Freedom's Wings

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

 

“Colonel Deering, why don’t you go and rest for a couple of hours.  Or at the very least, let us bring in a more comfortable chair so you can get a few minutes sleep.  You look exhausted,” Doctor Carlock suggested.  “There are a couple of Captain Rogers’ friends who would be happy to take your place while you rest.”  He pointed to Twiki.  Dr. Theopolis was hanging around his neck.  

“We would be happy to stay with Buck for a while, Colonel,” Theo said.  

Wilma nodded.  “For a short while.  I want to go out just long enough to clear the kinks out of my body and the cobwebs out of my head.” 

“Sure thing, Wilma,” Twiki said.  He stumped toward Buck’s bed.  

“Twiki, hold the book up to my optical sensors.  I would like to read it,” Theo said.  “The doctor said that it helped a little bit.”  

“Sure thing, doc, but still say that Hawk and his healer friend would stand a better chance,” Twiki said.  

“Perhaps, but they aren’t here,” Theo replied.  

Twiki complied and Theo began reading.  Twiki interrupted him.  “Whoever heard of a talking frog and toad?” he asked.  

“I have,” Buck murmured.   He gazed at his friends lethargically.  “Sounds like a story I read . . . in class when I was a kid.” 

Twiki turned the book around.  Frog and Toad All Year,” he said.  

Buck smiled.  “Yeah.  Remember that one.” 

“Buck,” Theo began.  “The doctors said that they could help you better if….” 

“I will not take any more of that damned drug!” he said in a harsh voice. 

“Even for Wilma?” 

“Wilma?” Buck blinked, trying to fully wake up.  Then he sighed.  “Theo, I can’t add this burden to her.”  He paused, forcing himself to stay awake, to think.  “I can’t ask her to live that way.” 

“I somehow don’t think she’d mind all that much,” Theo said. 

“But I do!” Buck said, almost shouting.  “I do,” he added more softly. 

Theo was desperate, even as he had been before.  This time, however, he felt he had some control over the situation.  “Buck, has it been pointed out to you that this research, your ordeal, would also help other men in the same situation as you?  Men from the mines of Bosk and from other mines as well?   You cannot be the only one who hates the addiction this much.” 

Buck mustered up enough energy to glare at Theo.  All he was interested in was sleep—forever, if possible.  He didn’t want to think, and yet, that is what he had done off and on since Dr. Carlock and Dr. Huer had mentioned the same thing.  “Yeah, it’s been pointed out to me.  Several times.”  He blinked, trying to stay awake.   He thought of the men he had left behind when he had abdicated his position on Bosk and he felt renewed guilt.  Some had been perfectly content to live with their daily dose of garox and its attendant baggage, but some had been like him, willing for death rather than life with such a thing.  With a sigh, he murmured, “Okay, you win.  Get Dr. Carlock.” 

In the next moment, it was apparent to the two robots that Buck had fallen back to sleep.  Theo called for the doctor. 

 

 

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When Hawk had settled the pair into the back of his fighter, he carefully eased out of the natural launch bay and then took the ship straight up through the stratosphere and into space.  Awed gasps from behind him told Hawk that his passengers, while probably a bit fearful, were still enjoying the spectacle.    

“Are you comfortable enough?” he asked.  

“Yes, Star Warrior,” Sky Mother replied.  “It is beautiful.  Almost like what I dream flying must have been like for our ancestors.”  

“I hope we can all use the quasi-wings while you are on Earth.  I find that even more fulfilling,” he said.   “Please be aware that going through a stargate for the first time may make you feel a bit strange, even queasy.  I will warn you before we actually enter one.”

“Thank you, Hawk,” Sky Father murmured. 

Several stargates later, they approached Earth, at once repellent and compelling.  “I am going to contact the Defense Directorate and then we should be able to land.” 

“So this is the home of our ancestors,” Sky Mother said softly. 

“Yes, Sky Mother,” Hawk answered.   He worked the controls of his communicator.  “New Chicago, this is Hawk, of the exploration vessel, Searcher, requesting permission to land, priority status one.”

“Hawk, you are cleared to land, hangar four- zero- two.  Dr. Huer will meet you and escort you to the medical facility,” a young female voice replied.  “Computer coordinates are being sent to you as we speak.”

