Freedom's Wings

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

 

The woman began showing evidence of withdrawals.  She was trembling and her eyes bored into his, pleading.  Buck also saw self-loathing in them, and fear and despair.  They were mirrors of his own eyes.  Anger seethed just below the surface, threatening to displace his careful façade of Draconian scientific interest.  

“How long has the young female gone?” Garo-tura asked.  

“Exactly one solar cycle.  Shorter by one half-length from yesterday,” the other birdman said.  

Garo-tura, as well as Buck watched for a while as the girl began exhibiting more signs of withdrawals.  Finally, turning away, much to Buck’s relief, the birdman took him through the laboratory, showing off the facilities.  Buck tried to identify chemicals, but not only was his expertise not biochemistry, but some of the ingredients were totally foreign to him.  Even as he was getting the tour, though, Buck was thinking of the human prisoners, especially the girl.  <Where did you get the human prisoners?> he asked.  

From Earth, of course.  I sent a ship and gathered them quite easily.

Buck felt suspicion and he tried to guard his thoughts more carefully.  Garo-tura returned to the incarcerated humans and stood watching again.  The girl was shaking uncontrollably, alternately pleading and cursing.  Her speech, as well as Garo-tura’s comments made him aware that this woman was indeed from his own time.  Pre-holocaust.  Buck felt empathic despair growing and he didn’t know how long he would be able to control his feelings and thoughts.  The young woman cried out in her pain and Buck had to continue watching.  Finally the assistant gave her a dosage of garox and she sank into the corner crying in relief and despair.  

Buck tried desperately for control, but knew he hadn’t when Garo-tura ‘spoke’ next.  At least if I was to be violated by a human, I could count pleasure in that human’s discomfort.  

Buck felt satisfaction in the birdman’s thoughts and it fueled his own anger and frustration.  He tried to shove it aside as he answered.  <You never answered my previous question, Garo-tura.> 

Buck felt a bit of surprise in the birdman’s thoughts.  What question?

<The one about how six of your own people would react if they were subjected to something similar.>  

My people are strong!!  They have been tempered in misery, adversity and pain!  

<You think you have the corner on the misery, adversity or pain market?> Buck asked pointedly, trying to reign in his thoughts.  

Your people tried to destroy my people.  We only survived because we fled!  

<And because you’re tough, too.  But what gives you the right to seek revenge on people over a millennia removed from the ancestors that committed the crime?>  

It is our revenge right!  Garo-tura was trembling and the technician was gazing at him curiously.  “Go away!  I will deal with the humans.”  The tech went quickly.  

The human woman was now staring at him, too.  Her expression was controlled and Buck couldn’t tell what was in her mind, although he could guess.   <How would you feel if that was Ava-iki in there?> Buck asked, changing tracks.  He felt the intense pain of losing Wilma, as well as all he held dear and close.   And the pain was laced with righteous indignation at the one responsible for that loss, the one whose mind he inhabited. 

I would kill those who put her there!  The anger inside the birdman’s mind was like a blazing fire and Buck mentally cringed.  

<Exactly, as would be your right.>  Buck paused.  

What does my beloved have to do with what humans did to my people?  

<Everything and nothing, Garo-tura,> Buck said.  <You would have right of revenge—justice against those who harmed your beloved.  But what kind of revenge is there against those who have no knowledge of a crime?>  

That is of no consequence to me, human!  Your race did the crime and they will pay!  

<I have revenge rights against you, Garo-tura,> Buck said simply.  He felt confusion in the birdman’s mind.  There was also slight fear, which then became anger and indignation. 

Why would you have revenge rights against me?  I have done nothing to you.  He gazed at the humans in their cages.  Or is it because of these? he asked.  

Buck could feel the various queries in the birdman’s mind.  <No, it is personal.>  Buck let the thought hang for a moment.  <I have no ability to influence you physically or I would make you take a gun and put all of these poor souls out of their misery,> he added bitterly. 

Garo-tura laughed aloud and the humans in the cage turned their attention to him briefly.  He saw fear mixed with a variety of other similar emotions.  Make-Make knew how much he loathed humankind and how he had dedicated himself to their destruction.  He would rid the galaxy of them and then the ancestral home would be open to the Tane-rapanui.  And he had one in his mind.   They had to know of the experiments.  That would be the only reason that a human from the future was here, now, in his mind.  They were trying to obtain his secrets, trying to either prevent him from developing the iniru-mata to infect humans, or to find a way to break it in whatever future the humans had.   That it had not annihilated the human race by the time the invader in his mind was born was a blow to him, and strengthened Garo-tura’s resolve to make it more virulent than it already was.  But first there was the problem of the human in his mind.  Until he could get rid of him….  But he had to get rid of this human.  He could not let this foul parasite get the means to stop him.  Even if Garo-tura had to die to get rid of this spy, he would do it.

