Freedom's Wings






Chapter Twenty-six



Hawk sighed and continued his story from where he left off.  

“Who captured you?” 

Again, he answered truthfully and was met with more triumphant looks.  

“Why do you call this human ‘friend’?” 

That was the opening Hawk was looking for and he explained how their friendship grew and developed.  “Hatred can be replaced with friendship,” he said in conclusion.  “Buck and the other humans on the Searcher promised we would look for more of my people and they have kept that promise.  I have lived and worked among humans for over a year and a half now and I have found more of my people and I have found purpose to my life.  Is that a bad thing?”  To his irritation, none of the elders except Ranakatu seemed to agree. 

Thus the morning passed with continued questions to Hawk and the others, and only those answers that pleased the elders seemed to be considered.  

“They are obsessed,” Creel muttered at one point. 

“Or under the pay of the White Witch over there,” Buck muttered, gesturing to Arana, who happened to be wearing white robes, reminiscent of a childhood story character.  

Finally, during a lull, Wilma stepped forward.  “Elder Leader,” she began.  “It is apparent that no one here is open-minded enough to see that cooperation and reconciliation work.” 

“Why do you say that?” another elder asked testily.  

“Because if you were seeing with half an eye open, you would see that we are friends.  We are loyal to one another and devoted to peaceful cooperation.”  She pointed to Miru.  “Even one of your youth can see what has happened among us.”  She paused.  “Why can’t you?  Why is it so hard to see that isolation is death?”  This brought more protests. 

Sky Mother stepped forward and sang some of the ancestral teaching songs, soothing the assemblage and showing them that the Mendalis Tane-rapanui had kept the old ways as well as learning new.  All listened, some even nodded in agreement, but the interrogations continued and all questions continued in the same tenor as before. 

Buck studied the elders.  Some few of them seemed to believe what he and Sky Mother, Sky Father, Hawk and the others had told them, but most of them appeared unimpressed, determined in their age-old prejudices and beliefs.  Worse, about half of them were looking on the Mendalis and Throm Tane-rapanui as they would little children, indulgent, but at the end of their patience.  

“My comrades,” Ranakatu finally interjected after more vitriolic denunciations of humans and their allies.  “We have to see this visit for what it is—an offer to work together to find the rest of our people.   To know what happened to all of our brethren who left Earth.” 

“We know what happened to the rest!” a middle-aged elder shouted.  “They ended up like the miru-moruku on Throm.  You heard the warrior.  A human killed his beloved; humans destroyed the rest of his people.” 

“What more do we need,” the queen said, her voice surprisingly calm.  “I say it is time to vote.” 

All seemed to agree with this comment.  Buck did not have a good feeling about this.  That a group could be so obtuse simply astonished him, but sadly, it was not without precedent.  

Ranakatu sighed.  “Very well.  We will vote.”    He had hoped that the story these visitors had told would break the hold that the queen had established, but apparently she had been gathering power to herself in ways he had not even thought of.  The elder leader wondered how many of his colleagues in the council were now on her payroll.    As he called roll, the other elders, then the queen and her chief counselor voted.  In the end, more than half of the council voted to keep their self-imposed isolation.  

Buck leaned over and whispered to Hawk.  “They are going to ban us from leaving.” 

“I would not doubt it, but what about the Searcher?  

“I don’t know, but they have managed to keep star craft away for several hundred years.  I don’t doubt they can continue to do so,” Buck replied. 

“But in the end it will only bring a retaliation that will destroy them,” Hawk said. 

“I agree.” 

“We have to be able to leave,” the birdman said.  “But how can we convince them.” 

“I am trying to remember how I convinced the people of Mendalis.” 

“By your willingness to help them and not fight them,” Hawk responded.  “But we have all tried to help them here.” 

“Let me think.” 

Ranakatu looked at the group of visitors.  “Do you have any thoughts to impart about the vote?”  

“No, other than that it’s time for us to leave.  We can offer nothing else to help the Tane-rapanui of Rrilling,” Hawk said decisively. 

“No!  If they leave then others will find out about us and what we fear the most will happen,” a younger elder cried. 

“Is this an item to vote upon?” Ranakatu asked wearily.  

“Yes!” the elder agreed.  

“Very well, then, we will vote on it,” he said, looking apologetically at the group in front of him.  

Buck had a pretty good idea what the vote would end up being.  In a few minutes he was dismayed to find that he was right.   They were banned from leaving the valley.  