“Thank you, New Chicago.” 

Within minutes, Hawk eased the craft to a landing in the designated berth, gratified to see Dr. Huer and Twiki just beyond the landing bay.  He popped the canopy and stepped out of his seat, turning back to help Sky Mother.  Dr. Huer approached, Twiki, with Dr. Theopolis just behind him.  Gingerly, Sky Mother stepped along the wing of the craft and then let Hawk lift her to the ground.  After he had helped Sky Father down, he turned, and found Dr. Huer almost at his shoulder.  The human gazed directly into Sky Mother’s eyes, his look one of deference and respect.  Hawk was grateful for the doctor’s actions.

“You must be the healer from Mendalis.  Hawk has told me of you,” Huer said.  He bowed to her.  “Welcome to Earth, Sky Mother.”  He turned to Sky Father, his gaze questioning.  “And also to you….”

“Dr. Huer, this is Sky Mother’s husband.  His title is Sky Father.” 

Huer bowed to Sky Father.  “Please, welcome,” he said formally and then his demeanor changed to one of anxiety.   “I . . . uh, I apologize, but if you will come with me, please.” 

“There is no need to apologize, Dr. Huer.  We understand the reason for our presence here,” Sky Mother said, reassuringly.  “Please, how is Buck?” 

“He has gotten worse.  Only very short moments of lucidity.  The doctors have gathered a great deal of data, but they do not feel they can analyze and use it in time to save Buck,” he paused, his eyes showing intense anguish.  “I hope you can do something for him,” Huer said, then he stopped.  He couldn’t say anymore.  He turned and led the way down the hall. 

Sky Mother studied the man leading them.  She felt his sadness and it augmented her own.  She knew that part of that sadness was not just the condition of Buck Rogers; it had to do with the planet as a whole.  She felt the anguish of many generations of humans and the pain and anguish of her own ancestors.  It was almost overwhelming, but she had to force those things out of her mind.  It was imperative to be able to clear her mind to help her clan’s member-by-adoption.   As they walked down the corridor, Sky Mother, gazed at the walls, the ceiling and the floor, noting the bright austerity of the passageway.  Soon they passed through sliding doors and into a room filled with machinery that clicked, whispered and chirped.  And she was appalled when she saw Buck.  Despite the coolness of the room, his face was drenched with sweat and he was as pale as the pillow he was laying on.  Wilma Deering was next to him, holding his hand in one of hers and wiping his forehead with a dampened cloth.  

She looked up, and when she saw the group, visibly brightened.  “Thank God,” she said fervently.  

Sky Mother walked up to the bed and took Buck’s other hand.  Wilma deferentially stepped back.  “The treatment….   There is something that is keeping his senses suppressed,” Sky Mother stated. 

“Yes,” another voice said.  When Sky Mother and Sky Father looked at him, he went on. “I am Doctor Carlock.  I am the physician in charge of Captain Rogers’ care.  We purposefully blocked the central nervous system so that the garox would have a lesser effect.  It also served to alleviate the captain’s pain.” 

She nodded.  “That will have to be undone if I am to do anything for Captain Rogers,” Sky Mother said.  

“But that could be devastating to him.  It could kill him,” the doctor said.  

“He is dying anyway,” she said simply.  “My husband and I work with the whole body, Doctor.  Captain Rogers has to be able to feel our touch as well as hear our voices.  And we have to be able to feel what is happening within his body.  That is impossible if the feelings, the messages are suppressed.”  She paused and looked down at the sick human.   There was something that told her that what Buck contained within him would reveal itself to her if he could only awaken enough to respond to her and Creelis, her beloved.   “I think we can overcome the problem of pain, but you will need to do what I have asked, or there is no need for me to do anything but wish Buck a safe journey to the other realm.” 

Doctor Carlock looked at her and then at Dr. Huer. 

“Just before you arrived, Buck finally agreed to take another dose,” Theo said simply.  “I was coming to tell you when Hawk arrived.” 

The Directorate leader only nodded.  