A younger Tane-rapanui came into the room.  “Sir, we are having problems with the experiments in the main lab,” he said, thrusting a chart toward Garo-tura.  “There is interaction with the human cell structure, but it will not mutate into something communicable.  We feel that such a thing is impossible.”

Buck took in the information in horror.  That Garo-tura was creating something plague-like was a new twist in this mystery.  He knew the birdman picked up his reactions.  Quickly, Buck tried to study the molecular, cellular diagram, cursing his inattentiveness in chemistry class. 

Garo-tura reacted violently, thrusting the chart and his subordinate away.  “There is a way!   I know it!” Garo-tura shouted. 

Buck saw snippets of formulae coming through his host’s anger, but apparently, the birdman was much more adept at hiding thoughts than he had thought he was.  But that Garo-tura knew what he was talking about was very apparent.  If such a thing was to be developed….   For something as devastating as garox to be communicable was too horrible for Buck to even totally comprehend.  He had to stop the Tane-rapanui from attaining his goals.  Already Garo-tura had indicated that he would commit suicide to prevent Buck from learning his secrets.  Perhaps that was the key.  <I claim revenge rights, Garo-tura,> Buck repeated.  <And my revenge is in the flourishing of the human race throughout the galaxy.  Your drug has not won.  It has taken humans like me, but you have not won.  And now I am going to obtain the means to break it.>

Garo-tura pushed past the startled assistant and then rushed into the corridor toward his dwelling place.  Ava-iki looked up, startled, as he walked toward her.  He gathered her in his arms and kissed her. 

Then Buck felt guilt, understanding that this chain of events was impacting more than himself and some of his fellow humans.  There had to be another way.    <No, Garo-tura.  This is not a solution!>

Garo-tura kissed her again and released her.  He dashed down the corridor to the balcony and leaped off, Ava-iki’s voice trailing behind him. 

Then it dawned on him, this was the past, there was no communicable garox, no plagues.  It had never been developed.  Was it because Garo-tura died or because, as the technician reported, it was impossible?   Regardless, it hadn’t happened and Buck didn’t want anyone’s blood on his hands.  Not this way.  <Garo-tura, the future is already set.  You don’t have to do this!  Soon I will be gone and then you can be alone with Ava-iki.>    The ground hurtled toward him. 

No, you are going to die with me, human.  And that will be my revenge rights on you!  Even if only a few humans die from my invention, that is enough.  Ava-iki will understand.

It was useless.  <Sky Mother, if you’re going to do something, do it now!> Buck cried out in his mind. 

Garo-tura realized just who Buck was probably referring to and surprise mingled with the resolve and anger.  Still he plunged, faster and faster.  The ground rose up to meet both of them and then Buck knew blackness.

 

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

 

“Now!” Sky Mother called out urgently.  “He must come back now!”  She quickly beckoned to Wilma.  “Take his hand.”  She did as ordered, her eyes anxious.  Sky Father laid his hands over those of his beloved. 

Sky Mother closed her eyes and began singing a song of return.  “Will him back, Wilma.  Call him,” Hawk instructed.  Then he, too, closed his eyes and added his voice to that of Sky Mother and Sky Father.  They sang and Wilma called, mostly in her mind, but sometimes she found herself calling out loud.  She held his hand tightly, willing life back into the still form.  Buck, oh, Buck, she called out in her mind.  “Buck Rogers, don’t you dare leave now!”

The singing, the beckoning seemed to go on forever in Wilma’s mind, but finally she felt his fingers flex and then grip her hand before going limp again.  Buck murmured something, almost a whisper, and Wilma leaned forward to hear, “…..Better that one man should . . . perish than . . . nation should….”

Sky Mother smiled and then stepped back.  “The journey is over.  He has returned.”

Wilma was still holding Buck’s hand.  His eyes opened and he looked at each person in the room, his gaze lingering on Wilma for a moment.  “Need OEI.  Think I have something.”  There was sadness in the hazel depths and Wilma wondered what had happened.  It was to Hawk that he spoke next, though, “I’m sorry.”  Then he closed his eyes and slept.

