Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-eight

 

 

The smoke gathered around and above him and Buck saw Arana as a young woman, barely out of her teens, obviously pregnant.  Her father, an older Tane-rapanui who appeared sick and frail, was crowning her with a delicate, jewel-encrusted diadem that sat on her creamy head feathers and declared her aristocracy.   Arana appeared happy, both with the event and the impending birth of an heir.  The smoke swirled and then there was a baby, a small girl.  A scream of horror precipitated the revelation that this child had no wings.  The baby began to scream in fright as Arana almost threw it to an attendant and ordered it destroyed.  As the smoke showed the baby being taken away by a young servant, it stopped crying and gazed intently into the attendant’s eyes.  She held the baby close, crying tears that splashed on the newborn’s cheeks as she walked into the corridor.  

For the first time in the seeing, Buck spoke with his own voice, not just showing the voices of his visions.  But he had no more control of that than he had had over what he and the others were seeing.  “See what has become of this people.  They destroy Tane-rapanui that do not conform; that which they feel is inferior.   And they purport to be better than humans, than the Tane-rapanui of other worlds?”  

The attendant continued to carry the baby down little used corridors, further and further into the bowels of the city.  She was still crying, holding the child close to her.  The downy predecessors of head feathers gave the child an ethereal glow.  The attendant took the baby into a corridor that had not been more than dug out.  There was a blue glow here and there, reflections of the scant light on chunks of blue iniru-mata stone.  The young Tane-rapanui stopped, shivered in the cold and held the baby out over a crevice that appeared to have no bottom.  Frigid wind wafted up from the opening and hit the little one.  It began to cry and the attendant brought it back close to her body.  The child whimpered, tried to suckle but was unsuccessful.  Backing away from the crevice, the servant looked into the child’s face and further into its dark eyes.  Again, she began to cry.  She kissed the baby, her tears mingling with the tiny ones of the newborn.  With resolve, the woman turned and ran out of the mineshaft and through drafty, poorly lit corridors until she came to an area little used by most of those in the city above.  An older Tane-rapanui, one wing hanging limply, met her at the entrance.  

“What have you here?” the older Tane-rapanui female asked. 

“Someone gave birth to a child without wings.  She refused it and I cannot raise it.  It is a beautiful child in all but that.  Please take it.  If anyone asks, tell him it was born a week ago.  Please.”  

The older Tane-rapanui gazed at the child, noted the rich weaving of the blankets and nodded.  “I will keep her as I keep all who are brought here.  She will have shelter and food and life.” 

“Make-Make bless you, Mother of those who have none.”  The attendant laid the baby into the other’s arms and then turned and fled.   

“And Make-Make attend you as well, little one,” the broken-winged woman murmured to the baby, turning back into the orphan’s crèche.  

Buck saw swirling visions of the child as it grew up.  The smoke showed the young miru-moruku exploring the caves of the lower city, finding places that no others seemed to know about.  Little blue stones lined the bottom of a discarded jewelry box, along with feathers of the wild ones of the mountain peaks and the clear crystals of the caves.  A stick doll joined those other things when the child grew too old for it.  Tears stained the tiny painted-on smile as the young Tane-rapanui dreamed of a real mother, someone to hold her and cherish her for what she was.  

Buck turned slowly, still holding onto the railing, and faced the assemblage.  He heard the intake of breath and glanced briefly at Hawk.  Hawk knew, even as he knew, even as Arana knew.   Even as all who had the capability of the seeing knew.  “Miru,” Buck called softly.  The girl in the upper section of the chamber sat silent, but the tears glistened in the bluish light of the pit.  “Miru,” Buck repeated, louder.  “Is this a true seeing?” 

“No, it is lies.  It is not true!” Arana cried, but everyone ignored her this time.  Everyone was gazing at Miru, who had stood up.  

“And what of the child you are carrying now, Arana?” Buck cried out accusingly.  The smoke showed a tiny male, barely born, in the queen’s arms.  It, too, was wingless. 

Arana screamed, turned to her consort and slapped him across the face.  

“Even you believe the seeing of a human,” Buck said pointedly, his heart sick at all the death Arana had dealt out in her reign.   Smoke swirled angrily about the upper levels of the chamber showing death in quick succession.  “And what of the other consorts and the three other babies?”  Arana didn’t answer, she fell faint to her throne, her head in her hands. 

“Miru, is it a true seeing?” Ranakatu asked, ignoring the addendum to the human’s vision.  He would deal with the queen later.   

“Yes.  It is true,” Miru said softly.  “But I didn’t know who my mother was.  Truly I had no idea.”  She looked down at Buck.  “How did you know?” 