“Good,” Dr. Carlock said simply.  He walked over to a computer and began typing.  Soon Sky Mother felt the human’s hand trembling and she became aware of his pain, but she became aware of something else as well.  This drug did more than cause the user pain.  There was something deeper.  Something she felt it would take all of them to find.     “Sky Father, it is time.  Star Warrior, I believe we will need your help as well,” she said, motioning for each of the Tane-rapanui men to the bedside.  She laid her hands on Buck’s head and concentrated on breaking through the deep sleep that he was in.  Hawk and Sky Father each took one of the human’s hands in their own.  Beginning softly, she sang the healer’s song of comfort and continued until she saw Buck’s eyes slowly open.  

He blinked several times, and took a shuddering breath.   “Sky Mother,” he whispered.  “You came.” 

“Yes.  I came, as did Sky Father.”  

He looked around, saw the people around his bed and then stared at the ceiling.  He bit his lip, trying to suppress the increasing pain, but even more, he tried to contain the despair.  It was too much.  He couldn’t deal with it in anymore.  The blackness that he had kept at bay for these past months enveloped him.  He looked at Wilma, trying with his eyes to get her to understand.  “I tried,” Buck whispered, a tear tracking down the side of his face.  “I really did.”  He sighed and then screamed as red-hot pain lanced through his body.    “Fire . . . oh, God!  It hurts!  Just let….” 

“We are going to try to do more than block the pain, Buck,” Sky Mother said softly, but distinctly, interrupting what she knew he had been about to say.  She could not help a patient that had given up.  “We are going to try to look inside and find out why this drug is continuing to affect your body and how it is doing it.” 

Buck shuddered and then gazed deeply into her eyes, saw her concern and determination and nodded.  “Sorry . . . don’t mean . . . to be so . . . such a baby.” 

“You are not, my son.  You have done very well.”  She paused.   “You are going to help us.  It is very important that you listen closely to everything we say, even the notes of the songs.  You must be aware of the touch of our hands.  And do not look away from my eyes.”  She paused while Buck was trying to assimilate her instructions.   “Do you think you can do this?” 

“I . . . I will try.” 

“No, Buck, you will do it.  You must do it.” 

He looked again in her eyes; saw belief in his abilities in them.  He caught Wilma gazing lovingly at him; saw the same belief.  Pain, like waves on the shore, pounded incessantly, but he was able to push it back enough to answer.  “Yes, Sky Mother.”    He gazed at each of the bird people in turn, even as they were willing the pain away, and whispered, “One request . . . please . . . then do it.” 

Hawk nodded, as did Sky Father.  They backed away from the bed.   Sky Mother kept one hand on his head, softly singing. 

“Wilma,” Buck beckoned softly.   She walked to his side, her eyes tear-filled.  He took one hand in his and pulled her closer to him.  His other hand reached behind her head, his fingers feeling the soft locks of her hair.  He pulled her close to him and then kissed her, long and deep, his lips caressing her and then traveling to her neck, where he not only felt the warmth of her skin, but the life pulse throbbing in tandem to the rapid beating of his own heart.   Pain could be ignored, thanks to Sky Mother’s efforts, but Buck knew she couldn’t keep it up forever.  He released Wilma and whispered, “I love you.”

She smiled softly.  “I love you, too.  You beat this, do you hear me?” 

He nodded, even as Sky Father and Hawk returned to his side.  

“The garox,” Sky Mother began.  “It must be administered now in order for us to follow its path through your body.” 

Buck nodded, remembering that he had already come to that decision just before the bird woman’s arrival.  

“Listen carefully, Buck Rogers,” Sky Mother said.  “Concentrate on my face, my words, my eyes.”  

Buck said nothing, only doing what he was asked.  And as the garox surged relentlessly through his veins, he listened to the cadence of Sky Mother’s voice, to the feel of Hawk’s and Sky Father’s strong grip on his hands.  He felt the beat of his own heart, the flow of the drug through his body.  He was conscious of a vortex of dark and light, pulling him farther and farther away from that which was familiar.  The light grew smaller and smaller, while the darkness was like an abyss yawning wide.  Buck continued to lock his gaze onto Sky Mother’s eyes, but she seemed to be moving away from him. Still he felt the hands of the Tane-rapanui; still he heard the voices.  They echoed as though in a tunnel, the ebb and flow like the booming surf.  

Then something soft broke through the maelstrom.  “Go with the garox.  Follow it, my son.  We will help you back when it is time to return.  Go now.” 

And he did, following the dark path into oblivion.

 

 

Chapter Eight
Chapter One
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