 

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

 

Hawk sat watching the OEI screen, incredulous that a group of his people, those with wings, were still alive somewhere, and that his friend, a human, had experienced that kind of flight.  For however short it was.   Flight under one’s own power.  Hawk felt a stab of envy.  He had dreamed of free flight, all of his people had, but that a human had achieved it, even under such conditions, seemed ironically incredible to imagine. 

With a sigh, Hawk pushed such thoughts from his mind.  That it had been his own people who had invented this drug bothered him, partly because of what it had done to his friend, but also because of what his reaction would have been a scant two years ago.   He continued to watch the events on the OEI screen, waiting patiently when the doctors had stopped Buck to ask for more details and to ask them to translate.  It was tedious and Hawk could see the toll it was taking on his friend, but apparently there was some good information judging from the reactions of the doctors and scientists in the room. 

When the memories were done and the lights were turned back on, Hawk was stunned at Garo-tura’s end.  Buck sat unmoving, his eyes closed.  Dr. Carlock went over to the terran, checking him.  Hawk quietly got up and walked from the room.  Sky Mother and Sky Father accompanied him.  “They will more than likely ask for more translation of some of that.  I would not blame you if you said no,” Hawk said.  “I would not blame you if you wanted to return to Mendalis now.”

“What makes you sad, my son?” Sky Mother asked. 

Somehow, Hawk felt she already knew what was bothering him, but it was hard for him to put his feelings into words and he said so.

She nodded.  “Is it the fact that your friend helped, even in a small way, in the death of one of our own people?” she asked.  “One who dearly loved his wife?”

“Or that there are more of our people; Tane-rapanui who have winged flight?” Sky Father prompted. 

“Buck is like a brother to me,” Hawk began.  “But I cannot deny that I am envious.  He, a human, knows the feel of real flight.”

Sky Mother said nothing, only laying her hand on the warrior’s arm. 

“And yes, I felt anger at his goading of Garo-tura,” Hawk added.  “Small though it was; and even though I realize what this kinsman of ours was going to do to Buck’s people.”

“And there is shame that our own would do such a thing?”

“I felt warring emotions,” Hawk said.  “I understood Garo-tura’s hate.”

“Yes, I know, Star Warrior.  We have all felt that hate.  It has eaten up our people for centuries,” Sky Mother said.  

“What is to be done about it?” Hawk asked.  He felt as though the emotions were choking his heart.  “We cannot forget the past as apparently the humans have done.”

“No, we do not forget our past, but somehow we must rise above it and forge a future,” Sky Father said gently.  “Do you doubt what you have already done?”

“Do you mean among humans?” Hawk asked.  “No, I do not, but sometimes it is hard.  And sometimes it is lonely, very lonely.  There have been times when my heart has been a rock in the powerful currents of the ocean, being buffeted and shaped by those who do not know me or feel what is in my soul.”

“Even though there were those in that ocean who have truly wanted to be your friends.”  Sky Mother looked deeply into Hawk’s dark eyes.

“Even though,” he admitted.  “And when I found you and your people, it was as though my heart had burst out of the rock and was flying above that turbulent ocean.”  He smiled softly.  “It was a very hard decision to leave Mendalis.”

“I know,” Sky Mother said.

“But I am glad I did.  Otherwise I might never have known that there are others of our people out there.”

“And your staying with your human friends served a purpose, as well,” Sky Mother said with a slight smile.

Hawk remembered the escape and his journey toward the Searcher.   The idea that he had been even slightly instrumental in Buck’s escape from Bosk made his decision a good one.  “Yes.”   He thought back on the OEI.  “Still, it was painful seeing others of our kind and knowing I could not contact them.”

“As it was for me, Hawk,” Sky Mother said gently.  “But knowing they are there makes the searching more meaningful and the finding more sweet.”

“Do you think they can be found?” Hawk asked hopefully. 

“Yes, I see a future of unification among our peoples, but it will not be easy.  It will take great effort,” Sky Mother said. 

“How will we find them?  I could not see or hear enough to make any sense of where these kin of ours could be.”

“I think there are clues that our brother-by-adoption can put together and make sense of.”  She looked back toward the medical room where Buck lay.  “I think we should be with our friend.  He was not unscathed by this journey.”

 

 

Chapter Ten
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