Miru ignored the dour looks of the guardsman.
“Kres! These are
kinsmen of ours. We have
others of our people on other worlds.”
“You brought these without permission,” Kres
“We are of the people,” Sky Mother reminded
him calmly. “We have come
seeking more of the people. I
and others of our group saw you in our dreams and we came.”
“Yes.” Sky Mother smiled softly. “It is time for our people to unify. To be one again.”
“Two of our people are missing,” Sky Warrior
interjected. Hawk looked
around and saw, to his dismay, what Sky Warrior had already discovered.
“People?” Kres cried angrily. “You brought vermin into our midst. They have been taken to a place best suited for vermin.
Humans will not be allowed to pollute our corridors.”
“They are….” Hawk began, but Sky Mother laid
her hand on his arm to quiet him.
“That is a matter to discuss with your elders
and not among ourselves,” she said decisively.
Kres nodded and glared at Miru. “Take them to the guest chambers. Queen Arana will see them tomorrow.” He waved his hand dismissively.
“You will be dealt with as well.”
“Where are my friends?” Hawk asked, ignoring
Sky Mother’s restraining hand and moving in front of Miru and facing
Kres laughed, the other guards joining him.
“Friends? You count
humans as friends?”
“These humans, I do.”
Kres saw the look in the miru-moruku’s face and
refrained from the derisive answer he had been about to make. “They are alive for the moment.”
He motioned for them to follow Miru.
“It is all right for now, Star Warrior,” Sky
Mother said softly to Hawk.
After a hard look at the guards, Hawk turned away.
“I should have been watching more carefully,” Hawk berated
himself. “They should not
have been left alone in the back.”
“They will be all right, Hawk,” Sky Mother
repeated. “In my
excitement, I was not paying attention as I should, but Buck and Wilma are
all right for now.”
Miru looked at both and worried. While she was still unsure about these humans, she knew
how the rest of this group felt about them and she trusted their feelings.
She especially worried about Hawk. He
had told her his background and Miru felt drawn to him, understanding his
loneliness and feeling his isolation.
That this Buck Rogers and his intended had filled a part of that
lonely life with something meaningful was apparent.
And Hawk had been kind to her, talking with her during the night,
answering her incessant questions even when it was obvious that he could
barely keep his eyes open. And
he was handsome. Miru had
never seen a miru-moruku built quite the way Hawk was.
Most Tane-rapanui were very large-chested with heavily muscled
shoulders and thin legs, but Hawk…
She slyly glanced at him walking beside her,
watching the easy grace with which he took each step.
And she wanted to run her fingers through his head feathers, too.
Suddenly she caught his eyes on her.
While his countenance was angry, she thought she caught a knowing
glint in his eye and Miru felt herself color in embarrassment.
She turned away, trying to put those feelings from her mind.
The guest chambers. And
the queen and her consort would be seeing them later. Miru had been in the queen’s service before she had become
a scout. The queen was
mercurial at best and sometimes cruel. The most recent consort was her
fifth. While the last consort
had been a pleasant enough young man, he had mysteriously died shortly
before Miru’s change of assignment.
For his sake, Miru seriously hope this latest mate would give the
queen an heir.
“Where have they taken my friends?” Hawk
whispered close to her ear. A
guard was following them to the guest chambers.
“To the lower holding cells, most likely,” she
whispered in return.
“I will wait in deference to Sky Mother’s
wishes, but not long,” Hawk murmured decisively.
Miru surprised even herself when she leaned over
and whispered back, “I will help you.”
Hawk said nothing for a moment, but he was struck
by the trust this young one put in him.
Regardless, he didn’t want her to risk her standing with her
people. He was about to say
something to her when they turned a corner and found themselves in front
of an ornate door, guarded by a very tall, winged Tane-rapanui.
The guard immediately unlocked the door and
gestured them in. “Someone
will bring you food and drink,” he said as they filed in past him.
Hawk stopped in the doorway. “What about the other two members of our group?” he
The guard, like the other one, laughed derisively.
“They have water, which is more than they deserve, and whatever
else happens to them will be determined by Her Highness.”
He motioned Hawk into the room.
“I demand to see them,” Hawk insisted, not
“Demand?” the guard repeated mockingly.
“You may have some claim of kinship but do not presume anything
else, cousin.” The
last word was delivered in a tone thick with sarcasm.
“Do not push my patience further.
Go inside. You are
being honored by such quarters. It
is more than any intruders deserve.”
He looked at Miru. “You
come with me. The queen wants
to see you.”
Miru shuddered, then quickly repressed it.
She had done nothing wrong. These
people were kin.
“Will you be all right?” Hawk asked, laying a
hand on her arm.
Miru nodded, glancing at his gauntleted hand in
gratitude. “Yes, I will be
fine. I have been in Queen
Arana’s service before.”
“Make-Make attend you.”
Miru smiled her gratitude and then turned and
hurried out the door. Hawk
glared at the guard before entering the room.
Cold, hard, damp stone.
Unremitting cold, bone chilling.
Buck shifted slightly in his semi-conscious state and moaned
softly. His joints ached abominably.
He slowly opened his eyes and saw—nothing.
The darkness was palpable and complete.
Buck reached up and rubbed his eyes, but that didn’t help.
Reaching back down, he felt the stone floor where he was sitting.
Cool air wafted around him, adding to his already chilled
condition. A slight trickling noise told him there was water nearby.
