Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

 

Hawk guided his starfighter into the cavernous entrance to the secret world of the Tane-rapanui on Mendalis and then sat quietly for a moment.  His thoughts were jumbled and he had to be clear-minded in this quest.   It was imperative that he talk Sky Mother into coming to Earth with him.   But would she agree to it, and if she did, would the others let her go?  Finally, taking several deep breaths, he slid open the canopy and stood up.   He felt, rather than saw, the presence of Sky Warrior and he knew he was welcome.  I wonder if that welcome will continue when I make my request, he thought with wry irony.   Stepping to the ground, he walked with more assurance than he felt toward the inner chamber that was the meeting place of this group of his people.   There was a certain repugnance in even being in the caves.   The time in the mines of Bosk had left their mark on him, one that would take some time to overcome.  

“Ah, Star Warrior.  Welcome, thrice welcome,” Sky Mother greeted him warmly.  She took him in her arms and he felt an inner welcome to match that of her voice.  Her warm breath on his feathers made him think of Koori, but now was not the time to think of the past.  He had a purpose and he would not abandon that purpose. 

“Sky Mother, I am here on a most urgent matter,” he said without preamble.  

“I thought you were, my son,” she murmured, only backing away enough to gaze deeply into his dark eyes.   There was silence for perhaps several heartbeats and then she sighed.  “It is Buck, is it not?” she asked.  “I feel pain in your soul, for him and for yourself.” 

“Have you heard of a drug called garox?” Hawk asked. 

Sky Mother shook her head.  “Describe it to me and perhaps I might understand it under another name.” 

Hawk gave the details of their time in the mines and even more details of the drug and its effect on humans. 

She mentally shuddered.  Indeed, her soul was aware of such possibilities.  “I have heard rumors of such things, Star Warrior, but did not know that a drug like that actually existed.”  She sighed.  “Do you believe that I can do the same thing I did when Buck was injured?”

“It was Buck, himself, who suggested it.  I was able to help him for a small amount of time when we escaped from the mines.  He thought you might be able….” 

“Can you bring him here?” Sky Warrior asked. 

“No, Buck has refused to take any more of the drug, despite the fact that no human has ever broken a garox addiction.  He is dying.  The residue of drug in his system is causing his body to rebel and fight against itself.   The Earth doctors have tried several things.  They have only succeeded in delaying the inevitable.  Buck is too ill to travel.” 

“He is on Earth,” Sky Father said, his voice emotionless.

“Yes, he is,” Hawk replied softly. 

“I would need to go to Earth,” Sky Mother said simply.

“No!” Sky Father cried out.  “That cannot happen.  No!  One of our people going to the home that we were once hunted on and eventually forced to flee from?”

“Peace, Sky Father,” Sky Mother said soothingly, her hand touching his cheek lightly.  She turned back to Hawk.  “Let my mate and I confer in private.  Please wait here.  I realize the urgency and will not be long with my answer.”

Hawk nodded, bowing slightly as the matriarch turned and left the room. 

Sky Warrior cocked his head and gazed meaningfully at his off-world counterpart.   “I think you ask too much this time, Star Warrior.  We brought a human into our clan, we learned to make him a part of us, to think that, perhaps there are some redeeming qualities in humans, but this?  To take our clan mother, our healer from us.  To trust those on Earth to treat her with deference is asking too much.  They do not even treat their own land with any kind of deference.” 

“Perhaps this is part of the re-unification, the healing between species that Sky Mother has mentioned in the past,” Hawk suggested.  

“Too much to ask, too soon,” Sky Warrior retorted, but his voice also held a note of understanding.  

