Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty-three

 

   

“I . . . uh, wanted to speak to both of you,” Miru stammered, not wanting to offend the human whose quarters she was in.  

“What can we do for you?” Wilma asked.  

“I, uh, I….”   She paused suddenly, not knowing what to say. 

Wilma laid a hand on the girl’s arm.  “We’re friends.  Whatever you need to say, we’ll listen.” 

Miru sighed.  “I want to stay on your ship . . . with Hawk.”  She paused again.  “He has become like a . . . brother to me.  I never had a family.”  

Buck sucked in a deep breath, realizing what the companionship of another Tane-rapanui could mean to his friend.  “And Hawk is also without a family, a Tane-rapanui family, anyway,” he said softly.  He looked down at the floor briefly and then back up at Miru.  His voice was husky with emotion.  “I was there when Koori died.  I was one of the reasons that she did die.  And I know how his heart broke that day.” 

“Yes,” Miru said simply, remembering Hawk’s revelations at the Council of Elders.  “He has said very little about his beloved to me.  But I know her.” 

“Know her?” Wilma asked.   

Miru hesitated for a moment.  There was a light of comprehension in Buck’s eyes. 

“Miru, like Wilma said, we are friends, and you know we have seen a great many strange and unexplained things,” he said.  “You don’t have to worry about us not believing what you tell us.” 

Miru nodded and described parts of her dreams.  

Wilma sighed.  The admiral had mentioned Hawk’s request.  And told her how impossible such a request would be to fill.  

“And Hawk needs the companionship of his own kind, just as you do,” Buck said, reiterating what he had said before.  “Probably even more.” 

“Hawk asked the admiral, who cited six reasons why it wasn’t possible,” Wilma said, feeling that Hawk hadn’t confided this problem to Buck, at least not yet.  “And it isn’t that the admiral wasn’t sympathetic, it’s just that it can’t be done.”

Buck looked pensive for a moment and then rubbed his chin in thought. 

Wilma studied him carefully.  “Buck, you are military.  You can’t be seriously entertaining the thought that Miru could stay, are you?” 

Miru looked from speaker to the other.  They had spoken a bit faster than she could follow everything, but she could gather that this was not going well.  

“Yeah, but Wilma, this is not a military ship, this is a scientific and exploration vessel,” he pointed out.  

“But it’s still run in a military fashion and Miru is a civilian.” 

Buck frowned.   He noticed that Miru was getting enough of their conversation that she could tell it was not going well.  She was trying hard to hold back the tears that threatened at the corners of her eyes.  “Miru, do you mind if Wilma and I talk privately?”  He got up.  “You make yourself at home.” 

She could only nod as the humans left the cabin.  Restless, worried, she began wandering through the small room, gazing at all the things Captain Rogers had in little niches.   

Outside, Buck and Wilma walked toward the observation deck.  “How could you even entertain such an idea and lead that poor girl on with false hopes like that, Buck?” she asked.  

Buck stopped and leaned against the bulkhead.  “Because Hawk needs it, Wilma.” 

“That’s not enough,” she replied.  She saw Buck’s stony look and elaborated.  “I don’t mean that Hawk isn’t important.  What I meant is that it isn’t viable enough to allow Miru to stay on board.” 

“Then we have to figure out a viable reason,” Buck said quietly, his voice filled with determination. 

“But there isn’t any,” Wilma said, feeling the futility of the argument. 

“Wilma,” Buck began.  “I didn’t live, work, and breathe military for twelve years to not figure out ways to circumvent a lot of regs.” 

“Even Devlin has been trying to get his wife transferred here with little success,” Wilma said.  

“I heard,” Buck mused.  “And I think the reason is that the request wasn’t handled right.  It would be a waste for Devlin to end up leaving the Searcher.  He is an excellent junior exo.”  He paused a beat.  “And I had heard that his wife had actually looked forward to coming on board and working with Dr. Goodfellow.” 

“Yes, I heard she is a talented biologist, but we don’t have need of one at the moment.” 

