Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

 

   

Chapter Twenty-five

   

 

Mara could see the wisdom of what Sky Mother was saying.  “Is seeing common among your group of the people?”

“That is how the choosing of Sky Mother and Sky Father is done,” Sky Mother explained.  “But many of our people ‘feel’ even if they do not ‘see.’” 

Mara shook her head.  “I know in the past, many, if not most of the people could at least form empathic bonds.  My beloved and I can actually hear each other at times.  But so many have lost that gift.”  

“It was only an empathic bonding among my people,” Hawk said, having just joined the group of women.  “My Koori and I could not read each other’s thoughts but we sensed each other’s moods and presence.  Koori could sometimes influence the behavior of lower forms of life.” 

“Most of the elders now have to take the iniru-mata to ‘see’ or dream,” Mara said.  

“Then that’s what its original use was?” Wilma asked, wondering if that was what Buck had been eluding to at times after his garox induced ‘trip.’ 

Mara nodded.  “Garo-tura somehow found out that is was highly addictive to humans.   I don’t know how he did that, only that he did.”  She gazed curiously at Sky Mother.  “You do not have iniru-mata.”  

“No.  We simply choose those most capable of establishing the most powerful empathic bonds to be our leaders.”  

“I guess that would be what we humans would call selective genetics,” Wilma said. 

“In my day it was survival of the fittest,” Buck interjected, also joining the group.  To Wilma’s eye, he looked discouraged as well as exhausted.  

“It is ironic,” Mara said somberly.  “The few miru-moruku we have here have been taught that they do not have the gifts.  And it is you who have the gifts even more than we do.”  She smiled.  “It is as though we have relied only on our wings, while you who have no wings have relied on and increased your other gifts.” 

“Maybe that is so; maybe it is something else,” Sky Mother said.  She looked over the group.  “I believe that if we are to attend a council in a few hours, we must get some rest.” 

While most were still keyed up over the events of the past hours, no one disagreed.   Everyone found comfortable places and made the attempt to rest.  Buck finally fell asleep on a backless sofa that he shared with Wilma.  His last waking thought was that he could learn to like these kinds of sleeping arrangements. 

 

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“Your Highness, the acting Elder Leader took the humans from their cell during the night,” the royal guard said with a bow.  It was still dark outside, but the first light was tingeing the tops of the far mountains a deep golden orange.  

“What?  The vermin were supposed to have been killed by now,” Arana growled. 

“Apparently the warrior was unsuccessful.  He was found in the cell only a few moments ago.”  

“Alive or dead?” Arana asked hopefully. 

“Alive, Your Highness,” Havianu, the guard said, refraining from cringing at the blow-up he knew was coming soon.  The queen appeared calm on the outside, but he knew her enough to see the signs. 

“Too bad.  If Ranakatu or the humans had killed him, then I would have had all that was needed to get rid of all three of them,” Arana said dourly.  She paced, felt the small life in her womb and stopped.  She had to consolidate her power before this baby was born.  “Is he still down there?” 

“I do not believe so, Your Highness,” Havianu answered.  

“Well, kill him and take his body back down there.  Have him ‘discovered’ just before the council.  At the very least, there will be two humans on which to test the new iniru-mata.”  

“Yes, Your Highness.” 

Suddenly something occurred to Arana.  “Where are the humans now?” 

“They are in the guest chambers with the rest of the group of visitors.” 

Arana couldn’t help it; she laughed.  “Why that devious old tirantin.  If I wasn’t so angry I could almost admire him.”  She paused and paced again.  “I’ll have him, too, before the day is over.”  She laughed again. “I have been told that the visitors have claimed this human male to have been adopted into their group.” 

“Yes, Your Highness.” 

Arana brightened.  “Well, I just suppose he will have to prove it,” she said.  

Bowing, Havianu simply said, “Yes, Your Highness, I suppose he will.” 

“That will be most interesting.”

 

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At least the guards knocked before they entered, but even so, Buck was still struggling to come fully awake as the Tane-rapanui stood in the middle of the room demanding their attendance at a full council of elders.  Wilma sat on the edge of the sofa, rubbing her eyes.  Buck got up and did the same.  

