Sky Mother was by his side.
“Buck,” she whispered as Ranakatu turned to give orders.
She pulled her hand from a pocket of her robe of authority.
When she opened it, Buck saw a small packet with a vial in it.
“What?” he asked, incredulous. He recognized it.
“I got this from the Earth doctor, Dr.
Goodfellow,” she said in terra lingua.
“I knew we were coming among the inventors of the garox.
I wanted this antidote just in case.”
She paused briefly and then finished as Ranakatu turned back to
them. “I will give it to
you after the seeing.”
Buck looked at her in deep gratitude.
“Thank you,” he whispered, the Tane-rapanui woman’s foresight
giving him a slight reassurance.
She put the vial away.
“My dreams led us here and they were not dreams of defeat.
They were dreams of triumph.”
She looked at him as a mother would gaze on a son.
“You can do this, Buck. You
did it before.”
“I didn’t have anything to lose, then, Sky
Mother,” Buck said tonelessly.
Wilma threw her arms around him and kissed him.
When she drew back there were unshed tears in her eyes.
“Yes, you did, Buck Rogers.
And you still do....”
Buck gazed at her appreciatively. “I know.” His
voice was husky with emotion.
Hawk was also by his side.
“I will be nearby, Buck. Call
me if you need help.”
“You may have to have your own seeing,” Buck
replied. Then he added,
“And you might have to fight your way out if this doesn’t work.”
“I have sent for the iniru-mata,” Ranakatu
told him, ignoring the fact that they had been conversing in another
is the most pure form, used only for seeings of this nature.
It will be here in a moment.”
He looked into Buck’s eyes.
“And I sincerely hope there will not be a need to fight your way
out of here,” he added in a whisper.
Buck’s eyes widened in surprise. “You understood that?”
“I understand terra lingua, but do not readily
speak it,” the elder leader said. He
gazed at the rest of the visitors. “You
must return to your seats. This
seeing has to be accomplished by the applicant alone; the seer must
receive no help.” He
turned to the young men at the edge of the pit.
“Burn the stones.” The
boys intoned words that Buck couldn’t quite understand and then
carefully tipped the blue stones into the pit.
Another youth brought in a torch and with what sounded like a
prayer, he waved the torch side to side and then threw it down on top of
the rocks. The stones
immediately sparked and then began belching out thick, bluish smoke.
It was cloying and Buck coughed, unable to stop for a moment.
The rocks in the bottom of the pit glowed with an ethereal fire,
like incandescent lava flowing into the shapes of subterranean animals.
“Are you seeing anything?” Ranakatu asked.
“No, just the rocks making weird shapes,” Buck
said, hoping that he could have said yes.
As the room filled with smoke, he watched with horror the approach
of a Tane-rapanui with several vials in his hands.
Willing himself to calm down, Buck kept telling himself that Sky
Mother had the antidote and would be giving it to him when he was
finished. Then it occurred to
him that he might not even be successful.
That was even more frightening than taking the iniru-mata was.
Buck stood at the railing of the pit watching the smoke curl around
his feet and then continue through the room.
He felt light-headed, but he was not seeing anything other than
what was in the room.
Ranakatu addressed the assemblage. “The terran, Buck Rogers, is about to undergo a seeing to
determine his right to join the people.
If there are any who object, let their voices now be heard.”
Surprising to Ranakatu, there was not one word
spoken, not even from Arana. He
wondered about that, but it was too late to stop the ritual in order to
investigate. Then it dawned
on him that she and the others truly thought he would fail, being human,
and then she would have her way with him and his beloved.
The elder leader pulled out a vial and prepared it for use. Looking at the human, he asked, “Are you ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Buck answered
calmly. Inside, he was
anything but calm.
Ranakatu saw the human’s hands tremble slightly
and understood then that Buck Rogers knew all about the iniru-mata, at
least from a human perspective and that brought new questions. But Ranakatu put that from his mind. He had to focus on this ritual.