Hawk felt an agonizing pain in his heart, but he knew that Sky Warrior was right.   It was too much to ask.  He remembered how he felt the first time he had gone to Earth on the Searcher.  He had watched the blue and brown orb in his view screen with disgust and anger, tinged with curiosity.  It was only his loyalty to his new friends then that had allowed him to even fly close to the home of his ancestors’ misery and pain.   And when he had first set foot on Earth . . . it had taken a great deal of willpower not to immediately turn, climb into his starfighter and fly back into space.  Then he had paused and felt.  There was something that stirred his soul.  Not just with anger, nor with revulsion, but with something that drew him.  It was as though something ancient was calling him, but he didn’t exactly know where to look.   Dr. Goodfellow’s Easter Islands?    He had not had the chance to check that out, but Hawk had begun to feel the land, feel it in ways that his human friends, who had been born on Earth could not.  He smelled, touched and tasted the wind currents, felt the heartbeat of the rocks and earth below him.  Hawk was touched by something that he could only best describe as the soul of the land, the auras of those who had lived and died on Earth for millennia, for the globe itself.  

Surely Sky Mother, if she could be persuaded to come to Earth, would feel that, too.  But he looked at Sky Warrior, thought of the years hidden from hostile eyes, and knew that he had been wrong to come.  He looked meaningfully at Sky Warrior, “You are right, I am asking too much.  I will leave.  I wish to be with my friend when he leaves this realm.” 

“Star Warrior,” Sky Father said softly from the corridor that led to his and Sky Mother’s home.  “I will not let Sky Mother come with you to Earth.” 

Even though he knew the answer, Hawk felt compelled to appeal one more time.  “Even if I guard her with my life?” 

“No, Star Warrior.” 

“It is only as I realized, Sky Father,” Hawk said sadly.  “I was presumptuous to even ask.” 

“I will not let Sky Mother come with you to Earth unless I come with her,” the old patriarch added. 

Hawk said nothing for a moment; his surprise was so complete.  Sky Warrior started to say something but Sky Father held up his hand to hold off the younger man’s objections. 

“It will be a hard thing to come to the planet where our ancestors were threatened with extinction,” Sky Father continued. 

“Yes, it was for me.   But there was something there, something I felt.  I hope you feel it, too.” 

“Mainly, I hope we can help Buck Rogers,” Sky Mother reminded him. 

“Of course, Sky Mother,” Hawk said, embarrassed.   

“We should go, my son.” 

“Yes, it will be crowded for you both in the back, and it will take some hours, even using the stargates.” 

“It has been many years since I sat in the lap of my beloved mate,” Sky Mother said, a touch of humor in her voice.  “Let me get my medicines and we will go.” 

Hawk could only nod, his heart was so filled with gratitude.  

 

 

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

 

 

“You ready?” Wilma asked Buck.

“Yeah,” he replied with a soft smile.  “But you know you are taking advantage of me.” 

Puzzled, Wilma asked, “How is that?” 

“You have me flat on my back, paralyzed, and half brain-dead,” came the reply. 

Wilma’s mouth quirked into a smile.  “Doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me.  I’ll remember that on our wedding night.” 

Sighing, Buck gazed at the ceiling for a moment.  

She sobered quickly, regretting her remark.  While she continued to believe something would break through this drug, she knew that Buck didn’t share her optimism.  “Buck, the doctors will find something.  You have to believe that.  I do.”

With another sigh, Buck gazed at her again.  “Let’s see what you have to offer me.”

“All right.  Here goes.”  She peered at one page and then turned to another.  “ ‘They loved to be oiled, lying on their backs, their wings spread for balance, curled around her hand as she spread oil on their softer belly hide.’ ”  Wilma looked a bit perplexed.  “At first I thought these were birds, but birds have feathers.” 

Buck was thinking intently, trying to ignore the lethargy.  What Wilma had read sounded very familiar, but he couldn’t quite figure out where the passage was from.   “You’re going to have to give me more than that, Wilma.” 

“ ‘They hummed with delight at the attention, and when she had finished each one, the creature would stroke her cheek with its small triangular head, the glistening eyes sparkling with brilliant colors.’ ” 

“Damn, I know that; just can’t place a name on it,” Buck said, his brow furrowed in thought.  

