Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty-four

 

 

“I am a civilian, Admiral,” Goodfellow pointed out.   “And technically, Hawk is a civilian as well, working in a shipboard capacity.” 

“But you and Hawk are here for specific reasons and in special capacities,” Asimov replied.  

“Admiral,” Buck began, feeling the inspiration that comes from desperation.  “There is also the idea that a member of another race wishes to sign on to the Searcher.  This member of the Tane-rapanui, a race that has hated and feared humankind for millennia is willing to join with us to learn about us.  Can you imagine what an opportunity that would be, not only for us, but for the galactic community as a whole?”  He leaned back, more relaxed now.  “And what a coup for the Council.” 

“She wants to be near Hawk,” Asimov grumbled, but still he considered the possibility with growing interest. 

“It doesn’t matter what the ulterior reason is, Admiral,” Wilma interjected, quickly picking up on Buck’s beginning.  “This is a wonderful opportunity to practice what the Council preaches—good will and cooperation among all galactic races.”  She paused to see if her comment was having an effect.  “And consider this, too.  I have seen some mighty strange things in our journeys and even before, but none more interesting than what I have witnessed among the Tane-rapanui.  That they could, by their skills, send one entity into the mind of another, have visions of possible futures, as well as see the past, is truly incredible.  I think Miru also possesses that talent, one that could very well be an asset to our ship and crew.”  She took another breath; now feeling the excitement of a happy ending for Hawk.  “We have to look beyond human feasibility and see what we can do with the rest of the galaxy working side by side.”  Wilma sat back, finished, and amazed at what she had said. 

Buck looked at her and smiled his gratitude before turning back to the admiral.  “If nothing else, we have to negate what people like Erik Kormand have done over the years,” Buck added softly.  

The room stayed quiet for several minutes.  “You have made excellent points, all of you,” Asimov said thoughtfully.  “I will present your arguments and see what the Council and the Directorate say.” 

“Fair enough, Admiral,” responded Buck.  “Oh, and could you not let on to Hawk that we came in and talked to you about this?” 

Asimov nodded.  

Buck got up, pleased with the outcome of the meeting.   “Are we meeting for breakfast?” 

“You three go ahead,” Asimov said, excited about this new idea.  “I want to send in this request before I go eat.”  

Dr. Goodfellow looked ready to burst with questions for Buck, but before he could say anything, the terran patted him on the shoulder and said, “By the way, Doctor, were you going to ask for a qualified biologist?” 

“Oh, yes, yes,” Goodfellow said, turning to Asimov.  “Admiral, I really do need someone with high qualifications who can assist me in my scientific studies. Just too much for one old man to do alone anymore.” 

“I have heard that Devlin’s wife is quite good,” Buck offered, almost nonchalantly.  

Asimov looked at him carefully, but Buck was already escorting Wilma out the door.   

Dr. Goodfellow was following, still wanting to ply the terran with his questions.  “By the way, Captain Rogers, I had been meaning to ask you about your experience in the mind of….” 

“It’s good to have all my officers back,” Asimov muttered good-naturedly.  “Makes life so interesting.”  He called after the old scientist.  “Dr. Goodfellow, please check on Dr. Devlin’s credentials and if you think she is who you need, I’ll sign her application for transfer here.” 

Dr. Goodfellow turned briefly before the door slid shut.  “I’ll do that right away, Admiral.” 

Wilma linked arms with Buck and they walked to the mess hall together, Dr. Goodfellow following right behind, still trying to ask Buck his questions.   “Nice job, Buck,” she murmured. 

“You, too,” he replied with a smile.  

“You must come to my lab and give me all the details that the OEI left out of your report, Buck, my boy,” Goodfellow was saying.  “Oh, and I want to know all about your experience on Rrilling.  That seeing, you know.  Fascinating stuff….”