The elder leader intoned a prayer to Make-Make that this be a true
seeing, even as he silently willed that all of this would be to the good
of the people. Then he stuck
the needle into the human’s arm.
“Let there be a true seeing!” he cried to the assembled council
and stepped away from Buck Rogers, who was resigned, waiting.
For several moments nothing happened, Buck simply stood hanging onto the railing watching the smoke rise into his face and the smoldering rocks speak words of fear into his soul. Then he was transported to an airstrip in Colorado where he saw a damaged fighter jet desperately trying to make a landing careening toward him. The landing gear had not deployed and the jet skidded on its belly, sparks flying across the concrete from the tortured metal. It surged toward him with the speed and terrible power of a tornado. Buck cried out even as he tried to dodge the inevitable. Falling to the ground, he choked on the smoke and jet fuel fumes that seemed to saturate every cell in his body. The heat was almost unbearable and he rolled over trying to get air into his oxygen-deprived lungs. He saw a mushroom-shaped cloud in the distance and there was even more heat. Bodies melted around him and he screamed as he witnessed the full horror of the holocaust he had missed before. Trees wilted and then burst into flame and ash, almost in the same instant. He saw buildings crumble, people walking dead, burned almost to ash, crying for help that couldn’t come. Screams, moans, curses; the gut wrenching, metallic smell of blood, burnt flesh and the stench of decimated metal, plastic and cloth. It assaulted his senses, threatened his sanity. Buck tried to look away, but he could not.
Then the air cleared and he was looking over a
different battlefield. There
were more jets overhead, older ones, maybe World War II, and tanks on the
ground, men with bazookas, machine guns and rifles racing across a field
toward one another. With
cries of impending doom they clashed, fought, and killed each other.
Blood ran over the ground, churning with mud, mixing with the tears
that fell from the sky. The
booming of artillery deafened him and Buck crouched, covering his ears as
the screams of dying men and dying machines filled the very fiber of his
soul. His mental eyes flew
through scenes of carnage that seemed to get more and more primitive but
never lessened in their intensity. Arrows
flew to their targets, into soft flesh that quivered at the mortal
violation. Even as they were
dying, some of the warriors were trying to kill those who had killed them.
Bearded men in leather jerkins slashed and stabbed at men in fur
coverings. Screams of hatred
vied with screams of agony. He was seeing a panorama of gore, blood and insanity.
Men in feathers and cloth chased Tane-rapanui in
the dark night. The bird
people easily escaped into the sky, but occasionally a few fell with
arrows protruding from their breasts.
Soon the scene of hatred and insanity repeated on the mountains of
a distant land. Bird people dropping rock bombs on their
tormentors…children with feathered wings ambushed and taken from their
families, held captive and made to mate with those envying them their
wings. He heard the cries of
the anguished young ones and Buck felt the tears slick on his cheeks.
He heard the moans of pain and realized they were his.
Crouching on the ground, he willed the seeing to stop, but it
“What is all of this he is seeing?” a voice
called out of the swirling blue smoke.
“The human is not close enough to the pit for the smoke to have
the greatest advantage for us to see.”
But Ranakatu saw and all who had some vestige of
sight saw; the visiting Tane-rapanui saw; the human who was the conduit
most definitely saw. Slowly,
the seeing of one human became a seeing of two races and it was in the
smoke for all to witness who had eyes to see.
Ranakatu was amazed at the clarity of the seeing, amazed and
appalled by what he was seeing.
Ranakatu saw carnage in the blue mists; he saw the
death and destruction of hundreds of thousands of humans. He saw the death among his own ancestors and the battles
fought between his kind and the humans, the exodus from place to place and
finally the help of the insect-like benefactors from far away. Ultimately, there was the flight to the stars and to the
promise of peace. But there
was no peace. In his own mind
and then in the smoke of the pit, Ranakatu saw death when their star-going
benefactors exacted payment from the Tane-rapanui, mercenary payment which
his people were unwilling to give. He
saw the battles in the smoke, the carnage among the stars, the death of
more of his people. Death not at the hands of humans, but from those who had
claimed to help them. Finally,
there was the last confrontation when Star Warrior, Mana-araki flew the
great ship into an even greater planet.