But Buck was unable to answer.  Smoke wafted about him and he couldn’t help it, he breathed more of it in, watching those assembled in the room blur and waver.  He was seeing more and this seeing was as painful as his first one had been.  He doubled over, and fell to his knees, feeling as though he had been kicked in the stomach.  In his mind and in the smoke above him he saw Tane-rapanui scientists congratulating themselves, flapping wings in victory.  One held up a vial of bluish-green liquid and laughed.  In the darkness of a moonless night, agents of the scientists delivered death.  They crept into the Draconian spaceport and into the research lab.  They added programs for the Draconian scientists to find; something that would spell doom to their human enemies.  Again, the Tane-rapanui congratulated themselves.  This would assure the destruction of their ancestors’ killers.  Nothing would stop death this time.  The smoke kept swirling in cloying puffs, making it even easier for everyone to see the next part of the foreseeing.    Buck saw humans falling, their features contorted in abject pain, screams on their lips.   In the Directorate Headquarters, he saw Dr. Huer crouched on the ground begging for someone to give him something to alleviate the pain or to give him death.  Soon the wind blew through deserted streets of New Chicago, even as they had Buck’s hometown of five hundred years past.  

Then he saw Draconians feeling the same specter of death, with only slight variations.  And then other humanoid races began to succumb.  Hawk ran through corpse-riddled corridors of the Searcher looking for anyone alive, before he, too, fell to the earth, sick and dying.  And in the city of the people, the scientists gazed at one another, shocked, horror in their eyes as, one by one, they, too, began to sicken, fall and die.  The smoke swirled through the chamber as howling wind blew through deserted cities of Buck’s seeing.   The youths on the other side of the pit stopped pushing in the iniru-mata stones and sat back, their eyes wide in fright, watching death in the smoke swirling around them.  

Buck, still doubled over, this time with nausea, heaved but was unable to rid himself of the putrid stench of death that lingered in his mind.  He sobbed and tried to suck in fresh air.  Slowly the smoke dissipated and he felt his lungs clear.  He stood up, still clinging to the rail, unsteady on his feet.  The world around him wavered and spun and it was all he could do to remain upright.  Wilma began to come to his side.  “No!” he said sharply, and then gathered another breath to explain.  “The queen ordered the use of the experimental iniru-mata on me, not the ceremonial.  Don’t come near me.” 

“Buck.”  Wilma stood several feet away.  

“No.  Wait.”  Buck turned to gaze at the elders and all the others who had been watching.  Their eyes were large with fear as they realized the import of the vision.  “Do you realize what you are unleashing with this new form of garox?  Did you think of this?”  He gulped in air.  “IS THIS A TRUE SEEING?” he roared to the assemblage.  Then his body could take no more and he collapsed to the ground, unconscious.  

Ranakatu looked up at the head scientist.  The man had not moved.  “Is this a true seeing?” he asked pointedly, already knowing the answer in his own mind.  He glanced at Mara and noticed the tears tracking down the side of her face.  He looked back at the scientist.  “Did you develop this to mutate and destroy not only humans, but those like humans?” 

The scientist stood up.  “Yes, this is a true seeing.  And yes, we did.  Often we have talked about the threat of the Draconians.  We developed this and created a virus to carry it so that it would spread, unlike the earlier version, which was a simple addictive-to-humans substance.  This was what the scientist Garo-tura was working on.  We did not know that it would evolve to kill all humanoids.”  

“Did you switch the ceremonial iniru-mata with your experimental version as the human believes?” Ranakatu demanded. 

“It was so ordered, but at the last minute, I felt it unwise.  It was not a viable study to do so in this manner,” the scientist explained.  

“You are sure, Telis?” Ranakatu asked.  

“Yes, I brought the experimental serum myself.”  The scientist pulled a vial out of his pocket and held it up, studying it at the same time.  “This is the viral iniru-mata.” 

“Have you provision to destroy it?” 

“I believe we can destroy it,” Telis answered.  Then he looked at the unconscious human on the floor.  The human’s beloved was beside him, cradling his head in her lap.  The rest of the visitors stood nearby.  “Who would have thought that it would be a human that would warn us?” 

“Who indeed?” Ranakatu said.   “Go with the scientist leader and make sure that he destroys all of this drug and the formulae as well,” he said to several trusted warrior guards and an elder.  He turned to the other elders as Telis was leaving the room.  “The vote is for the acceptance or denial of this individual’s request for joining.  What is the consensus?” 

“No!  You cannot let a human do this to the people.  He must be destroyed.   Of all humans, he is the one that must be destroyed,” Arana shouted, her voice shaking with indignation and rage.  

“Silence!  You have lost your right in this assemblage by your irresponsible actions,” Ranakatu cried out, his angry voice causing the floor to shake.  He turned back to the elders.  “What is the vote?” 

Everyone in the room voted the same. 

   

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Wilma knew that momentous things were going on in the chamber, but she was oblivious.  Even before the scientist had said that Buck was not carrying the mutating garox, she was at his side.  It would not have mattered if he had been carrying ten deaths, she could not have stayed away from him.  He lay unmoving at the edge of the pit.  Vaguely, she was aware that someone had opened the balcony window.  Fresh air continued to blow the bluish smoke away.  