   

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Two days later, Buck and Wilma met early in the mess hall.  Hawk, Miru and the rest of the Tane-rapanui, along with Tigerman were already eating at a table on the far side of the large room, as was their habit, being more comfortable taking their meals when there were fewer people.  The two terrans picked out their breakfast, walked to a table next to that of the others and sat down.  Miru looked at them, her eyes expectant.  Buck could tell that she was about to have anticipatory cardiac arrest, but he had not heard anything since the meeting with Asimov and couldn’t give her any news.   Instead, he greeted everyone and then started working on his breakfast.  Wilma did the same.  

“Good morning, everyone,” a voice boomed out from nearby.   Everyone looked up to see the admiral sauntering over with his tray.  Glancing at Wilma and Buck, he asked, “There room at this table?” 

“Sure, Admiral, pull up a seat,” Buck said jovially.  He looked at the admiral expectantly, but Asimov wasn’t revealing anything.  

Sitting down with a sigh, he picked up his fork and then noticed several people gazing at him, including Miru.  He smiled broadly.  “I thought you would all like to know that the Directorate and the Galactic Council approved of Miru signing on with the Searcher.  I got word just a half an hour ago. 

Miru couldn’t help it.  She jumped up and wrapped her arms around the admiral’s neck.  “Thank you.  Thank you!” she said before recovering her decorum and sitting back down, blushing.  The admiral was slightly flustered, too. 

Hawk looked surprised, although pleased.  “I thought you said it was impossible.  When did you change your mind, Admiral?” 

Asimov glanced at Buck and then cleared his throat.  “Well, Hawk, I began thinking of some things that might apply in this case and decided to make the request after all.  The Council did say that you and I would have to act as joint guardians since Miru is considered about a year underage according to the custom of your people.”  He turned to Miru.  “Now you are totally sure you want to study on board a ship filled with humans?” 

“Yes, Admiral,” Miru said, her voice steady and sure.  

“Of course, young lady, you do realize that you will have to study hard.  This is a scientific vessel and everyone on it has specific duties and obligations,” the admiral reminded her. 

“Oh, yes, I will study very hard,” Miru said, breathlessly. 

“There will be times when Miru will be on Mendalis, learning from Sky Mother,” Hawk added. 

“Good idea,” the admiral said.  “Broadens the mind to learn from different people.” 

Everybody else at the ‘Tane-rapanui’ table had been following the conversation seemingly unsurprised by the events.  “This will be a good thing for our people,” Sky Mother said in agreement.  “As well as for yours,” she said, looking meaningfully at the humans. 

After the initial excitement died down, the groups chatted amiably together as they continued eating.  Just as the Tane-rapanui were ready to leave and the conversation had waned, Wilma looked at Buck and said sweetly, “Oh, by the way, Buck, the answer is yes.” 

Buck looked blank for about two microseconds, did a double take and then said, “What?  What did you say?” 

“I said yes.  I accept your proposal.” 

Buck sat quietly for a few seconds, a grin crossing his face and then he burst out with a loud yell of happiness. He jumped up, pulling Wilma into a tight embrace and kissed her soundly.  The room had begun to fill with more breakfast goers and it quickly became apparent to them what had happened.  Cheers and clapping erupted throughout the mess hall.  Buck looked around in obvious embarrassment and then became preoccupied as Wilma returned his kiss.   The couple was soon surrounded with well wishers, including Tigerman who gave Wilma an enthusiastic hug and Buck a thumping on the back that took his breath away.  

The admiral sat quietly, watching the festivities, his gaze puzzled.  “When did he propose?” he asked no one in particular.  “No one tells me anything around here.”

 

                        ==============================

 

Two nights later, a quickly put together engagement party was held on the observation deck.  Almost everyone not on duty was in attendance and the mood was nothing short of euphoric.  Even Miru overcame her shyness and was in the crowded room with Hawk, determined to celebrate her acceptance on the Searcher at a human party.  Lt. Ron Dickerson had brought his notebooks and was ready to announce the winner of the “engagement pool.”  Music past and present was ready for the dance and there was food and vinol in abundance.   A courier from New Chicago had arrived that very afternoon with a package for Buck.  Despite everyone’s curiosity, he had not revealed what it was.  