The stick-like warriors all died, his people who were left fled,
hopefully to join those who had fled before the great battle.
Star travel was abandoned, the people hid wherever they were and
there was a sad semblance of peace, with the forgetting of the
conflagration among the stars.
Buck cried out as though in great pain.
He lay curled up on the ground, his hands covering his ears.
Wilma was the closest.
She leaped to Buck’s side, saw his contorted features and through
her tears tried to gather him in her arms.
She had seen little of what he was seeing at first, until others,
probably Sky Mother and Sky Father, gauging by their closed-eyed
concentration, with the ability had augmented the vision and then she had
seen the horror of Buck’s ‘sight’ in the swirling blue smoke.
“No, Wilma, we must let this continue to the
will decide when that conclusion is,” Sky Mother said quietly.
They helped Buck to the edge of the pit; then Sky Mother pulled
Wilma away. Tears coursed
down each woman’s cheeks. The
pictures in the smoke clarified, but the carnage and destruction had
vanished already and there was something else to see.
Buck grasped the metal railing as the seeing continued.
He felt hands on either side of him, soft hands
guiding him and then he saw an old woman in a crowded Delhi street giving
water to a dying man. Others
like her changed wounds, bathed babies and brought the destitute and
orphans into shelter. Hands
gave him something to hold onto and he grasped the lifeline as though it
was the only thing that could save him.
He saw a mother with several children, reading to them, then he
realized it was his mother. The wonders of Narnia, the jungles of Africa, the skies of
Pern all opened up to him. He
laughed with his brother and sister as they all tried to see how long
their Oreo cookies would last in a milk-dunking contest.
The hands of a benevolent but tough coach showed him how to hold a
football, a teacher stayed after school for a few minutes to show him how
to solve an equation. Friends
and family, Jennifer; times on the beach, times camping, oh, so many times
camping; poison oak and mosquitoes, campfires and marshmallows; Buck
smiled at the memories. Then
he was in space, among the stars. He
almost couldn’t breathe; it was so wonderful.
It is nonsense and changes nothing!” Queen Arana cried out. “You saw what humans did.
You saw their evil, destructive natures! You have seen it from a human,” she added, standing up in
her rage. “What more do you
need? They must be
Buck heard the cries of the queen but he
couldn’t understand what she was saying.
It was lost in the seeing of his memories and the wonder that his
life had brought him. The joy
was as exquisite as the pain of the previous memories had been and he felt
a twinge of annoyance at this tiny interruption.
The stars began shifting, sliding away and he was further annoyed.
“No, Arana,” Ranakatu said, consciously
deleting the honorific, “Only Make-Make decides when this ends and it is
not over yet. The human, as
with any Tane-rapanui, must be allowed to complete the journey of the
Buck felt himself carried to Bosk, knew again the
anguish of the garox addiction, the pain it brought others. The smoke swirled thick and cloying as the young Tane-rapanui
threw in more of the iniru-mata stones.
Puffs of smoke hit him in the face, filled his lungs and Buck
thought he was floating away from the room.
He had wings. No, he
was in the mind of someone with wings.
It was Garo-tura! The
Tane-rapanui scientist got up in the early morning hours and studied his
equations. Buck didn’t
remember this from the first time. The
scientist walked into this very room, to the pit and studied the
smoldering rocks. He smiled
to himself, seeing the seeds of destruction for the human race in the
whispering blue smoke. The
pit told him of conquest and consequent recolonization of Earth.
It told of triumph and sweet victory.
Some of the smoke hit him in the face and he saw the destruction of
the humans by their own hands and he was startled, just as he had been
when the Elder Leader had told him of the imminent destruction of
Earth’s humans. Would they do for him what he had been working so hard for
these past few years to accomplish? But
in so doing, the very planet was being destroyed.