“Hmm,” Buck said.  He looked at his watch.  “You go back and entertain Miru.  I have an errand to run.” 

“What do you have up your sleeve?” she asked.  

“Now Wilma, you trust me, don’t you?” 

“Yes, but….” Wilma began. 

“Then don’t you worry about it.”  He kissed her and then turned to go.  “I’ll be back as soon as I have some things worked out.”  He sauntered down the corridor humming a jaunty tune. 

Buck walked into Dr. Goodfellow’s office, and not finding him, went on through the sick bay to the laboratory.  There he found the old scientist, just as he thought he would, working away with his samples, muttering under his breath.  “Whatcha working on, Doc?” Buck asked nonchalantly, knowing full well what Goodfellow was doing. 

“Ah, Buck, my boy,” the old man boomed out.  “Glad you came by.”  He paused a brief nano-second then launched into a detailed explanation.  “I have been able to take samples of blood from all of our Tane-rapanui guests, plus what you and Wilma brought back from Rrilling and am comparing them to Hawk’s.  It’s fascinating, absolutely fascinating, seeing the minute difference in the separate groups of the bird people.”  He glanced back at his equipment.  

“Makes you wish there were more hours in the day, right?” Buck said. 

“Heavens, yes, or a really qualified xeno-biologist,” Dr. Goodfellow replied.  “I thought that with Crichton and a few lab technicians, I would be able to do all this work alone, but it is astonishing just how much there is for a scientist to do on a ship like this.  And how much a dispassionate creation can miss.”  He glanced at a few of his notes.  “Not that I wouldn’t like to do it all alone.  I hate to miss even the smallest little discovery.” 

“I can imagine,” Buck commiserated with the old scientist.  “Why don’t you request one?”

“Well….” 

“I mean if you don’t tell him, the admiral won’t know, will he?”

“Well, yes, that’s true, Buck.”  Goodfellow studied him carefully.  “But the admiral asked me once and I said no.” 

“But as you have said, our scientific finds have more than doubled since we started out,” Buck added.  “When the Searcher hasn’t been called out to take care of crises of one sort or another, that is.”  

“Even those have kept me busy,” the doctor said.   “I don’t have the time to experiment anymore.”  Then he did a double take.  “Ask for a xeno-biologist, eh?” 

“Sure, couldn’t hurt.  Someone with the skills and dedication of a qualified scientist would allow you that time you want for your own experiments.   Just think what you could accomplish if that were the case.  You did come up with that camouflaging device by experimenting, you know.” 

“That is true.”  The old scientist rubbed his chin, peering at Buck carefully.  “And what can I do for you, my boy?  You don’t usually seek me out to simply chat.” 

“That’s because you’ve been so busy lately,” Buck replied with a grin.  “Actually, I need your professional opinion on something.”   Goodfellow nodded.    “I need you to tell me Hawk’s probable state of mind if he continues on the Searcher with only limited contact with his own kind.” 

The scientist thought for a minute.  “I believe, despite having many human friends, that he will become depressed eventually,” Goodfellow answered.  “While I don’t believe he would become suicidal, he will become increasingly unhappy, feel isolated.”  The doctor studied the young man carefully.  “Why do you ask?” 

“Something in the back of my mind, Doc,” Buck replied.   “You able to pull yourself away for a meeting with the admiral tomorrow?” 

“Is it important?” 

“Very important,” Buck said.

“Just call for me and I’ll come,” Goodfellow said. 

“Thanks, Doc.”  Buck left and went back to his own quarters.  Miru was still there, talking with Wilma.  Both looked up expectantly when he came in.  He grinned, gave a thumbs up and said, “Piece of cake.” 

Miru looked puzzled, but understood his happy expression.  “The admiral will let me stay?” 

“Haven’t seen the admiral, Miru,” Buck said.  “And I really can’t guarantee anything, but I believe I have a couple of darned good arguments.” 

Miru looked puzzled and Buck explained in Tane-rapanui.  She smiled softly and nodded.  “Thank you.” 

