Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-two

 

 

Miru stood outside the queen’s private quarters, ramrod straight, determined to get through this audience with her dignity intact.  She thought again of Hawk.  He had more pride and dignity than any of the winged Tane-rapanui could dream of having.  She could do the same.  

Apaolu gestured for her to enter the queen’s chambers and she did so.  Her stomach was doing flip-flops, but Miru hoped her face was not showing the fear she felt.  

“You led intruders to our valley,” Queen Arana said tersely with no preamble. 

“Your Highness, I led a group of our people to our valley,” Miru responded.  “They would have found us whether I helped them or not.”  

Kiru-talano, the consort, sat nearby, his eyes showing interest but wisely keeping quiet.  Since the death of her father, Arana had gathered power around her like the bejeweled cloak she was wearing until she had become almost like a god.   Miru had even heard it whispered that if Arana had her way, she would not only destroy the council leadership of elders, but also Make-Make himself.  Of course, Miru didn’t totally believe it, but that there was some truth to the statement she didn’t doubt.  Indeed, when the oldest elder had died several years ago, no successor had been officially appointed and the minor queries about that lack had been quelled quickly.  So while he seemed to be an intelligent young man, Kiru-talano wisely kept his mouth closed most of the time.

“You are contradicting me, girl?” Arana asked sharply, getting up from her ornately decorated and softly cushioned couch and approaching Miru. 

“Oh, no, Your Highness.  I was just giving you a statement based on my scouting assessments,” Miru quickly explained.  

“Two of them are human,” the queen pointed out, her voice menacing.  “And for bringing humans to the valley the penalty could very well be death!”  She was now standing in front of Miru, within arm’s reach of the young scout and it took all in her power for Miru to not cringe.  

“Your Highness, the Tane-rapanui cousins have adopted the humans.  They are tied to the people and the human male even saved that group of the people once,” Miru said, willing the queen to understand.  And an equally surprised Miru realized that she believed her own words.  The queen appeared to be getting more and more angry, but Miru continued.  “The human, Buck Rogers, speaks our language even better than the other Tane-rapanui.”  

Suddenly, Miru found herself on the floor, her head swimming and her cheek stinging from the force of Arana’s blow. 

“Impossible!  Lies!” she cried.  “They have fed you worm dung and you have eaten it all.”  She drew back and wiped her hand on her cloak. “Did this vermin say how he knew our language so well?”

“He only said he would tell the Elder leaders, Your Highness,” replied Miru, who was still sitting on the floor.  A guard by the door looked on in amusement.  

“Well, we will have to keep him and his friend alive long enough to tell me how they got all of this information.”  Arana yawned and then turned to Kiru-talano.  “Tomorrow we will begin the interrogation of the humans.”  She turned back to Miru.  “Go tell Dr. Telis that I will see him tomorrow after morning flight.”  Almost to herself, she said, “Then I’ll see the humans.  Tell the elders, indeed.” 

Miru didn’t move.  Arana leaned over her.  “Did you not hear me?”  Miru nodded.  “Then go!  Now!” 

Miru went, scuttling backwards for a few feet before jumping up, bowing and then running from the room.  It was not a dignified exit but it got her out of the room quickly. 

Once outside Miru dusted herself off and frowned.  Dr. Telis meant iniru-mata, the substance that enhanced her own people’s empathic abilities and enslaved humans.  And if the rumors were correct, then it would only take one dose of the new iniru-mata to enslave these humans.   The queen had no intention of letting these people see the elders.  She thought of Hawk and how he’d feel, and determined that she must get word to the elders. If they convened a council, even the queen would have to allow it.  They did still have some power. 

The door of the queen’s chambers opened once more and one of the guards came out.  She turned to leave.  

“I will accompany you,” he said.  

“I know the way,” came the sarcastic reply.  

“But Her Highness wants me to make sure you get there,” he retorted.  “It is late.  Let us go.” 

Miru fumed but she acquiesced and strode quickly along the corridors to the scientists’ quarters.  The guard followed closely.   At Dr. Telis’ chambers, she tapped the signal bell and then had to tap it again when no one came to the door.  

Telis opened his door a crack, his countenance dour from interrupted sleep.  “Do you realize how late it is?” he muttered.  

“Orders from the queen,” Miru said.  Telis opened his door a bit wider and gazed at her and the guard right behind her.  Apparently, the scientist recognized the guard.  He sighed.  “What is her command?” 

“To report to her right after morning flight,” Miru told him. 