Quickly, Wilma turned Buck over and checked for a pulse.  Let him be alive, she kept repeating in her mind.  Let him be alive!  At first she could detect nothing, then she was able to find it.  Faint, slow, but the pulse was there.  Sky Mother kneeled beside them, laying her hand on Buck’s head.  She closed her eyes in concentration.  

After a few moments, she opened her eyes and gazed at Wilma, a smile on her face.  “His body is doing what it must to recover from what it went through.   He will be deeply asleep for a long time.  I will give him the antidote before the iniru-mata has time to fully take hold again.” 

After what she had just witnessed, Wilma couldn’t help but ask, “You mean the iniru-mata didn’t have control of him?” 

“Not like his addiction.  The iniru-mata this time was only allowing Buck a clear sight of his and our past and possible future.”  Sky Mother injected the garox antidote even as she spoke.  “It is hard to explain, but I believe his sensitivity increased because he was actually in the mind of one of the people.  Did you notice how he reacted to changes happening in this room?” 

Puzzled, Wilma could only shake her head ‘no’.  She noticed Hawk and the rest of the group standing nearby.  

“When you went to him to help him, his seeing changed to things that showed the better side of man.” 

“You helped me, too,” Wilma reminded her. 

Sky Mother just smiled.  “And when Arana protested so loudly, the vision changed to Garo-tura.” 

“And the next time it showed how she abandoned Miru!” Wilma said, seeing what Sky Mother was talking about. 

“Yes, and then the ultimate fate of all humanoids if the new iniru-mata was released,” Sky Mother added.   “It was all linked to Arana and somehow, Buck’s seeing was focused on that.” 

“I couldn’t see everything,” Wilma said, sitting quietly, cradling Buck’s upper body on her lap.  “Sometimes it was just smoke.  But I can only imagine what Buck was seeing and how hard it was for him.”  

“Especially with so many empathic beings in the room,” Sky Mother added.  “I know that part of the seeing was Elder Leader’s.  I only tried to magnify what Buck was already seeing.” 

“I did not force any of the seeing,” Ranakatu said softly.  Wilma had not heard his approach and started when he spoke.  “It came with his and I allowed it, feeling it to be Make-Make’s will.  How is he?” 

“Exhausted.  He will sleep for a long time, I think,” Sky Mother repeated for the elder leader.  

“That was dangerous coming with the knowledge that this human carried,” Ranakatu said to the assembled visitors.  He looked around at the confusion.  Some elders were still standing in small groups talking in agitated whispers.  Miru sat in her chair with her head bowed.  “That one, especially, is going to have much to adjust to,” Ranakatu said, nodding in the young birdwoman’s direction. 

“How many wingless babies are born each year?” Hawk asked, gazing at Miru.  “And how many murdered?” 

“That is hard to determine, Hawk . . . Star Warrior,” the Elder Leader said.  “But the miscarriage rate is fairly high among our people.  I now wonder how many are miru-moruku who were killed at birth.”  He saw the looks of horror among the wingless Tane-rapanui.  “It is something we will have to look into and then stop.  Just as we will have to work at finding out why.” 

“Stopping something that horrible has to begin in the mindset of the individual,” Hawk said decisively.  “As long as your people believe that the wingless ones are inferior, then this will continue.”  He thought of what Buck had said about his time with Garo-tura and he remembered his own dreams.  The seeds of prejudice were sown many years ago.  “I had heard the term, miru-moruku in my dreams before we came here, remembered feeling a kind of prejudice in the deep past that resembles what I have seen here.  I wondered what the term miru-moruku meant.  The closest thing I can come up with is witch, or bewitched.” 

Ranakatu nodded.  “Yes, Miru was the name of a netherworld witch/deity in old mythology.  So your assessment of the term is correct.” 

“How cruel it is to give a child a name like that,” Leera commented, her voice soft, but her tone accusing. 

Buck sighed and Ranakatu returned his attention to the human.  “We need to get Captain Rogers to proper quarters where he can be attended to.”  He looked at the others.  “The guest quarters were adequate?” he asked.  

“Yes,” Sky Father said.  

“Good.”  The Elder Leader called to the two young birdmen still lingering by the pit.  

“Boys need help,” Tigerman declared and before anyone could say a thing, he proceeded to pick up the unconscious terran and carry him out of the room.  The two youths stood by, looking helpless.  

“Go with him, just in case he needs you,” Ranakatu said.  Turning to the others, he told them, “I have things that need my attendance.  Too long have I neglected my duties.  You go with your companion.  My beloved will go with you and make sure you have everything you need.  I will come later.”  

Sky Father nodded and the group followed Tigerman and the two young Tane-rapanui out of the chamber. 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-nine
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
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