Even as the warrior guards fumed at the group’s slowness, Buck stumbled into the bathroom and did what he could to clean up in a scant few minutes.  The rest did the same and by the time the guards were ready to bodily toss them from the room, Buck felt he could at least pass for someone who was fully conscious.  They walked down a fairly wide, well-lit corridor into a large room filled with richly upholstered, low backed chairs that sat on rows of raised rock flooring all the way to the back walls of the circular room, like a small amphitheater.  At the far end of the room sat an elegantly attired Tane-rapanui female, her demeanor haughty, her eyes cold. Near her sat an older birdman who reminded Buck of Sky Father.  He saw that it was Ranakatu, almost unrecognizable in his robes of office.  Other, similarly dressed Tane-rapanui sat in chairs behind them.  For the most part, their eyes were round with curiosity, but some held fear in their countenances.  

Sky Mother, Sky Father and the other Tane-rapanui were shown to seats that were near what appeared to be a large pit emitting a curious blue glow.  Two young Tane-rapanui males were tending it, gathering bluish-white stones at the edge.  Wisps of smoke wafted from its interior.  Buck had an eerie feeling about it and wondered wryly if he and Wilma were going to be sacrificed to it like some Hawaiian virgin to Pele. 

Buck, Wilma and Tigerman were left standing.  The Rrilling growled softly at the very obvious affront.  

“Just cool it, pal,” Buck murmured.  “It’s their show after all.”  

Hawk saw what was happening and immediately got up from his chair and stood near Buck.  The others saw and did the same.  

“Thanks, guys,” Buck said.  “Really appreciate the gesture.” 

“As you would say; we are in this together,” replied Hawk. 

The elder leader saw their action and smiled softly.  Ranakatu saw his beloved enter the room and take a seat in one of the higher rows.  As soon as the girl, Miru was brought they could begin.  Her Highness looked ready to chew one of the iniru-mata rocks, but still he knew that she probably had some surprise to throw at them.  Mostly likely in the form of the now dead guard he had sent for.  The warrior had been found dead, but the body was still warm.  Ranakatu had ordered the dead guard taken to the doctor to verify his summations as to the time of death.    That charge by the queen could be easily countered, but the humans?  Ranakatu sighed softly.  That would be a more difficult issue to solve.  He would have to leave it to Make-Make to decide.  And at this point, he didn’t have a clear notion as to the solution to the problem.  One thing was certain, though, these people were totally loyal to one another and it would be pandemonium if the humans were sentenced to death.  

Miru was escorted into the room and a chair indicated for her use.  She glanced at him and at the visitors standing nearby and then demurely sat down.  Ranakatu gave the signal and one of the younger elders got up and officially began the council.  

After the elder sat down, Ranakatu stood up, unfurled his wings, then folded them against his back, clearing his throat.   “I have ordered this council due to the extremely unusual circumstances that occurred yesterday,” he began.  “Circumstances that we were not even told of when they happened.”  He looked pointedly at the queen when he said that.  She gazed back at him steadily, no expression but haughty superiority.  “These visitors bring with them monumental news.  We are here today to judge how we will receive that news and what course of action we will take in regards to it,” continued the elder.   “Leaders from two groups of the people stand before us, along with leaders of two other races,” Ranakatu said.  He knew he was taking a chance on the last, but felt if the two humans and the Rrilling were not important in their own cultures they would not be here.  He glanced at the faces of his fellow elders and wondered if he should have done more than just inform them of the time and importance of the meeting.  But then again, he didn’t want to be accused of trying to bias the council.  He was pulled up quickly by an outburst from the queen.  

“One of these races being human!”  Arana rose from her throne-like seat in righteous indignation.   “What do the laws say about humans in our valley, Counselor?” she asked a birdman sitting nearby. 

Valiano, the first counselor to the queen, stood up.  “The law proscribes death, Your Highness.” 

“And what does the law proscribe for murderers?” Arana asked. 

“That, too, is punishable by death,” Valiano said in an almost rehearsed way. 

Ranakatu knew what the second question referred to.  “We will do everything in an orderly manner here, Your Highness.  This is an extraordinary council based on extraordinary events, so the decision as to what to do with the humans will come after all evidence is heard.” 

“They are humans and they are murderers!” Valiano cried out.  