“But what are these creatures?” 

“Read on.” 

“ ‘She was beginning to find . . .’ um, hard to read this word . . . ‘individual traits among her nine charges.   The little queen was exactly as she should be: into everything, bossing everyone else, as imperious and demanding as a Sea Holder.’ ”  

Wilma was even more puzzled.  She knew this was fiction, but what kind of creature did the author write about? 

Buck grinned.  “You apparently didn’t pay attention to the title.” 

“It was faded out and I wanted to be surprised, too.”  She gazed at him in amusement.  “But you obviously know.” 

“Dragons, or rather fire-lizards.  One of the Dragonriders of Pern books.  Uh, the one about the girl, what was her name?” 

Wilma looked further down the page. “Menolly.” 

“Yeah.  Great books, all of them.  McCaffrey.” 

“Evidently this is what Dr. Junius called fantasy.  There are, or were, no such things as dragons on Earth.” 

“Not fantasy, exactly, but it was vivid enough to stir my imagination.  I think it was then that I decided I wanted to fly,” Buck reminisced.   “And this story was not on Earth but another planet.  It’s science-fiction.” 

“And there was more than one of these books about dragons or lizards?”  

“Yeah.  Can’t think of the titles right now.  You ought to have Dr. Junius look for the others.  But I know you would like this one.”  Buck yawned.  

“I’ll mark this place to read when you are more awake,” Wilma said. 

“No, go to the beginning, if you can, and start there,” he replied.  “And if I fall asleep, that’s okay.”  He blinked, trying hard to stay awake.  “I like to hear the sound of your voice.” 

Wilma blushed slightly, but she did as she was asked.   Over the next two hours, she read aloud, even while Buck slept.   He seemed to sleep better and when he was awake, he appeared to be more alert.   And it was during those times that she also discussed the story with him.  It was something she had never considered doing before, but if the circumstances had been different, Wilma would have thoroughly enjoyed this kind of sharing with Buck.   Reading these old books seemed to open Buck up to his past in ways that he was comfortable talking about. 

But after reading off and on throughout the night, she noticed that Buck stayed awake for shorter and shorter times.  He seemed more lethargic and groggy when he was awake.  She continued to read, but found it hard to concentrate, worrying about Buck.  When he fell asleep again, she put the dragon book down and looked at the others.

“Colonel?” 

Wilma looked up and saw Doctor Carlock approaching.  “Doctor, have you found anything?” 

He shook his head.  “Colonel, can we step out to talk?”  She nodded and they left the room.  He took a deep breath.  “I have several scientists and half of the medical council working as fast as possible.  I do know that what you are doing is helping.” 

“But not enough,” Wilma said flatly. 

“No.  We just can’t get a handle on what is causing the drug to continue to be so virulent in his body.  That it’s an alien concocted substance, is evident, but the exact way it affects the human body, we can’t pinpoint.” 

“How long does he have?” Wilma asked, wondering if it was cruel to do things that would prolong Buck’s suffering. 

“I don’t know that either.  So far, Captain Rogers has lived longer through withdrawals than any other garox-addicted human that I know of,” Carlock said.  “I would consider asking him to take a dose to give us more data to study and more time to study, if I thought he would agree.  But that was one thing he was most adamant about.  Wouldn’t even consider it when I last suggested it.” 

Wilma nodded.  “Is there any need to continue coaxing Buck to fight this?” 

“Yes, Colonel.  We have to keep looking for the cure.  We have to.  There are over one hundred men in the Bosk mines, plus whatever number of garox-addicted men might be in the other prison/mines that this company runs.  There has to be something for them to hope for.” 

“All right, Doctor.  But he seems to be getting worse.” 

“I know.  That was why I came to talk to you,” Carlock replied.  “And to tell you we are doing the best we can.  We aren’t giving up.” 

“Thank you,” she murmured and turned back toward Buck’s room. 

 

 

Chapter Seven
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
Main Page