“I assume you realize that a very large galactic starship brought us here,” Wilma said tersely.  “When we don’t return, they will search for us.” 

“And meet the same fate as other atmospheric and space vessels that have tried to infiltrate our valley,” the queen retorted, her demeanor smug and self-assured.  “And we have only to plant your things somewhere outside of the valley where they will be found in the spring and your people will think, just as the Draconians have in the past, that the explorers died in the winter storms and were eaten by wild animals.”  She sat back and looked demure.  “I am sure we can find the means to make it look very authentic.” 

Buck was stunned.  He knew what the next vote would be and even if it didn’t go according to what Arana wanted, she would find a way to kill all of them off.   “What is the law governing adoption into this clan of the people?” he asked suddenly, the idea coming so spontaneously it astonished even him.  

Hawk looked at him in surprise, and then comprehension dawned.  He was not sure that Buck realized the full impact of what he was proposing to do.  He turned his back on the assemblage and faced the terran.  “Buck, do you realize what this entails?”  He didn’t wait for an answer from his friend.  “Let me do this adoption initiation.” 

“No, Hawk,” Buck hissed, glancing nervously at the queen and elders.  “Don’t you see?  It has to be a human.  If I am adopted into this group, then the rest of you will be safe.  Wilma will be safe.  They can’t argue a great deal if a human can pass this test.” 

Hawk laid his hands on Buck’s shoulders.  “It means taking the garox.  That was what Mara explained to us before you and Wilma were rescued.   The seeing almost never occurs without the help of the iniru-mata.  At least for them, and I suspect that the same would apply for you.”   Buck turned pale and shuddered slightly.  “Do you understand now?” Hawk asked gently.  

Buck nodded, unable to speak.  Fear filled him; bound his tongue for a moment.  “But there is no other way,” he finally said, when he had reined in his horror.  “If you did this, it would only give legitimacy to you and the rest of your people.  What about Wilma?” 

With his hands still resting on Buck’s shoulders, Hawk nodded sadly.  He knew Buck was right.  The two humans would still be slaughtered no matter if all of the Tane-rapanui participated in a seeing.   “I wish I could do this for you,” he said almost inaudibly. 

Buck smiled softly.  “So do I, Hawk.  So do I.” 

Ranakatu had been watching the short exchange, wondering about this human.  One thing he saw for sure; the birdman had not been exaggerating.  He had a genuine friendship with the human.  Next he wondered at the human’s audacity.  Could this terran actually have a seeing?  It flew in the face of history and custom.   But if Buck Rogers’ plan didn’t work, pandemonium would reign.  It would reign even if the terran didn’t go through with this.  It was clear the visiting miru-moruku would fight for their human friends.  He also knew Arana would push for the deaths of these humans, or worse, their participation in the experiments with the new iniru-mata.  She would probably get her way, too.  When Hawk had turned back toward the elders, Ranakatu continued, “Anyone who wishes to join the people of Rrilling must be capable of ‘seeing’ and have a true seeing in a council of elders.” 

“That is only for Tane-rapanui!” the queen protested vehemently.  

“Does the law say that is it only for Tane-rapanui, Counselor?” the Elder Leader asked Valiano.  He glanced at the human in approval.  

“No, it does not.”   There were murmurs, most of disapproval, but some of curiosity.  “But….” 

“Almost all of these people have had true seeing,” Buck said evenly, interrupting the counselor, pointing to his companions.   He had, for the time being, shoved his fears back into the far recesses of his brain.  

“Despite your tales, that is impossible!” an older councilman protested.  “These are only miru-moruku.” 

Buck folded his arms over his chest.   “And why is it impossible?  Surely you don’t think they lied to you,” he said, nodding his head toward Sky Mother and Sky Father. 

“Because most of the people have seeings after the ingestion of iniru-mata.  Miru-moruku do not have the capability of seeings even with the iniru-mata.” 

The more Buck learned, the more he was surprised at the divergent paths that these several groups of the people had taken over the years.  Of course, he shouldn’t be, he just had to look at paths humans had taken in an even shorter time.  “But these people do not have iniru-mata available to them.  Their seeing is natural, coming when there is need.”  He paused, and then he began to laugh, unable to stop for a moment.  After a few moments, he sobered and gazed directly at the queen. “They don’t have wings, but in every other regard they are Tane-rapanui.  And it appears they have the ancient talents you people seem to have lost.”  He knew he was antagonizing this council, but he couldn’t help it.  There was absolutely nothing to lose at this juncture.   He felt someone’s hand on his arm and realized it was Wilma’s, but he ignored it, only taking comfort in her proximity. 

