far wall,
pulled a thermal blanket out of her pack and spread it out.
“Would you like to sleep next to me?” Hawk
asked. “It would be warmer
for both of us.” There was
something lonely about the girl, something that somehow reminded him of
“Yes,” she said hesitantly, not used to even
having the invite, much less accepting it.
She had slept alone for as long as she remembered.
As she lay close to Hawk, she wondered about all she had learned,
and she marveled. She was
still wondering when she fell asleep, her back warmed by proximity to the
equally lonely birdman beside her.
Wilma felt a warmth against her back and then
someone’s arms around her. She
pictured the opulent room, leering grin from her past and she began
struggling violently. She had
to get away! Never again
would Erik hurt her. Get away
or kill him! As she
struggled, a soft voice began to reassure her.
It wasn’t Erik’s voice, her confused mind told her.
It was someone else. Still,
her arms were not free, she wasn’t free and the fear surged through her.
“Wilma!” the voice cried out near her ear.
“Wilma, it’s me, Buck.”
Buck? she thought.
Buck? In Erik
Kormand’s room? Then the
present began to more fully come into focus as she woke up.
Wilma remembered the night before. She relaxed and let Buck’s
arms hold her close to him. Sighing,
she snuggled back down into the sleeping bag.
“Bad dream?” Buck whispered in her ear.
“Yes,” she whispered back.
She sighed again. “And comfortable.”
“Yeah, me, too.”
One of his fingers rubbed lightly across her cheek
and Wilma shivered with delight.
“No, happy,” she replied.
“What is ‘querida’?”
“It’s Spanish for beloved,” Buck murmured.
“Spanish has a lot of pretty words for these
kinds of situations,” he replied, kissing her just behind her ear.
“Tell me some more,” Wilma coaxed, shivering
with delight at his touch.
“One at a time,” Buck said teasingly.
“Anticipation makes them more romantic.”
“Well, if you insist . . . querida,” she said, trying to snuggle even closer against him. To her surprise, he laughed softly. “What?”
“You have gender in the Spanish language,” he
“Querida refers to a woman.
A man is querido.”
“Oh,” she said, not sure she totally
understood. “Why?” She
lay content in the sleeping bag, wishing she could do it forever.
Buck didn’t say anything for a moment.
“Many languages in my day used gender.
It was just the way it was.
Many of my foreign friends said it was logical and that English was
the odd-ball language, but I guess in the end, it was English that became
“Maybe, but I hope you can come up with more of
those words. They’re
Buck chuckled softly.
“Maybe that’s why they called them romance languages.”
They lay quietly for a while longer until they
heard the others rustling around. Before
they could extricate themselves from the sleeping bag, Hawk positioned
himself in front of them.
“Were you two planning on getting up this
morning?” he asked with a slight smile.
His breath puffed in clouds and Buck knew that the temperature had
not moderated during the night.
“I presume you don’t have a hot shower
waiting,” Wilma quipped before Buck could say a thing.
Hawk laughed lightly.
“No, I am afraid not.”
Wilma undid a couple of the fasteners and pulled
herself out, shivering violently as she sat in the cold air. She grabbed her parka and then her boots and slid them on.
Buck did the same, hoping that the local
Tane-rapanui gave them warm rooms with large bathtubs filled with steamy
hot water. That small spring
two days before had been the last chance he’d had to clean up and he
felt filthy as well as cold. Buck
thought it a wonder that Wilma had consented to share the sleeping bag
with him. Then he remembered
the warmth of her proximity and smiled.
He had felt the inner stirring of more than just physical warmth
and Buck had to remind himself of where he was.
When he awoke, though, he kept asking just what he was waiting for.
When this was over….
As he finished pulling on his boots, Sky Warrior
handed him a thermal tray and a mug.
“Miru says that there is one more pass and then we will be going
down into her valley.”
“She is going to take us then?” Buck asked,
sipping his coffee. He
eyeballed the food on the tray and realized, that despite its unappetizing
appearance, it was nourishment and if he didn’t do something about it
soon, he would have to chip it off the tray.
Thermal or not, even modern technology had problems in this kind of
“Yes, she is curious about you and Wilma and
feels your sincerity. And she
trusts us,” Sky Warrior replied, glancing over at the rest of the group
near the cave entrance. “She
seems most interested in Hawk.”
“Oh, really?” Buck asked, a bit surprised, but
then not so surprised after he thought about it.
Hawk had always exuded a mysteriousness and sense of untapped power
that he imagined a Tane-rapanui female would find attractive.
Sky Warrior nodded.
“And I get the impression that there are very few Tane-rapanui
like her in this valley.” He
paused. “I cannot help but
feel that she is considered inferior.”
“I felt that sentiment briefly when I was in
Garo-tura’s mind,” Buck said, his voice low.
“We shall see,” Sky Warrior said as he got up.
He looked down at the terran.
“We will be leaving soon. Miru
says it’s necessary if we are to get to the city before nightfall.”
“Okay, I’m hurrying,” Buck reassured the
Sky Warrior nodded and returned to the main body
of the group. He was worried
about the two humans. Miru
was not totally confident in her peoples’ reception of the terrans, even
if Sky Mother still exuded optimism.
He had come to like Buck Rogers and his female, Wilma Deering and
truly didn’t want anything to happen to either of them.
They set out a short time later. Miru, Hawk and Tigerman near the front of the line, Wilma and
Buck near the back. The wind
howled incessantly, driving snow in their faces and making it hard to even
see the person in front of them. About
midday, the group began their descent.
Within a few hours the snow abated and the temperature seemed to
rise slightly. They made good
time and late afternoon found them coming out of the cloud cover and
viewing an enormous valley stretched below them.
At one end a city hugged the side of the mountain, tiered from the
bottom to near the top of the peak.
Miru gestured and it was there they headed.
By the time they had reached the path that straddled the side of
the mountain, the only one leading to the city, Wilma and Buck were able
to take their rebreathers off. As
they got closer and closer to their kinsmen, Sky Mother felt more and more
excited. Finally, just as the
sun was slipping behind the far mountains, they arrived. The sky quickly began to darken. There were several flyers silhouetted in the twilight
sky and Miru signaled them. As
the group approached the only lower entrance of the Cliffside city, the
darkness deepened into velvety blackness, only relieved by a few
They passed into the city.
Lights knocked away the shadows but still the hallway was dim as
though little used.
Miru led them upward.
Rough-hewn corridors became smooth walkways with better lighting.
The group continued, their anticipation growing.
Finally, Miru led them into a large chamber, one with a balcony on
one end. Several winged
Tane-rapanui stood watching as they entered.
Although there was a tinge of curiosity, for the most part, they
Sky Warrior looked around at Buck and Wilma, wondering if these in front of them already knew. To his shock neither of the humans was with their group.
|Buck Rogers Contents|