“Who won the pool, Ron?” Devlin called out, almost as happy as Buck and Wilma now that his wife was being transferred to the Searcher.  

“I will have you know, that as I promised, I have not looked in advance to see who the winner is,” the slender young man announced.  Everything quieted down as Ron skimmed through his books.  Buck and Wilma were as curious as the rest, wondering who had made the right guess.  After a few minutes, the young man looked up, his face a mixture of shock and surprise.  His gaze fixed on Buck.  “You told him, right?” 

“Told who, Ron?” Buck asked, puzzled. 

“Twiki.” 

“Twiki?” Buck repeated and then the full impact of what the lieutenant had said hit him and he began laughing.  After a minute, he choked out, “Look at the entry date.” 

“Oh, it’s the right date, all right.  While you two were gone with the expedition,” the embarrassed crewman said, after looking again.  “He bet you would ask the colonel to marry you while you were on Rrilling.” 

The ambu-quad had stumped up beside Buck.  “Congratulations, pal,” Buck said, patting Twiki on the head. 

The robot beeped with pleasure, then added, “Now I can pay you back the money I owe you.” 

Buck laughed again. 

“Let’s dance,” someone else called out. 

“I agree,” Buck said.  “But first things first.”  He pulled out a small, ornately wrapped box out of his pocket and handed it to Wilma.  She looked at it and then at Buck and then began unwrapping.  The room got quiet as she opened the box.   

Wilma gasped in wonder and Buck pulled out a necklace.  The pendant was a teardrop-shaped crillite set in gold.  The bluish-white stone winked, not only from the light in the room, but also from a soft internal glow.  Buck fastened it around her neck and then pulled out a ring, one simply set in gold, it, too, with a medium-sized crillite, surrounded with several smaller ones.  When Buck slipped it on her finger, it seemed to almost come to life with the warmth of her body.  Even he was surprised.  Wilma was speechless, her eyes tear-filled.  

“It reminds me of the zircon ring my mother had,” Buck murmured, his voice tight with emotion.  “That was her birth stone.   She wore out three bands wearing it.”  He paused.  “That’s where the design of the ring came from,” he added. 

“Oh, Buck,” she said softly, tears blurring her eyes.  “It’s beautiful, the design and the stone.  And it will remind me of where we were when you proposed.”  She looked at the stones again and then kissed him soundly.  When she pulled back, she saw that everyone was watching and she looked back at Buck.  “And I hope I wear out three bands wearing this one.” 

“First dance is ours,” Buck said to the near silent group.  Someone began the music, one of a new set of old tunes that Dr. Junius had found and sent to Buck.  “Listen to the lyrics,” he murmured in her ear as he gathered her for the slow dance.  The soft, mellow voice of one long dead flowed through the room....  

 

(To hear the song, click the following link )

 

“It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done

To be so in love with you and so alone

 

Follow me where I go, what I do and who I know

Make it part of you to be a part of me

Follow me up and down all the way and all around. 

Take my hand and say you’ll follow me.

 

It’s long been on my mind

You know it’s been a long, long time

I’ve tried to find the way that I can make you understand

The way I feel about you and just how much I need you

To be there where I can talk to you

When there’s no one else around.

 

Follow me where I go, what I do and who I know

Make it part of you to be a part of me

Follow me up and down, all the way and all around

Take my hand and say you’ll follow me.

 

You see I’d like to share my life with you

And show you things I’ve seen

Places that I’m going to, places where I’ve been

To have you there beside me and never be alone.

And all the time that you’re with me

We will be at home

 

Follow me where I go, what I do and who I know

Make it part of you to be a part of me

Follow me up and down all the way

Take my hand and I will follow you.

   

(“Follow Me,”

Words and music by John Denver)

   

The End

 

 

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