Freedom's Wings





Chapter Twenty 



“Miru,” Sky Mother called to her.  “Wait, please.” 

Miru stopped and turned to study the birdwoman who presumed to be an elder.  Somehow, even though logic told her otherwise, Miru couldn’t believe that Sky Mother was a pawn of anyone.   

“My child, stay for a short while.  Listen to us, listen to your heart and then if you feel that we have truly come to hurt or destroy your people, then you do what you feel you must to protect your people,” pleaded Sky Mother.  She motioned for the human male to join her.  Miru stayed near the entrance, but didn’t move away when Buck Rogers stood next to Sky Mother.  He pulled off his rebreather and nodded to her, but didn’t say anything.  Sky Mother continued, “Buck is an adopted member of our clan of the people because he risked his own life to save our people from our enemies.” 

Miru gazed at the tall human, pondering.  

“Miru,” Buck said, his voice mellow.  “Not all humans are monsters.”

She gaped.  His inflections and pronunciations were even closer to her own people’s than Sky Mother’s.  “How do you speak our language so well?” she demanded. 

He smiled.  “A very long and complicated story and one that is better told to your elders.” 

She said nothing. 

“I have been through a great deal of fighting and hatred.  I am ready to see an end to it.  Are you?” 

Miru continued to think on what she had seen and heard.  All she had been told, all she had been taught was how horrible humans were and how necessary it was to annihilate them.  The scientists were even redoubling their efforts to find the means to accomplish this, taking up the aborted efforts of the hero scientist Garo-tura.  She gazed at the two people before her and was confused.  Miru didn’t feel any evil that she was told all humans possessed.  Could they be hiding it?   “All humans are evil,” she insisted. 

To her surprise, the human named Buck Rogers laughed.  It was not derisive though.  “Every human adult that has ever lived has a potential for evil, Miru.  That is part of what makes us sentient creatures, I suppose.”  He paused.  “Even among the Tane-rapanui there is that potential.”

Miru bristled.  “You are wrong!” she cried out, backing away. 

“What about the iniru-mata?” he asked sobering quickly.  “It is called garox by humans.  After the one who developed it as a scourge to humans.”  He smiled sadly.  “Lucky for your people, most humans don’t even know where it originated.” 

How did he know?  And did he know what was happening now?  “Do you blame my people for wanting to rid the galaxy of humans?  After what they did to us?” 

“When does the revenge end?  And does one evil justify another?” Buck asked pointedly.  He put his rebreather back on and pointed toward the back of the cave.  “I don’t mind talking some more, but can we do it where it is a bit less cold?” 

Miru gazed at him warily and then nodded.  She thought about his last words as the group retreated further away from the reach of the biting winds.  

The human male sat down with his back against the wall.  “Miru, I know a great deal of the history of your people and while I condone none of the behavior of my ancestors, I believe it is time to try and heal the wounds of the past.  The revenge and killing has to stop somewhere and sometime.”  He took a deep breath.  “You said your people have no evil in their hearts?  I have seen first hand what the iniru-mata can do to a man.  What was good for your people was turned into something horrible and devastating.  It is time to do away with that evil.  It is time to do away with all the other evils that dwell in human and Tane-rapanui hearts.”  He gazed wearily at her.  “Think on it tonight.  Please.  And maybe we can talk more in the morning.”  He turned to Sky Mother, who was standing close by.  “I am sorry to cut this short, but Wilma and I are totally exhausted.  I hope you will both excuse us.” 

Sky Mother nodded.  “May your dreams be meaningful and happy.” 

“And yours as well,” he returned. 

Miru watched as the human couple snuggled together in a back corner of the cave in a sleeping blanket that accommodated both of them.  Apparently they were as tired as they had claimed.  It was only a few minutes before they appeared to be sleeping soundly.  Still, she felt uncomfortable speaking in the humans’ presence, just in case she was wrong and they were listening.  As though understanding her continued reticence and suspicion, Sky Mother motioned her back toward the front of the cave.  Uninterested in further conversation, Tigerman curled up in another back corner of the cave and went to sleep as well.  The Tane-rapanui huddled around a thermal heat unit while they talked.  Someone handed Miru something warm to drink.  She accepted it gratefully. 

