Time and Again
Endings and Beginnings
Several days later, Buck sped back toward the
rainforest; this time, the circumstances were much different. This time he had Njobo next to him and Twiki and Theo in the
back. He was well, the
“Buck, I hope you return to the Forest
someday,” the BaMbuti said.
“I hope so, too, although I will soon be on
another journey with the Searcher.
It may be awhile before I get back.”
“Your Ndura is much bigger than my
Forest and even this world. But
you carry a small part of the Forest with you.
I know you will return when you can,” Njobo said with surety.
“Yes, I will, Njobo, whenever it’s possible.
As will Dr. Huer and Brigadier Gordon,” Buck replied.
“You said the mangese, Dr. Huer, will
be able to visit more often,” Njobo said.
“I welcome that. As well as visits from my friend, Gor-don.”
Buck was happy an agreement had been reached
where the forest people would be allowed to live in peace, only making
contact when they chose. Also
gratifying was the research that would determine the reason why the
forest was spreading and had grown into former wasteland areas.
That information might allow the Directorate to reclaim parts of
the wasteland on other continents.
Carefully, Buck set the starfighter into the
same clearing his first starfighter had crashed in, seemingly so long
ago. Undogging the hatch,
Buck shoved it back and stood up. The
richness of the vegetation hit him like a wave.
It was the scent of heady blooming flowers and decaying
vegetation. It was almost
overwhelming humidity and heat. Beside
him, Njobo cried out his joy and scrambled out of Buck’s starfighter,
his face suffused with intense pleasure.
Buck smiled, happy for his friend and then followed him.
While Njobo had done very well in New Chicago, the star pilot
knew that the BaMbuti was living for the day he would return to
his home. Buck noticed that vegetation was already beginning to
cover the scars of his crash.
“Njobo,” Buck said, interrupting the
pygmy’s silent celebration. “You
know how grateful the Directorate is for your help in saving Earth.
And how grateful they are for allowing access to parts of your
forest to help rebuild some of the ravaged areas of Earth.”
“Buck, the Forest wants its children to be
happy,” Njobo said, repeating his philosophy.
“It is only right for Dr. Huer and his friends to help the
Forest grow near New Chicago and for the forest medicines to help your
people feel good.”
And you also know how grateful I am to you for saving my life,”
Buck added. Both men stood
and listened to the rich sounds, scents and sight of the forest.
“The Song of the Forest,” Njobo said.
He paused and looked toward the deep blue sky overhead.
“The madmen. I am
glad that they can be happy, too. That
all of the people of the Ndura above are helping them to purge their
Buck was also glad that the Galactic Council was
so quick to work on a solution to the problem that had led the
Lagrithians to take such drastic action against Earth.
“Yes, hopefully their problems will be solved and their people
saved.” He walked among
the new vegetation of the clearing.
“I will be leaving Earth soon,” Buck finally said.
“But even so, I will never forget you.”
“Nor I, you.”
Njobo pulled his molimo out from his pouch and gave it to
Buck. “Take this.
Sing your songs, the songs of the stars, the forest and wherever
you are. And we will both
remember. Perhaps we will
still share dreams.”
“Thank you, Njobo.
This means a lot to me.” Buck
felt badly that he didn’t have a gift.
As though reading his mind, Njobo said, “You
have given me much, Buck. I
will forever dream and sing the songs of the stars.
My family and friends will hear the same songs and they will be
happy as well.”
“Thank you,” Buck repeated softly.
“Let me see your molimo for a
moment,” Njobo said, holding his hand out, feeling the great need to
make one last song. Putting
the instrument to his lips he began to sing, his voice soft and distant.
To Buck the song seemed far away, like the
distant past of his previous life.
It reminded him of his home that was, as well as the places among
the stars where he had been, far away, but close enough to touch, to
carry in his soul. It was a
short song, but when Njobo finished, even the forest was subdued for a
Finally, Njobo handed the molimo back to
Buck. He pulled out another
molimo he had made while in New Chicago.
It was made of plastic, but as Njobo had told Buck, it was the
song that counted, the molimo was only the carrier.
“Let us sing this song together.
Somehow, I feel you may need to sing it someday.
Add to it your own song.”
While Buck was puzzled at Njobo’s request, he
didn’t question it. He
had only tried out the molimo once and had not felt the same
power as when Njobo used it. However,
this time when the two men sang together, Buck’s rich tenor mingling
with Njobo’s slightly higher pitched voice, he felt something almost
as powerful as the molimo dreams he had experienced while he was
sick. After they had
sung together, Buck repeated the song alone, adding a small melody at
the end. While it was not
as powerful, Buck still felt a chill go up and down his spine. And the melody and the words stayed vivid in his mind.