More smoke wafted from the pit.
More visions filled his mind.
Some humans would survive. So
be it. He would prepare his
invention for that eventual future. It
would make it easier to destroy them if there were just a few.
Garo-tura had used the last extant starship to
capture several humans from a remote part of Earth to experiment on.
There would be no more journeys.
The ship had been destroyed; their home was secure from
retaliation. The humans
didn’t have the technology to follow anyway.
What? A few nations
sending up limited range space ships?
It was laughable. They
were pitiful. They were
despicable. It would be a pleasure to rid the galaxy of the hated vermin.
He watched as one ship lifted from the sands of a well-lit beach
and slid slowly through the skies. One
human doing what all of the people had done centuries before.
And as he watched, he saw that even that endeavor was a failure.
He smiled. One less
human. The blue smoke showed him no more.
Suddenly, Garo-tura felt another presence and
looked about the room. No one
was there. He looked back
into the pit and felt a quick pain between his eyes.
It was gone in an instant, but it left him feeling slightly weak
and nauseated in its intensity. The
smoke drifted away and Garo-tura felt tired.
It was time to return to his personal chambers; time to return to
Ava-iki, his beloved. Slowly,
he walked out of the audience chamber and through the corridor to his own
home where his beloved lay warm and soft in their nest.
She sighed with delight when he laid one wing over her body.
He sighed his delight as well.
Later in the morning, he flew with his beloved and
discovered that the presence he had felt in the chamber was a presence
that had invaded his head. He
wanted to scream with frustration, beat the creature out of his mind, but
that wouldn’t be logical. Instead,
he reasoned with it, tried to find out more about it, find out what it was
and where it came from. Most
important of all, what it wanted.
His scientific expedition in his own mind turned to horror when he
realized what was there. A human? NO!!
Everything became bitter, turned to ashes.
The human tried to make him sympathize, but how can you be
sympathetic to the insect biting your ankle, to the vermin soiling your
food supply? The human would
not, could not leave. But he
would destroy at least one human first hand.
He knew that his experiments were at least partially successful;
scientists in future years would see that the rest of his plans would bear
fruit. His descendants would
see the total destruction of humankind.
He threw himself off the cliff in fierce determination and only the
last minute realization that his beloved saw into his mind during his fall
tempered his feeling of victory.
Buck’s time with Garo-tura was shown in the
smoke in startling detail. There
were even things that he had forgotten.
Reliving them was torment. Reliving
them in front of Garo-tura’s people added to his misery. He crouched at the railing, wracked with the knowledge that
he had failed to help his friends, and was unable to change a thing.
And he was not done yet. The
smoke continued to drift around him, showing images that were now
disjointed and tenuous. He tried to crawl away, but couldn’t. His hands still clung to the edge of the pit as though they
had been bolted to the edge; his eyes fastened on the swirling blue flame
and smoke that lay below him, around him and above him.
He looked up at the youths still dropping rocks into the pit,
willing them to stop.
Let me go!
LET ME GO! he cried mentally to the rocks, the smoke,
the elders. But he knew that
no one could help him. He
breathed in more of the blue smoke that swirled mercilessly from the pit.
And he knew that there was more, much, much more to be seen and he
sobbed in his helplessness.
Arana jumped to her feet, her eyes blazing, cursing the human before her. He was the one! HE was the cursed human that had inhabited her hero ancestor. How, she didn’t know, nor did she care. He was the killer and he was going to die. She grabbed a laser pistol from the hands of one of her personal guards and raised it to fire. Suddenly, inexplicably, the human screamed and jerked to one side, as though pulled by invisible hands. Her blast hit where he had been crouched by the pit. Arana aimed again, but Ranakatu grabbed her hand. At the same time, the human slowly and painfully rose to his feet and the smoke coalesced to new visions.
|Buck Rogers Contents|