“Miru, understand that my life-long dream has been to know of others of our people for years, but we were hidden in our caves on Mendalis, fearing against discovery.”  

“What changed that?” Miru asked.  

“Make-Make working through a human named Buck Rogers,” replied Sky Mother.  

“Him?” Miru asked, pointing to the back of the cave.  

Sky Mother nodded.  “He encountered a group of our scouts on a world that had become increasingly hostile to us.” 

“But even before that, Buck Rogers and I had met and become friends,” Hawk interjected, then telling briefly his recent history.  

Sky Mother continued when Hawk left off, only omitting references to Buck’s direct link to Miru’s people.   “So you see, Captain Rogers and his companion are intrinsically linked to the Tane-rapanui.” 

“But how did you know about us and where to find us?” Miru asked, now more curious than suspicious.  “Even the Draconians think the valley is just a haunted place to stay away from.” 

“That is linked to what Buck said was better told first to your elders,” Sky Father told her.  

Miru pondered, then shook her head in confusion.  “There is so much to try and understand,” she said.  

“Sleep on it,” Hawk said gently.  “I think we are all tired.” 

Miru nodded.  She was tired.  With a quick glance toward the sleeping humans, she walked to a far wall, pulled a thermal blanket out of her pack and spread it out. 

“Would you like to sleep next to me?” Hawk asked.  “It would be warmer for both of us.”  There was something lonely about the girl, something that somehow reminded him of himself. 

“Yes,” she said hesitantly, not used to even having the invite, much less accepting it.  She had slept alone for as long as she remembered.  As she lay close to Hawk, she wondered about all she had learned, and she marveled.  She was still wondering when she fell asleep, her back warmed by proximity to the equally lonely birdman beside her. 




Wilma felt a warmth against her back and then someone’s arms around her.  She pictured the opulent room, leering grin from her past and she began struggling violently.  She had to get away!  Never again would Erik hurt her.  Get away or kill him!  As she struggled, a soft voice began to reassure her.  It wasn’t Erik’s voice, her confused mind told her.  It was someone else.  Still, her arms were not free, she wasn’t free and the fear surged through her.  

“Wilma!” the voice cried out near her ear.  “Wilma, it’s me, Buck.”

Buck? she thought.  Buck?  In Erik Kormand’s room?  Then the present began to more fully come into focus as she woke up.  Wilma remembered the night before. She relaxed and let Buck’s arms hold her close to him.  Sighing, she snuggled back down into the sleeping bag.  

“Bad dream?” Buck whispered in her ear. 

“Yes,” she whispered back. 

“You’re safe.” 

“I know.”  She sighed again. “And comfortable.” 

“Yeah, me, too.” 

One of his fingers rubbed lightly across her cheek and Wilma shivered with delight.  

“Cold, querida?” 

“No, happy,” she replied.  “What is ‘querida’?” 

“It’s Spanish for beloved,” Buck murmured.  

“It’s pretty.”

“Spanish has a lot of pretty words for these kinds of situations,” he replied, kissing her just behind her ear. 

“Tell me some more,” Wilma coaxed, shivering with delight at his touch. 

“One at a time,” Buck said teasingly.  “Anticipation makes them more romantic.” 

“Well, if you insist . . . querida,” she said, trying to snuggle even closer against him.  To her surprise, he laughed softly.  “What?”

“You have gender in the Spanish language,” he explained.  

“Huh?  Gender?” 

“Querida refers to a woman.  A man is querido.” 

“Oh,” she said, not sure she totally understood.  “Why?” She lay content in the sleeping bag, wishing she could do it forever. 

Buck didn’t say anything for a moment.  “Many languages in my day used gender.  It was just the way it was.   Many of my foreign friends said it was logical and that English was the odd-ball language, but I guess in the end, it was English that became terra lingua.” 

“Maybe, but I hope you can come up with more of those words.  They’re romantic.  Querido.” 

Buck chuckled softly.  “Maybe that’s why they called them romance languages.”  

They lay quietly for a while longer until they heard the others rustling around.  Before they could extricate themselves from the sleeping bag, Hawk positioned himself in front of them.  