Buck nodded, and kneeling down, embraced the BaMbuti,
who despite their physical differences, had treated him as he would a
brother. Twiki and
Theo said their good-byes and the three climbed back into the
starfighter, while Njobo watched from the edge of the clearing.
As they rose slowly toward the canopy, Buck saw another BaMbuti
join Njobo. They waved and
then disappeared into the forest. Soon
the starfighter was heading west, back to New Chicago.
A week before the departure of the Searcher,
Buck stood on the edge of a yawning precipice feeling distinctly
nervous. It seemed rather
ironic to him. Here he was
a crack pilot for Earth’s Defense Directorate and had flown aircraft
of all sorts in two separate centuries, and now he stood at the top of a
thousand foot plus cliff--afraid.
“Are you going to stand there admiring the
magnificence of this splendid view or are you going to join me?” Hawk
asked, his mouth quirked in what Buck would have sworn was a half smile.
“Admiration is not exactly what was on my mind
and you know it,” Buck replied sardonically.
“Buck, you told me people did something
similar in your day.”
“Idiots did something similar in my day, I
didn’t!” Buck looked
back at Wilma, who was sitting on a rock watching.
She was trying very unsuccessfully to contain her amusement.
Getting up, she walked to the edge, standing
near him. “Only a
thousand feet, Buck,” she said. “Shouldn’t
be any trouble for a starfighter jockey.”
She squeezed his hand and helped him put on the quasi-wings.
He and Hawk had practiced in the wind chamber in the month since
the containment of the virus, as had Wilma, who had not yet been given a
medical release to fly over the Grand Canyon.
Buck had done well in the chamber, but that was a far cry from
this cliff and the butterflies in his stomach, in just the past five
minutes, had multiplied one hundred fold.
You promised,” Hawk coaxed.
Yes, he had, he thought ruefully. With that in mind, he decided he’d better get this over
with. Buck checked the
gauges and controls. Made
sure of the fastenings, took one step and then leaped from the cliff.
He and his stomach dropped about fifty feet, and then he moved
his arms slightly and the quasi-wings caught the air currents. Buck remembered his leg position and the air currents caught
under the wings and lifted him up.
He soared up above the cliff and continued to soar for another
hundred feet, gently adjusting the angle of the wings with slight
movements of his arms and hands. The
tiny gauges showed his air speed and altitude.
The warm air blew in his face, but the goggles remained snug.
Buck experimented, banking and locating
thermals. He began finding
joy in this twenty-fifth century form of hang gliding and wished he had
tried it before. Muscles in
his arms, shoulders and back stretched as the air currents continued to
lift the quasi-wings.
“I told you this was enjoyable, did I not?”
Hawk shouted as he flew alongside.
But deep inside Hawk felt more than just
enjoyment. He felt the
freedom of flight that his ancestors had reveled in; he felt the
restoration of his soul, a joy transcending anything else.
Freedom, wonder, peace. He
soared above his friend, whom he observed was discovering a similar joy,
as he knew Buck would. Hawk
continued to soar higher and higher.
He felt the warm air currents caressing his body, almost like
fingers of love, and he thought of Koori.
He almost moaned, his emotions were so overwhelming.
Koori! Oh, Koori!
And he felt the presence of someone beside him.
Unseen, but there, nonetheless, and that, too, added to his joy. Koori.
He heard the soft laughter of Koori’s voice in his heart and he
laughed with her. Finally,
he moved his hands slightly and banked, flying to a lower level where
Buck was still getting used to his quasi wings.
Buck grinned his pleasure, then he, too, banked
and plummeted toward the cliff where Wilma stood near the starfighters.
Fifty feet above the ground he leveled and found another air current.
Buck continued for almost an hour until Hawk convinced him it was
time to land. Reluctantly,
Buck complied, knowing there’d be hell to pay with sore muscles if he
didn’t. Flaring the
quasi-wing panels to allow him to dive one last time, he banked at the
end of his dive, drew in his legs, at the same time tilting the plane of
the quasi-wings to cut his air speed.
As he approached the ground, he cut his air speed even more until
it was safe to touch ground. As
it was, Buck almost fell over. Wilma
caught him in a hug, laughing along with him at the awkward landing.
Hawk landed lightly nearby and deftly shed the
wings. He and Wilma helped
Buck take off his wings.
“Now are you glad you came?” Hawk’s smile showed his own intense pleasure of this
“Yes, I admit it.
That was exhilarating,” Buck replied, breathlessly.
“And there will be three of us next time,”
Wilma exclaimed. “Whether
the doctor says I’m ready or not.”
“There is no reason why you cannot.
Your muscles should be strong enough in a few more days,” Hawk
“Of course you will, Wilma,” Buck said,
pulling her close in a reassuring hug.
Several days later two large figures and a slightly smaller one soared over the magnificent east rim of the Grand Canyon celebrating friendship, loyalty, and triumph. They celebrated love and freedom. They celebrated life.