“Are you speaking generically or specifically?” the Elder Leader asked mildly. 

“Specifically.  These two humans killed a guard and escaped to join their friends,” the counselor elaborated.  “And you, Elder Leader, helped them.”  

There were murmurs and grumbling in the chambers.  They quieted when Ranakatu turned to face his fellow elders.   “I went down to see the humans when I was finally told about our visitors and discovered one of the queen’s guards attempting to kill the two unarmed humans where they sat in the lower unlit prison caves.  I stunned him and took the prisoners to stay with the rest of the diplomatic expedition.  The warrior was very much alive when I left him in the cave.”  Ranakatu gazed calmly at the counselor.  “How did you know about the death, Counselor?  When I sent for him to appear here in the Council and he was found dead, I had his body taken to the chief doctor for examination.” 

“One of the guards went down and checked this morning and found him,” Valiano replied quickly, stammering over his first words.  “He must have left him there to go and report the murder.”  

“He must have, although any examination at all would have revealed that he had very recently been murdered.   The body was still warm.  I have the doctor’s preliminary notes here,” Ranakatu said, holding up a small clipboard.  “Perhaps we should talk to that guard who found him.  Maybe he can shed some light on the real murderer.”  The Elder Leader sat back down and let that sink in for a moment.  “Now Counselor, tell me what the laws say about envoys from other clans of the people.”  

Valiano looked startled, then thoughtful.  “They are to be afforded the utmost courtesy and respect whether winged Tane-rapanui or miru-moruku.” 

“Exactly,” said Ranakatu said.  

“But they brought humans!” the queen cried out. 

“Again, envoys from other members of the Tane-rapanui community will be treated with respect and dignity.  We will find out why they chose to include humans in their expedition and decide what to do then.”  Ranakatu turned and looked at his brethren elders.  “Do you agree to this?” he asked them. 

Some nodded immediately, others looked at each other before giving their assent.   

Ranakatu turned to the group of visitors.  “Who serves as spokesman for your envoy?” 

“We do not have a spokesman, Elder Leader.  We have worked well together without a designated leader,” Sky Father said, “But I will act in the capacity of spokesman for now.”  

“Very well, please tell the council why you are here, while someone brings three more chairs for all the members of your group.” 

“Our thanks, Elder Leader,” Sky Father said, pleased at the concession that Ranakatu was making for Buck, Wilma and Tigerman.  

“I am Sky Father and, with my beloved, the equivalent of Elder Leader among my people on Mendalis.”  He proceeded to introduce all of the members of the expedition including Buck, Wilma and Tigerman.  “Our people on Mendalis have hoped, dreamed and prayed to Make-Make that we were not the only group of the people left in the galaxy, all the while fearing that we would be discovered by the humans that inhabited our planet in increasing numbers.  The humans on our planet were especially frightening, not because they were human, but because they were led by a man who believed that all other species were inferior.” 

Miru, listening intently, started at Sky Father’s last statement.  That sounded a little bit like what was happening here among her people.  

“During a time when the persecutions were getting worse, my beloved, spiritual leader and healer among our people began dreaming that a human would come and find us.  Despite what was going on, the dreams gave her hope that we could somehow reconcile with humans, come out of our isolation and be free to find other Tane-rapanui groups.”  His voice softened.  “These dreams were unlike others which had been somewhat tenuous.  This one was vivid.  So much so, that Sky Mother recognized the human when he did come among us.”  He turned and pointed.  “Captain Rogers.” 

“You are telling me that your beloved has had a true seeing?” one of the elders asked.  The council members gazed at them in disbelief. 

“Of course,” Sky Father replied.  “Even our Sky Warriors sometimes have foretelling dreams.”  Before he could begin again, he was questioned further. He was only able to get out the essentials of the story on their dealings with Buck, Hawk and Wilma.  As soon as Sky Father mentioned Hawk and a bit of his background, the elders pounced on it.  

“Why are you the only one left?” he was asked. 

“Because my people dwindled on our world and were finally massacred,” Hawk answered.  

“Who massacred them?” Valiano asked. 

Hawk answered truthfully and was met with self-satisfied and triumphant smiles.  This was not going well, he thought.  

 

 

Chapter Twenty-six
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
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