“Very well,” Telis said with only the slightest of hesitation.  “I will be there.  Are you going to relay my answer or does she wish me to use the communicator?” 

“I will tell her,” the guard said.  “And bring your new iniru-mata.” 

Telis nodded and then shut his door.  Miru turned to go but the guard stopped her.  

“I did as I was told, now you can go tell Her Highness that I was obedient,” she said testily.  

“No, I am taking you to your quarters,” he informed her.  “Queen’s orders,” he added when he saw Miru’s stormy countenance.  

With a sigh, Miru turned and began the long walk to her small, cramped cubicle in the miru-moruku’s quarters.  There were never very many of them and in recent years there were even fewer.  But the rooms, rough hewn from the bowels of the cliff caves were still small, still rough and very much a reminder of her status in life.  Miru wished she had wings like the others so she could know what it was like to fly among the peaks, but still, in her heart, she felt that she was Tane-rapanui.  The wings only seemed to make some of the people arrogant, not better.  Miru walked into the miru-moruku quarters and heard the doors close behind her.  A click told her she was locked in for the night.  

Miru smiled.  It would take more than a locked door to keep her here.  Many years of loneliness and a deep curiosity and love of freedom had shown her other means of travel in these nether regions of the city.  She lay on her bed and rested for a short while, though, just to make sure the city was more settled for the night.  

Then she walked the short corridor to the back of the quarters, a section that had never been finished.  A crevice that her slender body could easily slip through had apparently escaped the notice of everyone else, but when she was younger it had become the means of her own personal freedom.  Many a lonely evening had been spent watching the antics of those of the inner court.  Sometimes she had simply sat on the mountainside and watched the stars or the sister moon chasing its larger brother.  

Tonight though, she had a purpose.  If Arana proposed to keep the humans away from the Council until it was too late, what would she ultimately do with the Tane-rapanui guests?  Most likely, she had not told any of the elders about their visitors.  Miru had only seen the queen’s personal guards on their way to the audience chamber, nowhere else.   Coming into the city at dusk had been a mistake, the young miru-moruku realized now.  The darkness had been an advantage for Her Highness.  

Miru strode down dark corridors, determined to rectify that mistake.  When she reached the door of the acting Elder Leader, she activated the signal. On the second ring, the door creaked open a crack revealing an older Tane-rapanui female.  “What do you want, girl?  It’s late.”   

“I must see the elder.  It is very important,” Miru pled.  

The woman gazed at her for a brief moment and then opened the door to admit Miru.  

“All right, what is so important that you must wake me up at this late hour?” a gruff voiced older birdman asked.  Miru hoped that Ranakatu would recognize her and listen to what she had to say.  She sometimes had brought messages to the elder when she had been the queen’s servant.  He came into the room, his wings wrapped around his body as though he was cold.  Miru figured it was most likely because he wasn’t dressed.  He always sounded gruff, but Miru still liked him.  Ranakatu had always treated her with at least some measure of kindness.  

“When I was out scouting I came across a group of off-world Tane-rapanui coming to visit us.”  

“What?  And we were not told?” the elder cried out in surprise.

“It was dark and they were taken to the guest chambers,” Miru explained.  

Ranakatu thought for a moment.  “Sit down, Miru.”  

He did remember her.  She did as she was told.  

He paced for a few minutes and then stopped in front of her.  “That should have made no difference.  The elders should have been told.”  He paused a moment, deep in thought.  “But I suppose with the lateness of the hour….” 

“There were two humans with them.  From Earth,” added Miru.  She waited for the big blow-up.  

He didn’t surprise her.  “Humans??!!  Why in the world did you bring humans into our valley?” 

“Because there was something about these humans that was different than what I had been taught.  Our cousins trusted them, even to adopting them into their group of the people.  But the queen’s guards took them and have them in the lower levels.”

The elder just stared at her in disbelief.  

“He said he had something that was important to tell you and the rest of the elders,” she continued.  

“Who, one of the humans?” Ranakatu asked, still shocked by this news. 

“Yes, Elder.  But Queen Arana has already ordered Dr. Telis to her chambers tomorrow along with the two humans.  She is going to get the information from them with the iniru-mata and then kill them.  I don’t know what she plans for our cousins.” 