“How dare you!” Queen Arana declared.  

“How dare I?” Buck repeated.  “Of course I dare.  I dare, because I am an adopted member of the Mendalis Tane-rapanui, and my beloved is adopted by virtue of her relationship to me.”  

Wilma gazed at him curiously for a moment, but let none of her surprise show on her face.  Well, what a time to finally come to a realization.  Then she understood that Buck was trying to protect her.  What she thought he was proposing to do was partly to protect her.  She gazed at him appreciatively, her feelings close to the surface, but Buck was concentrating on the queen and the Elders.  

“So this whole group has legitimacy in your clan of the people,” Buck added. 

“This joining is not official.  It can’t be official.  There must be the seeing,” one of the elders declared.  “That a Tane-rapanui cousin could have a seeing is possible, that a human could have one is a travesty of logic.” 

Sky Mother stepped forward and looked at Buck, her face a mixture of fear and pride.   Buck just gave Sky Mother a thumbs-up signal and then shot the elder a disdainful look.  “I have had a seeing, Elder, have you?” 

Several elders jumped to their feet in protest.  The queen shouted out epitaphs that Buck didn’t know or even want to know.  Ranakatu simply studied him.  

“Buck, do you know what you are doing?” Creel leaned over and asked. 

“Sure hope so,” Buck answered.  “But we’ve got to do something or we’ll be dead within a week and our bones rotting out there on a mountain peak by spring.  And even more people might die when they try to find us.” 

When the shouting and murmuring settled, Buck walked toward the Elder Leader and stopped several feet in front of his chair.  “I wish to be joined to this group of the Tane-rapanui,” he said quietly.   He consciously took a deep breath to still the anxiety he was feeling. 

Ranakatu nodded.  He realized it was something that must be and could only hope that Make-Make knew what he was doing.  “Are you like these with whom you came, or do you need the iniru-mata for a true seeing?” 

His heart skipped several beats as raw fear filled his soul again.  He took a deep breath to suppress it.   “The seeing is a private thing, known only to the seer, usually in the dreams, sometimes in daytime visions,” Buck said, wondering if the elder leader would have to do what Sky Mother and the rest had done when he had followed the garox to Garo-tura.  By touch.   

“Not here, Captain Rogers,” the Elder Leader said, getting up from his chair.  “Let me show you.”  Some of the other members of the council murmured their displeasure, but they didn’t do anything to stop Ranakatu.  Buck followed him to the large open cavity in the middle of the room.  The only thing that kept anyone from falling in was a waist high railing that ringed the pit.  The fumes almost made him choke.  On the other side several young Tane-rapanui were gathering bluish rocks and stacking them at the edge of the pit.  “These stones are the origin of the iniru-mata.  When they are burned in the Cauldron of Visions, it creates the ability for those nearby to see what an individual is seeing.  Some of our people can simply stand by the pit for the visions to be seen by those in the room.  Can you?” 

Buck was still internalizing just what this was going to entail.  The fear threatened to swallow him up.  It was almost impossible to suppress the memories of his past addiction.  “No,” he whispered.  Then he got hold of his emotions and answered a bit louder.  “I have only had a seeing with the garox . . . uh, I mean the iniru-mata.”  Oh, God, help me to stand up to this.   All he wanted to do was run away.  He remembered his ordeal to kick the garox addiction.  He remembered the pain, helplessness and humiliation.  He remembered and wished he could forget.  He thought it was over with when he was finally free.  Now?  To willingly take in that which he considered worse than death was scaring him spitless.  His stomach churned and he gulped in a deep breath to get control of himself.  Slowly, he succeeded and turned to Ranakatu.  

“Then that will be the only way you can experience a seeing here,” Ranakatu said, noticing the agitation the human must be feeling on his face.  He wondered just how this human came to figure out the means of seeing when the rest of the Tane-rapanui with him didn’t even have knowledge of the iniru-mata’s use, except as something to destroy humans.   Buck Rogers told him he had had a seeing with iniru-mata.  The only humans that would be knowledgeable of the iniru-mata would be those who had become addicted to its derivative and this one didn’t have the symptoms.  Ranakatu mentally shrugged.  Any questions would be answered in the seeing, he suspected. 

Buck nodded.  “Very well,” he said softly.  He was dismayed to hear a trembling in his voice.    “Let’s get this over with, Elder Leader.”



Chapter Twenty-seven
Chapter One
Buck Rogers Contents
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