“It’s getting late,” Wilma said.  “Why don’t I take you back to your quarters and we all go to bed,” she said to the young birdwoman.   She looked meaningfully at Buck.  “Even if I’m dying to know what’s up your sleeve.” 

“Do me a favor and call an executive meeting for tomorrow morning.  “You, me, the admiral and Dr. Goodfellow.”  He turned to Miru.  “Oh, and Miru, don’t say anything to Hawk about our little talk tonight.” 

Miru nodded.  

“Sure, Buck,” Wilma said, giving him a quick kiss before she and Muri left.

 

The next morning, Buck walked into the admiral’s ready room humming a jovial old Earth tune.  Asimov tried to get a clue as to the intent of the meeting, but Wilma hadn’t told him anything when she called the meeting.  Wilma smiled at Buck as he walked in.  They were only awaiting Dr. Goodfellow.  

“Can I assume that you have a damned good reason for this meeting?” the admiral said grumpily.  “I haven’t even had breakfast yet.” 

“Hopefully this will be brief, Admiral and we can all go have breakfast together,” Buck assured him.  

Asimov just grunted. 

“And we can actually begin before Dr. Goodfellow gets here, if you want.  I can give you a bit of background,” Buck added.  But at that moment the old scientist walked into the room.  

Asimov turned to Wilma.  “So what is this all about that you couldn’t even give me a clue last night?” 

Smiling, Wilma pointed to Buck.  “Ask him, it was his idea.” 

Asimov looked at Buck, glanced quickly at who was in the room and suddenly figured he knew what was on his exo’s mind.  “This wouldn’t have something to do with Hawk’s request, would it?” 

“Yes, it would, Admiral, but it wasn’t Hawk that told me, it was Miru.” 

“What?” Asimov asked, surprised.  “And you, familiar with military protocol, are seriously considering the viability of such a request?” 

“Yes, I am,” Buck replied.  “And for several reasons.” 

Asimov frowned, started to say something and stopped when he saw an almost imperceptible shake of his second in command’s head.  “Okay, what are your reasons?” 

“First of all, I am rather curious about something,” Buck began.  Asimov nodded.  “I am wondering about Hawk’s status on the Searcher.  Has he been officially exonerated?  Has there been a commuting of his original sentence or are there still strings attached?”  Buck leaned forward.  “In other words, if he so chose, could Hawk go where he wanted?” 

“You know he could,” Asimov answered.  “That was granted after Kormand’s arrest, when Hawk was considering staying on Mendalis.”  He looked a bit puzzled, wondering where Buck was going with this. 

“That was basically contingent on his intent to stay on Mendalis,” Buck replied.  “I mean is Hawk free if he chooses to leave?” 

“Yes, when he returned to the ship after his escape from Bosk, I asked the Council to consider a complete exoneration in consideration for Hawk’s actions since he came on board the Searcher,” the admiral said.  “I got an answer about the time we reached Bosk, but in all that was going on at the time, I didn’t have time to convey the Council’s decision.” 

“Good, because if we can’t reach some kind of compromise here, we’re going to lose him in the not too distant future.”  Buck took a deep breath.  “And he’s too fine a member of the crew to lose.” 

Asimov sighed.  “I agree, Buck, but what do we do about it?”

Buck turned to Dr. Goodfellow.  “Would you mind repeating what you told me last night, Doc?” 

“Of course, Buck,” and he did so, explaining all the nuances of a thinking entity’s need to have at least a small amount of interaction with others of his own kind. 

“But Hawk has adjusted quite well,” Asimov said when the doctor was finished. 

“Of course he has,” Goodfellow said.  “Because we genuinely care about him and he knows that.  But now that he is aware there are others of his kind, that accentuates his feelings and while he believes this is his home, there is still that yearning for companionship with one’s own kind.” 

Asimov was thoughtful for a moment.  “I am not unsympathetic to Hawk’s dilemma, but I can’t present this to the Directorate and the Council as a reason for giving a civilian permanent status on board the Searcher.  Especially an underage civilian. 

 

 

Chapter Thirty-four
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
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