Consciousness returned quickly now and Buck began
remembering what had happened. The
city. He had been entranced
for a few moments watching the flyers in the twilight sky. Then the group had entered the city, were walking through the
corridors that led upward. Suddenly
he hadn’t been able to move, breath, say anything. Hands had grabbed at him and Wilma and then everything had
last remembrance had been seeing her in the grasp of several winged
Tane-rapanui. He had not been
able to do anything about it. “Wilma,”
he called out now, wondering if she was with him.
“Wilma!” He heard
a soft moan and crawled in the direction of her voice.
“Wilma!” he called out again.
Another moan. The
ground was rough, digging into his hands and knees, but he continued
toward the sound of Wilma’s voice.
Suddenly, he touched something soft and warm.
He examined further. Wilma’s
arm. His fingers found her
neck and he felt her pulse. It
was a bit fast, but steady.
“Wilma,” he said softly, this time close to
her ear. He continued to
check her for injuries.
She began shivering.
Then she started at his touch and pushed his hands away.
“Wilma, it’s me, Buck,” he reassured her.
Seems he had done something like this not too long ago, he thought
wryly. He pulled her close to
him and wrapped his arms around her.
“Where are we?”
He laughed ironically.
“Well, it’s certainly not a ticker tape parade in New York
City,” he said, then took a deep breath.
“The local version of the Welcome Wagon jerked us away from the
rest of the group. I would
guess they had us made the moment we walked through that entrance.”
He ran one hand gently through her disheveled hair.
“I would say we are in the deepest dungeon these guys could
“Sky Warrior was right,” she said. “We are a liability.”
“The rest would be here with us if we were that
much of a liability. They
just didn’t want humans to pollute their airspace.”
“I guess we ought to be checking for a way out
then,” Wilma suggested.
“And hope that Hawk and Sky Mother convince them
that we aren’t here for some evil, diabolical purpose.”
“They didn’t leave us our packs,” she
murmured, still shivering.
“I can’t verify it, but I suspect that they
didn’t leave us anything,” Buck said.
“But each other,” she said, snuggling close.
“I guess I should check this dungeon out.
Who knows, maybe we got lucky and they did toss our packs in after
us,” Buck quipped. “They
could be hiding a herd of elephants in here for all we know.”
“It would be warmer if they had,” Wilma said,
trying very hard to not get too discouraged.
Buck pulled away. “I’m
going to check and see if they left us something besides the dark.”
Buck found the wall and slowly stood up.
One good thing. The ceiling was taller than he was. He carefully began to shuffle forward, one hand on the wall,
the other outstretched. “Keep
talking, so I can keep my bearings.”
“Okay, what about?”
Laughing, Buck replied, “What did you do on your
“What?” she asked and then paused. With a smile, she began, “Well, there was the time Duke and
I went to Sinaloa together.”
Buck stopped short.
“Huh? You and
Duke?” He heard Wilma
giggling and smiled at how easily he had been had.
He continued feeling the confines of their cell, concentrating on
his task. “You going to
tell me about it? I bet Duke
was nowhere near as good a ten and eleven player as I am.”
“No, he wasn’t,” responded Wilma, and she
began bantering about her trip.
Buck continued to examine their prison, suddenly
reminded at how similar this was to his time on Bosk.
And with that remembrance, came a return of all the closed in
feelings he had felt during that period in his life, mentally as well as
physically. Stopping and
taking in several deep breaths, Buck tried to push away the feeling that
the walls were closing in, that he was back on Bosk, that Beros was
waiting nearby, watching him.
Wilma suddenly stopped talking. “Buck?”
Buck couldn’t say anything, he was still trying
to contain his sudden panic.
“Buck?” Wilma got up and followed the wall to where Buck was standing. She took his hand. “Buck, are you all right?”
He shuddered, but concentrated on Wilma’s touch.
That was important. She
was there with him on Rrilling, not Bosk.
He was in a fairly good-sized cell, not in something the size of a
sixties space capsule. He
didn’t have this kind of trouble during his space training, thank
goodness. He felt Wilma’s
hand on his arm and the walls backed off a fraction.
“Buck, are you all right?” she asked again,
surmising what might be wrong. She
heard his deep, almost panting breaths.
“Buck, why don’t we do this together and we’ll get a better
idea of how big this place is.”
He nodded, grateful for her proximity and then realized that she couldn’t see his answer. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Thanks.”
So while Buck followed the contours of the wall
with one hand, Wilma held on to his other hand and reached out with her
free hand. They circled the
entire cell that way, Wilma never reaching the far wall.
They used their bodies to measure across the room as well as the
length and then they sat and rested near the trickling inflow of liquid.
“I’m thirsty,” she said.
“Do you think it’s water and that it’s okay?”
“I’ll test it and see,” he responded.
“If I don’t keel over dead in the next hour then we’ll know
“No, we’re in this together, Buck. But let’s wait a while and see if they bring us anything to
eat or drink.”
“Good idea,” replied Buck.
“Still ticks me off that they didn’t at least leave us our
Wilma snuggled closer to him. “Maybe they didn’t intend for us to be here that long.”
Left unsaid were a couple of the implications of that statement.
“If they were going to kill us quickly, they’d
have done it as soon as we were away from the rest of the expedition,”
Buck responded, picking up on one of her concerns.
“I don’t know what they have in mind, but I think we’re here
for a while.”
“At least I get to have you all to myself for a
while,” Wilma said with a sigh. She
felt his arms wrap around her and she relaxed against his chest.
“What a helluva date, though,” he countered.
|Buck Rogers Contents|