Ranakatu was quiet for a moment, but Miru could see the anger growing in his countenance.  Finally, “She has no right!” the elder called out.  “That is a matter for the Council of Elders.”  He paced some more and then turned to his beloved who had remained in the room after letting Miru in.  “Contact all of the elders and then the queen.  Tell them a full council meeting will be held tomorrow at first light.  The subject?  The visitors that came into our city….”  He looked at his timepiece.  “Last night.” 

Nodding, his beloved turned immediately to do his bidding.  The elder next turned to Miru.  His eyes held more than indignation now, they held excitement.  “Others of our people?  From other worlds?” he asked.  

“Yes, Elder.  From two different worlds.”  

“Winged or not winged?  Not that it really matters.” 

Miru felt his excitement and it fed hers.  “Not winged, Elder Ranakatu.” 

He nodded.  A few minutes later, his beloved returned.  “All have received the message my love.” 

“Good, and the royal reaction?” 

“Indignation that the flight would be interrupted, but otherwise simple acknowledgement,” she said.  

Ranakatu nodded.  “Thank you, Mara.”  He turned to Miru.  “As the scout that found these visitors, you are officially invited as well.  I will have the invitation sent to your quarters so that no suspicion falls on you.” 

“Thank you, Elder,” Miru said.  “I had better go now.” 

The old elder watched the miru-moruku slip out of the room.  He pondered what he had been told.  It had been unfortunate that these visitors had come when they had.  After sunset, usually only the queen’s guards patrolled the skies.  Of course, of late, most of the city’s guards were in the queen’s employ.  Ranakatu thought sadly of recent developments and realized that the queen’s power had grown dangerously in the past few years and he had done little to fight it.  Oh, he had protested when no search or appointment had been made at Elder Hiriata’s death, but that was all.  

Ranakatu couldn’t help but think that this visit by other-worlders had to be the mechanism of Make-Make to bring the order of things back as it should be.  But he was still afraid.  Had he waited too late to take the opportunity to try to control the queen?  He hoped not.  It was obvious the queen would have preferred that the elder leadership not even know of these visitors.  How did she propose to keep that secret?  By killing them all?  Surely not!  But was she capable?  Yes.  Contact off world had been forbidden for years.  Only the passing of the iniru-mata out into the ranks of humans a couple hundred years ago through the Draconians had been allowed.  He had heard that the scientist had been developing something that would not only be more virulent for humans, but cross blood ties to those whose biochemical make-up was close to humans.  That also included Draconians.  The justification was not just revenge but the fact that intra-galactic communication indicated that humans were becoming more vicious, vindictive and conquest-minded.  But then Ranakatu had not had direct access to communications for over three years. 

He snorted in self-derision.  The queen’s people controlled that, too.  The miru-moruku were being treated worse, as though they were bastard sons and only worthy of being slaves.  Ranakatu sighed.  He was getting too old for this.  Much too old.  But it was time to put a halt to the queen’s grasping of power, old or not.  And the arrival of these visitors might just be the catalyst.  He was wide-awake now, and there was much to be done.  

Turning, Ranakatu re-entered his bedchamber and began dressing.  His wife looked at him in curiosity.    Without saying a word, he walked over to her and placed his hands on her cheek.  Feelings of love flowed back and forth, but he willed more succinct communication.  It was something he and Mara had worked on and perfected over their years of bonding.  It was probably that same thing that was mentioned in the old records as the inner seeing.  

Seeing what was beyond normal sight was the criteria for eldership, or it used to be, but farseeing was something that had been dying out for some time.  Ranakatu had seen fewer and fewer applicants for leadership positions and of those, the potential seemed less than it had ever been.  

My love, his heart and mind sang.  I have much to do and little time in which to do it.  There will be no sleep tonight.  

What do you wish of me, beloved? she asked. 

If you are allowed access, go visit the Tane-rapanui guests.  Try to determine what is in their hearts.  I will try to see the humans. 

Humans?  You are actually going to go and see the humans?   Her eyes widened in surprise.  Then Mara felt his determination and incredible strength of will and nodded. She leaned forward and kissed him.  Make-Make go with us both and with our people, she whispered in his mind and then she broke contact.  Quickly, Mara dressed and then left their quarters.  Soon afterward Ranakatu did the same, heading down to where incorrigible criminals spent some of their time.  Dark and damp and totally confining, it usually took very little time for even the most dangerous prisoners to have a change of heart and attitude.  

Ranakatu had almost made it to the door before he met anyone. 

“By the queen’s command, you are forbidden to go any further,” a large and very muscular guard said to him ominously.  

 

 

Chapter Twenty-three
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
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