“Were you two planning on getting up this morning?” he asked with a slight smile.  His breath puffed in clouds and Buck knew that the temperature had not moderated during the night.  

“I presume you don’t have a hot shower waiting,” Wilma quipped before Buck could say a thing. 

Hawk laughed lightly.  “No, I am afraid not.” 

Wilma undid a couple of the fasteners and pulled herself out, shivering violently as she sat in the cold air.  She grabbed her parka and then her boots and slid them on.  

Buck did the same, hoping that the local Tane-rapanui gave them warm rooms with large bathtubs filled with steamy hot water.  That small spring two days before had been the last chance he’d had to clean up and he felt filthy as well as cold.  Buck thought it a wonder that Wilma had consented to share the sleeping bag with him.  Then he remembered the warmth of her proximity and smiled.  He had felt the inner stirring of more than just physical warmth and Buck had to remind himself of where he was.  When he awoke, though, he kept asking just what he was waiting for.  When this was over…. 

As he finished pulling on his boots, Sky Warrior handed him a thermal tray and a mug.  “Miru says that there is one more pass and then we will be going down into her valley.” 

“She is going to take us then?” Buck asked, sipping his coffee.  He eyeballed the food on the tray and realized, that despite its unappetizing appearance, it was nourishment and if he didn’t do something about it soon, he would have to chip it off the tray.  Thermal or not, even modern technology had problems in this kind of cold.  

“Yes, she is curious about you and Wilma and feels your sincerity.  And she trusts us,” Sky Warrior replied, glancing over at the rest of the group near the cave entrance.  “She seems most interested in Hawk.” 

“Oh, really?” Buck asked, a bit surprised, but then not so surprised after he thought about it.  Hawk had always exuded a mysteriousness and sense of untapped power that he imagined a Tane-rapanui female would find attractive.  

Sky Warrior nodded.  “And I get the impression that there are very few Tane-rapanui like her in this valley.”  He paused.  “I cannot help but feel that she is considered inferior.”  He frowned.  

“I felt that sentiment briefly when I was in Garo-tura’s mind,” Buck said, his voice low.  

“We shall see,” Sky Warrior said as he got up.  He looked down at the terran.  “We will be leaving soon.  Miru says it’s necessary if we are to get to the city before nightfall.” 

“Okay, I’m hurrying,” Buck reassured the birdman good-naturedly.  

Sky Warrior nodded and returned to the main body of the group.  He was worried about the two humans.  Miru was not totally confident in her peoples’ reception of the terrans, even if Sky Mother still exuded optimism.  He had come to like Buck Rogers and his female, Wilma Deering and truly didn’t want anything to happen to either of them.  

They set out a short time later.  Miru, Hawk and Tigerman near the front of the line, Wilma and Buck near the back.  The wind howled incessantly, driving snow in their faces and making it hard to even see the person in front of them.  About midday, the group began their descent.  Within a few hours the snow abated and the temperature seemed to rise slightly.  They made good time and late afternoon found them coming out of the cloud cover and viewing an enormous valley stretched below them.  At one end a city hugged the side of the mountain, tiered from the bottom to near the top of the peak.  

Miru gestured and it was there they headed.  By the time they had reached the path that straddled the side of the mountain, the only one leading to the city, Wilma and Buck were able to take their rebreathers off.  As they got closer and closer to their kinsmen, Sky Mother felt more and more excited.  Finally, just as the sun was slipping behind the far mountains, they arrived.  The sky quickly began to darken.   There were several flyers silhouetted in the twilight sky and Miru signaled them.  As the group approached the only lower entrance of the Cliffside city, the darkness deepened into velvety blackness, only relieved by a few incandescent lights.  

They passed into the city.  Lights knocked away the shadows but still the hallway was dim as though little used.  

Miru led them upward.  Rough-hewn corridors became smooth walkways with better lighting.  The group continued, their anticipation growing.  Finally, Miru led them into a large chamber, one with a balcony on one end.  Several winged Tane-rapanui stood watching as they entered.  Although there was a tinge of curiosity, for the most part, they appeared angry. 

Sky Warrior looked around at Buck and Wilma, wondering if these in front of them already knew.  To his shock neither of the humans was with their group. 



Chapter Twenty-one
Chapter One
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